Thursday, November 30, 2017

More on Los Alamos

UC leaders make case to keep managing Los Alamos lab

By Rebecca Moss and Bruce Krasnow | Santa Fe New Mexican | Nov. 29, 2017

Top leaders of the University of California were in New Mexico this week making the case that despite safety and operational lapses over the past several years at Los Alamos National Laboratory, the university system alone has the experience and expertise to manage the nuclear weapons lab — a role the university essentially has had since the lab’s inception.

“Through all of this time, the last 12 years, the laboratory has consistently been rated for their excellence in science and in support of their missions,” said Kim Budil, a physicist and the vice president for national laboratories at UC, responsible for both the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and Los Alamos.

Budil was referring to the 12 years since UC began co-managing the lab as part of a consortium with three private companies.

“We have had some operational missteps,” she said, “and we have worked hard to try to address those and to improve the operational quality of the laboratory. We realize that needs to be a continued focus.”

Budil was joined by UC Regent Ellen Tauscher, a former member of Congress from California’s 10th District who served as undersecretary of state for arms control and security affairs, and Gary Falle, a former chief of staff at the U.S. Department of Energy under Bill Richardson who now works in government relations for UC.

The University of California has managed Los Alamos since the 1940s, but its oversight has been turbulent for decades, and it has faced significant criticism for ongoing safety and security lapses. In 2004, then-lab Director Pete Nanos temporarily shut down operations after a student was injured and classified disks went missing.

Thousands of other issues came to light, and the Department of Energy put the lab contract out for bid in response.

Despite serious concerns about how the university was managing Los Alamos, the University of California retained its oversight, forming a consortium with private companies Bechtel, AECOM and BWXT, to become Los Alamos National Security LLC.

Issues have persisted under the consortium, including significant safety lapses at the lab’s plutonium facility that led to a pause in operations, poor federal performance reviews and improperly packaged drums of radiologically contaminated waste. One of those drums burst underground at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in 2014, releasing radiation and causing the underground nuclear waste repository to shut down until earlier this year.

The persistent management problems contributed to the Energy Department’s decision not to renew Los Alamos National Security’s management contract in late 2015.

Still, UC insists it is the most qualified entity to run the lab.

“This isn’t building an iPhone; it’s the toughest work in the world, and it’s dangerous,” Tauscher said in an interview Wednesday with The New Mexican. “I don’t think this is where you want to go for change. You have to have experience to do it.”

UC declined to comment on its bid strategy for the new contract or to disclose whether the current members of Los Alamos National Security will be partners in the new bid.

Other known bidders for the LANL contract include the University of Texas System, perhaps using the flagship campus in Austin as the main contractor or in partnership with Texas A&M University. Earlier this week, the UT Board of Regents authorized spending $4.5 million to prepare a proposal, while California is spending $5 million.

There may well be other private companies or partnerships in the hunt for the management contract, but companies do not have to make their intentions public until the Dec. 11 deadline, and the competition could lead many contenders to avoid showing their cards.

The UC team met with The University of New Mexico, New Mexico Tech, Santa Fe Community College and a representative with the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities, which comprises local government leaders from around Northern New Mexico, to make a case for the university’s continued management.

“We would like to be judged for our 75 years of national service, commitment to excellence, commitment to mission in science,” Tauscher said.

The current contract with Los Alamos National Security expires at the end of September 2018, with the new operator scheduled to assume control Oct. 1 under a five-year contract, with the potential for a second five-year term.


As we always do when this matter comes up, we recommend the 1980 BBC series - free on YouTube - dealing with Berkeley Professor J. Robert Oppenheimer, Los Alamos, and politics at Berkeley in the World War II era:

Part 1: [link below]
Part 2:
Part 3:
Part 4:
Part 5:
Part 6:
Part 7:

More on Tax Bill

There were grad student protests over the tax bill currently in Congress around the country including at UCLA and Berkeley:

Inside Higher Ed has a summary of the versions of the tax bill in the House and the Senate at:

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Uncertain Political Environment for Higher Ed

House GOP to Propose Sweeping Changes to Higher Education

Wall Street Journal, Douglas Belkin, Josh Mitchell, Melissa Korn

UCOP Daily News Clips, Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives this week will propose sweeping legislation that aims to change where Americans go to college, how they pay for it, what they study, and how their success—or failure—affects the institutions they attend.
The most dramatic and far-reaching element of the plan is a radical revamp of the $1.34 trillion federal student loan program. It would put caps on borrowing and eliminate some loan forgiveness programs.
The ambitious package—a summary of which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal—would be the biggest overhaul of education policy in decades. The rising expense of higher education is deeply troubling to many Americans and many increasingly question its value. Despite a steady rise in the share of high-school graduates heading to college, a skills gap has left more than 6 million jobs unfilled, a significant drag on the economy.
The Republican policy proposals, which would make up the new Higher Education Act, are aimed at filling that gap by both deregulating parts of the sector and laying the conditions for shorter, faster pathways to the workforce. The act focuses on ensuring students don’t just enroll in school, but actually graduate with skills that the labor market is seeking.
The opening House GOP gambit will likely take more than a year to wind through Congress and could undergo substantial revisions before passing into law. The Higher Education Act of 1965 was last reauthorized in 2008. It was set to expire in 2013 but was extended to allow legislators more time to work on a new version. The Congressional Budget Office is expected to score the bill this week.
Although elements of the bill, titled The Promoting Real Opportunity, Success and Prosperity Through Education Reform (PROSPER) Act, could gain bipartisan support, many universities are likely to oppose the limits on federal student loans and greater competition as the bill proposes new paths to the workforce that could exclude them.
Still, the bill offers a detailed look at how Republicans envision a higher education system that would better align with the needs of the economy. It makes changes to funding for historically black and minority-serving colleges and touches on hot-button cultural issues including freedom of speech and sexual assault on campus.
The act would create winners and losers. Some student borrowers endure increased burdens and many established universities will face new competition and additional layers of accountability. On the other hand, community colleges will get more funding to team with the private sector and create apprenticeships and the for-profit college sector could get many changes it has lobbied for, including equal footing with nonprofit schools when it comes to limits on federal aid and measurements of graduate success.
Rep. Virginia Foxx (R., N.C.), chairwoman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce which drafted the proposal, lamented that so much of higher education was considered “irrelevant” by employers. She hopes to better harness technology by pushing accreditors to lean on schools to accept more creative alternatives to higher education.
“Since the last bill came out, we had a big recession and tremendous technological changes,” she said. “We have a shortage of 6 million skilled workers. What we want to do is help colleges provide students with the skills they need to succeed in the workplace.”
The plan aims to expand apprenticeships and competency-based education along with more “learn and earn” opportunities, said Rep. Foxx, a former community college president.
The changes align with a call by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for a “major shift” away from reliance on the four-year degree.
“Students should be able to pursue their education where, when and how it works for them and their schedules,” Mrs. DeVos said in a speech on Tuesday. “Financial aid should not be withheld simply because they pursue a nontraditional path. Politicians and bureaucrats should not dictate to students when and how they can learn.”
The higher education establishment is likely to balk at many of the changes, said Judith Eaton, president of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, which oversees the regional accreditors that serve as gatekeepers to federal student aid. “You will get nontraditional actors like companies that provide coursework for apprenticeships.”
As part of its plan to rein in student loans, graduate students and parents of undergraduates would face so far unspecified caps on how much they could borrow for tuition and living expenses—instead of borrowing whatever schools charge.
The change could cut into enrollment and potentially siphon off billions of dollars a year from universities.
The bill would also end loan-forgiveness programs for public-service employees, who currently can make 10 years of payments and then have their remaining debt forgiven, tax-free. It would also eliminate a program that ties monthly payments to income levels for private-sector workers. Current participants in both programs would be grandfathered in.
Congressional Democrats have argued that the best way to help students is to provide more direct subsidies, including grants, to students and letting them pay off what they can afford for a set time, then forgive the balances. Many Republicans and conservatives believe student aid programs have become too generous and have enabled schools to charge higher prices, ultimately at taxpayers’ expense.
One of the biggest winners in the new higher education legislation is the for-profit college industry, which faced a major crackdown under the Obama administration, amid concerns about students who failed to finish programs and were left saddled with major debt and no way to pay for it.
The rollback of those regulations has been under way since President Donald Trump took office. The reauthorization proposal goes a step further by prohibiting future action by the Education Department on what’s known as the gainful employment regulation, which ties access to federal student aid to whether career programs lead to decent-paying jobs.
Steve Gunderson, CEO and president of Career Education Colleges and Universities, said he is eager to eliminate the gainful employment rule, because it scrutinizes graduate outcomes almost exclusively at for-profit colleges.
“If we can replace those two words with a common set of outcomes metrics for everybody, I think we’re all better off,” he said.
The bill also touches on regulations that online programs view as burdensome, eases restrictions on paying student recruiters and more issues with an outsize effect on for-profit institutions.
“It sounds to me as if they’re including pretty much everything the for-profit schools want,” said Bob Shireman, a deputy Education Department undersecretary in the Education Department in Obama administration and now a senior fellow at the left-leaning Century Foundation.
While the bill eases up on for- profits, it purports to move toward greater accountability of all schools by revamping the dashboard of information available to prospective students and by mandating that schools would have to pay back some portion of federal loans if the student didn’t. This so called skin-in-the-game proposal has been long fought by the powerful higher education lobby.
“Institutions need to recognize they have a role to play in this process, and they need to have ‘skin-in-the-game’ when it comes to preparing students for success academically and financially,” Dr. Foxx said. “Under the committee’s proposal, if an institution’s program or repayment system doesn’t set up a student for success, then it cannot be eligible for student aid.”

UC Budget Confrontation Coming?

College tuition may be source of conflict in next state budget

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez | November 28, 2017 | KPCC

The state's Legislative Analyst's Office is predicting a showdown this budget season between California's public universities and Governor Jerry Brown over whether the schools can both raise tuition and get a proposed state funding boost.

For several years, Brown stopped California’s public universities from raising tuition. He did so by telling university administrators that they’d get funding increases if they didn’t raise tuition.

That changed earlier this year, when administrators of the University of California and the California State University systems approved 2.5 percent tuition increases that went into effect this fall.

And if the universities consider raising tuition again, the LAO is predicting that the governor's office will use a proposed funding increase as a bargaining chip to stop them. 

“Were the university boards to raise tuition, the Legislature likely would want to consider whether all or a portion of the additional tuition revenue should augment or supplant proposed increases in state General Fund support,” the office said in a report issued last week

The governor’s office said Brown’s view on tuition increases hasn’t changed.

“What we said back in May was, going forward you should plan on 3 percent growth, number one, and number two, if you do intend to increase tuition again, you should know that state support regarding that 3 percent may have to come down,” said H.D. Palmer, the spokesman for the governor’s finance department.

But that message isn’t leading either university system to take tuition increases off the table...

Full story at

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

4 to 3?

Texas Regents OK Bid to Operate Los Alamos Lab

November 28, 2017, Inside Higher Ed

The University of Texas System Board of Regents on Monday authorized in a 4-to-3 vote a bid to manage and operate Los Alamos National Laboratory, the top nuclear research facility in the country.

The Department of Energy is expected to award a five-year contract to manage and operate the lab in mid-spring 2018.

The UT System in a partnership with Lockheed Martin previously made an unsuccessful bid to operate Los Alamos in 2005 but lost out to a partnership between the University of California and Bechtel Corporation. Although the company formed by the University of California and Bechtel, Los Alamos National Security LLC, still operates the lab, UC no longer has any affiliation with the facilities itself.


4 to 3? This is like being in the hospital and getting a card from work saying "the committee has voted to wish you a quick recovery 4 to 3"!

UCLA Plays Ball With VA

From KPCC: VA officials and UCLA leadership gathered on Monday to announce the school has begun fulfilling a 10-year, $16.5 million agreement that keeps the Bruins playing baseball in Jackie Robinson Stadium on the West L.A. VA campus.

UCLA officially unveiled a legal clinic and a center for veterans families on the VA Medical Center campus, although both have been operating since August. A third facility, focused on assisting homeless veterans, is on its way.

"This really is a partnership," said UCLA Chancellor Gene Block. "It brings together the expertise of the VA and the expertise of our health system and other parts of campus to really provide the very best benefits for veterans."

UCLA has begun hosting events for veterans at Jackie Robinson stadium, including movie nights and batting practice, and providing veterans with free seats to scrimmages and some baseball games...

In 2013, a judge invalidated all third-party leases on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs 388-acre facility, after a lawsuit argued the contracts weren’t benefiting veterans.

That meant the VA had to put an end to agreements with businesses like a hotel laundry facility and car rental lot operating on the campus.

It also put the future of Jackie Robinson Stadium in jeopardy, until UCLA and then-VA Secretary Robert McDonald reached a deal in Jan. 2016 to allow the Bruins baseball team to keep playing there. It committed UCLA to providing expanded support services to veterans, included legal aid, help for veteran families and recreational opportunities in and around the stadium...

As part of the agreement, the school is also paying the VA $300,000 in yearly rent...

Full story at

Tax News - Part 2

Follow-up to yesterday's post: UC's advocacy group in pushing an email campaign concerning various tax provisions in the current Congressional tax bill that would adversely affect higher ed.


Monday, November 27, 2017

Tax News

UC statement on federal tax proposals

UC Office of the President
Monday, November 27, 2017

University of California President Janet Napolitano, Student Regent Paul Monge and Student Regent-designate Devon Graves issued the following statement today (Nov. 27):

Federal tax proposals moving through Congress will have a devastating impact on the graduate students at the University of California as well as those across the nation. A repeal of long-established, critical tax benefits — from tuition waivers to loan-debt relief — will threaten the affordability and accessibility of higher education for so many students and families.

Tax reform should not be borne on the backs of our hardworking graduate students. They are vital to the university community and society at large: They further groundbreaking research, mentor the next generation and contribute to the economy. They are our nation’s future and deserve congressional support — not a tax hike.

We stand in solidarity with students as we work together to advocate for fair tax policies and to advance our shared mission of supporting higher education.


Texas Problem

From Inside Higher Ed: Should outnumbered men feel uncomfortable on college campuses? That’s a highly charged question hanging over Texas after remarks last week by the state’s commissioner of higher education. The commissioner, Raymund Paredes, commented before Thanksgiving on the fact that some campuses in Texas have student bodies that are 60 percent women and 40 percent men.
“We’ve been told by some presidents that we’re getting to the point where males feel uncomfortable on college campuses, on some college campuses,” Paredes said...
​Paredes declined during a telephone interview last week to share which college presidents have told him men are feeling uncomfortable on their campuses. But he reiterated that he was referring to groups of students that are financially at risk or less prepared for college than others.
“They are obviously going to feel uncomfortable if they don’t see many people like themselves on a university campus,” Paredes said. “I didn’t mean to suggest that we were at a crisis point, but I meant to suggest that a lot of people think we’re getting there.”...
In case you're wondering:
"University of California--Los Angeles has a total undergraduate enrollment of 30,873, with a gender distribution of 43 percent male students and 57 percent female students."
(So far, nobody has suggested UCLA has a crisis.)

Sunday, November 26, 2017

$23.3m and him

Thanksgiving weekend bargain price?
UCLA now has its blue chip head coach. The school announced Saturday that it hired Chip Kelly to lead the Bruins, signing him onto a five-year deal worth $23.3 million.
Kelly, who has nearly three decades of coaching experience in college and professional football, will also be offered a $9 million reciprocal buyout.
"I am thrilled to welcome Chip Kelly to Westwood," said director of athletics Dan Guerrero. "His success speaks for itself, but more than that, I firmly believe that his passion for the game and his innovative approach to coaching student-athletes make him the perfect fit for our program. 'Champions Made Here' is more than just a mantra at UCLA, and I'm confident that Chip will lead UCLA Football back to competing for championships."
Kelly will be formally introduced to the UCLA community and to media on campus Monday afternoon...

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Listen to the Regents Meeting of Nov. 16, 2017

With this posting, we complete our audio preservation of the November 2017 Regents meeting.

The board meeting of Nov. 16 began with public comments. Topics included free speech/hate speech, urging the Regents to visit campuses, DACA students, and retiree health care.

After public comments, the UCSA president reported on plans to create Regents report cards, political developments including concerns over the tax bill currently in Congress, and demands for Regent Pattiz to be removed from committees, resign, be banned from campuses, etc. It might be noted that Pattiz was originally appointed in 2001 by then-Gov. Davis, reappointed by Gov. Brown in 2014, and thus has a term that continues into 2026. He hasn't offered to resign, the Regents have not taken any action to remove him from committees, and in fact he reported to the board subsequently on the national labs subcommittee activities.

When the Finance and Capital Strategies committee reported, Lt. Gov. and ex officio Regent Newsom indicated that the 7.25% interest rate used for retirement calculation was too high. He suggested that the rate should probably be below 7%. 

There was a lengthy presentation (followed by discusssion) by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) concerning public opinion about higher ed and projected labor force needs for adults with college degrees.

A special resolution was adopted allowing Regent Guber to continue teaching for free at UCLA on entertainment-related topics.

Finally, at a special session called for the purpose, the Regents reviewed the report on misconduct by the UC prez and others with regard to the state audit. UC prez Napolitano apologized.

You can hear the audio of the meeting below:

Regular session:

Special session:

Friday, November 24, 2017

Enough with the Outrage - Part 2

We recently noted that various editorial writers are more put-out-of-shape than they should be about the state audit scandal. When we last made the point, it was about a San Diego Union-Tribune editorial. See:
Now it's the Mercury-News.* I  know. It's hard to find something to be outraged about during the long Thanksgiving weekend when a column is due. So best to write up something last week, put it in a draw, and then pull it out on Thanksgiving. But can we give the audit topic a rest now? The audit scandal, which I previously rated as 5 out of 10, is one of those things that bureaucracies tend to produce. So let's all take a deep breath, calm down, and move on. And by the way, editorial writers who may be waiting in the wings, if you actually paid attention to what occurred at last week's Regents meeting (when the audit was just one of the topics), you might have noted the ongoing problems with UCPath which are more pressing. There was a lot of assurance that everything is now under control and a lot of reason to be dubious.

Listen to the Regents Meeting, Afternoon, Nov. 15, 2017

We continue our catching up with the Regents' November meeting. On the afternoon of Nov. 15, 2017, there were two concurrent meetings:

Academic and Student Affairs - which then morphed into a meeting of the subcommittee for the national labs, and

Finance and Capital Strategies.

The hot issue at Academic and Student Affairs was responding to the UC-Irvine scandal in which admitted students were un-admitted, ostensibly because of lack of documents but apparently to reduce enrollments above target. After a public fuss, the campus reversed, apologized, and undid most of the un-admissions. At the meeting, there was discussion of steps - systemwide - meant to avoid a recurrence. That discussion was followed by discussion of total cost of attending UC, i.e., including non-tuition items such as room and board, etc. UCLA Chancellor Block, who attended, spoke in favor of encouraging three-year graduations (with summer attendance) to reduce student costs.

The two issues regarding the national labs was approval of the bid to continue a management role by UC at Los Alamos and approval of an already-negotiated contract for Lawrence Berkeley. On Los Alamos, it was said that the U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE) would probably announce its decision in April or May of 2018. It appears that contracts for the labs increasingly involve contingent clauses whereby failure to meet various performance standards can lead to reduced funding from DOE.

Finance and Capital Strategies examined various capital projects, none of which was at UCLA. In the general capital budget, there is some funding for deferred maintenance which could provide something for UCLA. (Not clear.) There were repeated references at various points when the UC financial statements were discussed to unfunded liability of retiree health care that now must be shown on the statements. It was apparently this change in accounting that led to the now deferred discussion of reduction in UC expenditure on its "practice" of providing retiree health care.

Implementation of the UCPath payroll system was a major issue. This effort has gone over-budget and been much delayed. UCLA was supposed to be among the first campuses to adopt the system, but now will be delayed - apparently due to complications arising from the medical enterprise pay system. It appears that pushing UCLA back will also delay implementation at other campuses. No one quite answered the question (which was raised) as to why UCLA was set to go first if there were known complexities of its medical enterprise payroll system. If UCLA had gone first, it was said that Merced would have had to be removed from its system (since UCLA does Merced's payroll). It was unclear why, if Merced could have been carved out, why the UCLA medical enterprise couldn't have been carved out.

Links to the audios of the Nov. 15th afternoon meeting are below:

Academic and Student Affairs followed by Labs:

Finance and Capital Strategies:

Thursday, November 23, 2017

It just keeps going

State auditor finds top aides to UC President Napolitano interfered in audit, recommends reforms

Teresa Watanabe  LA Times  11-22-23

California State Auditor Elaine Howle wants University of California regents to consider disciplining university employees who repeatedly interfered with a state audit, tried to hide their actions, misled investigators and withheld requested information until threatened with court action, according to a private report by her office obtained by The Times.

Howle’s office began investigating UC interference in a state audit on the performance of UC President Janet Napolitano’s office after a whistleblower complaint early this year. Like a separate inquiry commissioned by regents whose results were released last week, Howle’s investigation determined that Napolitano approved a plan instructing the UC system’s 10 campuses to submit responses to confidential questionnaires about her office for review by her aides before sending them on to the state auditor.

Both investigations found that Napolitano’s aides asked campuses to tone down or delete criticisms. But neither found sufficient evidence that Napolitano knew her aides planned to do this. Napolitano told investigators that had she known, she would not have approved their plan.

Both reports primarily blamed Napolitano’s Chief of Staff Seth Grossman and Deputy Chief of Staff Bernie Jones for the interference. Howle’s report cited additional evidence of wrongdoing by Jones, including intentional failures at least twice to provide requested documents to the auditor and an inappropriate effort to identify the whistleblower.

These actions impeded her audit “by impairing [her] office’s statutory right to access records, failing to provide the requested documents in a timely manner, failing to provide unaltered records, and contributing to inefficiency and waste,” Howle wrote in an Oct. 26 letter to George Kieffer, chairman of the UC Board of Regents.

The Times obtained copies of the letter and the report after the state auditor sent them to legislative leaders of both parties. Howle declined to comment.

Her report outlined several recommendations to avoid future interference, including disciplining the UC employees involved, requiring training and education about whistleblowers and the inappropriateness of retaliation, and revising reporting so that university auditors report directly to regents, not to the UC president’s office.

In an interview Wednesday, Kieffer said the regents would be “working collaboratively” with Howle to implement her suggested reforms. The regents also plan to discuss their own, more detailed recommendations at their next meeting, in January.

The regents’ proposals include a ban on obstructing, interfering or coordinating requests for information in responding to any state audit. They also suggest having the general counsel, chief investment officer and top audit officers report solely to them on audits and investigations involving the UC president’s office.

Napolitano apologized for her actions last week after the regents released the findings of their investigation, which was conducted by former state Justice Carlos Moreno and the Hueston Hennigan law firm. The regents unanimously agreed to retain her as president but sharply disagreed about how to discipline her and others involved.

A majority of regents voted to reprimand Napolitano and said Grossman and Jones would have been subject to serious discipline if they had not resigned earlier in the month. A vocal minority, however, said that more serious action was needed. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, an ex-officio regent, told The Times through a spokesman that a mere reprimand of Napolitano was “insignificant.” Regent John A. Pérez said a broader range of actions should be debated, including possible measures against Grossman and Jones.

Kieffer said Grossman and Jones received no severance packages or residual UC benefits. “They got zero,” he said, “There is frankly nothing more we could do to them.”

He said he would be working with Howle in coordination with Napolitano to determine whether to take any other actions against UC employees for inappropriate behavior during the audit.



Misdemeanor charge filed in ‘Make America Great Again’ hat incident at UC Riverside

Michael Watanabe | Riverside Press-Enterprise | November 22, 2017

A UC Riverside student seen in a viral video* grabbing a fellow student’s pro-Trump hat has been charged with misdemeanor grand theft. The charge against Edith Macias was filed Nov. 3, and a warrant for her arrest was granted Nov. 13, court records show. She has not yet been detained or entered a plea. The statute under which she was charged says grand theft applies when property is taken off somebody’s body. The incident happened Sept. 27 at a training event for student organizations at UCR. Student Matthew Lawrence Vitale wore a red baseball cap with President Donald Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again.”

Several videos of what happened were posted online, though some have since been taken down. One shows Macias grabbing the hat off Vitale’s head and running out of the room. Vitale himself began filming as Macias brought the hat into the Student Life office and asked staff whether the hat should be allowed on campus. “This represents genocide,” Macias says in the video. Vitale counters that that freedom of speech allows him to wear the hat and that he wants his property back. Macias eventually gives university officials the hat. The 9-minute video ends as two men in what appear to be UCR police uniforms enter the office.


Happy Thanksgiving... our loyal readers (although we don't go back to 1910).

UC's CRISPR case has not wilted

DUBLIN--(BUSINESS WIRE)--ERS Genomics announced today [11-22-2017] that The Regents of the University of California, the University of Vienna, and Dr. Emmanuelle Charpentier (collectively “UC”), co-owners of foundational intellectual property relating to CRISPR/Cas9 genome engineering, will today submit their reply brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (the “Federal Circuit”). UC seeks reversal of a decision by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Patent Trial and Appeal Board (“PTAB”) terminating the interference between certain CRISPR/Cas9 patent claims owned by UC, which cover gene editing in bacterial cells, eukaryotic cells (such as plant and animal cells) and non-cellular environments, and claims of the Broad Institute, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (collectively, “Broad”) which specify use in eukaryotic cells.

“We are pleased that the briefing is now complete and that the court can now proceed to hear and decide the appeal,” commented Eric Rhodes, CEO of ERS. “One of the important questions in this case is whether Broad’s deployment of conventional techniques for using bacterial systems in eukaryotic cells was an obvious aspect of UC’s core CRISPR-Cas9 invention. Our side is adamant in our belief that this is the case.”...

Full release at

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Trump Tweetstorm Continues Over UCLA Players

From the Washington Post:

President Trump began the day before Thanksgiving on Twitter, calling out those who he claims have not, in fact, given him their proper thanks.

His target, again: LaVar Ball, whom Trump had previously called “very ungrateful” for the president’s help in resolving a shoplifting charge in China for his son, LiAngelo, and two other University of California at Los Angeles basketball players.

It had been nearly two full days since Trump last mentioned the elder Ball by name — and in the intervening hours, Ball had been on CNN, saying that he had nothing to be thankful for when it came to his son and his president.

“How’d he help? If he helped, I would say thank you,” Ball told CNN.

Trump wasn’t having it, calling Ball an “ungrateful fool” and “a poor man’s version of Don King,” the boxing promoter known for his spotlight-grabbing style.

As for who had helped free LiAngelo Ball from China, the president said Wednesday: “IT WAS ME.”

It wasn’t the White House, it wasn’t the State Department, it wasn’t father LaVar’s so-called people on the ground in China that got his son out of a long term prison sentence – IT WAS ME. Too bad! LaVar is just a poor man’s version of Don King, but without the hair. Just think..

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 22, 2017

…LaVar, you could have spent the next 5 to 10 years during Thanksgiving with your son in China, but no NBA contract to support you. But remember LaVar, shoplifting is NOT a little thing. It’s a really big deal, especially in China. Ungrateful fool!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 22, 2017

LiAngelo Ball and two other UCLA men’s basketball players were arrested for shoplifting while in Hangzhou for a tournament. They returned to the United States last week and were summarily suspended by their team.

“You’re welcome,” Trump tweeted at the trio upon their return to the United States, urging Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill to “HAVE A GREAT LIFE!” He also suggested that they “give a big Thank You to President Xi Jinping of China.”

Trump said last week that he had personally intervened in the case with his Chinese counterpart, asking Xi to help resolve the case.

When the president returned from a 12-day trip through Asia, he wrote on Twitter: “Do you think the three UCLA Basketball Players will say thank you to President Trump? They were headed for 10 years in jail!”

Enter LaVar Ball, who was asked by ESPN about Trump’s role in securing his son’s release.

“Who?” Ball said. “What was he over there for? Don’t tell me nothing. Everybody wants to make it seem like he helped me out.”

Trump fumed, tweeting Sunday: “I should have left them in jail!” (The White House later said Trump wasn’t serious, calling it “a rhetorical response to a criticism by the father.”)

But the following night, the outspoken Ball went on CNN and took aim at the president.

“You heard what he tweeted,” he told anchor Chris Cuomo. “He tweeted that cause he’s mad at me, ‘I should have left their asses in jail.’”

Ball said insisted that Trump has overstated his role in freeing the three Americans and added that if he would thank anyone, it would be Xi.

But, he added: “I don’t have to go around saying thank you to everybody.”

The State Department typically takes the lead on cases involving U.S. citizens who are arrested abroad, and the U.S. Embassy in Beijing was aware of the case, officials said.

Trump raised the arrests during a two-day state visit to Beijing, arriving after the three freshman players were accused of stealing sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store next to the team’s hotel.

“The basketball players, by the way — I know a lot of people are asking — I will tell you, when I heard about it two days ago, I had a great conversation with President Xi,” Trump said after boarding Air Force One in Manila at the conclusion his Asia trip. “What they did was unfortunate. You know, you’re talking about very long prison sentences. [The Chinese] do not play games.”

When asked specifically whether Xi was helping to resolve the matter, Trump said last week: “Yes, he is. And he’s been terrific. President Xi has been terrific on that subject.

“But that was not a good subject. That was not something that should have happened.”

The sunglasses in the Louis Vuitton store in Hangzhou are priced at or around 4,900 yuan ($750).

According to Chinese law, anyone stealing goods worth between 4,000 and 7,000 yuan faces between one and two years in jail, although the sentence can be mitigated if they confess, show remorse and pay compensation.


At $790, it's more gold than blue

All we can say is that sports watches used to be cheaper:

Enough with the outrage!

We recently reproduced an editorial from the San Francisco Chronicle complaining about the UC prez and her role in the state audit scandal.* Now a similar (copycat?) editorial has appeared in the San Diego Union-Tribune.** But one editorial was sufficient. And here's a somewhat different take from yours truly on the scandal.

All large bureaucracies are self-protective. Public, private, it doesn't matter. And in all bureaucracies, the ultimate rule for getting ahead is "please your boss." So that's what happened. The UC prez was already upset with the state auditor's previous encounters with UC. Her underlings knew it. So they proceeded accordingly.

What about the chancellors whose critical comments about UCOP were changed to be positive? Chancellors chafe at being under UCOP; they want more autonomy. So it's not surprising that UCOP's sloppy interventions came to light. UCOP's underlings weren't very good at their attempts to please their boss. And the chancellors and their underlings had an incentive to let what they had done be known.

However, on a scale of bureaucratic misdeeds, this one was maybe a 5 on a scale of 10. UC has more serious issues long term that have to do with funding, state support, etc. I won't reproduce the Union-Tribune editorial, but one sentence from it stands out:

"...(State Auditor) Howle told the Legislature in May that in 17 years as state auditor, she’d never seen such improper behavior from an agency she was reviewing..."

Maybe that's so. Maybe Howle was rightly shocked and appalled and UC's behavior was unique. But maybe it means that the other agencies which she audited over 17 years were just better at covering their tracks. Maybe the other agencies are more cohesive than the UC system with its autonomy-seeking campuses and chancellors. Maybe UC's behavior is less unique than Howle appreciates.

Anyway, enough with the newspaper outrage. The UC prez has done her requisite groveling apology, which we have also previously reproduced, complete with video.*** There is no more there there to be had than we already have. Time to move on.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Open and Closed

This is a reminder the 2018 UC Open Enrollment window closes today,Tuesday, November 21st at 5 pm. For UCLA employees who were unable to attend an Open Enrollment Learn-at-Lunch review session, Campus Human Resources is providing a self-tutorial overview available until 5 pm on November 21st .
·         Go to the CHR website:; click on “2018 Open Enrollment Presentation”

Remember, employees are required to re-enroll with the Flexible Spending Account every year; participation with the FSA plans do not rollover into the new calendar year like other UC health and welfare plans. IRS rules mandate the re-enrollment provision. Participants need to visit the Open Enrollment website to add/change their FSA elections and confirm their changes using the 3-step confirmation process.

Open Enrollment closes Tuesday, November 21 at 5:00 p.m. sharp!!  This is the Tuesday before the Thanksgiving Day Holiday. Don’t wait until the last minute to elect your 2018 plans!!!

Monday, November 20, 2017

After all, it's only money

...Who knew that the UCLA athletic coffers would suddenly be so accessible, as the school will pay (fired football coach Jim) Mora nearly $12 million without help from boosters to buy out a contract that was guaranteed through 2021?...

Full story at

The SF Chronicle Points a Finger

San Francisco Chronicle editorial:

UC Regents were right to discipline President Napolitano


The University of California regents took disciplinary action against President Janet Napolitano last week, and it was right to do so. Napolitano’s actions were inexcusable, and they point to the larger problems at California’s prized public university system.

The chain of events that led to Thursday’s public admonishment is clear. In October 2016, the state auditor’s office sent two sets of survey questionnaires to each of the 10 UC campuses to obtain honest feedback from the campuses about Napolitano’s administration. Each of the surveys directed the campuses to return them to the state auditor and not to share them outside of the campus.

That’s not what happened, according to an independent report written by retired State Supreme Justice Carlos Moreno and released by the regents last week. Instead, Napolitano approved a plan that involved her chief of staff and his deputy pressuring campuses to change their responses on the surveys from negative responses to positive ones. In some instances, her office also reviewed the responses submitted by the campuses. Napolitano even called the chancellor of UC Santa Cruz after that campus submitted its surveys to the auditor without allowing her office to see them first, suggesting the campus withdraw its responses.

“In short, the review plan was likely to, and in at least one case did, chill campuses’ responses to the State Auditor,” Moreno wrote in his report. That this is inappropriate behavior should have been obvious to everyone involved.

Certainly this seems to have struck Napolitano’s office after the fact. Her chief of staff, Seth Grossman, and his deputy, Bernie Jones, have resigned. Napolitano herself is contrite. “I apologize to the board, the university community and the public at large,” Napolitano told The Chronicle. “I take responsibility. This is a situation that we’ve already taken steps to ensure will not happen again.”

Pressed for details, Napolitano pointed to a new policy issued by UC’s interim chief auditor in May 2017 that said future inquiries from the state auditor’s office should be returned directly to that office. She also said that, in an effort for her office to be “open, transparent and above reproach,” it has reformed its process for making and communicating the university budget.

“Ensuring that our budget, and our process for creating that budget, is clear and transparent to the board, the state Legislature and the public is a big priority for me right now,” Napolitano said. A lack of transparency has been an issue with UC for years — whether the subject is budgets, sexual harassment claims, or survey responses. It infuriates the Legislature and undermines the public’s trust.

Moreno’s report didn’t find sufficient evidence to conclude that Napolitano approved the most damaging interference claims, and the regents have expressed confidence in her continued leadership. But she should understand how serious this matter is — and how it underlines every other problem at the university.


Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Afterwords Game

President Trump on Sunday lashed out at the father of a UCLA basketball player who downplayed Trump’s importance in getting his son released from shoplifting charges in China.
“Now that the three basketball players are out of China and saved from years in jail, LaVar Ball, the father of LiAngelo, is unaccepting of what I did for his son and that shoplifting is no big deal. I should have left them in jail!” Trump tweeted...

UCLA History: Westwood '38

Westwood in 1938

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Listen to the Morning Regents Sessions of November 15, 2017

We continue here our process of catching up with the Regents. Below are the audio recordings of the morning session of November 15, 2017.

The session began with the full board, much of which was devoted to public comments. Comments include demands for removal of Regent Pattiz, possible cutbacks in retiree health care, concern about pay increases, mandatory overtime for nurses, past pension cuts, campus visits of regents, renewable energy, Pell grants, outsourcing of parking valets, provision of mental health care for students, status of DACA students, and fossil fuel divestment. Regent Pérez raised the issue of how items get on the agenda and expressed dissatisfaction. President Napolitano and faculty rep White made reports.

The Public Engagement and Development Committee discussed fundraising, advocacy, and political developments at the state and federal levels. It was noted that the current federal tax bill disadvantages higher ed in various ways.

At the Compliance and Audit Committee, the aftermath of the state audit was the major issue. Also discussed was UC's creation of a captive insurance company.

Governance and Compensation discussed adding responsibility to the Investment Subcommittee. An item was pulled from the agenda. Regent Pérez raised concerns about the process for pulling items off just as he had earlier raised concerns about the procedures for putting things on the agenda.

Link to Board:

Alternative Link to Board:

Compliance and Audit:

Governance and Compensation:

Public Engagement and Development:

Friday, November 17, 2017

Regents Require Apology from UC Prez on State Audit

We'll be catching up with the recent Regents meeting as time permits. The full audio for indefinite archiving has now been captured (it's trickier than you might think) and has to be edited to remove blank areas where there was no open session. Some of the editing has been done; other parts remain.

In the interim, you probably know that there has been an investigation into UCOP and UC prez interference with a state audit. At the meeting of November 16, 2017, the Regents implemented some new procedures and required the UC president to make an apology - which she did.

From the San Francisco ChronicleThe University of California regents took disciplinary action against President Janet Napolitano on Thursday, publicly admonishing her for authorizing actions that led to her staff’s interference with a state auditor’s investigation last year. The regents also ordered Napolitano to apologize for approving the scheme that resulted in her chief of staff and his deputy pressuring campuses to change their responses to a confidential state auditor survey to remove negative remarks and instead have them reflect positively on the president’s office.

“The president’s decision to approve a plan to coordinate the survey responses reflected poor judgment and set in motion a course of conduct that the Board of Regents finds unacceptable,” UC Regents Chair George Kieffer said during a UC regents meeting in San Francisco with Napolitano sitting beside him.

“I regret deeply that I did not show better judgment,” Napolitano said in her apology. “I made this decision. I made a serious error in judgment. I apologize.”

The regents’ action came after an hours-long closed-door session and as the board publicly released an independent fact-finding report by retired state Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno. The report found that Napolitano’s chief of staff, Seth Grossman, and his deputy, Bernie Jones, directed the interference and then tried to cover their tracks. Both executives resigned from their jobs last week and have denied wrongdoing. During a news conference after the meeting, Kieffer said Grossman and Jones would have faced “serious disciplinary actions” if they had not resigned...

Video of relevant Regents session with UC prez apology:

New Westwood Neighborhood Council?

Westwood in 1949
From the Bruin: Student leaders said at a town hall meeting Thursday they want to create a more representative and democratic council to represent Westwood.
Westwood Forward, a student-run coalition that is also comprised of local homeowners and business owners, held a town hall meeting in Ackerman Union to address more than 45 members of the public about plans to subdivide the Westwood Neighborhood Council. The proposed North Westwood Neighborhood Council will serve those who live, work or own property near UCLA, the North Village and Westwood Village.
The WWNC is the official adviser to the city on Westwood-related matters. The council provides recommendations to the Los Angeles City Council for housing projects, business permits and proposed infrastructure for Westwood.
Student leaders announced plans to create a new council at the Graduate Students Association forum Nov. 8. Chloe Pan, Undergraduate Students Association Council external vice president and a member of Westwood Forward, said at the event she and other student leaders want to create the new council because they believe the WWNC stifles business operations, opposes student interests and makes it difficult for students to vote...
Student organizers for Westwood Forward said the coalition plans to hold a larger town hall meeting in two weeks.