Monday, October 31, 2011

No Satisfaction on the I-405

More bad traffic news if you are the type who works late at UCLA:

The 405 Freeway contractor will begin demolition and reconstruction of the northern half of the Sunset Boulevard Bridge starting Monday, Oct. 31, for 12 consecutive nights. Construction work will take place between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m., with bridge demolition occurring between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. Demolition of columns and bents is anticipated to take place on Wednesday, Nov. 9 through Friday, Nov. 11, 2011...

Full article at

Very unsatsifying:

Statement by Academic Senate Task Force on Investments & Retirement on Governor's Pension Plan

October 31, 2011


RE: Governor Brown’s Twelve Point Pension Reform Plan

Dear Bob

Following circulation of the Governor’s Twelve Point Pension Reform Plan, the Senate Task Force on Investments and Retirement (TFIR) discussed the proposed reforms, and prepared the attached document: “TFIR’s Comments in Response to the Governor's Pension Reform Plan”; TFIR would like to post this document on the TFIR section of the Senate’s web site, and hopes that you will place a link to the document on the main page.

The goals of the TFIR statement are 1) to let Senate faculty know that the Academic Senate is engaged in discussions with the administration concerning the proposed reforms, 2) to document that much of what the Governor proposes is already incorporated into UC policy; 3) to indicate that there are some issues about which to be seriously concerned; and 4) to emphasize that TFIR looks forward to engagement with UC and State leadership to ensure that neither the university nor the faculty’s welfare are harmed.

The University needs to place a high priority on maintaining the Regents’ historic independence in the management of the UC retirement system. That independence and management has contributed to UC’s unprecedented growth and success. It has also provided substantial savings in retirement funding for the State over the last two decades, and has already produced and enacted a plan for moving forward without creating the sort of doomsday scenarios that plague public employee pension plans.

We look forward to assisting the Academic Senate and advising the administration in ensuring the success of UCRP.


Shane White, UCFW TFIR Vice Chair

Copy: UCFW, TFIR, Robert May, Chair, HCTF, Jim Chalfant, Chair, UCPB, Martha Winnacker, Executive Director, Academic Senate

TFIR’s Comments in Response to the Governor's Pension Reform Plan

On Thursday, October 27, 2011, Governor Brown announced his Twelve Point Pension Reform Plan: ( The Academic Senate's Task Force on Investment and Retirement (TFIR) has reviewed the Governor's plan and offers the following observations and concerns.

The retirement plan of the University of California has for decades already included several aspects of the Governor's twelve-point pension reform plan. The university has for many years:

• calculated retirement benefits using a three-year average of compensation, to avoid pension spiking (point 4);

• calculated retirement benefits based on regular recurring pay, again to avoid spiking (point 5);

• limited post-retirement employment to approximately 860 hours (less than the 960 proposed by Governor Brown in his point 6);

• generally avoided retroactive pension increases (point 8); and

• generally prohibited employee purchase of service credits (except in very special circumstances that serve the best interests of the University) (point 10).

We are pleased that the Governor advocates these long-standing features of the UC retirement system as part of his efforts to reform the State's retirement systems.

The University of California has also long recognized that pension reform is necessary to address future costs of the UC retirement plan. Several years ago, the University of California began a process resulting in a pension reform plan adopted by The Regents in December of 2010. Actions taken are similar to several other points included in the Governor's twelve-point plan. The Regents increased retirement ages for new employees, with some modest numerical differences from the Governor’s proposal (point 3), increased the employee contribution to the retirement system, but by less than proposed by the Governor (point 1), and reduced the employer’s contribution to retiree health costs (point 12). The University also is considering pre-funding the retiree health benefit, using both employee and employer contributions, along with having recently made substantial increases in contributions to UCRP.

The time and effort invested in the development of the University's pension reform plan has generated substantial experience about the issues and options for pension reform. These internal university discussions have identified several areas in which the Governor's pension reform plan would not serve the best interests of the university. For example, a "hybrid" retirement system combining a defined contribution plan with a defined contribution plan (point 2) was rejected because it was not the most effective plan to help recruit and retain an outstanding faculty. In particular, the University’s analysis showed that a hybrid plan would not aid in retention of faculty and staff during their most productive years, unlike the defined-benefit plan that remains the cornerstone of UC’s retirement benefits. Similarly, the linkage of the university's retirement plan with Social Security was found to be too complicated to implement and also not effective in recruiting and retaining the diverse work force needed by the university. Finally, competitive total remuneration is essential to retaining the excellence of the university, and for evaluating new proposals concerning retirement benefits; increases in employee contributions to the retirement system or decreases in benefits would generate a corresponding need to increase salaries to offset benefits reductions, thus negating any potential financial savings. UC’s experience demonstrated that the unique characteristics and workforce-related needs of the university must drive reform, and that policies chosen primarily for their role in reducing costs can have adverse consequences that are more operationally detrimental, or costly, than the costs they were designed to avoid.

It has been suggested that the pension reform plan is intended to include the University. Hence, it is critical that the University engage in substantial conversations with the Governor and the legislature to ensure that UC’s excellence is not inadvertently compromised by the Governor’s pension reform efforts, and to share with the Governor the considerable expertise gained during UC’s recent reform. The members of TFIR look forward to engaging with UC leadership and the Governor to ensure that we serve the best interests of both the State and University.

TFIR recognizes that the provisions of benefit plans should be adjusted as circumstances change. Equally important, however, is that those adjustments do not bring further erosion in the competitiveness of total remuneration for UC faculty and staff. TFIR will continue to monitor any adjustments proposed by the Governor, the Legislature, or the University, and analyze their consequences for total remuneration and their role in preserving the University’s excellence.

Changes cannot be solely designed to reduce costs; proposals must be accompanied by analysis and consideration of their collateral deleterious impacts.

The link is at

Trick or Treat? Hotel/Conference Center Plan Coming Tomorrow

Word has it that the revised proposal for the hotel/conference center will not replace the Faculty Center. The plan - apparently to be announced tomorrow - is reported to put it where Parking Structure 6 is now located, near the West Center. See map to the left.

So we will await the details. How scary could it be? By the day after tomorrow, you will know:

What's Scary for Halloween?

Following our Halloween tradition ("tradition" because we did it last year), we present a truly scary story - from which the picture just above is taken - below in four short parts:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Of course, there are other things that can be scary as prior posts have noted:

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Hole in the Middle of UC Admissions?

Middle income student attendance declines at UC

Samantha Schaefer, 2011-10-30 Orange County Register

Over the past 10 years, the proportion of middle-income students attending the University of California has declined at nearly twice the rate of California middle-income households, while the share of lower- and upper-income UC students has risen. Some analysts suggest the trend stems from repeated hikes in UC tuition costs, coupled with limited access to many kinds of aid for middle-income students, who are increasingly incurring larger and larger loan debt. "We've got some significant problems here," said William Tierney, USC Rossier School of Education professor, Wilbur-Kieffer professor of higher education and director of Center for Higher Education Policy Analysis. "Tuition is rising faster than people can keep up with it because family salaries are not rising as fast. ... It's not simply that there are more people out of work and can't find jobs, but people's salaries are staying flat."

UC officials say they believe the trend mostly stems from a shift in California's overall demographic, perhaps magnified because the population of UC-eligible students is uneven across income brackets…

Over the past 10 years, the UC has seen a 9 percent decrease in the proportion of middle-income students, while the proportions of lower- and higher-income students have grown by equal shares, according to the university's 2011 Accountability Report. Most of decrease came for upper middle income families earning $99,000 to $149,000 – 6 percent – with students from families earning $55,000 to $99,000 declining by 3 percent. But the declines don't align precisely with the fee increases.

The UC tracks the proportion of students from different income levels every year. During the recession in the early 1990s, low-income families increased in California as well as at the UC, the accountability report states. But the decline in middle-income students has continued even in years when there were no tuition hikes…

Full article at

The 2011 UC Accountability Report – from which the news account above is taken and the table below is extracted - is at

Crane Likely to Pick Up on Pension Issue at Next Regents Meeting

Regent David Crane - a last-minute appointee to the Regents by Gov. Schwarzenegger - has been a public pension hawk and has made remarks about collective bargaining that ensured he would not be confirmed. Assuming he attends the November Regents meeting (Crane's last given the non-confirmation), he is likely to say something about the pension issue. The Regents' agenda for November is not yet posted. But even if the pension item is not a formal agenda topic, Crane can bring it up.

That is not a Bad Thing. The Regents should be informed about the impact of the governor's pension proposal on UC - which is a Bad Thing for UC as presented. The governor's pension proposal and its impact on UC should be on the agenda - however it gets there.

So we may miss Regent Crane after all:

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Was that Jerry or Casey at the Bat (on pensions)?

Now that it is clear the governor wants UC to be part of his public sector pension proposal, you might be curious about what the Legislative Analyst thinks:

LAO calls pension plan excellent start

Duane W. Gang, Riverside Press-Enterprise 10/27/11

California’s nonpartisan legislative analyst praised Gov. Jerry Brown’s pension plan Thursday and said it deserves consideration by the Legislature. “I thought it knocked the ball out of the park,” Mac Taylor, who heads the Legislative Analyst’s Office, said during a lecture series at his alma mater, UC Riverside. “I think it is an excellent start.” …

Full article at

Trying to knock it out of the park didn’t work out so well for Casey:

UCLA History: Exclusion Protest

The 405 is a mess nowadays due to construction. In 1966, it was briefly a mess when UCLA students invaded protesting exclusion from the Rose Bowl.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Things are Tough in Sacramento So We Don't Yet Have Final Word on UC Coverage

We're still waiting for the definitive answer as of Friday afternoon as to whether UC is covered by the governor's pension proposal. But apparently, folks at the Dept. of Finance and Legislature are busy with other matters:

California Finance Director Ana Matosantos arrested on DUI charge

(The budget must be worse than anyone imagined.)

Folks in the legislature have also been busy:

Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi arrested for shoplifting

When things settle down up north and we get final info, we'll post it.

UPDATE: UC's coverage by the governor's pension plan has now been confirmed. More info will be provided as it becomes available.

The Morning After (the Guv's Pension Plan): What Do We Know?

It's the morning after the governor's press conference announcing his pension proposals - and we still do not have definite word as to whether UC is covered.

The LA Times version says all state and local employees are covered. Excerpt:

Who would be affected?

All state and local public employees. Current workers would be expected to pay at least half of their retirement costs, but the higher retirement age and new savings plan would apply only to employees hired later.


And there is a lot of fuzziness in the announced plan. For example, how do you "cap" a plan that comes partly from defined benefit, partly from defined contribution, and partly from Social Security? Beyond that, there are some issues about the constitutional autonomy of the Regents to be considered.

State politicos and policy wonks may recall the Schwarzenegger grand plan for state universal health care in 2007. There was a press release with concepts but no statutory language, opposition in the legislature, and legal uncertainties. In the end, the plan died in the state senate. See

As more info develops, we will report it. In the meantime:

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Guv on Pensions: What did he say?

Governor Brown has now held his press conference on public pensions. His proposals clearly covered CalPERS and CalSTRS. Coverage of UC was not mentioned. But the governor did make an off-hand reference to UC’s long pension holiday, i.e., the two-decade period of zero contributions.

The governor released a 12-point plan but one element, a kind of total cap on pension amounts, was not mentioned on the list of the twelve. [A cap is mentioned but not linked to defined contributions.] Yet, in response to a reporter’s question, he said a cap was intended but that it was complicated because of his proposal for a “hybrid” plan for new hires. A hybrid plan means a combination of defined benefit and defined contribution. It was vague but the governor seemed to want the likely payout from the defined contribution part of the system to be factored into the calculation of the cap. Lots of uncertainty remains in this aspect of the proposal.

Let’s assume that UC is not covered officially. Might there nonetheless be elements in the governor’s plan that would potentially push the Regents to follow suit?

The plan for new hires puts 67 as the age of normal retirement. There could be pressure on the Regents – if the plan is adopted – to set the normal retirement age in our lower-tier plan at 67.

More significantly, the governor’s proposal has as one of its points a 50-50 split in contributions to the plan; employee pays half and employer pays half. CalPERS figures suggest that right now only about one third of the contributions are from employees. So 50-50 would be a significant bump up in employee contributions under CalPERS. And the higher contribution applies to ALL employees, not just new hires. The Academic Senate’s position has been that the employee contribution should be no more than 7%. Seven percent, or even the 8% that has figured in some discussions, would not be half of the long-term contributions planned for UC.

Another concept that might raise pressure for emulation by UC is the idea – mentioned by the governor in the news conference – that career retirees should have an income equal to 75% of final salary with one-third coming from each of Social Security, defined benefit, and defined contribution. Exactly how this would be applied and how it would mesh with a cap is unclear. [It may be that the 75% is what is meant by a cap.]

It might be noted that the proposal needs legislative approval. A KPCC radio program (embedded below) after the governor’s conference featured comments by Democratic and Republican leaders in the legislature as well as yours truly. The Republican was surprisingly positive. Elements of the plan will require a vote of the people, including some restructuring of the CalPERS board. The legislature could put a proposition on the ballot, but bipartisan support would be needed to do so. In theory, a proposition could be put on the ballot via the initiative process. But initiative signature gathering requires $1-$2 million for signature gathering firms. The governor doesn’t have that kind of money lying around.

As more info becomes available, we will update you via this blog.

The press release with the 12-point plan is at:

Here is the governor’s press conference:

Here is the radio interview:

Out of the box on higher ed: Uh Oh

From the Sacramento Bee today (excerpt):

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom railed against tuition increases and said Wednesday that the state's master plan for higher education is outdated, promising "a different narrative" for higher education by the end of the year.

It was unclear what the plan might contain or how Newsom, a Democrat, might propose to fund it.

"We're going to come up with some out-

of-the-box recommendations, is our hope and expectation," he told The Bee's Capitol Bureau.

Fifty years after the production of the California Master Plan for Higher Education, Newsom said he and officials are preparing to "try to create a different narrative for higher education as a system, as opposed to UC as a system, CSU as a system and community colleges." ...

Note that the Master Plan's basic purpose was in fact to have 3 well-defined systems.

Sometimes it's best not to open a box:

UC or not UC? - That is the question (to be answered in a few hours)

Bits and pieces of Governor Brown’s public pension plan are leaking out ahead of his news conference later today. UC or not UC, that is the question, as Hamlet might say. But the leaked reports don’t provide the answer so we will have to wait a few hours more. The Capitol Alert report from last night and another from KCAL indicate that the reason Brown wants a ballot prop is to change the CalPERS board. Excerpt from Capitol Alert:

Gov. Jerry Brown will propose a higher retirement age and a less generous pension system for newly-hired state workers, sources familiar with Brown's pension plan said this afternoon. The Democratic governor, who is expected to release his pension plan Thursday, will also propose prohibiting the purchase of additional retirement service credit, or "airtime," for existing employees. And he will call for a ballot measure to reshape the governing board of the California Public Employees' Retirement System, requiring changes to Proposition 162, the 1992 initiative that strengthened the retirement board.

The proposal includes some of the same ideas Brown discussed with Republicans in failed budget talks in March. At the time, however, Brown was thought to be considering for new employees a "hybrid option" involving 401(k)-style benefits, not making that hybrid mandatory for new employees.

The hybrid option Brown will propose for new non-public safety employees will be a three-pronged plan that combines a smaller, defined benefit with Social Security and a 401 (k)-style benefit. The plan, as presented privately by the Brown administration to labor leaders this afternoon, also includes increasing the retirement age from age 55 to 67 for most new, non-public safety employees, the sources said…

Full story at:

Here is the similar report from KCAL Channel 9 (that Shane White pointed me to):

However, the KCAL story says ALL employees – not just new hires - will pay half of pension contributions. Even if UC is not included, that contribution formula could put pressure on the Regents to follow. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Do You Have an Opinion on APM 0668 - Negotiated Salary Program?

To: UCLA Senate Faculty

From: the UCLA Faculty Association

Date: Oct. 26, 2011

Subject: UCLA FA Bulletin on APM 0668 – the proposed Negotiated Salary Program

In times like these—budget cuts to higher education statewide and to UC year after year—it is good to know about the Faculty Association (FA) at UCLA, an independent organization of faculty on this campus since 1973. Its focus is singular: the general welfare of UCLA Senate faculty on the general campus and health sciences. Because it is state funded, the Academic Senate cannot use its resources to speak out on political issues. It is tasked with "joint governance," which means the Senate is inherently in a relationship with the administration.

It is the independence of the FA, which is dues-supported, that enables this organization to speak out on issues of interest to faculty. On some of those issues we ally with faculty associations on other UC campuses or with other groups, and sometimes with the University if it can benefit from our independent voice. But these alliances are made only on an ad hoc basis because the UCLA FA preserves the independence that has always characterized this organization on this campus, statewide, and in Sacramento.

Historically, the FA concentrates on issues that affect the workplace—mainly salaries and benefits—leaving academic matters to the Senate. In this context, the FA is now focusing on the new personnel section APM 0668, called the Negotiated Salary Program (NSP). The campuses have been asked to comment on this proposed policy by Oct 28, and the systemwide comments must be in by Nov. 18, 2011. To see the new policy and read something about its background, go to

Post your short comments on this blogsite! If your comments more space that the blogsite comments allow, email your longer comments to the FA (, and we will distribute them by email.

If you are not already a member of the UCLA FA, the Executive Board asks you to join your colleagues in supporting this organization, which has been acting on behalf of faculty interests for more than 35 years. More information on the history and mission of the UCLA FA is on the website at Click “Join” at the top for an application.

The 2010-11 UCLA FA Executive Board

Dwight Read, Chair

Sheila Greibach, Treasurer Computer Sci.,

Michael Allen, English Department

Ian Coulter, Dentistry and Public Health

Jody Kreiman, Surgery

Steve Lippman, Management

Michael Lofchie, Political Science

John Merriam, Molecular Cell Development Bio

Daniel Mitchell, Management and Public Affairs, FA Blogsite Manager

Karen Orren, Political Science

Malina Stefanovska, French and Francophone Studies

Steve Cederbaum, Emeritus Representative


FA Bulletin: APM 0668

This new policy would not have surfaced in the old days when California was building one of the greatest educational systems in the world and funding the University of California to become the premier public university. The step/ladder salary plan functioned as an equitable way to reward merit and excellence. But times have changed. Off-scale has been used to supplement salaries of most faculty, while the step/ladder rates have been stuck in place for many years. UC has now been forced to look for alternate funding for faculty salary increases and more liberal policies to maintain its excellence.

The new APM 0668 would allow faculty outside the School of Medicine, which has already a similar program in place, to apply to department chairs or other administrators to use some portion of non-state resources to supplement their salaries for a specific period of time, typically one to two years. The NSP must comply with all federal and state regulations, limitations, and exclusions, regarding the use of grant funds for salary augmentation and any gift or endowment memoranda of understanding about the use of funding.

This negotiated salary supplement for faculty (“y”) would be in addition to base salary (step/scale + off-scale or “x”). The “y” would not be covered by UCRP (the basic UC pension plan) because it would not be a permanent part of the salary; instead, the “y” would be a temporary faculty salary supplement that could be renewed for one to two years, based on the annual or two-year review process regardless of whether the faculty member obtains new or retains previously awarded non-state funding. APM 0668 could be seen as a salary augmentation scheme, parallel to off-scale, but less permanent.

Also, APM 0668 is not a salary exchange program; UC is not replacing its funding with non-state funding. UC is allowing some faculty to supplement their salaries for a limited and specific period of time based on the availability of non-state funds.

The new Negotiated Salary Program (NSP) allows three kinds of funding to supplement faculty salaries: gifts and endowments, professional fees and fees in self-supporting programs, and research grants that allow some part of the total grant to be allocated to salaries. Although APM 0668 may affect very few faculty, it is possible that the greatest number will be those who receive multiple research grants.

NSP has its supporters and detractors. Those in favor say that the policy would allow UC to supplement the salaries of faculty on the general campus in ways similar to those that have been used in the health sciences compensation plan and to do so in the new environment of reduced state funding. The NSP would also help the University recruit new faculty and retain those with competing offers by using extramural funding to sweeten offers. Those opposed to the NSP bring up the costs associated with research grants, some of which may not be fully covered by the indirect cost rate paid to the University on both federal and nonfederal grants. The NSP could also result in even greater salary inequities among faculty at the same step on the ladder that arise from further emphasis on competition and market value.

The UCLA Faculty Association has three areas of concern about the new policy. The first two have to do with the basic assumptions behind the APM 0668, rather than what is stated in the policy itself, and the third has to do with historical methods of setting salary increases for UC faculty.

The first area concerns “the contingency fee,” (668-10, a, 4: “Management of the contingency fund that supports the Program.” Some have speculated that this is actually a tax to divert revenue from one source to support other units with less access to external funding. While equalizing funding is an issue, nothing will short-circuit the NSP faster than the idea of a tax; therefore, it is important that the NSP language specifically spell out what use will be made of the contingency fund.

One such use of the contingency fee would be insurance for the limited time that the NSP has been awarded. For instance, if some faculty get negotiated salary supplements, and in the second year, for example, the funding is cut or stopped, there must be some sort of “contingency fund” or “self-insurance fund” to cover salary supplements that have been negotiated for a specific time period for which the funding is no longer adequate. Illness of the faculty member could also require insurance. The suggested fee is now set at 3% of the faculty member’s base salary (scale/step + off-scale). Thus a faculty member with a base salary of $100,000 would need the grant to pay a contingency fee of $3,000 to UC in case of an unforeseen drop in grant funding.

Why isn’t the contingency fund based on the amount of the negotiated salary supplement rather than the entire base salary, which would not be affected by any reduction in grant funding? If the fee were based on the amount of the salary supplement, the percentage of the contingency fee might differ significantly from 3%. For example, if the negotiated salary supplement were $15,000, then NSP might require as much as 10% of that amount or $1,500 put aside as insurance in case the $13,500 ($15,000 - $1,500) from the grant were to be unavailable during the duration of the grant. This example shows why it is essential to spell out what use will be made of the contingency fund in order to set the rate in a fair and transparent manner. The contingency fund is not a long-term insurance policy to make the NSP a permanent salary increase for any faculty; it is a short-term policy designed for emergencies.

Second, the NSP assumes that no faculty member would be permitted to negotiate a salary increase of more than 25% of base salary, established on an annual basis. If a grant allows more to be charged to salary, why would the University set a limit of 25%? Given this limited time period of the agreement of 1 to 2 years, to assume a 25% limit appears to question the policy before it is even implemented. If limits on the NSP are adopted on all grants, even those for which there are no limits on the amount that can be allocated to salary within the grant itself, then language should be added to explain the rationale for the limit. If the 25% limit has been set to limit possible abuse of the NSP, then the policy itself should be clarified to avoid abuse.

Third, the FA is concerned about whether the negotiated salary supplements would be included in the salary totals for all UC faculty for the purpose of comparing the average UC salaries with those of the Comparison-8 Institutions. This question raises another: do UC’s peer institutions follow a policy similar to NSP and include these kinds of supplements in the salaries they report to UC? If the supplements were included in UC salaries, it would raise the average, which would, in turn, call for a lower salary increase for UC faculty to achieve parity with its peers.

The UCLA FA was invited, among other interested parties, to submit comments on the APM 0668 proposal. This blog post represents discussion of the FA Board at a recent meeting. The FA is more than the Board, of course, so the blog is posted to give all faculty the opportunity to join in the discussion and make their input available.

The UCLA FA welcomes all responses.

Stand By

As prior posts on this blog have noted, Gov. Brown has a public pension plan proposal – but no one quite knows what it is and whether, more specifically, it will cover UC (and possibly override the Regents’ pension revision of December 2010).

Excerpt from Capitol Alert late yesterday:

Gov. Jerry Brown will give lawmakers his plan for pension changes on Thursday, the governor said in a letter to legislators this afternoon, though it remains unclear what Brown will propose.

"Given the paramount importance of pensions to both taxpayers and public employees, it is absolutely critical that we carefully examine our current assumptions and practices," Brown said in a letter to Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Chino, and Assemblyman Warren Furutani, D-Gardena. "We have to do our best to make sure that we have a system that is fair and truly sustainable over the long time horizon that our pension and health systems require." The Democratic governor has said for weeks that he would propose pension changes this fall. He recently said some of them will require a constitutional amendment and a vote of the people.

Full article at:

So we’ll just have to wait until tomorrow:

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Drivers should expect delays along Sepulveda Boulevard in Westwood starting today and continuing for three months...

As part of a $1 billion project to widen the San Diego (405) Freeway through the Sepulveda Pass, Chevron needs to move a gas line that runs underneath Sepulveda Boulevard. The move requires workers to drill underground, beginning near Sepulveda and Montana Avenue. The drilling exit point will be the intersection of Sepulveda and Moraga Drive.

The work requires the closure of one southbound lane of Sepulveda adjacent to the drill's entry and exit points, said Dave Sotero of Metro. Most of Sepulveda between the two intersections will be fully open, but "any closure on Sepulveda is a problem," Sotero said. Crews are scheduled to work from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. for three months.

Traffic problems also will be exacerbated by the closure of the southbound San Diego Freeway offramp at Sunset Boulevard for at least another week. Sotero said crews are ahead of schedule on raising approaches to Sunset Bridge, which will be about four feet higher on one side. The offramp is scheduled to reopen Sunday.


Student Aid Alliance

From Inside Higher Ed today (excerpt below) comes a note about the Student Aid Alliance, a higher education group of which both UC and CSU are members.

Alliance Pushes to Save Pell From 'Super Committee'

October 25, 2011 The Student Aid Alliance, a group of 74 higher education associations, advocacy groups and other organizations, announced a lobbying campaign Monday to fight possible cuts to federal financial aid as the Congressional committee on deficit reduction enters the final month before its Nov. 24 deadline…

There are various links in the article including a petition that you may find of interest.

Full story - with the links - at:

Maybe the story is in the price

Yours truly received the ad above via email. I haven't read the book but wonder if, just maybe, the story is told in its price. (If you have trouble reading the image above, click on it for a larger picture.)

Monday, October 24, 2011

UC Admissions in Newspeak?

UC's new admissions rules confuse applicants: The SAT subject exams are no longer required. If students take them anyway, good scores can help but poor scores won't hurt, administrators say. (except)

Larry Gordon, LA Times, 10/24/11

…(T)he new rules have caused widespread confusion and anxiety among students about whether to take the supplemental tests known as SAT subject exams. {Note from yours truly: These tests are the subject exams, not the regular SAT which remains required.} To boost their chances of UC admission, thousands of high school seniors are taking the subject exams even though the university has dropped them as a requirement, starting with applications for next fall. UC still requires scores from the main SAT test or its rival, the ACT.

Good subject test scores in any discipline will be a "plus factor" in a freshman application, similar to musical ability or club leadership, UC officials say. Not taking them or doing poorly won't eliminate anyone, they emphasize.

Many high school students and counselors contend that is a bewilderingly mixed message. If taking the subject tests helps some students, they ask, won't not taking them potentially hurt others in the zero sum game of admissions? Adding to the uncertainty is that several UC engineering and science programs recommend subject tests in math and science…

To help clear up confusion, UC officials have been explaining the reforms at meetings of high school counselors and administrators around the state. After a recent session in Anaheim, several counselors said they still felt unsettled. "They kept saying that the subject tests are not required but could help. What does that mean? It is a little nebulous," said Jared Fulton, acting assistant principal and a counselor at Los Amigos High School in Orange County. "You could argue both ways on what we heard."

Full article at,0,4217121.story

Confused? Maybe these guys can explain it:

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Just a Little Patience

If you are like me, you will have received the postcard above last week (despite the Sept. 27 date), inviting you to look at UCLA's crime data. But if you took up the invitation on the card to visit the website, you got the message above:

Under Maintenance: The site you are trying to reach is temporarily unavailable due to scheduled maintenance. The website will be accessible shortly. We apologize for the inconvenience and ask for your patience.

So we patiently await:
Update: The website is back up. You can go directly to the crime data at

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Monday Afternoon Traffic Alert

An LAObserved report yesterday suggested that getting home from UCLA this coming Monday (Oct. 24) may be complicated by an “Obamajam.” (Excerpt)

President Barack Obama is scheduled to arrive at LAX on board Air Force One between 4:30 and 5 p.m. on Monday, the White House just announced. This means that however he moves to the Hancock Park area for Democratic campaign fundraisers … his travel will fall during the peak time for cross-town traffic. Yeah, we're talking Obamajam again…

Full article at

It’s hard to imagine that the President arriving around rush hour at LAX will not affect at least the 405.

In short, moving around may be difficult:

Update: It appears there will be a direct impact on the UCLA area. See

Friday, October 21, 2011

How Big?

How big would a 282 room hotel be? That is the size of the old proposal for a hotel/conference center that was originally slated to replace the Faculty Center. To give you an idea of its size, a new hotel has just opened in Santa Monica with only 164 rooms. 164/282 = 58%. The picture above shows that the Santa Monica hotel is quite large despite the much smaller number of rooms. As prior posts have noted, none of the private hotels in the Westwood area are as big as 282 rooms.

While awaiting the revised proposal for the hotel/conference center from the administration, you can read about the Santa Monica hotel at

So how big will it be?

Rising Employee Pension Contributions

A note from the Daily Bruin of 10/20/11:

Faculty and staff could be paying more toward retirement within two years in a proposal to be discussed by the UC Board of Regents in November.

Under the proposal, employee contributions to the University of California Retirement Plan would rise to 6.5 percent of covered salary starting July 1, 2013. The UC, meanwhile, would pay 12 percent.

Right now, faculty and staff contribute 3.5 percent and the UC pays 7 percent.

This is the second time in about a year that the regents will vote to raise employee and UC contributions. Last September, increases were set to begin in July 2011 and July 2012...

The proposed increase to 6.5 percent would cover the yearly cost of the retirement plan for the first time in years, said Steve Montiel, a spokesperson with the UC Office of the President. Every year, the plan’s costs total about 17 percent of annual pay...
Note: This may be in keeping with the state's new In-God-We-Trust-All-Others-Pay-Cash policy. See

Thursday, October 20, 2011

There Goes the Baby: Fewer UC Undergrads in Late 2030s?

Given the chart above from today's Sacramento Bee, will there be fewer UC undergrads in the late 2020s and beyond? The original chart is at Accompanying article is at

It's an interesting question:

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Bad News for UCLA Night Owls Next Week (Unless You Stay All Night)

Wilshire Boulevard Closure Postponed Until Monday As Part Of 405 Construction Work

The contractor is anticipated to begin erecting bridge false-work at the Wilshire under-crossing on Monday, Oct. 24 through Thursday, Oct. 28, 2011 from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. The 405 construction contractor has postponed the full closure of Wilshire Boulevard until Monday, Oct. 24, 2011. This activity will require the full closure of Wilshire Blvd., from Veteran to Federal.

False-work is a temporary structure used to support structures in order to hold the component in place until construction is sufficiently advanced to support itself. Sepulveda Blvd. will be reduced to one lane in each direction from Ohio to Constitution and the Northbound 405 off-ramp to Westbound Wilshire will be closed.

Update: Night owls get a reprieve. There is a report as of Oct. 21 that the closures will be delayed until early next year.

So far, money from we-know-not-where has not appeared in state budget

As readers of this blog will know, UC’s budget is still threatened by a possible pulling of a budget “trigger” if forecast revenues do not arrive as anticipated. What the legislature did when it enacted this fiscal year’s budget was to assume incremental revenue – but not raise taxes (or prevent the end of temporary taxes) to generate that additional revenue. Having made the assumption, it could then pass the budget by simple majority vote, i.e., without the 2/3 vote that a tax increase or extension would have required which would have entailed Republican votes.

All budgets are based on revenue forecasts and the forecasts are made on a tax-by-tax basis, i.e., so much for income tax, so much for sales tax, etc. In this go-round, however, the legislature kept its forecast on a tax-by-tax basis and then just added an “unallocated revenue increase.” Effectively, the legislature said there will be more revenue, but we don’t know exactly in which pot it will appear.

Above you see a table from the Dept. of Finance of actual and forecast revenue for the first quarter of the current fiscal year (July-Sept.). $775 million in extra incremental revenue was supposed to appear from we-know-not-where. (Look at the line for unallocated revenue increase towards the bottom.) However, in total actual revenue fell short of forecast total revenue by $654 million. Given the vagaries of forecasting, there is not much difference between what actually came in and what was anticipated to come in, absent the we-know-not-where money. In short, the old budget forecast – based on the May revise before the assumption was added - was about right. If things continue on the current track, there is a definite likelihood that the trigger will be pulled – unless, of course, the governor and legislature decide not to let it be pulled.

The full Dept. of Finance report is at

But maybe the money will magically arrive:

Groundhog Hotel?

Are we about to repeat - and repeat? Supposedly, we are going to be receiving (soon?) a revised (?) plan for the hotel/conference center. Yet on the UCLA Newsroom website - screenshot taken today - we find an entry about the hotel/conference center which includes:

Q: What is the UCLA residential conference center project?
A: UCLA is planning a 295,000-square-foot residential conference center featuring 33,000 square feet of meeting and conference space, a 9,000-square-foot conference hall, a 250-seat dining room and at least 282 guest rooms. The plan also includes a new 22,500-square-foot faculty club with a separate entrance and meeting space, a 300-seat dining room, a lounge, a café and bar, outdoor seating for 130 and an event lawn.

Seems like we are repeating old history, again and again. Reminds me of:

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Follow Up: GASB proposals could stir things up for UCRP via CalSTRS

Yesterday, we noted proposed changes in public pension accounting rules by GASB, the Governmental Accounting Standards Board. An observation from Academic Council Chair Robert Anderson, added to that blog note, indicated that the GASB proposal would not have a direct impact on UCRP. However, the problem facing UCRP is partly political.

As prior blog posts have noted, the governor is planning some kind of pension proposals – apparently requiring a ballot proposition. Such a proposition, depending on how it is worded, could sweep UCRP into a statewide change, even though the Regents enacted their own pension modifications in December 2010.

There is a report today in the Sacramento Bee that the big CalSTRS fund covering schools, whose unfunded liability is already large under current accounting rules, would experience a big jump in its recorded liability:

…The California State Teachers' Retirement System already faces a funding gap of $56 billion – the difference between the money it expects to have on hand over the next 30 years and what it will need to pay out in benefits during the same period. The (GASB) proposal would triple the gap – on paper – to around $150 billion, said Ed Derman, deputy chief executive officer at CalSTRS…

Full article at:

Anything that raises the pension issue in the larger state pensions – CalSTRS and CalPERS – could lead indirectly to UCRP changes that go beyond what the Regents enacted. While CalPERS apparently would not be much affected by the GASB proposal, $150 billion at CalSTRS will surely stir things up.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Buried Lede on Retiree Health?

From Wiktionary

“bury the lede”

(idiomatic, US, journalism) To begin a story with details of secondary importance to the reader while postponing more essential points or facts.


An article in today’s indicates that both CalPERS and CalSTRS have asked GASB – the Governental Accounting Standards Board – for a delay in its proposed new rules on public pension accounting. The rule would allow public pensions such as UCRP to continue with their projections of earnings on their assets (7.5% for UCRP) but would require a much lower discount rate for unfunded liabilities. The net effect of the proposed change would boost the accounting value of unfunded liability.

Buried at the end of the report is an indication that GASB is moving towards doing the same for retiree health care. Note that at UC, as in most public systems, there essentially is no trust fund with assets for retiree health – the system is pay-as-you-go. Hence, everything is unfunded liability. The impact on reported unfunded liability for retiree health would be much bigger than for pensions.

There is also a final sentence that indicates GASB is looking at “financial projections.” It is not clear to what that phrase refers, but it sure sounds like GASB is looking at whether assumed future earnings rates on assets, e.g., 7.5% for UCRP (and higher at CalPERS and CalSTRS), are too high.

Here are the last few sentences of the article:

Other speakers at the hearing said the new accounting rules should require government employers to report their retiree health debt. The state, for example, owes an estimated $60 billion over the next 30 years for retiree health care. Like most government employers, the state has not set aside money to invest and help pay for retiree health care promised current state workers. The state is paying about $1.5 billion for retiree health care this year, a rapidly growing cost.

“I think I can offer you some hope,” …the GASB chairman, told a speaker. “Dealing with OPEB (other post-employment benefits), primarily retiree health benefits, is something that’s on our agenda. We will be looking at that going forward.”

(He) told another speaker that GASB has “another project that is looking at financial projections.”

Full article at

UPDATE: Academic Council chair Robert Anderson adds the following note re UCRP via email (in italics below):

The actual GASB proposal for pensions is to project the liabilities year by year; then project the assets forward, including future contributions according to your actuarial plan (which you must be actually following, not just planning to do at some indefinite point in the future) and your assumed rate of return on assets and see if you ever run out of money. If you do, all liabilities beyond that point are discounted back at a lower rate, most likely a corporate bond or a taxable municipal bond rate. If not, all liabilities are discounted back at the assumed rate of return. We have an actuarial plan that restores us to full funding in 30 years, and we are currently following it, so the new GASB rule on pensions should make no difference to us.

It would make sense for (GASB) to apply that to retiree health. But note we are already discounting retiree health at (if I recall correctly) 6%, precisely because we are not prefunding it. Thus, I think there would be little change in our retiree health liability. I presume CalPERS and CalSTRS are also currently required to use the lower rate also. Thus, I am not sure it would make much difference.

In short, the impact on retiree health accounting would depend on whether GASB insisted on a rate below 6%.