Sunday, November 30, 2014

MOOCs Can Milk You for Your Data

From Politico: Massive open online courses, first envisioned as a way to democratize higher education, have made their way into high schools, but Washington is powerless to stop the flood of personal data about teenage students from flowing to private companies, thanks to loopholes in federal privacy laws. Universities and private companies this fall unveiled a slew of free, open-access online courses to high school students, marketing them as a way for kids to supplement their Advanced Placement coursework or earn a certificate of completion for a college-level class. But when middle and high school students participate in classes with names like “Mars: The Next Frontier” or “The Road to Selective College Admissions,” they may be unwittingly transmitting into private hands a torrent of data about their academic strengths and weaknesses, their learning styles and thought processes — even the way they approach challenges. They may also be handing over birth dates, addresses and even drivers license information. Their IP addresses, attendance and participation in public forums are all logged as well by the providers of the courses, commonly called MOOCs. With little guidance from federal privacy law, key decisions on how to handle students’ data — including how widely to share it and whether to mine it for commercial gain — are left up to the company hosting the MOOC or its business partners...

Full story at

If UC wants public support for its contest with the governor, it needs to fix problems

Jackie Robinson signs forms to transfer from Pasadena City College to UCLA
From the editorial page of the Sacramento Bee:

The University of California regents made a difficult decision last week to support increased tuition. We recognize the need for additional funding for the UC system and support increased support from the Legislature.
But we also believe there are measures that the UC system can and should implement immediately to keep UC costs down, make going to college in California more affordable and increase the likelihood that students will complete their studies on time and actually graduate... At the meeting last week, Gov. Jerry Brown urged regents to consider several proposals, the most critical of which is improving transfers from the state’s community colleges to the UC system.

There are 110,000 routes that students can take from community colleges to UC campuses. It can be a daunting journey through the maze of conflicting requirements, rules and policies that differ among each UC and community college and among each major. That may be the reason why so few transfer students took a seat in a UC classroom this semester.

Read more here:

The UC system’s transfer challenges are in contrast to the recently adopted system developed by the community college and California State University systems to streamline transfers through the development of the associate degree for transfer. That new system has reduced the jumble of routes to just 27 uniform pathways to the most popular majors. These new degrees guarantee admission with junior standing to the CSU, saving students time and money toward a bachelor’s degree...

Full editorial at

The lesson here - beyond the immediate issue of transfers - is that everything the university does from now on until there is a final budget in June will be scrutinized.  Ultimately, although the contest is between the governor and UC (and the legislature), it hinges on public opinion.

Read more here:

Saturday, November 29, 2014

UCLA History: Westwood in c1932

And if you couldn't find parking in Westwood (which doesn't look all that difficult), there was always the campus itself:

Friday, November 28, 2014

Listen to the Regents Morning Meeting of Nov. 19, 2014

We complete our recordings of the November Regents sessions with the morning of Nov. 19, 2014, at which the tuition/funding issue was debated, sometimes in less-than-friendly ways, between the "regular" Regents and the elected ex officio Regents.  This session is a prime example of why the Regents' policy of archiving for only one year is absurd, given modern technology.  While you can argue that Regents meetings are often not the most exciting things to listen to, this one is certainly an exception and should be preserved.  For all the talk about being transparent, the current one-year archiving policy of the Regents is opaque at best.

The session started with public comments which were mainly anti-tuition, with the exception of a statement by a former chancellor.  There were also union complaints about contracting out and a reference to fossil fuel divestment.  There was a brief demonstration at the end of the session.  UC prez Napolitano defended the tuition/funding plan.  The faculty rep did not take a position but did point to funding problems of UC.  The actual debate occurred in the context of the Committee on Long Range Planning - since the tuition/funding plan is ostensibly a multi-year approach.  (As we have pointed out in prior blog posts, the actual budget is always one year.)

Officially, the rationale for the plan is that students would have predictability in tuition increases.  But another rationale is that more funding is needed from someplace and the legislature and governor can buy out tuition increases.  Note, however, that if the legislature and governor did so in some years but not others, the unpredictability would return.  So more funding from the state and predictability are somewhat at odds.

Various Regents spoke, although the votes were really in before the debate began.  Several "regular" Regents essentially accused the elected officials - who all announced they would vote "no" - of pandering - although that word wasn't used.  The officials complained that students were being "held hostage" by the plan.  Gov. Brown - some of whose remarks were posted separately in an earlier post on this blog - focused on his past ideas about technology, disruption, etc.  Lt. Gov. Newsom complained that students were not consulted in advance.  Assembly speaker Atkins talked about competing uses of funds.  Superintendent of Public Instruction Torlakson essentially had nothing to say and didn't say it very well.

You can hear it all for yourself at the link below:

And, on this day after Thanksgiving, we hope you can fully digest the contents of the recording:

Thursday, November 27, 2014

We got away cheap!

From the Washington Post: When officials at the University of California at [sic] Los Angeles began negotiating a $300,000 speech appearance by Hillary Rodham Clinton, the school had one request: Could we get a reduced rate for public universities?  The answer from Clinton’s representatives: $300,000 is the “special university rate.” … 

At UCLA, efforts to book Clinton and then prepare for her visit were all-consuming, beginning almost immediately after she left her job as secretary of state on Feb. 1, 2013, until she delivered her Luskin Lecture for Thought Leadership speech on March 5, 2014… Top university officials discussed at length the style and color of the executive armchairs Clinton and moderator Lynn Vavreck would sit in as they carried on a question-and-answer session, as well as the kind of pillows to be situated on each chair… 

Her UCLA fee, like those at other universities, went to the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation, the family’s nonprofit group… It is commonplace for celebrity speakers to request special accommodations — and Clinton was no exception. Her representatives asked for a case of still water, room temperature, to be deposited stage right. They also asked that “a carafe of warm/hot water, coffee cup and saucer, pitcher of room temperature water, water glass, and lemon wed­ges” be situated both on a table on stage as well as in another room where Clinton would stand for photos with VIPs.  For the green room, Clinton’s representatives requested: “Coffee, tea, room temp sparkling and still water, diet ginger ale, crudité, hummus and sliced fruit.” They also asked for a computer, mouse and printer, as well as a scanner, which the university had to purchase for the occasion. When university officials decided to award Clinton the UCLA Medal, Clinton’s team asked that it be presented to her in a box rather than draped around her neck. That request was sent to the university’s chancellor, Gene Block… 

For public distribution, Clinton’s speaking agency approved only a two-minute highlight video to upload to YouTube. “Please make sure it is available only for one (1) year from the date of posting,” a Harry Walker Agency official added… Clinton’s appearance was privately funded as part of a lecture series endowed by Meyer Luskin, an investor and president of Scope Industries, a food waste recycling company.  

In 2012, former president Bill Clinton delivered the inaugural Luskin lecture at UCLA for $250,000. Upon learning that Hillary Clinton’s fee would be $300,000, Guy Wheatley, a UCLA development official, wrote in an e-mail: “Wow! She get’s $50K more than hubby!”  Luskin told a university official to make sure the event raised at least $100,000. The university sold more tickets — which ranged in price from $250 for one seat to $2,000 for two seats, a photo with Clinton and access to a post-lecture reception with the college deans — and provided fewer free tickets to students… 

Full story at

It was cheap, really cheap! (But then she was gone.)

Listen to the Regents Meeting of Nov. 20, 2014

We continue our archiving of the audio of the Regents meetings so that they will be preserved more than the one year the Regents allow.  There is no rationale for the one-year limit.  If you ask, you will be told it's because CSU does it that way.  The next time anyone on the Regents or UCOP talks about "transparency," you might think about why they are intent on erasing history after one year.

In any case, this recording is of the final meeting of Nov. 20 during which the previously-presented tuition/budget plan was formally approved.  There were demonstrations against the approval and the demonstrators were eventually cleared from the room by police.  We have edited out extended periods during which the microphone was off in those periods.

The meeting started with a public comment period.  There were complaints by nonunion administrators about a pay freeze and union representatives complained that they were denied merit award bonuses.  Various students spoke against the tuition/budget plan.  Loud chanting occurred during the vote on the tuition/budget plan which was nonetheless completed.  After the room was cleared, various awards and recognitions were noted.  There was a report on preparedness for Ebola.  It was announced that campus sexual assault policies had been strengthened.  Finally, executive appointments and compensation packages were approved.

Note: Although the next full meeting of the Regents will be in January, there will be a meeting of the Committee on Investments on Dec. 10.  And we have yet to post the morning meeting of Nov. 19.  (As part of the above-mentioned Regental policy on archiving, the only way to preserve the audio is to record it in real time, i.e., an hour of meeting takes an hour to record.  Yours truly will get it done, however.)

You can hear the Nov. 20 meeting at the link below:

And while you listen to the recording we wish you Happy Thanksgiving (with apologies to vegetarians for the 1955 photo below of chefs at the Statler Hotel in downtown LA preparing for the holiday.  The Statler became the now-demolished Wilshire Grand.)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

UCOP's Webpage Needs to Tell It Like It Is (and cut the PR)

Suppose you want to find this year's budget for UC.  (This year is 2014-15.)  You might think you can go on or and quickly find it.  You might think there would be a link marked "budget" right on the front page.  You might think that if you typed in "budget" in the search engine provided, you would find it.  You would be wrong.

Above is the operating budget page.  If you actually click on "2014-15 Budget," you get a budget proposal made in 2013, not the final budget.*  And, in fact, much of what you get are budget proposals made to the state which - since they refer only to the "core" educational budget - amount to only a fraction of the total budget.  Indeed, much of what you will find are PR-oriented presentations designed to convey some message UC wants you to take away.

In crude terms, the core budget received from the state in recent years has been about one tenth of the total UC budget.  That is an important fact.  The one tenth is roughly matched by student tuition.  The rest of the UC budget is largely supported by research grants, hospital revenues, fees for operating the energy labs, and miscellaneous other sources.

Now before someone at UCOP writes to tell me that if I click on this, then click on that, and then stand on my head and whistle Dixie, I could get to the actual 2014-15 budget (if that is even true), he or she might instead ask why THE budget and not some PR page isn't right there upfront and simple to access.  If you think it doesn't matter, consider this quote from a Sacramento Bee opinion piece dated Nov. 25 dealing with the current tuition/funding budget controversy:

...The money just symbolizes, however, a larger conflict that’s simmered, and occasionally boiled over, for decades. It’s the control of a world-class university system that’s constitutionally independent, but largely dependent on money from the state budget and whose governing board is composed of politicians, including the governor, and political appointees...

Full column at 

Clearly, "largely dependent" and "one tenth" are not the same thing.  By seeking to control the message for PR purposes, UC loses the PR battle.


Read more here:

Why shouldn't we have one?

What a keen table!
Inside Higher Ed carries a story about a fuss that was kicked up over the revelation that Kean U in New Jersey is spending $219,000 for a conference table.  The question for UCLA, however, is somewhat different.  Since we are spending $150+ million for a Grand Hotel, aka conference center, why can't we have such a table?  After all, it would just be rounding error on the overall Grand Hotel budget.

You can find out more about this (grand) idea at

Only a penny-pincher would want to table this suggestion!

CSU Piggybacks on UC

UC Regents challenged the governor at their most recent meeting regarding their tuition-or-more-state-funding budget.  The CSU trustees, however, were content to let UC take the heat in the knowledge that if a deal is reached for more UC funding, it is likely that CSU would get a similar deal.  However, CSU is hinting - not of increased tuition - but of fewer admissions:

The University of California's decision to raise tuition generated much controversy. But the California State system could consider what by some measures is an even more radical plan as it struggles with budget constraints and increasing demand from freshmen and community college transfers. Rather than increasing tuition, Cal State has reduced enrollment targets for this fall. And trustees recently discussed the dark scenario of having to stop accepting freshmen.Those ideas are designed in part to send Sacramento a loud message that the CSU system needs more funding from state government...

Full story at 

NOTE: A number of commentators on the UC vs. governor battle note that the governor (and legislature) ultimately have budgetary power and could chop a dollar off UC for every dollar gained in tuition.  However, and more so than CSU because of its constitutional autonomy, UC controls the enrollment lever.  UC could, if the governor moves in the dollar-for-dollar chop direction, make sharp enrollment cuts, along CSU lines.  It's unlikely that either the governor or the legislature would like to hear the howls from the parents of Johnny who got into a UC but is being told to wait a year.  That's another reason why talk of the governor using the nuclear option - discussed in an earlier post - is not realistic.  As in the Cold War, neither side could use the nuclear option because of the potential for retaliation.

So let's hope neither side is prepared to go nuclear:

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

More Media Scoring Favors Napolitano

...The battle is far from over. But for now, there's a clear victor: Napolitano, the ex-Arizona governor and former Homeland Security chief who has been one of the few statewide figures to challenge the four-term governor successfully. So how did Napolitano play this skillfully? First, she made sure tuition increases were defined. No students -- or, more to the point, no parents -- like bigger bills. But what they dislike even more are surprises. Napolitano eliminated those. Second, she put the onus on the Legislature and the governor to repair the damage: If they came up with more money, she suggested, the tuition increases would not need to be as large. Her message: Don't blame us. Blame them.Third, she paid attention to the niceties of politics. She prepared the ground with a public letter saying the increase would allow UC to enroll 5,000 more students. And she avoided making things personal. "I'm the president of the university and my job is to make the case for the university. So I'm very respectful of the governor," she said. "I disagree with him but I'm very respectful.'' ...

...(T)his contest was different because the UC has a politician leading it, the former Arizona governor and homeland security secretary Janet Napolitano. And this made all the difference. Napolitano took the fight to her fellow politicians in a way that UC hasn’t done before. And she won a big round, getting the better of Gov. Jerry Brown. Her successful strategy was this: she out-Browned Brown. Napolitano’s UC plan is very Brown – Sacramento can choose to give more money or see increases in tuition. It’s a choice—and she portrayed it as pragmatic and realistic. She also outmaneuvered Brown, by dropping the plan on him the day after the election and lining up votes. He had to react late, scrambling to add a couple of appointees to the board of regents...