Monday, December 31, 2012

Some Closing Thoughts for 2012

U of Chicago Economics Professor Steven Levitt, co-author of the Freakonomics books, radio programs, blog, etc., made some interesting comments about business and MBA education in the context of a larger discussion of confirmation bias. Basically, he says that willingness to admit ignorance and non-expertise is not part of the business culture and that MBAs learn confidently to provide answers to questions for which they don't know the answers. Admitting you don't know is unacceptable. You can hear his comments at the link below.

One suspects that the problem is not just one of business but of management of all types of organizations. Could it possibly be a characteristic of university management, for example? We have noted that the Regents confidently approve vast sums for UC capital construction relying on reassuring statements by campus management officials that they have foolproof business plans illustrated by spreadsheets and pretty PowerPoint charts. The Regents are so confident that they have the expertise to evaluate such plans on their own that they feel no need for outside opinions or even follow-up mechanisms to see if what was promised was actually delivered. One thinks about the grand hotel project at UCLA, for example, but the problem extends more widely to other projects and campuses. Might the situation change in 2013?  I can confidently say that I don't know for sure but that I am a natural pessimist about such matters.

One might also question Levitt's assertion that that unlike those business types and MBAs, academics always start from the position that they don't know the answer.  Happy New Year!

Levitt's comments can be heard below:

Sunday, December 30, 2012

UC Recent History: Appalled at the Fed

Lots of news stories are appearing at this time of the year summing up events of 2012.  John Myers, who writes a Capitol Connection blog for a Bay Area TV station, including various photos of such events.  From the presidential campaign, he included a picture of Ron Paul speaking at UC-Berkeley on April 5, 2012 and leading audience chants of "End the Fed."

So maybe the image of UC-Berkeley as exclusively leftist needs some qualification if Paul could have a successful rally there.  Or maybe the photo and event just reflect the fact that there are those on the left and on the right who are suspicious of central banking and the Federal Reserve.

In any case, the photo comes from:

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Who did in the deli?

As a recent post noted, one of the few deli options near UCLA - Junior's on Westwood Blvd. near Pico - as about to close.  The original story indicated that the closure was due to a rent hike. But apparently the landlord doesn't want to be the villain and says the true culprits are the owners of Junior's who inherited the business and are not operating it effectively.  In any event, no one is saying it isn't closing.  All we can do is look on with a rye sense of humor.

Updated story is at

Friday, December 28, 2012

We might as well join the fiscal cliff discussion with this cheery note

...The University of California system estimates it would lose $335 million in federal research funding this fiscal year, according to Christopher Harrington, spokesman for UC's Washington, D.C., office. That represents roughly 8 to 9 percent of UC's research portfolio from such agencies as the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Agriculture and Department of Energy...

And on the state budget:
...Jerry Nickelsburg, senior economist with the UCLA Anderson Forecast, said he believes the U.S. would experience a "mild recession" absent a fiscal cliff deal, largely because of lower consumption. He also warned that reduced profits in 2013 could mean less tax revenue than Brown expects from his voter-approved tax hike on wealthy earners...

The full article is at:

High at UCLA in 1963

In an interview on NPR's "Fresh Air" program with Terry Gross, Dr. Oliver Sacks notes that he started experimenting with drugs that can induce hallucinations while doing his residency at UCLA:

...GROSS: What was the first time you tried a drug that induced perceptual distortions?

SACKS: I think it was in 1963, and I was in Los Angeles, at UCLA, doing a residency in neurology, but I was also much on the beach, on Venice Beach and Muscle Beach. And there, there was quite a drug culture, as there was also in Topanga Canyon, where I lived. And one day, someone offered me some pot. And I took two puffs from it, and I'd been looking at my hand for some reason, and the hand seemed to retreat from me but at the same time getting larger and larger until it became a sort of cosmic hand across the universe. And I found that astounding...

Full transcript - scroll down when you click on the link - is at

You can hear the broadcast at [UCLA reference is around 6:20 minute point]

The taking of drugs was definitely in the air in the early 1960s.  We don't know if when he appeared at UCLA in 1960, Tom Lehrer (see below) sang his well known song, "The Old Dope Peddler." But it is possible.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

UCLA History: Old Tunnel (and maybe a new tunnel in the future?)

Above is a phote of the opening in 1930 of the Sepulveda tunnel north of UCLA.  A story in the LA Daily News describes grand plans, nowhere near fruition, for such options as a new tunnel under the pass, a rapid busway, or a rail system.  Of course, while construction on such options occurred, there would be gridlock of the type we currently have with the 405 widening.  The story can be found at:

No Deli

There are not a lot of deli options near UCLA.  If you go down Westwood Blvd., however, toward Pico, you come to Junior's.  According to the LA Times, however, Junior's is going to close by the end of the year - which doesn't give it much time to do so.

According to the LA Times' story, the rent was upped and business is down, resulting in the closure.

Junior’s Deli, a 53-year-old Westside staple, will close at the end of the year, narrowing the ranks of Jewish delis in Southern California. Employees, some of them multi-decade veterans of the business, learned Wednesday of the comfort food haven’s impending shutdown, a casualty of a rent dispute over the 11,000-square-foot space...

Full story at,0,6995139.story

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

More on State Budget Leaks

As a previous post noted, this is the season in which there are leaks about the governor's upcoming budget proposal for 2013-14 which will be presented officially in early January.  Given the timing, the budget is already prepared, or 99% prepared.

So far, there has been no leak about higher ed.  However, there is an item today in the Sacramento Bee about K-12 (a much larger chunk of the state budget) that suggests the governor will propose revamping the K-12 allocation formulas to give more assistance to disadvantaged children and districts with concentrations of such children. He pushed for changes in that direction last year so this goal appears to be one in which the governor has a special interest.

That fact suggests that UC would be well advised to emphasize in its PR and communications with the governor such things as the proportion of first generation college students, transfer programs with community colleges, and any projects that involve working with school districts to improve outcomes of the disadvantaged.

The Sacramento Bee article is at:

Somewhat related is another article in the Bee dealing with the issues facing assembly speaker John PĂ©rez.  We noted in an earlier post that an initiative has been filed to raise tobacco taxes for UC and CSU scholarships.  It appeared to have some serious backers, unlike many initiatives that are filed but go nowhere.  The Bee article notes at the end that "middle class college scholarships" are a priority of the speaker.  You can read it at:

And talking about college, if you ever wondered precisely how the Electoral College worked, here is how it operates, at least in California, in conveniently short excerpts.  (The actual full session ran an hour and a quarter.)

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

How Ironclad is the Pension Guarantee?

Famous clash of Civil War ironclads
There is a risk in even blogging about this topic that someone will start worrying that his/her pension check next month won't arrive.  So the usual caveats are in order.  1) There is enough money in the UC pension today so that if no one contributed (and in fact contributions are being made and ramping up), 2) and investment returns were zero over the long term (very unlikely), the fund would not run out of money for many, many years.  And even at that point, there could be pay-as-you-go funding.  In addition, the Regents' 2010 plan for a lower tier affects pensions only for new hires.

Nonetheless, the issue of cutting existing pension obligations keeps being raised, particularly by those who don't like public pensions.  Most recently, there has a been a legal battle over the bankruptcy filing of the City of San Bernardino regarding its pension obligations to CalPERS.  When it filed for bankruptcy, that city stopped making its payments to CalPERS (which doesn't mean that CalPERS stopped paying pensions to those who earned them in that city).  The city said it was short of cash.  CalPERS threatened to sue, threats that it made (successfully) to other bankrupt cities.  Initially, all of this was reported by the media as a loosening of the public pension guarantee.  But that is not accurate, as a recent article in points out.  The federal bankruptcy judge asked CalPERS not to sue - but did not forbid it.  So far CalPERS has not sued.  But the bankruptcy judge has also said that unlike other creditors, CalPERS is not among those who would have to negotiate for a reduction in what they are ultimately paid on their debts.  It appears that CalPERS will have to be made whole.  The outcome of the San Bernardino filing for bankruptcy is not clear.  (There are even some questions about whether the city met the full requirements for such a filing.)  But so far, the idea of an ironclad pension obligation seems to have been reinforced rather than eroded.

Again, this situation is very unlike that of UC.  UC is not filing for bankruptcy.  You will get your pension.  The concern for UC is that past underfunding is now encroaching on the current and future budget of the system.  As we have repeatedly emphasized, the pension is a young folks issue, not an old folks issue, because of the budget impact.

The article is at:

Monday, December 24, 2012

UCLA Undergrad Philanthropy Course

The LA Times today carries a story about a fall quarter undergraduate philanthropy course in which $100,000 was distributed to various local charitable groups by students who research such groups. The course was taught by Dean Judi Smith.  

Back in May, the Daily Bruin carried a story about the course which was then being announced. 

You can find the original story at:
The LA Times’ story about the outcome of the course is at,0,5878820.story
UCLA put out two media releases about the course outcome earlier this month but apparently the LA Times reserved it as a holiday story.  See and  

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Good News Story About the Med Center at UCLA; Not So Good at UC-Davis

The web brings Good News about the UCLA med center in the form of a new transplant procedure:

On the other hand, our friends at UC-Davis are getting anything but good news from the feds in a story that might make some folks there nostalgic for the days when all they had to worry about was pepper spraying:

In case you missed it...

An interesting story appeared in yesterday's LA Times by columnist Sandy Banks about UCLA adjunct law professor Anthony Tolbert who turned his house over to needy strangers and moved in with his mother to make room.

When Tony Tolbert turned 50 last year, he marked the occasion by moving in with his mother.  The decision wasn't about money. He's a Harvard-educated attorney, on the staff of UCLA's law school. And it wasn't because his mother wanted or needed him home. It was Tolbert's response to the sort of midlife milestone that prompts us to take stock. Instead of buying a sports car, he decided to turn his home — rent free — over to strangers...

You can find the full story at:,0,6596236,full.column

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Tobacco Tax for UC/CSU Student Aid Initiative Filed

Note: We posted this story yesterday although blogger now shows it as today for reasons unknown.

An initiative has been filed that would raise tobacco taxes to fund student aid at UC and CSU.  The usual caveats apply.  It takes $1-$2 million to pay signature gathering firms to get such a petition on the ballot (as opposed to $200 to file it).  A tobacco tax initiative brings out big money opposition from tobacco companies.  Recall the tobacco tax that failed last June.  So a sponsor - if serious - would have to have deep pockets to carry out an effective campaign to enact the initiative if it got on the ballot.

All yours truly can say about this one is that it is professionally drafted - many initiatives that are filed are not - by a law firm that specializes in election matters and has represented various unions, the Democratic Party, and even UC.  At least, that is what it says on the firm's website:

The initiative itself is at:

At some point, we will find out if there is serious money behind this initiative.  In the meantime:

Proponents of Tobacco Tax for UC/CSU Scholarships May Not Just Be Blowing Smoke

Yesterday (although blogger now shows it as today and later than this posting for reasons unknown), we noted an initiative had been filed that would tax tobacco to provide scholarship aid for UC and CSU students.  We noted in particular that the initiative was professionally drafted, unlike many that are filed and, so, might have serious backers that could really fund a campaign.

The San Francisco Chronicle picks up the story today and notes the Lt. Governor Newsom seems linked to the initiative.  The initiative's spokesperson is someone named in an earlier item in the Chronicle as a key aide to California Senate president Steinberg.

Bottom line: This effort could be for real.  The Chronicle story is at:

Jason Kinney, the spokesperson, was identified in an August story as "Steinberg's chief political consultant."

The earliest this initiative could be on the ballot would be Nov. 2014 unless some kind of legislative action changed the existing procedure.  But at that time, if passed, students might well say:

UCLA History: Winter 1932

Now that we have survived a supposed Mayan prediction of the end of the world and are in the first full day of winter, here is a snow scene of Powell in 1932.

If you are curious about why we survived, NASA has some answers:

And, by the way, as far as I can tell, the correct pronunciation of WINTER is WINTR:

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Money That Danced Away

USC recently announced a gift from philanthropist Glorya Kaufman to establish a new school of dance.  In a radio interview on KCRW, Kaufman said she had given money for renovation of a dance building at UCLA but the building wasn't being used as intended.  Excerpt:

...Glorya Kaufman, the philanthropist funding USC’s new dance school, won’t reveal exactly how much money she’s putting into it. “That’s not the important part. The important part is what it’s doing … that’s why I’m withholding that amount,” she says. But whatever the pricetag, it’s large enough to pay for a brand new building and at least part of the faculty hiring and curriculum.

So who is Glorya Kaufman?  She is the widow of Donald Bruce Kaufman, one of the founders of the home building company now known as KB Homes, who has given tens of millions of dollars to dance programs in and outside of L.A in recent years, including a $20 million gift to downtown’s Music Center to host dance companies from around the world. She’s also given $6 million to Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and $3.5 million to the Juilliard School in New York.  In 1999, Kaufman gave UCLA $18 million to renovate its dance building. She says she’s since been disappointed in UCLA’s dance program — an interdisciplinary one that’s combined with the World Arts and Cultures Department –and in how the school has used the building...

You can read the full transcript of the broadcast and listen to the program at:

First with the Japanese Garden affair and now with dance, UCLA seems to be establishing a reputation with donors of not doing what is promised.  We have noted in prior posts that gifts of human capital such as scholarships, endowed chairs, and research grants are more likely to leave a long-term legacy for donors than grand buildings which can someday be demolished or re-purposed.  Yes, you can try and protect legacies with contracts.  But, as noted, the Japanese Garden affair seems to suggest that putting it in writing doesn't provide guarantees when it comes to physical facilities.

UCLA History: Westwood 1941

Same scene as previous post.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

UCLA History: Early Westwood

Westwood scene: 1930

It's Budget Leak Time

There are formal and informal elements of the state budget process.  One formal part is the requirement that the governor present a budget proposal to the legislature in early January (Jan. 10).  The legislature is supposed to enact a budget by mid-June.  But there are also informal elements.  For example, it is traditional that the governor present the legislature with a "May revise" modified proposal for the budget in mid-May.  Another tradition is that bits of news about the budget begin to leak out around this time. Given the realities of the complexities of the state budget, by now the basics are in place at the Department of Finance.

Sure enough, an item on the LA Times website yesterday discussed an expansion of the Medi-Cal program as part of the larger "Obamacare" plan. (Medi-Cal is what other states call Medicaid.) See  You can view such leaks in part as a testing of the waters.  If anyone expected the first leak of the season to be some dramatic increase in the higher ed budget, this item should be a reminder that social welfare spending is a competitive claimant for the state's budget dollar.  It is also likely that K-12 will be relatively well treated, given that the campaign for Prop 30 revolved around money for schools.

In any event, expect the leaks to keep dripping out of the governor's office:

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Nice LA Times report on the Royce Hall piano

Royce under construction
In case you missed it, the LA Times ran a story about the acquisition of a new concert piano for Royce Hall. You can find it at,0,2245506.story

Lessons from NYU for Murphy Hall, UCOP, and the Regents to Ponder

Inside Higher Ed today has an interesting and lengthy article on a pending NYU faculty vote of no-confidence in that university's president which relates to a construction project of the university.  We have reported in this blog about the large capital project agenda that is routinely approved by the Board of Regents for UC campuses without real independent oversight capability on the part of the Board.  Perhaps there are lessons from NYU to be learned.  The recent extended brouhaha about the UC logo – clearly a minor issue compared to the NYU matter – suggests that folks in Murphy Hall, in Oakland, and on the Board of Regents should do some reflecting on current procedures.  Grand campus hotels and similar projects could eventually trigger something more than the logo affair at the campus, systemwide, and regental levels, particularly if the business plans for these projects don't work out.

You can find the NYU article at:

Pay Premium for Higher Ed in California Particularly High

The chart above comes from a recently-released study on pay premiums by level of education by state.  California shows up as having a relatively high premium for college grads and advanced degree grads relative to high school grads.  The data are based on median wage & salary adjusted to 2010 dollars for 2006-10.  The study groups workers by their broad occupational field: arts & humanities, business & commerce, health, and STEM (science, technology, engineering, math).  It is interesting to note that the high premium in California shows up within each of these broad areas as well as for all combined.

To make the chart clearer, click on it.  I have marked California with a dark rectangle.

The study was released by a group called the State Higher Education Executive Officers Assn.  You can find the study (including a methodology statement) at:

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Skeptical View About Online Courses (from a commercial viewpoint)

The Digital Skeptic: Online Education Fails Economics

Jonathan Blum, 12/18/12, LA Daily News

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- …In this nutty digital age, the red-hot online thing is …old-school, throwback university classes with a Web-age twist: They're free."The course is working out better than I dreamed," Michael J. Cima told me in an email. Cima, the David H. Koch Professor of Engineering at MIT, teaches a free, online version of one of his chemistry courses at the school… Cima is not the only super geek rocking the quad with free online higher ed. 

…So where's the investor bummer? That's sadly far too easy. Just spend one minute studying how the money actually flows into Coursera and it's way clear this business will graduate to become the next Netflix… , Facebook … or Twitter.  That is, yet another digital brand struggling to make its next dime. 

…First, Coursera tries to do business not only in a new digital way, but in a terribly complex one. Go to Page 3 and there is not one business Coursera is in, but three. There's the "Coursera Monetization Model," the "University Monetization Model" and the "Registered Students Model." Besides having the "your guess is as good as mine" vibe as to what businesses these actually are, there are what appear to be tricky revenue splits all over this campus. That means anybody close to this outfit should tool up for painful audits, complex disclosures and the bad blood that pollute the music and movie business. 

…"Wow. That contract looks terrible for instructors," Cima wrote to me when I emailed him the Michigan memo. Cima was concerned about a release he would have to sign and losing control of his courses. Coursera's Daphne Koller responded via email that Cima had nothing to fear. The release was merely for marketing photos. She was firm that professors and schools control their material and no deals are exclusive.

…Which graduates us to the 800-pound gorilla sitting in the classroom. Just like in the music or movie industry -- where Napster, Spotify,, Netflix and dozens of other content sites fight a no-win battle selling the same stuff -- Coursera faces essentially limitless competitors from existing and as yet to-be-born outfits offering the same content. Koller told me over the phone that the multifaceted business model sounded far more complex than it really is. And the level of competition her firm faces does not concern her. 

…Like many other Web classmates, Coursera is really in the "business" of offering valuable content -- this time, its $6,000 classes -- for nothing. To these tired eyes, all this company will do is prove, yet again, that this model is as broken on campus as it is in the real world.

The Westwood Barnes Dance

Henry Barnes
As you enter UCLA from the south on Westwood Boulevard, you come across this pedestrian crossing in which all traffic lights turn red for cars and pedestrians can walk diagonally as well as straight across the street.  (There is another such crossing a few blocks away also in Westwood.)  The system is called a "Barnes Dance" after the traffic engineer who pushed for its use, Henry Barnes. 

Yours truly can remember when the Barnes Dance was introduced in New York City in the 1950s (where apparently now there is only one such intersection left).  In any event, a history of these traffic devices can be found at:

The Really Exciting 405 Project (More or Less)

The Westwood-Century City Patch brings us this news of the I-405 project near UCLA:

The investigations that resulted in the denial of 71 percent of damage claims related to the I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project have been handled with careful attention to documentation and responsibility, according to a spokesman for Kiewit Construction, the main contractor for the $1 billion project.  Last week, the Metro Board of Directors approved Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky's motion calling for the inspector general's office to audit Kiewit's claims since the project began in 2009.

Dan Kulka, community relations manager for Kiewit, said 90 percent of the 338 claims filed are vehicle related, while the remaining have come from homeowners abutting the project…

Kulka claimed the problems that delayed the project four to six months were logistical and are now behind the company. "We're heading into rainy season," he said, noting the Wilshire ramp area is getting busier, prepping for closures at the end of the month.

"Kiewit's paved, more or less, the Getty Center off-ramp over the pass and there's a few gaps with bridges there," Kulka said. "Soon we’re going to be able to move the traffic over there and work in the center of the freeway. The Mulholland half is going up fast." Kiewit's also about to move Sepulveda Boulevard 30 feet or so between Montana Avenue and Sunset Boulevard, making it wider. "Looking ahead, it's really exciting," Kulka said. "A year from now we’ll be driving on the new stuff."

Monday, December 17, 2012

Nobody Noticed the Pledge and Maybe That's a Good Thing

It looks like none of the LA City mayoral candidates decided to take the environmental pledge that a UCLA report seemed to suggest they should.  We previously posted about the pledge at:


Our posts noted that the seeming posture of UCLA pushing for political candidates to take particular positions and actions (in this case, creation of a new city agency was among the actions) goes beyond just posing the options that candidates might consider.  Although yours truly did not see the event, in an article describing a recent TV debate among the mayoral candidates appearing in the LA Times, there is no mention of anyone discussing or taking the pledge:

Perhaps no one noticed – or maybe wanted to notice – the pledge proposal.  And maybe that’s a Good Thing since it avoids a controversy over the university playing a direct role in municipal politics.

Despite what it may seem to proponents, sometimes it's better not to be seen:

Sunday, December 16, 2012

UCLA History: Boulevard View

Westwood Blvd. from Kinross, probably late 1930s or early 1940s.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Logo Was Part of an Elaborate and Now-Disappeared "Branding" Program at UC

Above is the screenshot – taken today - of the video used to introduce the new and now-“suspended” UC logo.  It’s an official video on the UC YouTube channel “UCofficeofpresident” The video there is at  In case it disappears – see below on things that seem to be disappearing - we have preserved it as part of our earlier posting at:

Since the text below the video is not clear from the screenshot, here is the text that appears underneath it:

Published on Nov 14, 2012

This video explains the genesis of the University of California systemwide logo. It's part of a broader initiative— the first in its 143-year history — to articulate a comprehensive visual identity for the UC system. It's Boldly Californian. For more information, go to:

There is also the same video on Vimeo with the same message:

If you click directly on the… link as of today, however, it just takes you to the general UC website:  That is, the webpage “…” seems to have disappeared.  The “wayback machine” at (which re-creates the web as it was in the past) doesn’t find it, perhaps because… was a recent creation. However, if you type the address into Google’s search engine, the cache captures some of it:

The University of Transformation
Pioneering. Curious. Vibrant. Thoughtful. Even beautiful. The University of California is located wherever a UC mind is at work. At any given moment, people in the UC community are exploring, creating and advancing our shared experience of life in California and beyond.
These guidelines ensure we express these shared values with every communication. In short, this site helps us all "Speak UC."
Primary colors
Color is a critical institutional identifier. Blue and gold, used by all 10 campuses, comprise the unifying brand element across the system.
For systemwide communications, the University of California’s primary colors are Pantone 299 (blue) and Pantone 116 (gold). Secondary blues and golds allow greater flexibility in use while retaining a distinctive systemwide identity. Equivalent formulas for four-color and digital media are noted as well.
What is a brand?
A brand—our brand—is the intersection of what we say about ourselves, how we act, and what people think of us.
Types of seals
The official seal of the University of California contains the words “Seal of the University of California.” Its use is restricted by the Regents of the University of California.
The unofficial seal of the University
of California contains the words “the University of California,” and can be used with permission from Communications.
The… page also lives on in a link on Pinterest, a photo-sharing website:

Apparently, there were going to be UC buttons with the now-suspended logo:
Although it was said that the new logo was just for the web (because small images of the old logo on the web couldn’t be seen well), Pinterest has an image of a UC truck with giant new logos on the side:

In short, the new logo was part of a much larger program which someone now would like to disappear.  However, nothing ever completely disappears from the web.  Yours truly advises the powers-that-be at UC to restore the… link.  Then we can have a conversation about priorities.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The New UC Logo Is Gone; We'll Miss It

From the Capitol Alert blog of the Sacramento Bee this morning: 

The University of California system announced this morning it has suspended its controversial new logo in the wake of complaints from students and alumni, some of whom derisively compared it to a "toilet bowl." Daniel M. Dooley, senior vice president for external relations at the UC Office of the President, said in a statement that a replacement monogram "could require a measure of time to complete." Dooley seemed a bit defensive, however, suggesting people misunderstood the logo's purpose and that it was only intended for use on "systemwide communications materials." The logo was designed by an in-house design team. "The controversy has been fueled in large part by an unfortunate and false narrative, which framed the matter as an either-or choice between a venerated UC seal and a newly designed monogram," Dooley said. "In fact, the graphic element in question was never intended to replace the official seal that still graces diplomas and other appropriate documents."


What a shame!  It was such fun blogging about while it lasted:

Wait a minute! Is "suspended" the same as "gone"?

The official announcement actually says:
...I have instructed the communications team to suspend further use of the monogram. For certain applications, this process could require a measure of time to complete. In due course, we will re-evaluate this element of the visual identity system... 


Visual identity system?

Read more here:

Cautionary Tales for the Regents

The New York Times today runs cautionary tales today about universities that go on building booms, build up debt, and get into trouble.  The opening lines give you the flavor:
Some call it the Edifice Complex. Others have named it the Law of More, or the Taj Mahal syndrome. A decade-long spending binge to build academic buildings, dormitories and recreational facilities — some of them inordinately lavish to attract students — has left colleges and universities saddled with large amounts of debt. Oftentimes, students are stuck picking up the bill.

Overall debt levels more than doubled from 2000 to 2011 at the more than 500 institutions rated by Moody’s, according to inflation-adjusted data compiled for The New York Times by the credit rating agency. In the same time, the amount of cash, pledged gifts and investments that colleges maintain declined more than 40 percent relative to the amount they owe. With revenue pinched at institutions big and small, financial experts and college officials are sounding alarms about the consequences of the spending and borrowing…

Do the Regents read the NY Times?  Let’s listen carefully to the January Regents meeting to see if there is any sign that they do?  Or do they just continue approving expensive projects (without getting independent reviews) on the basis of nice Excel sheets that always show all is well accompanied by pretty architectural plans?

Radio Interview About David Geffen

Susan Lacy and David Geffen
PBS recently ran an "American Masters" episode about David Geffen who just donated $100 million to the UCLA med school.  [See yesterday's post.]  Yours truly did not see the PBS program but there was a radio interview with the program's director, Susan Lacy, aired on KPCC on Nov. 20.  One amusing anecdote is that Geffen got his first (mailroom) job by stating (apparently falsely) that he was a UCLA grad.  I'm sure he could have an honorary UCLA degree at this point if he wanted one.  The interview can be heard at the link below.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Legislative Analyst Says Everything's OK With UC Faculty Pay

Legislative Analyst's summary:

In this report, we assess UC’s ability to recruit and retain tenured and tenure-track faculty. We find that (1) UC has been hiring candidates who have received their highest degree from some of the most selective universities in the nation, (2) UC has a long history of hiring its top choice faculty candidates, (3) most new entry-level faculty stay at UC long enough to earn tenure, (4) less than 2 percent of faculty resign from UC each year, and (5) UC’s faculty compensation is competitive with other top universities. These findings indicate that UC generally has been successful in its faculty recruitment and retention efforts. In light of these findings, coupled with the continuing need to prioritize limited state funding, the Legislature will need to assess the relative trade-offs between providing funding for faculty salary increases and other competing budget priorities involving faculty and higher education more generally.

So not to worry!!

California has a "529" Tax-Favored College Savings Program

In case you didn't know it, California maintains a tax-favored "529" savings program for college tuition (and related college expenses) that works something like an IRA.  It can be used for any qualified institution nationwide, not just UC.

Details are at


Contributions and Any Earnings Used to Pay for Qualified Higher Education Expenses are Federal and California Income Tax-free.
The earnings portion of any distributions used to pay for qualified higher education expenses will be free from federal and California income tax.
Federal Estate and Gift Tax Benefits
Contributions to ScholarShare may reduce the taxable value of your estate. For example, contributions to the Plan, together with all other gifts from the account owner to the beneficiary, may qualify for an annual federal gift tax exclusion of $13,000 per donor ($26,000 for married contributors), per beneficiary. If an account owner's contribution to a ScholarShare account for a beneficiary in a single year exceeds $13,000 ($26,000 for married contributors), the account owner may elect to treat up to $65,000 of the contributions, or $130,000 for joint filers, as having been made over a period of up to five years for federal gift tax exclusion. Consult your tax advisor.
Flexible Features
Anyone May Open an Account
Parents, grandparents, relatives and friends who are U.S. citizens or resident aliens and at least 18 years of age may open an account and contribute to ScholarShare on behalf of a beneficiary*. California state residency is not required. However, investors residing outside of California should consider their own state's plan first as it may have tax advantages that are only available through that state's plan.
Funds Can be Used at Eligible Schools Nationwide
Whether your beneficiary decides to go to a private or public college or university, in-state or out-of-state, trade or graduate school, funds in the account may be used at any eligible higher educational institution in the nation and many abroad.
Funds Can be Used for a Variety of Qualified Expenses
Funds can be used for tuition, mandatory fees, books, supplies, and equipment required for enrollment or attendance; certain room and board costs, certain expenses for "special needs" students...
Yours truly was reminded of this program by a blog note from the Sacramento Bee mentioning that the account limit in this program was likely to be raised to $371,000 per beneficiary from $350,000.  See [scroll down]

And as it happens, there is a report on the use of such accounts today in Inside Higher Ed with a link to a GAO study: