Thursday, February 28, 2013

Long-Term Care Cop Out?

Back on Feb. 20, we posted a piece on a big CalPERS hike for long-term care insurance.  We noted that although UC is not covered by CalPERS, as state employees, UC employees could buy - some might say were encouraged to buy - long-term care insurance through CalPERS.  Now premiums are climbing rapidly and some may drop the insurance (losing what they paid) due to the price hikes.

From the Sacramento Bee State Worker Blog:

Longtime policyholders say that when CalPERS was pushing the insurance in the 1990s, it guaranteed their rates wouldn't rise. That gave younger adults – a crucial group for such plans – incentive to buy. Surely CalPERS knows what it's doing, those early purchasers thought. A graph in a sales brochure from 1998 shows inflation-protected coverage for a 45-year-old as a flat blue line. It starts at $75 per month and stays there. "With this option, your plan is designed to remain level and won't increase each year," the brochure says...  Asked whether CalPERS broke its promise, Ann Boynton, deputy executive officer of the CalPERS Benefit Programs Policy and Planning unit, said, "This could sound like a cop-out, but I wasn't here. I can't say what anyone was told or what they heard." Again, from the brochure: "The ... program is one of the most comprehensive and affordable plans available today." But the material also left wiggle room for raising policyholder payments: "Your premiums can only be changed through action of the CalPERS Board." ...
Our earlier post can be found at:
Seems like some cops are nicer than others:

What's the Rush?

Today's Inside Higher Ed reports that Carnegie Mellon is in no rush to jump into the online course business until some some viable financial model is developed: While other universities move quickly to offer courses online for free, Carnegie Mellon University is instead starting for-profit efforts designed to capture segments of the education market. Provost Mark Kamlet said the university is looking for a "financially sustainable" way to expand its reach. So far, that means a handful of spinoffs with a variety of products aimed at workforce development and online education...  At the same time, Carnegie Mellon is shying away from massive open online courses, or MOOCs, the all-comers craze sweeping through higher education circles...

Here's what the provost said:

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Rogers Mystery Solved

Yesterday, I posted the audio of the Regents Committee on Investments and noted the (phone) presence of someone referred to as Gary (and sometimes Gerry) who pushed for an examination of why the Regents' endowment funds underperformed those of other major universities.

Bill Jacobs of UC-SB filled me in on the identity of Gary/Gerry.  He is an advisor to the committee, not a Regent.  However, the odd thing is that the committee seemed unwilling to take his advice and seemed annoyed at even hearing it. Isn't the purpose of an advisor to give, you know, advice? Nonetheless, despite the annoyance, Gary/Gerry distributed the comparison shown above at the meeting.

Who is Gary?  See below:

T. Gary Rogers was Chairman and CEO of Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream for thirty years. He is the immediate past Chairman of Levi Strauss & Co. and the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.  He is a director of Safeway, Inc., Shorenstein Properties, Stanislaus Food Products and the University of California San Francisco Medical Center Executive Council.

Mr. Rogers has a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley and an M.B.A. from the Harvard Business School. He is currently a member of the Chancellor’s Executive Advisory Council of the University of California at Berkeley and a member of the Investment Advisory Group for The Regents of the University of California. He is a member of the Board of Dean’s Advisors of the Harvard Business School and currently serves as an Entrepreneur in Residence there.

Rogers has been inducted into the Bay Area Business Hall of Fame. He was named Harvard Business School Business Leader of the Year, received the Wharton Business School Joseph Wharton Award, and served as Executive in Residence at Washington State University. He received an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters Degree from Holy Names University and the Bear of the Year Award from the University of California at Berkeley.

He is the primary benefactor of the University of California Cal Crew Forever Endowment Fund, the T. Gary Rogers Rowing Center, and the California Rowing Club for elite post-graduate oarsmen. He is a member of the High Performance Olympic Committee of U.S. Rowing. Rogers also holds or has held numerous other public service leadership positions and is the benefactor of the Rogers Family Foundation, which supports a wide range of education, health related, and athletic charities.

He is married to Kathleen Rogers, who is President of the Rogers Family Foundation and a member of the Board of Overseers, Hoover Institution.

I-405 55 Hour Lane Reduction (Northbound)

Beginning Friday night, March 1, 2013, the I-405 Sepulveda Pass Project will reduce the northbound I-405 from five lanes to two between Montana Avenue and the Getty Center Dr off-ramp in West Los Angeles. On-ramps within the 2.4-mile reduction area will also be closed during the 55-hour weekend event.  Motorists are advised to anticipate delays. There will be several late-night full closures of the northbound lanes.  The southbound I-405 will remain open and northbound Sepulveda Blvd. will remain fully operational with two lanes throughout the reduction. Westbound Wilshire Blvd. to northbound Sepulveda Blvd. may be used as an alternative route to bypass the lane reduction area. Motorists will enter northbound I-405 again at Skirball Center Dr.

All northbound freeway lanes and ramps will reopen to the public by 5 am on Monday, March 4.  The current weather forecast does not call for rain; however, if that changes, the operation will shift approximately one week. Changeable message signs and traffic control officers will be deployed at key locations within the project area to help guide motorists during the reduction.  Emergency access will be provided through the lane reduction area.

Here is something to think about if you are stuck in traffic.  Any multiple of 405, when simplified, will sum to 9, just as 405 sums to 9:  4+0+5=9.  Example: 405 x 17 = 6885.  6+8+8+5=27; 2+7=9.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Listen to UC-Regents Committee on Investments 2-26-2013

The Regents Committee on Investments met earlier today, in part by phone conference call.  Note our earlier post today which contains links to the agenda.

A link to the audio of this meeting is below.  It is unclear whether the Regents plan to post the audio or video of this meeting.  Unlike the January meeting, I did not find audio or video archived on the web after this meeting.  So I have provided a link to a recording of the meeting below.

Some highlights.  There was a dispute, not always in entirely friendly terms, between one Regent ("Gary" or sometimes "Gerry Rogers {sp?}") on a phone line, and the others about comparison of the returns of other major university endowment returns with UC returns over both short term and longer terms.  [The odd thing is that there is no Gary or Gerry {Jerry?} listed on the committee or, for that matter, on the list of Regents found on the Regents' website.]  "Gary/Gerry" kept pressing for discussion which was resisted by others on the grounds that a) the comparison wasn't appropriate because UC has changed its strategy and b) the data from Cambridge Associates were not available.  Gary/Gerry got the info - he said - from the other universities.  You can hear the exchange from roughly minute 7:30 to minute 23:30. 

Another component of the discussion involved a reduction recommended in the fixed income portfolio of U.S. government securities including TIPs (inflation-indexed Treasuries).  The rationale provided was a concern that the Federal Reserve will at some point stop holding down interest rates and yields on such securities will rise (so that there will be a capital loss on holdings of these securities.)  The general discussion of this matter is at approximately 1:12 - 1:32.

Finally, there is a short anecdote about how the state stiffed UC at one point last year when the state ran into a cash flow problem.  Apparently, UC makes its payroll and the state quickly puts the funds in the bank involved.  There is a brief point where the bank is advancing the funds.  At some point, the state didn't make the payment and UC in effect had an overdrawn account by hundreds of millions of dollars.  The bank now insists on getting the money first before the payroll goes out.  This episode is described at 1:32-1.35.

Generally, the UC treasurer is requesting more "flexibility" in portfolio management than in the past, with the flexibility being passed along to the various fund managers with which the treasurer contracts.  I would characterize this change as a willingness to take a more active/aggressive approach relative to a more passive strategy.  The treasurer would likely have a somewhat different characterization and talk about being able to be more "opportunistic" in fund management.

Towards the end of the meeting, there was a review of campus foundation financial results.  The regents seemed somewhat unclear as to what responsibility they had for these foundations which make their own investment decisions.

You can hear the meeting at the link below:

UPDATE: The mysterious Gary/Gerry is T. Gary Rogers.  There will be a post about him 2-27-13.

And the Oscar comes from...

A UCLA student walked the same stage as dozens of big-name celebrities Sunday night at the 85th annual Academy Awards. Tatenda Mbudzi was one of six students from across the country who delivered Oscar statuettes to presenters during the show after winning the "Oscar Experience College Search" contest. As part of the contest, the 25-year-old film student submitted a video explaining how he would contribute to the future of movies...

And here's something you probably didn't know...

The Regents are meeting today.  Not all of them.  However, the Committee on Investments is meeting at 1:30 pm.

On its agenda is possible changed guidance for investment of the UC pension plan portfolio.  My impression is that there has not been much Academic Senate involvement in the process of coming up with recommendations, although we have some well-known financial experts on the faculty.  You can find the Committee's agenda and background documents at:

and particularly

Yours truly particularly liked the last link just above which says the new investment policy is slated to go into effect on April Fools Day.

In any case, we do have some advance audio from the meeting:

Also meeting today is a special (closed) committee on the search for a new UC president:

Monday, February 25, 2013

Debt Roll

Slow seat sales have prompted UC Berkeley to launch a fresh marketing campaign and look for other revenue in an effort to keep pace with the $18 million a year in debt it will soon owe for the Memorial Stadium makeover and athletic center construction. The redone stadium opened last season, but only about 1,900 of the 2,900 premium club seats - lifetime spots that cost anywhere from $40,000 to $225,000 each - have been sold. And not everyone who bought a seat has fully paid up. That has left UC some $121 million short on the $474 million project. Now, Cal's athletic department is shelling out another half a million dollars on a new sales team that will push the unsold premium seats...

"Athletics is keenly aware that we can't let this debt roll onto campus," (Vice Chancellor John) Wilton said...

Full story at

Oh well!  A little rollover never hurts:

A Reminder: Don't Do It

The UCLA email spammers are back with messages telling you to "re-validate" your email: Mail Service HelpDesk Mail Service messaging center wish to inform all Email Users. We are upgrading our Webmail clients. Your email account will be upgrade to a new enhanced webmail interface provided by Mail Service. Mail Service will discontinue the use of our current Email System. You are therefore required to re-validate your mailbox.

To re-validate your mailbox please click the link below: [link you absolutely should not click]

Note that the message doesn't come from UCLA but from "marceloc[at]"  It contains British usage: ("center wish" instead of "center wishes"). And it contains a typo: ("will be upgrade").  But the real key is that UCLA never sends such messages.  So just delete them and don't click on the links.

Executive Pay in Higher Ed

Inside Higher Ed today has a summary of a 2013 survey of median executive and administrative pay in higher education.  It includes central and campus administrators by title as well as deans and certain support occupations. The survey was conducted by the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR).  A more detailed description of the survey is available from the organization at:

Many – not all – UC campuses were included, as was UCOP, and a complete listing of the institutions can be found at the link above.  Inside Higher Ed, however, has a handier summary table:

[The relevant column is the one for doctoral degree granting institutions.]

A brief description of the survey from the CUPA-HR link above:

Results for this year’s redesigned survey reflect the salaries of 55,017 administrators in 190 senior-level administrative positions at 1,251 colleges and universities nationwide, making it a key resource for salary-related decisions in the higher education community. 

Note that while there is some description of perks and benefits, they are not converted into cash equivalents and added to salary in the study.  The figures presented are, as noted above, medians.  Means would surely be higher. CUPA-HR describes itself as follows:

Our Mission: CUPA-HR is higher ed HR. We serve higher education by providing the knowledge, resources, advocacy and connections to achieve organizational and workforce excellence.  As the association for HR professionals in higher education, CUPA-HR provides leadership on higher education workplace issues in the U.S. and abroad. We monitor trends, explore emerging workforce issues, conduct research, and promote strategic discussions among colleges and universities. Our members are CUPA-HR. We are more than 15,500 HR professionals and other campus leaders at over 1,900 member organizations, including: 91 percent of all U.S. doctoral institutions, 77 percent of all master’s institutions, 57 percent of all bachelor’s institutions, and 600 community colleges and specialized institutions.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

You never know what the legislature might do

Since the Republicans like any tax cut and the Democrats might go for the one described below, it could conceivably happen.  What Gov. Brown might do if such a bill reached his desk is another matter.

An Inland Empire assemblyman wants to shave up to 9 percent off the cost of every college textbook sold in the state. On Wednesday, Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Hesperia, announced the introduction of Assembly Bill 479, which would exempt college textbooks sold in California from the state's sales tax. Only three in 10 college students in the Golden State purchase their college textbooks, according to his office, which they blame on the high price of textbooks. "AB 479 recognizes the importance of education in our state and removes an added burden the state currently places on students pursuing higher education," Donnelly is quoted as saying in a press release. "By removing the sales tax on textbooks purchased at college bookstores, this measure will help hundreds of thousands of students throughout our state be able to more easily afford the cost of education. It will also incentivize talented students from other parts of the country to come to California for college."...

Full story at

Pressure Mounts to Lift Cap on UC Student Health Insurance

Rep. Nancy Pelosi and nine other members of Congress are urging the University of California to lift its caps on student health insurance - limits that for the rest of the country are illegal under the Affordable Care Act and that jeopardize students with catastrophic medical problems. "It is troubling that the health plan of one of the world's most prestigious university systems would not adopt this industry standard," the representatives wrote UC President Mark Yudof last week. "UC students and student workers should have access to the same health-care protections that millions of other students, student workers and Americans already enjoy," said the letter from California's Democratic representatives, including Pelosi of San Francisco, George Miller of Martinez, Barbara Lee of Oakland, and Anna Eshooof Palo Alto.

More than 7,000 UC students have signed a petition, while hundreds have loudly protested the coverage limits that cap out at $400,000 on eight of the 10 UC campuses. Limits are higher at UCLA and UC San Diego - $600,000 and $750,000, respectively - where students pay more for that privilege...

We have previously posted about this issue which comes about because UC self insures - and thus is exempt from a requirement to have no cap.  See:

Online Ed: Sorry About That

From the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Low-cost online courses could allow a more-diverse group of students to try college, but a new study suggests that such courses could also widen achievement gaps among students in different demographic groups.  The study, which is described in a working paper titled “Adaptability to Online Learning: Differences Across Types of Students and Academic Subject Areas,” was conducted by Columbia University’s Community College Research Center. The researchers examined 500,000 courses taken by more than 40,000 community- and technical-college students in Washington State. They found that students in demographic groups whose members typically struggle in traditional classrooms are finding their troubles exacerbated in online courses. The study found that all students who take more online courses, no matter the demographic, are less likely to attain a degree. However, some groups—including black students, male students, younger students, and students with lower grade-point averages—are particularly susceptible to this pattern...

The full article is at:

The abstract from the study:

Adaptability to Online Learning: Differences Across Types of Students and Academic Subject Areas

Di Xu & Shanna Smith Jaggars

Using a dataset containing nearly 500,000 courses taken by over 40,000 community and technical college students in Washington State, this study examines how well students adapt to the online environment in terms of their ability to persist and earn strong grades in online courses relative to their ability to do so in face-to-face courses. While all types of students in the study suffered decrements in performance in online courses, some struggled more than others to adapt: males, younger students, black students, and students with lower grade point averages. In particular, students struggled in subject areas such as English and social science, which was due in part to negative peer effects in these online courses.

The full study can be downloaded at:

We did ask the governor if he had any comments:

Saturday, February 23, 2013

UCLA Med School Linked to Wrong Crowd?

LA Times columnist Michael Hiltzik's column today highlights a connection between Herbalight - a food supplements firm - and the UCLA med school. Herbalight is in the midst of a tug-of-war between some Wall Street interests.  One side claims that the firm is a Ponzi-type scheme whose stock will eventually come crashing down.  Yes, the word "Ponzi" appears in such claims.  Check out page 177 at this link:

The other side argues the company is legit and a good investment.

Excerpt: Herbalife International says it's all about helping people "pursue healthy, active lives." UCLA's Geffen School of Medicine likes to think of itself as being in the forefront of medical research and modern healthcare. But the curious relationship between these two supposed champions of healthful living should turn your stomach. Herbalife is the Los Angeles nutritional supplement firm that has become the centerpiece of a ferocious Wall Street tug of war. The major player is hedge fund manager Bill Ackman, who contends that Herbalife is a scam to sell overpriced products by fooling people into becoming Herbalife "distributors" by implying the business will make them rich. He says he's shorted $1 billion in Herbalife shares as a bet that the company is destined to collapse. On the other side are investors who either believe Herbalife will stay a highflier, or who just want to squeeze Ackman dry. (He's not a popular chap.)

One of Ackman's accusations against the company is that it exaggerates the scientific research behind its powders and pills. That's where UCLA comes in, because Herbalife has exploited its "strong affiliation" with the medical school to give its products scientific credibility. Those words were uttered by Herbalife CEO Michael Johnson during a 2007 conference call. In fact, Johnson seldom lets an investor event pass without mentioning UCLA, specifically the Mark Hughes Cellular and Molecular Nutrition Lab at the medical school's Center for Human Nutrition. Herbalife says it has contributed $1.5 million in cash, equipment and software to the lab since 2002. (The lab is named after Herbalife's founder, who died in 2000 after a four-day drinking binge — not the greatest advertisement for healthful, active living.) ...

Full column at,0,1163343.column

Supermajority Gone for Now

There were many speculative stories around about what the legislative Democrats would do in the current session with their new two-thirds supermajority.  In theory, they could enact taxes, override vetoes, and put constitutional amendments on the ballot.  Of course, all of these speculations hinged on total Democratic unity. But there is the old Will Rogers quote: “I don't belong to an organized political party; I'm a Democrat.”  So some of these possibilities were fanciful.  In any event, now one state senate Democrat has quit to go to work for Chevron.  [In this instance, oil seems to be troubling the political waters rather than calming them.]  The senator's district will have no representation until a special election to be called by the governor.  It was described in the last election as leaning Democratic.

For now, Superman is reverting to Clark Kent.  We'll have to await his return, if he does return...

More on the resignation is at:

More on the Tobacco Tax for UC & CSU Student Aid

Prior posts have noted that an initiative written by a law firm with experience in electoral matters has been filed that would impose a tobacco tax to fund student aid at UC and CSU.  As previously reported, the use of the law firm suggests some serious money is involved - which would be needed to fund a petition drive and then a subsequent election campaign which tobacco interests would surely oppose. We now have the official summary text that will be seen by voters who are asked to sign the petition. The text is below, courtesy of the California Secretary of State, at

Cigarette Tax to Fund Student Financial Aid at University of California and California State University. Initiative Statute.
Summary Date: 02/21/13 | Circulation Deadline: 07/22/13 | Signatures Required: 504,760
James C. Harrison c/o Thomas A. Willis (510) 346-6200
Increases cigarette tax by $1.00 per pack. Allocates revenues to expand financial aid for California residents enrolled at UC or CSU. If new tax causes decreased tobacco consumption, thus reducing existing tobacco-tax revenues, current tobacco funding for tobacco health education/research, medical care, environment, breast cancer research/services, early childhood development, and General Fund will be maintained by transferring new tax revenues to offset decrease. Requires annual independent audit and accounting. Establishes five-member oversight committee. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: Additional annual state tax revenues of (1) $800 million from the cigarette excise tax increase of $1 per pack and (2) $45 million from the excise tax increase on other tobacco products triggered by the measure. The additional cigarette tax revenue would be spent on financial aid for resident students at the state's public universities ($730 million) and backfilling losses to existing tobacco programs ($70 million). The additional revenue from other tobacco products would be used for other existing programs, including tobacco-prevention and education.

Allegations of Monkey Business

From the Winston-Salem Journal 2/23/13: 

Wake Forest University Health Sciences is suing to end a joint venture with the University of California at Los Angeles involving the primate colony in southern Forsyth County, and UCLA is accusing Wake Forest of financially mismanaging the research center. The colony contains 475 vervet monkeys, many of which came from the Caribbean island of St. Kitts. They contain family trees that have been tracked for eight generations by researchers.The Wake Forest group said it is willing to shut down the primate center in the Friedberg community if UCLA doesn’t agree to continue to pay half of the operating costs. Wake Forest paid $2 million to build the center. Wake Forest filed the lawsuit Dec. 7 in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina. The legal case began showing up on the online Pacer legal-documentation system Feb. 6 when UCLA filed a petition for dismissal of the lawsuit. The group wants UCLA to pay $330,287 – half the cost of the colony’s operating budget for fiscal 2012, which ended June 30, 2012 – as well as damages exceeding $10,000, plus interest. It has requested a jury trial and that the case be transferred to N.C. Superior Court... 

Full story at

All I know about this matter is what I read in the papers.  Can we just counsel both sides to play nice?

UC Consequences of the DC Chicken Race

Like so many political debates, the standoff in the nation's capital over federal spending has been somewhat of an abstraction for months on end. That could change, though, starting next week. With just about everyone now agreeing that the March 1 deadline for avoiding automatic spending cuts -- sequestration -- will be missed, the real question seems to be how long before those cuts are felt and where will they hit hardest. In the Sacramento region, the impacts could be numerous: less money for community policing programs that rely on federal cash, $42 million less in research funding at UC Davis (and as much as $335 million less for the entire University of California system), and a share of the national cuts to low-income schools and programs like Head Start...

Full article at:

Yours truly can't verify the figures above.  But chicken races don't necessarily end happily:

Friday, February 22, 2013

Bear with us

With the massive 405 Project now two-thirds complete, officials have unveiled a staggered endgame schedule which calls for major portions of the project to wrap up this year while work on one troublesome segment continues into 2014. The delay involves the project’s middle segment—chiefly in the area around Montana Avenue and Church Lane—where utility relocations and the necessity of shifting Sepulveda Boulevard have proved vastly more time-consuming than expected. Overall, unforeseen utility relocation issues have not only eaten up valuable time but also have driven up the cost of building the project, according to a briefing presented this week to Metro’s Construction Committee...

Full story at

I guess they never heard the song:

UCLA Reports Battery Technology Advance

From KCET ...We told you that researchers at Ric Kamen's lab at UCLA had found a way to make a non-toxic, highly efficient energy storage medium out of pure carbon using absurdly simple technology. Today, we can report that the same team may well have found a way to make that process scale up to mass-production levels...  The recap: Graphene, a very simple carbon polymer, can be used as the basic component of a "supercapacitor" -- an electrical power storage device that charges far more rapidly than chemical batteries. Unlike other supercapacitors, though, graphene's sturcture also offers a high "energy density," -- it can hold a lot of electrons, meaning that it could conceivably rival or outperform batteries in the amount of charge it can hold. Kaner Lab researcher Maher El-Kady found a way to create sheets of graphene a single carbon atom thick by covering a plastic surface with graphite oxide solution and bombarding it with precisely controlled laser light.  English translation: He painted a DVD with a liquid carbon solution and stuck it into a standard-issue DVD burner. The result: Absurdly cheap graphene sheets one atom thick, which held a surprising amount of charge without further modification.

That work was reported a year ago; we mentioned it due to the video virally making the rounds this week. Late Tuesday, UCLA announced that El-Kady and Kaner have a new article in press, in the upcoming issue of Nature Communications, describing a method by which El-Kady's earlier, slightly homebrewed fabricating process shown in the video can be made more efficient, raising the possibility of mass production. As the authors say in their article abstract, More than 100 micro-supercapacitors can be produced on a single disc in 30 min or less...
Full story at

The UCLA announcement is at:

The video mentioned above can be seen below:

Finally, some common sense about juries and why it matters to UCLA

Editorial: Anyone who works for UCLA, or any local public entity, and has been called for jury duty knows that the jury pool in LA County is not a random sample of the population.  Apart from the fact that only citizens serve on juries (but anyone can be tried), public sector institutions are likely to have liberal policies for jury duty and jury leave, unlike many private employers.  Those called who show up (many don't) are often excused for hardship reasons, or excused from lengthy trials, because of the economic hardship of missing work.  Yours truly's last experience was being in a pool of 50 potential jurors for what was going to be a lengthy trial (a man accused of murder who insisted on representing himself).  The fifty were chosen because their employers provided unlimited jury leave (whatever that means for faculty) and were disproportionately public employees.  In fact, of the 50, four were from UCLA.  Does 8% of the LA County population work for UCLA?  Whatever defendants are getting, it is not a jury of their peers.

Now comes word from the San Francisco Chronicle:

A defendant's right to be tried by a jury of 12 people in criminal cases has been enshrined in California's Constitution since statehood. But judges say the state can no longer afford it. With court funding evaporating, the California Judges Association is endorsing a state constitutional amendment that would shrink juries from 12 to eight members for misdemeanors, crimes punishable by up to a year in jail...

Full story at

The judges were bolder than I was back in 2004.  They want to cut to 8 (which would cut the need for jurors by one third) and include certain criminal trials.  I proposed 9 (which would cut the need by one fourth) and only for civil trials:

Smaller Juries

July 8, 2004
Re "Jury Service No-Shows Get the Word," July 2: The notion that there must be 12 people on a jury was inherited from British tradition in 1776. In over two centuries since that time, private industry has learned to economize on the labor it uses and to tailor the amount of labor needed to the task to be performed. Jury size could be reduced, with fewer than 12 jurors used for minor civil matters and crimes. If the average jury consisted of nine people, the need for jurors would be cut by one-fourth. Rather than complain that citizens dislike conscription, the judiciary needs to move into the 21st century.
Daniel J.B. Mitchell
Los Angeles


Tobacco Tax Initiative for UC & CSU Student Aid Advances

Earlier posts on this blog in late December noted that an initiative had been filed to impose a tobacco tax with revenue largely earmarked for student aid at UC and CSU.  Unlike many initiatives filed by amateurs that go nowhere, this one was filed by a law firm noted for election work.  So there must be some serious funding behind it.  Whether there is enough serious money to fund a signature-gathering campaign is unclear.  In addition, a tobacco tax would attract well-funded opposition from tobacco firms.  (Remember that a  tobacco tax initiative for cancer research was narrowly defeated last June.)

In any event, the state attorney general has now assigned a title to the initiative.  You can find it at:

Our earlier posts on this initiative are at:

Meanwhile,  those who puff away or take a drag on a cigarette are a tax target:

Thursday, February 21, 2013

UC-Irvine Gets Some Good Press

Warm welcome to University of California Irvine
By Anat Maor, Jerusalem Post, 2-17-13

When I first arrived at the University of California in Irvine, I didn’t know a single person there. To tell you the truth, I was feeling apprehensive about my new role as a professor in Israel studies here, especially given the reputation of the school. This was the same university which saw confrontations between student protesters and Israeli ambassador Michael Oren in 2010, which culminated in arrests and the Zionist Organization of America branding UCI as “a campus that permitted bigotry.” Yet after just one month I have already started to feel at home in Irvine. How did this happen? Contrary to expectations, I have had many positive experiences here...

Furthermore, I have been very active in a group called “Olive Tree,” which brings Israeli and Palestinian students together for dialogue, and every summer they go to visit the Middle East. I have developed a close personal connection with the vice president of this group. To conclude, although I have only been teaching at UCI for a few short weeks I can already see that I am going to have a great time here...

Rethinking Professor Snodgrass

A recent posting on this blog replayed President Yudof's comment that online courses have to be more than putting a camera in the back of the room and letting Professor Snodgrass drone on. You can replay his comments below for your listening pleasure.  But maybe the Snodgrass approach has merit at this time.

Note that UC-Berkeley, among other universities, has put courses that essentially are video recordings of courses on YouTube for free. Anyone can view them.  It's a relatively costless production method.

You can find one such course at:

At a modest cost, those now "taking" such courses could be offered exams along the lines of the old 1950s Sunrise Semester TV model that we have also noted in past postings. The simple fact is that no one really knows how online courses will evolved. You can find articles speculating about how the various platforms will cover costs and what the relationship will be between universities providing course content will have with those platforms in recent articles in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Before making commitments that may be difficult to unravel, why not start with Professor Snodgrass and the simple approach?  He may be droning but it's cheap and does not lock us into some expensive commitment that may prove not be be viable.

Our most recent Sunrise Semester TV history posting is at [But there were other posts before going back to 2010 which you can find using the blog search engine and "sunrise."  We also noted that before Snodgrass was on TV, he was giving credit courses by radio in the 1920s:

UCLA History: Sub

A captured miniature Japanese submarine was exhibited in December 1942 at a UCLA-USC football game in the Coliseum.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Wrong Kind of Hike

CalPERS enrollees receive notice of long-term care rate hikes

2/20/13, Sacramento Bee, Jon Ortiz [excerpt]

With an 85 percent premium hike looming, government workers and retirees covered by CalPERS' costliest long-term care insurance policies face a crucial decision: Swallow the increase or get out of a program they have been paying into for years. The reality of the increase literally came home this week as letters from CalPERS hit the mailboxes of 148,000 policyholders. The fund's board last year voted to raise premiums for the 90 percent of insured members who bought the top-tier plan – lifetime coverage and inflation protection for things like nursing home and assisted-living care. Half of those policyholders are in the very highest tier and also face two small increases over the next two years before the 85 percent jump kicks in. In all, rates for them will roughly double. CalPERS says it is hiking rates to keep the insurance fund solvent long-term. Losses from higher-than-expected claims, lower-than-expected investment returns and loose underwriting standards early on forced the decision...

Does this matter for UC employees?  UC is not part of CalPERS.  But as state employees, UC employees at one time were offered the "opportunity" to subscribe to CalPERS' long-term care plan.  There is a larger lesson from this episode.  Long-term care policies are essentially a promise to provide resources for what could be an expensive future event.  But the premiums you will pay for such policies/promises are not fixed.  Moreover, you are depending on some insurance company - which between now and then may be merged, acquired, or who knows what? - to honor the policy when you may not be in a good position to appeal denials of claims.  

Long-term care insurance is truly faith-based insurance.  But if you believe...

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Less the State Pays, the Better Our Credit Rating

From the UC-Berkeley Daily Californian:

Fitch Ratings announced Thursday that bonds issued by the University of California have been rated AA+.
The UC Board of Regents has issued $1.7 billion of AA+ bonds with a stable rating outlook to be sold by negotiation the week of Feb. 25. Fitch cites the university’s exceptional reputation and successful fiscal management as primary reasons for the bonds’ high rating...  In addition to (other) positive indicators, Fitch has stated that it regards the university’s diverse revenue base as a favorable credit factor. Decreasing reliance on state funding has provided a measure of safety against future cuts...

Full article at

For whatever reason, it's good to be (almost) on top of the rating scale:

Blame It on Professor Snodgrass

New York Times editorial:

...Online classes are already common in colleges, and, on the whole, the record is not encouraging. According to Columbia University’s Community College Research Center, for example, about seven million students — about a third of all those enrolled in college — are enrolled in what the center describes as traditional online courses. These typically have about 25 students and are run by professors who often have little interaction with students. Over all, the center has produced nine studies covering hundreds of thousands of classes in two states, Washington and Virginia. The picture the studies offer of the online revolution is distressing... 

Interestingly, the center found that students in hybrid classes — those that blended online instruction with a face-to-face component — performed as well academically as those in traditional classes. But hybrid courses are rare, and teaching professors how to manage them is costly and time-consuming.  The online revolution offers intriguing opportunities for broadening access to education. But, so far, the evidence shows that poorly designed courses can seriously shortchange the most vulnerable students.
In the meantime, while Mark Yudof and the rest of us are waiting for the revolution, we can blame the current problems on Professor Snodgrass:

Monday, February 18, 2013

Quick! Somebody Tell the Governor!

From the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Professor Leaves a MOOC in Mid-Course in Dispute Over Teaching

Students regularly drop out of massive open online courses before they come to term. For a professor to drop out is less common.
But that is what happened on Saturday in “Microeconomics for Managers,” a MOOC offered by the University of California at Irvine through Coursera. Richard A. McKenzie, an emeritus professor of enterprise and society at the university’s business school, sent a note to his students announcing that he would no longer be teaching the course, which was about to enter its fifth week.

“Because of disagreements over how to best conduct this course, I’ve agreed to disengage from it, with regret,” Mr. McKenzie wrote...

We have a video from the class: 


Update: The LA Times version of the story is at 

A Different Kind of Grade Inflation

From the Orange County Register: When Jose Carrillo went through medical school at Dartmouth College a decade ago, students would have thick books weighing down their white coats with reference information in case they needed it while making rounds... Today, Carrillo is helping third-year medical students understand neurology at UCI Medical Center in Orange... (L)oaded on the iPads in the pockets of the medical students' coats is every textbook, note, flash card and question from their first two years of medical school – so much information that its equal in printed copies once covered entire tables. All that information sits on the iPad, along with an app that can access the electronic medical records of patients students interact with on their rounds, as well as the entirety of Web resources...

...(T)he medical school announced a 23 percent increase in scores, on average, on the initial test for a medical license taken by the first class to get iPads...

Full article at

Not All Presidents Are Celebrating Today

Emory President James Wagner
President Yudof may be celebrating his impending liberation (in August).  According to Inside Higher Ed, however, Emory University President James Wagner may not be celebrating this Presidents' Day:

Emory University President James Wagner has infuriated many on his campus and scholars elsewhere by using the president's letter in the new issue of Emory Magazine to say that the "three-fifths compromise" of the U.S. Constitution was a model for how people who disagree can work together for "a common goal." Following an explosion of social media criticism Saturday as word of Wagner's letter spread, he released an apology. "To those hurt or confused by my clumsiness and insensitivity, please forgive me," he wrote...The three-fifths compromise expanded the political clout of the slave states by codifying that black slaves counted for purposes of allocating seats in the House of Representatives as 60 percent of a white person (even though the slave states gave black people 0 percent of the voting or other rights of white people)...

Full story at 

Update at

Further update at

Sunday, February 17, 2013

UCLA History: Presidents

On the day before Presidents' Day, here are two presidents visiting UCLA in February 1964: Lyndon Johnson and Mexican President Adolfo Lopez Mateos.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Why the Lt. Governor Favors Online Higher Ed at the Regents (Maybe)

Lt. Governor Newsom appeared on The Colbert Report on Feb. 14 to promote a book that seems to have something to do with online government participation:

The Colbert Report

Update from Sacramento Bee Capitol Alert blog:
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom was describing his new book, "Citizenville: How to Take the Town Square Digital and Reinvent Government," on Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report" on Thursday when the host, Stephen Colbert, asked him, 'What the (bleep) does any of that mean?" Newsom had been talking about the "broadcast model of governing" and about how "big is getting small and small is getting big."
Colbert flipped through the book.
"Is there a bull (bleep) translator?" he said. "What are you talking about?"...

Read more here:

Friday, February 15, 2013

Traffic, Traffic

Motorists, be forewarned: the northbound 405 Freeway will be a great place to avoid the first weekend in March. Three northbound lanes on the freeway will be closing for 55 straight hours between Montana Avenue and Getty Center Drive. In addition, the Getty Center Drive and Moraga Drive northbound on-ramps will be closed, as will the northbound Montana and Moraga off-ramps.
Despite the length of the closure, this is no “mini Carmageddon”—although officials stress that drivers should plan alternate routes through the area to avoid major backups. “We are concerned with daytime traffic,” said Kasey Shuda, construction relations manager for the project. “Obviously, there will be some delays if people don’t divert.”...

Full story at