Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Hawaiian Telescope

After years of hearings and litigation, the Supreme Court of Hawaii on Tuesday approved a building permit for a giant telescope on the ancient, contested site of the volcano Mauna Kea.
The Thirty Meter Telescope, as it is known, would be the largest ever contemplated in the Northern Hemisphere. Hawaiian activists have opposed it, saying that decades of telescope-building on Mauna Kea have polluted the mountain. Some of them went so far as to block construction vehicles from the mountain to prevent work on the telescope...

The telescope would be built by an international collaboration called the TMT International Observatory, spearheaded by the University of California and the California Institute of Technology but also including Japan, China, India and Canada at an estimated cost of $2 billion...

The observatory issued a statement on Tuesday from Henry Yang, chairman of its board of governors and chancellor of the University of California, Santa Barbara, thanking the telescope’s supporters. “We remain committed to being good stewards on the mountain and inclusive of the Hawaiian community,” he said.

UC-Berkeley security checks library after learning of bomb suspect’s interest

From the San Francisco Chronicle: The man suspected of sending 15 pipe bombs this month to prominent Democrats, including former President Obama, searched the internet using the term “UC Berkeley Library,” the FBI told campus police Tuesday.

“There is no specific reason to believe any explosives have been sent to the university,” according to a campus advisory sent out by the UC Berkeley police after they had phoned campus officials about the development. Campus security was making extra checks of library facilities to ensure public safety. In the advisory, campus police cautioned vigilance and said no one connected to the university was identified as a bomb recipient. Nor were any other campus locations identified...

Full story at:

Patent awarded for DNA-targeting complex at heart of CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing

The Cas9 protein/RNA complex (purple) homes
 in on DNA 
complementary to the RNA guide
 and cuts the DNA, like
precision-targeted DNA scissors.
From time to time, we have posted about this litigation:

Patent awarded for DNA-targeting complex at heart of CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing

By Robert Sanders, Media relations, October 30, 2018

The University of California announced today that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has granted U.S. Patent Number 10,113,167, covering unique RNA guides that, when combined with the Cas9 protein, are effective at homing in on and editing genes. These RNA/protein combinations act like precision-targeted gene-editing scissors.

This CRISPR-Cas9 DNA-targeting complex, discovered by Jennifer Doudna, Emmanuelle Charpentier and their teams at UC Berkeley and the University of Vienna, is one of the fundamental molecular technologies behind the revolutionary CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing tool.

Together, this patent and prior U.S. Patent Number 10,000,772 cover CRISPR-Cas9 compositions useful as gene-editing scissors in any setting, including animal and human cells. Additionally, the claimed CRISPR-Cas9 guides work both as two distinct pieces of RNA or as a simpler system involving a single piece of RNA.

“These gene-editing scissors have already sparked countless research projects across the globe to improve health and the food supply,” said Edward Penhoet, adviser to the UC Berkeley chancellor and assistant to the UC president. “These patents are the first of many that we expect to be awarded for the Doudna-Charpentier teams’ groundbreaking invention.”

The newly issued patent also encompasses protein/RNA compositions that can deliver CRISPR-Cas9 into cells in two different ways: as a fully functional ribonucleoprotein (i.e., Cas9 protein complexed with RNA), and with the components encoded by DNA that is subsequently expressed and assembled inside the cell to form a functional CRISPR-Cas9 complex.

The international scientific community has widely acknowledged the pioneering nature of the Doudna-Charpentier invention through numerous awards, including the Breakthrough Prize in Life Science, Japan Prize, Gruber Prize in Genetics, BBVA Frontiers of Knowledge Award and Kavli Prize in Nanoscience.

Patents for the use of CRISPR-Cas9 for gene editing in all types of cells have already been issued to the Doudna-Charpentier team by the European Patent Office (representing more than 30 countries), the United Kingdom, China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico and other countries.

UC has a long-standing commitment to develop and apply its patented technologies, including CRISPR-Cas9, for the betterment of humankind. Consistent with its open-licensing policies, UC allows nonprofit institutions, including academic institutions, to use the technology for educational and research purposes.

In the case of CRISPR-Cas9, UC has also encouraged widespread commercialization of the technology through an exclusive license with Caribou Biosciences, Inc. of Berkeley, which has sublicensed the technology to many companies worldwide, including Intellia Therapeutics, Inc., for certain human therapeutic applications. Additionally, Charpentier has licensed the technology to CRISPR Therapeutics AG and ERS Genomics Limited.

The U.S. patent granted today (10,113,167) is not involved in any interference proceeding before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office or appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.


Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Harvard Admissions - Part 10

Harvard Students, Alumni Defend Value of Diversity on Campus

Wall Street Journal, Melissa Korn, 10-29-18

Three weeks into a trial gauging whether Harvard University discriminates against Asian-American applicants, eight current and former students came to the school’s defense. They extolled the value of a diverse campus in enriching their college experiences and said they supported the university’s consideration of race in admissions decisions.

“It’s my story and I should be able to tell it,” said Catherine Ho, a Vietnamese-American sophomore and co-president of the Harvard Asian American Women’s Association. “Race has played such a big part in my life. I don’t know how I could stop talking about it.”

Students for Fair Admissions, the nonprofit suing Harvard and alleging the school intentionally discriminates against Asian-Americans, didn’t call any students or applicants to testify. Harvard didn’t ask students to testify on its behalf, citing respect for their privacy.

Harvard’s admissions process has always been shrouded in secrecy, but a recent lawsuit is allowing the veil to be lifted. The WSJ’s Nicole Hong and Melissa Korn examined court documents to dig into some of the new findings. Photo: Getty Images.

Rather, a coalition of 25 student and alumni groups filed a friend-of-the-court brief this summer and received court approval to testify in support of diversity at the university. Members of those groups, and others who testified Monday, were represented by lawyers from the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Asian Americans Advancing Justice.

The students and graduates—who identify as Chicana, Latina, Vietnamese-American, black and Chinese-American—reinforced the potential impact of the judge’s ruling.

Harvard said in a court filing that eliminating affirmative action would give the biggest boost to white students, increasing their share in a recent admitted class to 48% from 40%. The share of Asian-Americans would rise to 27% from 24%, while African-Americans would drop to 6% from 14%, and Hispanics to 9% from 14%.

A significant decline in black and Latinx enrollment would be “catastrophic for a student like me,” said Itzel Vasquez-Rodriguez, a Mexican-American woman who graduated from Harvard in 2017. Latinx is the nongendered term for the Latino and Latina community, and was the preferred descriptor for many of Monday’s witnesses.

She said there was “absolutely not” adequate representation of students of color on campus, and a further drop would be “really detrimental” both to those in need of a support network and others who could stand to learn from minority populations.

“It would really rob students of that critical Harvard education where you learn from…people who are different from you,” said Sally Chen, a Chinese-American Harvard senior. She said the fact that her San Francisco high school had a large concentration of Asian-American students was “detrimental” to her educational experience.

The courtroom was packed Monday, with dozens of Harvard students and graduates—Asian, white, black, Latinx and others—donning light blue T-shirts reading, #DefendDiversity. They came to support friends and classmates, even breaking into applause at the end of one student’s testimony.

On the stand, students discussed how they thought race-blind admissions would have affected their applications. Most said they couldn’t have expressed their whole selves without mentioning race and wouldn’t want to be at a school that didn’t clearly value diversity.

Ms. Vasquez-Rodriguez spoke in court of being called a “coconut,” brown on the outside and white inside, when she used advanced vocabulary growing up, and her battle against the perception of “being Latina and being smart as mutually exclusive.”

Thang Diep said that even if he hadn’t discussed his Vietnamese-American identity in his application, it would have been obvious from his name, birthplace and parents’ birthplace.

He chose to write about it, focusing his personal statement on rejecting his Vietnamese roots after being bullied as a new immigrant who arrived to the U.S. at age 8 not knowing English, and then ultimately embracing them. Mr. Diep, now a college senior, said he chose to focus on that topic because “I was really tired of erasing my identity for so long.”

Source: via UCOP Daily News Clips, 10-30-18.

Note: There was no testimony reported from students who applied but didn't get into Harvard, a group which includes the trial judge.

Monday, October 29, 2018

A cautionary library tale from UC-Santa Cruz - Part 2

Blog readers may recall our posting a week ago about the book depletion of the UC-Santa Cruz library.* Professor-Emeritus W. Todd Wipke forwarded the photos above and below of the result.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

UCLA History: Dedication

The 1930 dedication of UCLA's Westwood campus: Regent John R. Haynes - Ca Gov William D. Stephens - UC Regent Edward A. Dickson - UC Regent Margaret R. Sarton and UCLA "Director" (what we now call "chancellor") Ernest Carroll Moore.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Harvard Admissions - Part 9

The Lawsuit Against Harvard Admissions Turns Into a Courtroom Battle of Economists

By Nell Gluckman, Oct. 25, 2018, Chronicle of Higher Education

Peter Arcidiacono, an economist at Duke U., testified on Thursday that “there is a penalty against Asian-American applicants” at Harvard.

Harvard College’s admissions process favors African-American, Latino, and Latina students at the expense of white and Asian-American applicants, a Duke University economist, Peter S. Arcidiacono, testified here in federal court on Thursday. He had been hired to analyze six years of Harvard’s admissions data by Students for Fair Admissions, an anti-affirmative-action organization that sued the college in 2014, claiming it discriminates against Asian-Americans.

Students for Fair Admissions does not plan to call any Asian-American students who were rejected by Harvard to testify, so Arcidiacono is the organization’s key witness. He laid out the crux of the case against Harvard, relying on his analysis of the data to show that Asian-American applicants are treated unfairly.

Though they consistently perform better on academic and extracurricular metrics, he said, “there is a penalty against Asian-American applicants” at Harvard.

Arcidiacono’s Analysis vs. Card’s Analysis

While Asian-Americans lose out, applicants in other racial groups benefit, according to his analysis. He testified that “two-thirds of African-American admits are admitted as a result of racial preferences and roughly half of Hispanics.”

Harvard officials adamantly deny that admissions officials discriminate against Asian-American applicants. They say that while they do consider race in their admissions process, it can only help an applicant.

David Card, an economist at the University of California at Berkeley, will testify for Harvard either on Friday or next week.* His analysis of the same data found no evidence of discrimination. According to Card, Arcidiacono’s analysis is based on “misunderstandings about how Harvard’s process works, what factors Harvard values in the admissions process, and how candidates are admitted.”

As part of Harvard’s process, admissions officials rate applicants in four categories: academic achievement, extracurricular activities, athletic abilities, and personal qualities. They also give each applicant an overall rating.

Arcidiacono’s central claim is that Harvard admissions officials discriminate against Asian-American applicants in two places: the personal rating and the overall score. Harvard admissions officials testified earlier in the trial that they consider an applicant’s race only in the overall score. They also said the scores are preliminary, given early in the months-long process. But Arcidiacono said he had found that the applicants who are admitted tend to be the ones who earn high scores on the personal and overall ratings.

“You see the same systematic patterns,” Arcidiacono said, “with African-Americans scoring the highest, followed by Hispanics, then whites, then Asian-Americans.”

A main difference between the two economists’ analyses is which types of applicants they included. Arcidiacono excluded recruited athletes, the children of alumni, the children of Harvard faculty and staff members, and students on a “Dean’s List” made up partly of children of donors. Those applicants — about 7,000 out of the roughly 150,000 students in the six-year data set — are admitted at a much higher rate than the rest of the pool, which Arcidiacono said made them difficult to compare with the other applicants.

The judge, Allison D. Burroughs of the Federal District Court, had some questions about the decision to omit that group. She wondered how many Asian-American applicants in those excluded categories are admitted. As it turned out, they are admitted at higher rates than the white applicants.

“It looks to me like what you’re arguing is you have an admissions office that’s discriminating against Asians, but they only do it in certain places,” she said. Arcidiacono agreed.

“If you’re discriminating against a group, wouldn’t you expect them to discriminate across the board?” she asked. Arcidiacono disagreed with that one.

For most of the day, J. Scott McBride, a lawyer for Students for Fair Admissions, walked Arcidiacono through dozens of slides depicting graphs and simplified equations showing how he had conducted his analysis. Arcidiacono appeared relaxed and almost gleeful on the stand. He sat back in his chair, gestured with his hands, and took frequent sips of water and coffee. He said he doesn’t usually get to work with such a rich and detailed data set.

“This data is fantastic,” he said. “That’s part of the reason I was interested in this.”

He also testified that he had been paid $450 an hour for his work leading up to the trial. He charged a flat rate of $5,000 for the trial itself.

During his cross-examination, William F. Lee, a lawyer for Harvard, drew out more of Arcidiacono’s background, including a controversial paper he wrote about affirmative action. In 2012, he concluded in the paper that African-American students’ grades improve as they progress through college in part because they tend to switch out of tough majors. He acknowledged during questioning from McBride that at Duke, "African-American students felt singled out" because of the paper. He said that for him, the experience was “frightening.”

Lee noted that Students for Fair Admissions and Arcidiacono himself had received funding from the same source, the Searle Freedom Trust, a libertarian-leaning foundation that supports conservative causes. Lee asked Arcidiacono if he could name a single member of Students for Fair Admissions who had been rejected by Harvard.

“I guess not,” he said.

Arcidiacono’s testimony will continue on Friday.

*According to another news source, the Card testimony will be this coming week:

Friday, October 26, 2018


UCLA announced Thursday it has acquired the Crest Theatre on Westwood Boulevard and said it would turn the landmark venue into a new off-campus performing arts space.

UCLA's purchase of the long-dormant theater was made possible by major gifts from actor, writer and director Susan Bay Nimoy, and an anonymous donor, UCLA said in a statement.

With an anticipated opening date in 2021, the venue will be re-named the UCLA Nimoy Theater in honor of Nimoy's late husband, Leonard Nimoy.

"As a long standing supporter of the Center for the Art of Performance, and its inspired artistic director, Kristy Edmunds, I am thrilled to help provide UCLA with a long-awaited state-of-the-art theater," Nimoy said. "My late husband, Leonard Nimoy, and I admire Kristy's passion for the art of performance, her out-of-the-box imagination, razor-sharp intellect and her vision for what the UCLA Nimoy Theater will bring to Los Angeles."

The UCLA Nimoy Theater is envisioned as a public platform for emerging contemporary performing artists across all disciplines whose work seeks an intimate scale, including extraordinary UCLA students and recent alumni, independent practitioners throughout Los Angeles, and national and international visiting artists, the statement said.

The reinvigorated theater, which will be upgraded to current standards and outfitted with advanced technology, will become a dynamic home on the Westside of Los Angeles for both audiences and artists, enabling creative collaboration and presentation in theater, music, digital media, spoken word, dance and contemporary performance.

The acquiring entities were identified as the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture and the school's performing arts program, the Center for the Art of Performance. The purchase price was not reported.

"The acquisition and transformation of the Crest Theater into the UCLA Nimoy is a critical next step in our effort to extend the reach of the arts at UCLA beyond the 420 acres of campus," said Brett Steele, dean of the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture.



There have been headlines about suspicious packages arriving at various locations this week. Yours truly was at a CUCEA meeting on Wednesday in Berkeley. Some administrators from UC's Oakland headquarters were supposed to come to the meeting to make a presentation. They didn't come and we were told it was because of such a package received at the Oakland headquarters. Police were called and apparently whatever it was turned out not to be dangerous. I don't know more than that, but no reference seems to have appeared to the incident in the news media.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Harvard Admissions - Part 8

The Harvard Crimson seems to have dropped its daily summary of the admissions trial. But the NY Times has some recent developments, excerpted below:

Days before the opening of a trial accusing Harvard of discriminating against Asian-American applicants, the college issued new guidance to its admissions officers earlier this month on what personalities it is seeking in its incoming freshmen, a question at the heart of the case.

The new guidelines for the Class of 2023 caution officers that character traits “not always synonymous with extroversion” should be valued, and that applicants who seem to be “particularly reflective, insightful and/or dedicated” should receive high personal ratings as well.

The disclosure of the new guidelines on Thursday, the ninth day of the trial in Federal District Court here, address central concerns in the case. The group challenging Harvard’s affirmative action efforts, Students for Fair Admissions, says that the university limits the admission of Asian-American students by giving them lower personal ratings and stereotyping them as quiet and studious. Harvard has denied stereotyping or discriminating against any racial or ethnic group.

The advice on personal ratings does not mention Asian-American bias. But the case has raised the question of whether elite colleges’ preference for certain character traits in applicants — such as extroversion — is culturally biased.

One of the odder quirks of the trial testimony has been how often the word “effervescence” has come up. It has been hammered home that Harvard values applicants who are bubbly, not “flat,” to use another word in the Harvard admissions lexicon.

Admissions documents filed in court awarded advantages to applicants for “unusually appealing personal qualities,” which could include “effervescence, charity, maturity and strength of character.”

Now “reflective” could be a plus as well.

The release of the new guidelines came as a surprise. A parade of admissions officers have taken the stand to say that they do not discriminate. But they have also said, in answer to a repeated line of questioning from the plaintiffs, that there are no written guidelines on how to use race in the admissions process.

The new guidelines explicitly prohibit admissions reviewers from considering race or ethnicity when evaluating applicants on personal qualities — a directive that does not appear in the old guidelines. (The use of race is also forbidden when evaluating academics, extracurricular activities or athletics.) Race may only be considered, the 2023 rules say, in the “overall” rating, which is a summation and an impressionistic view of the whole applicant.

But even in the overall rating, the new guidelines say, race and ethnicity may be considered only for how they contribute to the educational benefits of diversity at the college, and only as one of many factors.

The existence of the new guidelines was first hinted at on Wednesday, during testimony from Tia Ray, a 2012 Harvard graduate who now works as a senior admissions officer and minority recruiter for the college.

The plaintiffs’ lawyer, Kat Hacker, asked what had by then become a boilerplate question.

“You don’t know of any written document at Harvard that describes how race should play into the admissions process,” Ms. Hacker said. “Is that right?”

“That is incorrect,” Ms. Ray replied, startling the lawyers for the plaintiffs and sending one bolting out of the courtroom.

Ms. Ray had said differently in her deposition. Ms. Hacker quickly asked for a conference with the judge.

Later, Ms. Ray explained that the new guidelines had been adopted very recently, after her deposition. The guidelines were filed in court on Thursday.

Harvard officials said that Ms. Ray had brought up the document because she was in the middle of training admissions officers, and the guidelines were on her mind.

The officials acknowledged that the issues in the trial were in the air, but said the new guidelines were part of a routine annual revision. The officials added that the guidelines were not meant to fix any lapse on Harvard’s part. Rather, the officials said, they simply put longstanding practices into writing...

Full story at

UCLA History: Move

Moving Day (into the new Westwood campus), 1929.


Most blog readers will know that emails such as the one above are fraudulent. Yours truly has received more than one of these emails over the past few days. If you get one, don't click on anything. It doesn't come from UCLA or UC. It doesn't come from Microsoft. ""? "All right (with no 's') Reserved)"?

Just delete it.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Harvard Admissions - Part 7

We continue with the Harvard Crimson's summary of Tuesday at the admissions trial:

Former Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Michael D. Smith took the stand Tuesday to defend his role in maintaining the College’s race-conscious admissions practices on the seventh day of Harvard’s high-profile admissions trial.

Specifically, Smith spent much of his roughly three-hour long testimony defending the conclusions of a committee he formed in 2017 to research race-neutral alternatives to affirmative action. The “Smith Committee” concluded that "Harvard could not both achieve its diversity interests and achieve other equally important educational outcomes, such as academic excellence” — a finding Smith stood by on the witness stand Tuesday.

Smith's testimony comes during the second week of a trial that is expected to conclude in early November. At stake is whether or not Harvard discriminates against Asian-American applicants, as anti-affirmative action group Students for Fair Admissions alleges in its 2014 suit against the University. Among other charges, SFFA claims that Harvard has not fulfilled the Supreme Court’s requirement that colleges should give “serious, good faith consideration of workable race-neutral alternatives” to race-based affirmative action.

Smith said in his testimony that he selected the other two members of his committee — Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons ’67 and Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana — for their understandings of the admissions process and the undergraduate educational experience, respectively. In discussions of their findings, the three were often joined by attorneys from the University’s Office of the General Counsel.

According to the committee’s final report, the percentage of admitted students with the highest academic ratings on the admissions office’s internal scale “would be expected to drop from 76% to 66%,” if a race-neutral alternative was implemented.

“The committee felt [this change] was a significant drop,” Smith said Tuesday.

This is not the first time the Smith Committee has entered the courtroom — SFFA expert witness Richard D. Kahlenberg ’85, an education researcher and fellow at the Century Foundation, testified about the committee Monday, charging that the group did not adequately consider race-neutral alternatives.

Smith also noted that the College already tried one measure that has been suggested as a race-neutral alternative — eliminating Early Action admissions — and this did not increase diversity. With the Early Action program, students can apply to the College in the fall and receive a non-binding offer of admission by mid-December.

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences voted to eliminate this program in 2007. By 2011, Early Action was reinstated after Smith and the Faculty concluded that the program’s absence “wasn’t helping” and “was at times hurting” Harvard’s admissions process — specifically, the College’s ability to retain high-performing admits of underrepresented minority backgrounds.

The students, rather than applying in the Regular Decision pool, were taking their talents to colleges and universities which continued to offer Early Action or Early Decision programs, Smith testified Tuesday.

“While this race-neutral alternative may work for other institutions, it’s our experience — our recent experience — that it does not work for us,” Smith said.

SFFA lawyer J. Scott McBride asked Smith if race-neutral alternatives were rejected by the committee because they may affect the status of legacy admission, the special consideration the children of Harvard graduates in the admissions process. Smith denied this claim.

“I can envision a simulation where you would eliminate the consideration of race of one factor among many but you still have the consideration of alumni,” Smith said.

In the end, Smith said the committee "felt that no racial alternative could substitute the consideration of race."

"I think it’s a part of the applicant’s experiences,” Smith said. “It's not necessarily an impact on every applicant’s record, but in many cases the experiences of the cultural and racial background has affected their life.”

Smith is not the first top Harvard administrator to take the stand; Dean of Admissions Rakesh Khurana finished his testimony Tuesday morning. Former University President Drew G. Faust is scheduled to appear in court within the next week. Smith said he spent a significant amount of time preparing for his three-hour testimony — he even took a sabbatical from his position as a professor of engineering and applied sciences.

Harvard lawyer Seth P. Waxman ’73 ended the former dean’s testimony on a moment of levity.

“Go back to your sabbatical,” Waxman said.


UCLA History: Alumni Founders

A 1926 photo of the founders of the UCLA Alumni Association: Fred Meyer Jordan, Thelma Gibson, and Leslie Cummins. In 1926, UCLA was still in its Vermont Avenue campus.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

UC Health Strike News - Part 3

About 15,000 medical workers on Tuesday started a three-day strike at five University of California medical centers amid a dispute over pay raises and job security, forcing the cancellation and rescheduling of thousands of surgeries and outpatient appointments, officials said.

The workers that included radiology technicians, respiratory therapists and pharmacy workers picketed the medical centers in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Irvine and Davis. They rang bells, wore green-shirts and carried signed that said “End Outsourcing.” 

Another 24,000 other California union workers, ranging from truck drivers to gardeners and cooks, were striking in sympathy, said John de los Angeles, spokesman for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299.

Emergency rooms remained open at the hospitals but officials said the strike would still affect thousands of patients...

Full story at

Harvard Admissions - Part 6

We continue with the Harvard Crimson's summary of the admissions trial highlights. Below is the Monday summary:

Harvard’s student body skews wealthy — and Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana indicated in court testimony this week that he’s okay with that.

Khurana stepped to the witness stand around 3 p.m. Monday in the high-stakes and high-profile Harvard admissions trial that could decide the fate of affirmative action in the United States. Adam K. Mortara — the head lawyer for Students for Fair Admissions, the anti-affirmative action group suing the University over its admissions process — rose to face the dean.

Mortara asked whether Khurana is aware that the portion of United States households that draw an annual income of over $150,000 hovers around 5 percent (though CNN reported in 2016 that roughly 11 percent of American citizens rank in that economic category). He then asked whether Khurana is aware that individuals in that income bracket make up roughly 30 percent of Harvard’s student body.

Though there is no definitive data on the matter, The Crimson’s 2018 freshman survey revealed that 54.6 percent of respondents indicated their families make more than $125,000 per year. Seventeen percent of respondents reported an annual income of over $500,000. (Sixty-five percent of the Class of 2022 took the survey and The Crimson did not adjust the data for response bias.)

“Don’t you actually think that Harvard’s class should have a socioeconomic makeup that looks a lot more like America, provided the students were academically qualified to be at Harvard?” Mortara asked Khurana. “Your personal opinion, sir?”

“I don’t,” Khurana replied.

“What is special about wealthy people that Harvard needs to have them overrepresented by a factor of six on its campus?” Mortara asked later.

In response, Khurana said Mortara was missing the point.

“We’re not trying to mirror the socioeconomic or income distribution of the United States,” Khurana said. “What we’re trying to do is identify talent and make it possible for them to come to a place like Harvard.”

In total, Khurana spoke for roughly an hour on the sixth day of the admissions trial, which is slated to last for at least three weeks. The dean will return to the witness stand Tuesday morning.

At stake is whether or not Harvard discriminates against Asian-American applicants, as SFFA alleged when it filed suit against the University in 2014. Khurana is the highest-ranking administrator to testify in the John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse to date, though former University President Drew G. Faust is scheduled to appear in court some time in the next week or so.

Khurana arrived at the courthouse sporting a blue blazer, a purple-checkered shirt, and a purple tie. In their first chance at the dean, SFFA lawyers did not spend much time on any one line of questioning, instead drifting from one subject to another.

Portions of the questioning were more substantive than others. In addition to quizzing Khurana about Harvard’s socioeconomic diversity, Mortara asked him about race-neutral alternatives to the College’s race-conscious admissions process. And he pressed the dean on whether Khurana believes the school’s admissions policies disadvantage Asian-American students.

Khurana repeatedly insisted he does not.

“I don’t believe that Harvard College’s admissions process disadvantages Asians,” Khurana said.

The dean seemed slightly tense Monday, often pausing several seconds before responding to Mortara’s inquiries and giving one-word answers.

But there were light-hearted moments, too — such as when Mortara quizzed the dean on the acknowledgements listed in his Ph.D. “thesis.”

“I hope I partially dedicated it to my wife,” Khurana said, spurring laughter in the courtroom.

And sometimes, the SFFA lawyer took things back to basics.

“You’re the dean of Harvard College, correct?” Mortara asked. The dean answered in the affirmative.

“You understand this case is about Harvard admissions, right?”

Khurana again answered in the affirmative.


Also from the Crimson:
And finally from the NY Times:
Presiding Over the Harvard Admissions Trial: A Judge Who Was Rejected From Harvard

Monday, October 22, 2018

A cautionary library tale from UC-Santa Cruz

The Great Library of Alexandria:
Things didn't work out so well there either.
Yours truly received the message below from CUCEA, the Council of University of California Emeriti Associations which will be meeting later this week:

The head librarian moved the science librarian from the science library to McHenry Library, thus (the science librarian was) unable to observe, moderate, or to preserve valuable and rare books.

During the summer, 2016, at the direction of the head of the UCSC library, Elizabeth Cowell, over 80,000 volumes were removed from the S&E library without any meaningful consultation with the faculty. In a blistering conclusion, the chair of the Academic Senate Library Committee (COLASC), stated that her committee was “blindsided” by librarian Cowell who was an ex-officio member of this committee.

To keep this operation secret from the faculty even the library staff were not informed until the removal operation began. Moreover, the volumes removed were sent to a shredder in direct violation of UC regulations about the disposal of excess library material.

The initial motivation for the removal of a limited number of volumes of the S&E library collection was a request of EVC Galloway to create study space for 200 students. But librarian Cowell’s plans call for space for over 1,500 students. Ironically, the expensive S&E Library, built to support the enormous weight of stacks of books and journals is not well adapted to have a large number of students on each floor, because of lack of toilets, electrical utilities, and fire codes, etc., and will require millions to implement such a giant study hall. 

The reaction of faculty members is well described by Professor of Mathematics Richard Montgomery when he discovered this demolition at the end of the summer 2016. He described it in an article published in the San Jose Mercury News:

After this demolition was discovered, the UCSC Academic Senate passed a unanimous resolution demanding that the University Librarian take no further major action on the science and engineering collection without consulting the Academic Senate. But in spite of this resolution, on Feb 10, 2017, Chancellor Blumenthal signed a Science and Engineering Library Renovation, Business Case Analysis (BCA) without consulting any faculty or department chairs. Moreover, the author of this BCA, University Librarian, Elizabeth Cowell refused to release it to the faculty. For example, the Academic Senate Committee on Library and Scholarly Communication (COLASC) was not allowed to see the secret plan. The Chair of Physics requested a copy from Dean Koch, but was refused. Finally Professor Emeritus Michael Nauenberg made a California Public Records Act request to obtain a copy. Now the UCSCEA makes those detailed plans public. 

See the secret plan:

Of particular interest is the plan for the basement floor of the S&E library shown below and also part of the secret BCA plan. Originally the S&E library contained 55 stacks on this floor, today there are 34 stacks remaining, but the plan calls for only 9 stacks. Faculty do not know this! On the upper floor there were 60 stacks, now there are none and none on the main floor. The plan calls for none on those floors.

Nauenberg also requested a list of the books that were shredded and those that went to remote storage. Response: "No lists exist." This suggests ALL were shredded. See his slides about our library:

The treasured Lick collection has been broken, some books have been moved to Special Collections so they can’t be browsed or checked out, some were de-duplicated. There is no list of which books are now in Special Collections or de-duplicated. Astronomy faculty were not consulted.

Plan for the S&E Library Basement, only 9 stacks will remain. Previously we had 60 on the third floor and 55 in the basement, now 34 are in the basement, no stacks remain on the second or third floor. UCSC will have 9 stacks in the Science and Engineering Library, a UC Research University campus often ranking #1 or #2 in the nation in science citations?

Source (includes diagram):

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Harvard Admissions - Part 5.5

While we await for the Harvard admissions trial to resume, eager blog readers might want to take a look at an article appearing in Politico, essentially an exposé regarding Harvard practices in 1990 that emerged from a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request:

Slow News Day

On slow news days, we have been featuring photos of the gradually-emerging new Anderson building. These images are from last week.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Harvard Admissions - Part 5

The Harvard Crimson continues its summary of the admissions trial proceedings:

WHO: A series of Harvard administrators took the stand Friday to face cross-examination from both SFFA* and University attorneys.
  • Harvard's Director of Research for Admissions and Financial Aid Erica J. Bever was up first, continuing her testimony from the day before. SFFA laywer J. Scott McBride grilled Bever for much of the morning; Harvard lawyer Felicia H. Ellsworth took her turn asking questions after McBride finished.
  • Erin Driver-Linn — the Harvard School of Public Health Dean for Education — stepped to the witness stand after Bever. She took questions from SFFA lawyer Katherine L. I. Hacker and, later, Ellsworth.
  • The third and final witness Friday was Marlyn E. McGrath '70, Harvard's director of admissions. She answered questions from SFFA attorney Adam K. Mortara and from Lee. Lee was still questioning McGrath when Judge Allison D. Burroughs adjourned proceedings for the day at 4 p.m. He will continue his queries Monday.
WHAT: Bever defended Harvard's apparent failure to take significant action to respond to a 2013 internal report that concluded the College's admissions process produces "negative effects" for Asian Americans. Driver-Linn also discussed the report. McGrath faced a series of questions from SFFA lawyers about internal emails she exchanged with Harvard admissions officers and with her daughter.
  • Bever spoke at length about the 2013 report, which she helped produce as part of her work for Harvard's Office of Institutional Research [OIR]. She emphasized that the statistical models OIR employees used to analyze Harvard admissions left out hundreds of variables. And she noted that many factors College reviewers consider are simply not quantifiable. Harvard has repeatedly insisted the 2013 report was limited in scope, relied on incomplete data, and was not meant to conclusively evaluate whether the College discriminates.
  • Driver-Linn, who was also involved in producing the 2013 report, spoke mostly on the same topic. She, too, emphasized that OIR models left out specific applicant traits — factors such as candidates' exceptional artistic talent and personal essays. She said the OIR analyses "weren't designed to look for evidence of bias or discrimination."
  • When McGrath stepped to the stand, SFFA lawyers had ammo ready. The attorneys introduced a series of Harvard admissions-related emails, some sent by McGrath and some sent to her. Mortara zeroed in on one exchange between McGrath, her daughter Elizabeth Lewis, and long-serving D.C.-area admissions officer David L. Evans in which the trio discussed a less-than-inspiring candidate who had won a spot on the mythical "Z list," a small pool of Harvard admits whose acceptance is deferred for one year. Court documents published over the summer showed that Z listers are overwhelmingly white and wealthy.
    • "I'm not sure he was terribly strong (though he was a black legacy)," Lewis wrote.
    • "Terrible case," McGrath replied. "We did it entirely for contingent reasons. We never see strong black candidates from [redacted]... I feel badly."
  • Lee objected to the introduction of this email chain, arguing it has no relevance to Harvard's alleged discrimination against Asian-American applicants. Mortara countered that the emails are germane because they prove that Harvard is not entirely truthful and transparent in its admissions process.
  • Amid frequent objections from Lee, Mortara finished his questioning by asking why the College frequently grants staff interviews to the children of top donors, legacies and athletes — and by pressing her on why Harvard does not use Common Application data on religious identity in its candidate evaluation process. McGrath said the College does not track religious identity due to advice given by Harvard's legal counsel.
  • When his turn rolled around, Lee walked McGrath through each piece of evidence Mortara introduced and sought to discredit the SFFA laywer's arguments. He also began asking McGrath about the casebooks Harvard uses to train its admissions officers, but time ran out before he got very far. Lee said he will continue his questions Monday.
*Students for Fair Admissions:

Friday, October 19, 2018

Berkeley Report on UC Funding

A comprehensive report on UC funding is available from the UC-Berkeley Center for Studies in Higher Education. Although dated in August, it is now downloadable from:

Excerpt from abstract: ...Beginning with cutbacks in the early 1990s UC’s state funding per student steadily declined. The pattern of state disinvestment increased markedly with the onset of the Great Recession. As chronicled in this report, the University diversified its sources of income and attempted to cut costs in response to this precipitous decline, while continuing to enroll more and more Californians. Even with the remarkable improvement in California’s economy, state funding per student remains significantly below what it was only a decade ago.

Peering into the future, this study also provides a historically informed prospectus on the budget options available to UC. Individual campuses, such as Berkeley and UCLA, may be able to generate other income sources to maintain their quality and reputation. But there is no clear funding model or pathway for the system to grow with the needs of the people of California. UC may be approaching a tipping point in which it will need to decide whether to continue to grow in enrollment without adequate funding, or limit enrollment and program growth to focus on quality and productivity.

Harvard Admissions - Part 4

We continue with the Harvard Crimson daily summary of activities at the admissions trial.

Day 4:

WHO: The College's dean of admissions and financial aid William R. Fitzsimmons ’67 wrapped up his testimony and successive Harvard admissions officers stepped up to take his place behind the witness stand.
  • In the morning, Fitzsimmons faced quizzing from William F. Lee '72, the University's lead trial lawyer and the senior fellow of the Harvard Corporation. Fitzsimmons finally departed the witness stand for good Thursday after spending much of the past four days answering questions from various attorneys.
  • Later, long-time Harvard admissions officer Christopher J. Looby took Fitzsimmons's place. He took questions first from SFFA lawyer Adam K. Mortara and then from Harvard attorney Danielle Y. Conley.
  • After Looby, it was Harvard Director of Research for Admissions and Financial Aid Erica J. Bever's turn. She took questions from SFFA lawyer J. Scott McBride. Thursday's alloted court time drew to a close before McBride finished his set of prepared questions for Bever.
WHAT: Fitzsimmons walked through Harvard's admissions process in detail. Looby spoke about whether and how College admissions officers consider race when evaluating applicants. Bever took questions about a confidential 2013 report she helped produce that suggested Harvard's admissions system produces "negative effects" for Asian Americans.
  • Lee picked up where he left off on day three, asking Fitzsimmons to tell the public how Harvard's admissions process actually works. Fitzsimmons spoke at length, describing the steps of the candidate review process. He also discussed what Harvard reviewers look for in applicants, noting that employees weigh both academic and personal ratings. He said race is never a negative factor during evaluations.
  • Fitzsimmons later talked about the "Dean's Interest List," a special and private list of Harvard applicants who are often related to or of interest to top donors. Students on the list tend to see higher acceptance rates. Fitzsimmons said roughly 15 to 20 students on the list are children of "significant donors" and said he tries to give top donors "an advance warning" if their children will not be admitted to Harvard.
  • At one point during his questioning of Fitzsimmons, Lee introduced a detailed dataset that contained information on Harvard applicants and admits stretching from the Class of 2000 to the Class of 2017. A Crimson analysis of that data revealed that, over a nearly two-decade period starting in 1995, Asian-American applicants to the College saw the lowest acceptance rate of any racial group that sought admittance to the school. Read the full story here.
  • Looby was up next. In reply to questions from SFFA's lawyers, Looby suggested Harvard admissions officers do not receive extensive guidance on how to weigh race in the evaluation process. After much pressing from SFFA, Looby said that the College tells admissions employees, "Just be careful with what you write." Later, during cross-examination from Harvard lawyer Conley, Looby clarified that he has "absolutely" received extensive training on weighing "race as one factor of many."
  • Bever took the stand after Looby and immediately faced fire from SFFA lawyer McBride, who grilled her about the 2013 Harvard report and what he asserted were inconsistencies between her previous court testimony and what she said in certain depositions.
  • After the trial ended for the day, Lee paused on his way out to take questions from a scrum of reporters. Munching on a CLIF bar,* Lee said Harvard's race-conscious admissions policies have been "blessed" time and again by the Supreme Court.
Note: Overall admissions rate also includes Native American/Native Hawaiian, International, and Unknown/Other students.
*Is this a Harvard thing?

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Faculty Center Tweet

Did you get an emergency alert?

You should have received an alert, such as the one above, by some means from UCLA as part of today's earthquake drill. If you didn't, sign up for email, text, or other forms of alert. If you are in the UCLA area, you might not know that UCLA has a low-power AM station at 1630 on your dial for emergencies. (Even if you think you don't have an AM radio, you likely have one in your car and it will work even in the event of a power failure.)

Harvard Admissions - Part 3

Day 3 of the Harvard Admissions Trial, summarized in Harvard Crimson:

WHO: The College's dean of admissions and financial aid William R. Fitzsimmons ’67 remained on the witness stand for hours on the third day of the Harvard admissions trial.
  • In the morning, Fitzsimmons faced a string of questions from SFFA lawyer John M. Hughes.
  • After a lunch break, William F. Lee '72, the University's lead trial lawyer and the senior fellow of the Harvard Corporation, took over from Hughes and began questioning Fitzsimmons. And the dean isn't done yet — Lee is set to continue quizzing him on day four.
WHAT: Hughes sought to prove that Harvard unfairly favors the wealthy and well-connected in its admissions process. He then revived an earlier line of argument by referencing the confidential 2013 report that concluded the College's admissions system produces "negative effects" for Asian Americans. Lee, meanwhile, asked Fitzsimmons to describe the way Harvard evaluates applicants — and later gave Fitzsimmons a chance to discuss his own experience as a low-income College student in the 1970s.
  • Hughes introduced three emails Wednesday morning that suggest Harvard favors applicants connected to families who fund the school. In one 2013 email, former Dean of the Harvard Kennedy School David T. Ellwood '75 thanked Fitzsimmons for helping admit a student whose relatives family had apparently "already committed to a building." In another, Associate Vice President for Alumni Affairs and Development Roger P. Cheever ’67 noted that admitting an unnamed applicant could "conceivably" lead to the donation of "an art collection."
  • Hughes also grilled Fitzsimmons on the "Dean's Interest List," a special and confidential list of applicants he compiles every admissions cycle. Though the College closely guards the details, applicants on the list are often related to or of interest to top donors — and benefit from an elevated acceptance rate.
  • Fitzsimmons defended Harvard's special treatment of applicants with donor ties as "important for the long-term strength of the institution." He noted the tactic helps to secure funding for scholarships, among other things.
  • Hughes then turned the court's attention to the internal 2013 report, which Harvard circulated among top administrators at the time but never published. He asked Fitzsimmons whether he told most admissions office employees about the report's finding that Harvard's admissions system disadvantages Asian Americans. Fitzsimmons said he didn't remember.
  • Hughes also asked whether Harvard had implemented bias training since the 2013 report. Fitzsimmons said no, adding he does not believe that kind of training is necessary for Harvard's admissions office.
  • Lee wrapped up day three by asking about the way Harvard contacts students who achieve high scores on the PSAT. Fitzsimmons said the College reaches out to high-scoring applicants in a variety of categories. At Lee's prompting, the dean dove further into the details of Harvard's admissions process, noting the school pursues three main objectives: "truly exceptional students," "diversity of all types," and "no more students than beds."
  • Fitzsimmons also spoke for several minutes about his own time at Harvard. He mentioned that his mother and father ran a mom-and-pop shop in Weymouth, Mass. and said he attended the College "almost entirely with Harvard scholarship funding."
Source: (A more detailed account is also available from that link.)

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Harvard Admissions - Part 2

The national news media paid attention to the Harvard admissions trial on the eve of the trial and on the first day. Thereafter, not so much.

However, the Harvard Crimson has a daily summary:

DAY ONE, Oct. 15, 2018

On the opening day of the highly anticipated Harvard admissions trial, hordes of spectators and reporters crowded into two courtrooms and a jury assembly room to listen as lawyers for both the College and SFFA offered lengthy opening statements.

Adam K. Mortara spoke for SFFA, while Harvard Corporation senior fellow William F. Lee '72 argued for the University. Later, Harvard's long-serving Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons '67 took the stand to answer a long string of largely technical questions from SFFA's attorneys.

WHAT: Mortara and Lee mostly repeated arguments SFFA and Harvard have advanced before. Fitzsimmons defended against charges that Harvard neglects to recruit Asian-American high schoolers who score higher on the PSAT and SAT exams than do their peers of other races.

Mortara pointed to the fact that Harvard concluded in a confidential internal study in 2013 that its admissions process produces "negative effects" for Asian Americans. He also noted that Harvard admissions officers apparently tend to give Asian-American applicants substantially lower rankings for their personal traits. "You have let the wolf of racial bias in through the front door," Mortara said.

Lee mostly focused on legal precedent, asserting that previous Supreme Court cases have long established Harvard's methods form a legal way to consider race in the college admissions process. He also criticized SFFA's analysis of Harvard admissions data. "If you torture the data long enough, it will confess to anything," Lee said.

Fitzsimmons faced down charges from SFFA lawyers that Asian-American Harvard hopefuls must earn higher PSAT and SAT scores than high schoolers of other races to earn a coveted letter inviting them to apply to the College. Fitzimmons did not dispute the allegations, but said Harvard's outreach to students is meant to ensure the College reaches "people from all backgrounds."


DAY TWO, Oct. 16, 2018

Day two of the Harvard admissions trial saw smaller crowds and further cross-examination of the College’s long-serving admissions dean.

William R. Fitzsimmons ’67, dean of admissions and financial aid, faced down several hours’ worth of questions from SFFA lawyer John M. Hughes.

William F. Lee ’72, a lawyer for the University and senior fellow of the Harvard Corporation, objected to several pieces of evidence Hughes presented over the course of the day. After a prolonged discussion about the relevance of one particular document, Fitzsimmons offered a moment of levity.

“I’m sorry, what is the question?” Fitzsimmons asked, spurring chuckles. “Is there a question?”

WHAT: Hughes grilled Fitzsimmons on the technical details of Harvard’s admissions process. He was interrupted around 11 a.m. by a fire alarm that forced lawyers, spectators, and members of the press to exit the courthouse and wait outside for roughly an hour in the chilly October air.

Hughes began Tuesday’s session by brandishing an internal Harvard document titled “Reading Procedures for Class of 2018.” The document offers admissions officers an outline for assigning scores to applicants.

Hughes questioned whether race unfairly informs the “personal ratings” the College gives to applicants — to Asian-American applicants in particular. Documents released over the summer as part of the suit appeared to show that Harvard admissions offers give poorer personal ratings to Asian-American applicants.

Fitzsimmons admitted personal scores skew lower for Asian-Americans than for Harvard hopefuls of other races. But he said that multiple factors determine applicants’ rankings.

“The strength of the teacher recommendations and counselor recommendations for whites is somewhat stronger than those for Asian-Americans,” Fitzsimmons said.

Hughes also quizzed Fitzsimmons about a 1990 investigation into Harvard’s admissions process conducted by the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights. The federal probe examined allegations that the College relied on illegal racial quotas to deny admission to deserving Asian Americans. The department’s final report cleared Harvard of any wrongdoing.

Fitzsimmons said Harvard’s admissions officers took the 1990 report “very seriously” and that it “continues to be an important benchmark.”

Hughes noted that the Education Department report detailed what he called problematic comments some Harvard interviewers made about Asian-American applicants. “He’s quiet, and, of course, wants to be a doctor,” read one. Hughes said these kinds of comments proved that College reviewers stuck to harmful stereotypes about Asian Americans.

Fitzsimmons replied that the admissions office does not engage in stereotyping of any kind. “We do not endorse, we abhor, stereotypical comments. This is not part of our process,” he said. “This is not who I am, and this is not who are admissions committee members are.”


Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Allegation of Hostile Work Environment at a Professional Academic Association

  • OCTOBER 15, 2018

A post from the Executive Committee

It has come to our attention that one of the recently elected candidates for office of the American Economic Association is the subject of allegations, being accused of creating a hostile work environment. Neither the Nominating Committee, nor the Executive Committee knew of such allegations at the time of nomination. We also believe that few of the members knew of the allegations at the time of the election. 

We take such allegations seriously, but they are, at this point, just allegations. While the home institution will neither deny nor confirm the existence of an investigation, we understand that one is underway, and may come to some conclusions in the not too distant future. We have decided that, before proceeding further, we should wait for those conclusions, if they are made public and they come within a reasonable amount of time. If not, we shall reexamine our position.

One conclusion we already draw is that, in the future, we shall ask potential nominees if they are the subject of an investigation. This will help avoid such situations going forward.

The Executive Committee, American Economic Association
UPDATE: From Inside Higher Ed:

...The committee did not name the academic in question, but it was apparently referring to Roland G. Fryer, Jr., Henry Lee Professor of Economics at Harvard University and faculty director of Education Innovation Laboratory there. Fryer, who was recently elected to the committee, reportedly is the subject of harassment complaints related to the . He did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday. A spokesperson for Harvard referred questions to an earlier comment on the matter saying that "Harvard is deeply committed to providing a civil and inclusive work environment for all members of our community. We are aware of and take seriously concerns raised about the treatment of staff in the Education Innovation Laboratory," including "whether staff members have been treated with the dignity and respect they deserve." 

Full story at:

Listen to the Regents Health Services Committee: Oct. 9, 2018

As promised yesterday, we now present links to the UC Regents Health Services Committee of October 9, 2018. We preserve these recordings because the Regents delete them after one year for no particular reason.

The meeting began with public comments. There was only one speaker who complained about Regental participation in a lawsuit in India against generic drug manufacturers that were producing a prostate drug in which UC has a patent interest.

There was continued push at the committee for the campus health enterprises to have more autonomy in such matters as budgets, compensation, and capital projects. Beyond that, there were presentations on various activities in health care including UCLA cardiac services, plans to extend UC medicine into the San Joaquin Valley, hospital bed sore avoidance, and the use of artificial intelligence and information technology in health care (including work with Google). Regent Lansing raised the issue of whether the various campuses should specialize rather than each doing the same thing.

You can hear the meeting at the links below:

or direct to:

We also provide a video excerpt on alcoholism, heart attacks, and other causes of death in California by Dr. Atul Butte of UC-San Francisco:

Dirty Laundry at the UC Investment Office - Part 2

We noted some dirty laundry at the UC Investment Office back in early September.* Now there is this:

Richard Blum, a $100 Million UC Investment, Feinstein Campaign Donations: Business As Usual at UC?

Dianne Feinstein’s husband and the UC system are no strangers to controversy surrounding their investment and business practices.

by Matthew Cunningham-Cook and David Sirota, 10-15-18, Capital and Main**

University of California regents approved a nine-figure investment in a private equity fund run by a major donor to Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, whose husband sits on the regents’ board. The investment was disclosed just as some of the private equity fund’s overseers and advisers were pumping thousands of dollars of donations into Feinstein’s campaign, according to documents reviewed by Capital & Main.

In the fall of 2017, UC regents decided to shift $100 million worth of university endowment and pension resources into the RISE fund, operated by TPG. That firm was founded by David Bonderman, who has forged extensive business relationships with Feinstein’s husband, regent Richard Blum. Over the past quarter-century, Blum served as a TPG executive, founded a fund overseeing TPG’s Asia business and partnered with TPG on numerous investment deals with his own investment fund, Blum Capital. The $100 million investment was UC’s first investment with TPG.

Since 1992, Bonderman and his wife have donated more than $32,000 to Feinstein’s political campaigns. Additionally, donors associated with the RISE fund’s board and advisory panel have contributed more than $65,000 to Feinstein’s campaigns and political action committee. That includes $15,400 of donations in the three-week period surrounding the disclosure of UC’s investment in the RISE fund. Those donations came from Salesforce founder Marc Benioff and his wife, Lynne, as well as from Ariel Investments president Mellody Hobson. Marc Benioff and Hobson, who is married to George Lucas of Star Wars fame, sit on the RISE Fund’s Founders Board.

In general, securities laws require public officials to make investment decisions on the basis of merit, not personal relationships or political contributions. A 2010 Securities and Exchange Commission rule was explicitly designed to deter financial firms from using campaign contributions to influence investment decisions.

“The decision by the UC regents to make an investment in a fund run by a close friend and business partner of Richard Blum raises potential issues of institutional corruption.”

Blum argues that there is no conflict of interest.

“I’ve never heard of the RISE Fund,” he told Capital & Main. “We used to be partners with TPG. We’ve done investments together. But I have nothing to do with TPG or the RISE Fund… [The University of California investment office] never checks with me on anything.”

Blum conceded that, in addition to his business and personal relationships with Bonderman and TPG, he also knows another top TPG and RISE Fund executive, Jim Coulter, and added, “I occasionally get together with [UC Chief Investment Officer] Jagdeep [Singh Bachher] and we talk about philosophy.”

Singh Bachher is in charge of oversight and management of UC’s investment in the RISE Fund.

Capital & Main asked TPG if it had disclosed its executives’ relationships with Blum and donations to Feinstein. In a statement, TPG said that it “adheres to the strongest compliance standards and all political donations are subjected to compliance review and clearance, and in the case of federal officials are publicly disclosed through the Federal Election Commission. TPG responded in the ordinary course to due diligence questions posed by UC in connection with its investment.”

The University of California forwarded the regents’ conflict of interest policy and made no other comment. Senator Feinstein did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

“The decision by the UC regents to make an investment in a fund run by a close friend and business partner of Richard Blum raises potential issues of institutional corruption,” said Jay Youngdahl, an attorney and pension expert. “When money saved for workers’ retirement is placed into high-fee investments that benefit those close to politicians, questions need to be asked and answered. Investment funds in several states have suffered problems with similar practices.”

...Meanwhile, the UC Retirement Plan has lately been engulfed in scandal over pay-to-play allegations.

In early September, the pension trade publication Institutional Investor published a report showing that the retirement system’s chief investment officer faced “serious charges of mismanagement.” The report also highlighted allegations from an anonymous tipster with inside information that Bachher had placed $250 million in a fund run by a former UC regent, Paul Wachter, who had participated in Bachher’s hiring. The investment was opposed by other top investment staff at UC, the article said.

Full story at:

Also at