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Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Anyone at Murphy Hall Working on Plan C? - Part 2 (post-debate)

In a recent post, we noted that the folks in Murphy Hall who have been planning various opening and remote scenarios moved from a Plan A (some mix of in-person and remote courses) to Plan B (almost all remote). We also noted that the "remoteness" of the fall quarter now seems to be continuing through winter quarter.* Mainly, we suggested that Murphy Hall planning ought to take account of social unrest that could easily occur after Election Day.

If you watched last night's presidential "debate," especially the last segment on the election and its potential aftermath, you will know about the risk. If not, you can see it here:

or direct to https://www.facebook.com/daniel.j.b.mitchell/videos/10159113777266522/

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*http://uclafacultyassociation.blogspot.com/2020/09/anyone-at-murphy-hall-working-on-plan-c.html and http://uclafacultyassociation.blogspot.com/2020/09/remote-work-through-winter-quarter.html

UCLA Forecast: Recovery Over Two Years (Maybe)

The LA Times summarizes today's UCLA Anderson forecast (via Zoom):

California’s economy began to bounce back this summer thanks to an infusion of federal jobless benefits and business loans along with the reopening of some workplaces, but a full recovery from the coronavirus downturn will take more than two years, UCLA economists predict. The UCLA Anderson quarterly forecast released Wednesday suggested California payrolls will drop 7.2% this year to 16 million jobs, a loss of some 1.5 million since the COVID-19 pandemic hit. They are expected to climb back slowly, by just 1.3% next year and 3.5% in 2022. 

The Golden State’s unemployment rate, which was 3.9% in February, will average 10.8% this year, then fall to 8.6% next year and 6.6% in 2022, the forecast calculated. Nonetheless, “the news is not all bad,” economist Leila Bengali wrote in the report, noting that some industries are faring far better than others. A precipitous drop in travelers has hammered California’s leisure and hospitality sector, where payrolls are projected to fall 25% this year, but “the housing market is an area where we project particular strength and a quick recovery to pre-recession levels.”...

Full story at https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2020-09-30/california-economy-ucla-anderson-forecastThe entire Forecast is available on YouTube. Click below or go directly to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=45CWNWshVQo


Note: Towards the end, there is an interesting discussion about the impact of tech firms as they spread eastward from the Westside of LA and into South LA on the local population, gentrification, jobs, etc. Go to 3:06:00.

Less than some; more than others

Business Insider reports on endowment returns over the last fiscal year from various institutions during the caronavirus crisis:

MIT              8.3%  

Harvard          7.3

Yale             6.8

U of Virginia    5.3   

UC               5.0

Median of university endowments from Wall Street Journal   2.6

Data source: https://markets.businessinsider.com/news/stocks/harvard-university-endowment-gains-beats-rival-yale-coronavirus-volatility-narvekar-2020-9-1029632478

Berkeley Remains Online into Spring Semester

From the Daily Cal: UC Berkeley plans to begin its spring semester with remote instruction for at least two weeks, with the majority of classes continuing remotely for the remainder of the semester. According to a campuswide email sent Tuesday from Chancellor Carol Christ, students will not be required to be on campus or take in-person classes next semester. Departments will make alternative classes available to substitute for the small number of courses that will only be offered in person. As with fall 2020, tuition and fees for the spring semester will remain the same, the email stated. The two-week period of fully remote instruction is intended to allow students to self-sequester for seven to 10 days upon returning to campus. The email stated that any courses under consideration for in-person instruction will be limited to 25 students and will be noted in the online class schedule by Oct. 1. Almost all courses will become fully remote if public health conditions do not allow for in-person classes, according to the email...

“As was the case when we announced our plans for the fall, these decisions are dependent on approval from local public health authorities,” Christ said in the email. “We must recognize that we continue to operate amid great uncertainty, as uncomfortable as that may be.”...

The email added that faculty and staff working from home should plan to do so until June 30, although depending on COVID-19 conditions this date may change. More information regarding work arrangements will be released Wednesday...

Full article at https://www.dailycal.org/2020/09/29/uc-berkeley-to-continue-mostly-remote-instruction-for-spring-2021/

Remote Work Through Winter Quarter

From an email circulated late yesterday afternoon:

To: Faculty and Staff
Dear Colleagues:
I know you have made extraordinary efforts to continue serving UCLA’s mission of education, research and service amidst the challenges of the past six months, and the entire campus leadership team thanks you for your perseverance and dedication.
In order to continue to limit the number of people on campus and thereby reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, we ask those of you who have been successfully working remotely to continue doing so through March 19, 2021, which is the end of winter quarter. This follows a recommendation from UCLA’s COVID-19 Response and Recovery Task Force. Discussions about the status of winter quarter instruction are underway and we will share information as soon as it is available.
As with our previous announcement that extended remote work, this change does not apply to personnel who have been working on campus, to those associated with the ramp-up of UCLA research or to instructors and support staff who receive approval to conduct their winter courses with an on-campus component. Some staff at UCLA’s K-12 schools may be asked to return to work in person sooner than March and will receive advance notice if applicable. As needs change, certain other faculty and staff may be asked to return to campus sooner than March as well.
The extension also does not apply to UCLA Health, David Geffen School of Medicine (DGSOM) and School of Dentistry staff who are directly engaged in clinical care or training. UCLA Health and DGSOM employees and clinical trainees who are currently working remotely will receive additional directions from their leadership by December 1. Those working remotely in the School of Dentistry will also receive additional guidance shortly.
Staff and faculty should confirm with their supervisors and department heads whether this extension of remote work applies to their positions. Any personnel coming to campus for non-healthcare work must adhere to UCLA’s requirements for COVID-19 symptom monitoring (PDF). Additional information is available at Bruins Safe Online.
We will continue to work closely with public health officials to meet our goal of having everyone return to campus when it is appropriate to do so. In the meantime, I hope that this announcement will be helpful as you plan for the months ahead. I encourage you to read information we’ve provided on how to work effectively from home, which is available on UCLA’s COVID-19 website.
We look forward to sharing updates as decisions about winter quarter instruction and other campus operations are made. Thank you again for ensuring the Bruin spirit remains a source of inspiration and hope during this difficult time.
Sincerely,
Michael J. Beck
Administrative Vice Chancellor

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Another Regent

Although much attention in the recent admissions scandal has focused on Regent Blum, another regent appears to have been involved, although quite a bit earlier:

From the San Francisco Chronicle ...The emails released by the auditor also reveal a cozy relationship between the admissions office and the UC Berkeley Foundation responsible for raising money. The documents include a letter to Christ from an unnamed former regent inquiring about a different applicant and reminding her, in a brief postscript, that he had recently gotten a client of his to donate to the university.

The Chronicle has learned that the former regent is William Bagley, who said in an interview that the donation was for $1 million. It’s not clear whether UC Berkeley admitted the student...

Full story at https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/Emails-suggest-cozy-relationshp-between-UC-15604434.php

Bagley served as a regent from 1989 to 2002.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Anyone at Murphy Hall Working on Plan C?

Murphy Hall under construction: 1936
We started with a plan (Plan A?) for some degree of reopening in fall quarter, but later in the summer it was revised to Plan B. All of this planning was based on state and county guidelines, medical information, etc., about the coronavirus situation.

Nowadays, however, as the fall quarter actually begins, there are more and more news stories about a potential political crisis after Election Day, a situation in which the election will be contested, possibly with litigation and possibly ending up in Congress in early 2021. One can imagine civil unrest occurring if these scenarios play out.

Let's hope all goes peacefully. But, if not, is there a Plan C being worked out somewhere in Murphy Hall for such a contingency, a contingency which could affect both fall and winter quarters? If there isn't, maybe now's the time to start working on it. Just a suggestion...

Prospect List

Inside Higher Ed today has a lengthy piece on the UC admissions scandal. It notes a special "prospect list" at Berkeley that was featured in the state auditor report:

...The (auditor) report was especially critical of Berkeley, saying that campus "admitted children of staff and donors instead of more qualified applicants."

In many cases, the admissions officers at Berkeley who read applications wanted to do the right thing but were overruled. For instance, the report notes the child of a staff member and the child of a donor were not recommended for admission by either reader but were admitted. A third applicant -- from a low-income family, who attended "a disadvantaged school" and was in the top 9 percent of the applicant's high school class -- was recommended for admission by both readers. The applicant was rejected.

"In those interactions, the development office often provided the admissions office with the names of applicants connected to donors and potential donors. In one of the years we reviewed, the development office indicated which of the applicants were 'priority.' UC Berkeley admitted every applicant that the development office indicated was a priority. None of these applicants had received ratings on their applications that would have made them competitive on their own merit for admission to UC Berkeley," the report said.

"The former admissions director also openly invited staff to send her names of family and friends who had applied so that she could personally review the applications," the report added. "In 2014, 2015, and 2016, the former admissions director sent an email to UC Berkeley staff offering to review the applications of applicants they might know, in one year describing that she was doing so 'in the spirit of professional camaraderie.'"

The report added, "Finally, UC Berkeley allowed admissions staff to request preferential treatment for relatives and donors by using a process intended to benefit applicants who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. UC Berkeley allows admissions staff to nominate applicants for additional consideration by placing them on a list it calls the prospect list. The emails that UC Berkeley’s admissions leadership sent to admissions staff indicate that the prospect list is for applicants who participate in UC Berkeley’s outreach programs, which generally assist disadvantaged high school and transfer students in preparing for and applying to college. The emails from the two more recent years -- 2018 and 2019 -- also state that the staff could add 'other applicants to watch.' Although the majority of applicants whom admissions staff nominated were connected with these outreach programs, staff also placed applicants on the prospect list for inappropriate reasons, including the applicants’ connections to donors, staff, and faculty. UC Berkeley admitted several of these applicants while denying admission to similar or better‑rated students whom staff legitimately had placed on the prospect list because they had participated in a campus outreach program -- the very applicants whom the prospect list was supposed to benefit." ...

Full story at: https://www.insidehighered.com/admissions/article/2020/09/28/university-california-admissions-scandal-worsens

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Budget Impact May Not Be As Bad As Might Have Been Expected

There are indications that the budget impact of the coronavirus recession may be less than originally anticipated. (That's not the same as saying the impact was good, of course.) As can be seen from the chart above from the Legislative Analyst's Office (LAO), income tax withholding cumulative since the start of the crisis is slightly ahead of last year in nominal terms. In real terms (inflation-adjusted), that is likely a small decline. But still...

The chart is from https://lao.ca.gov/LAOEconTax/Article/Detail/554.

For just the two months of the new fiscal year (2020-21), both the Dept. of Finance and the state controller expected all state tax receipts to the general fund to be about $36 billion. And both are reporting that actual receipts were in fact higher at about $40 billion. 

See https://sco.ca.gov/Files-ARD/CASH/August2020StatementofGeneralFundCashReceiptsandDisbursements.pdf and http://dof.ca.gov/Forecasting/Economics/Economic_and_Revenue_Updates/documents/2020/Sep-20.pdf.

A Bunch of Times - Part 3

Yesterday, Regent Blum released a statement  concerning the scandal of admissions letters we have reported on in prior posts.* The release is below:

Statement by Richard Blum regarding letters of recommendation for University of California applicants

NEWS PROVIDED BY

Richard Blum 

Sep 26, 2020, 12:57 ET

SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 26, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- "Over the last 18 years, I have written more than a dozen letters of recommendation for applicants seeking admission to the University of California. I forwarded those letters to the Office of the Chancellors.

"On no occasion did I receive feedback that that was not the appropriate protocol and that letters needed to be sent to the Director of Admissions.

"Moreover, I was never informed about whether any of the applicants for whom I wrote letters were later accepted for admission and I never inquired about the ultimate decisions in these cases.

"I respect the findings and concerns reflected in the audit. It was never my intention to circumvent or unfairly influence the admissions process. I do not intend to write letters of recommendation going forward."

Media Contact:

Owen Blicksilver

Lambert

Oblicksilver@lambert.com 

516-742-5950

Source: https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/statement-by-richard-blum-regarding-letters-of-recommendation-for-university-of-california-applicants-301138572.html

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Note 1: The Lambert firm releasing this statement has a website indicating it is an "investor relations" and "public relations" company: https://lambert.com/firm-overview/. Owen Blicksilver - the media contact - is identified as company president: https://lambert.com/team/owen-blicksilver/.

Note 2: This matter now leaks over into the political realm since Blum is the husband of Senator Dianne Feinstein who will be the senior Democrat at the upcoming hearings on the recent Supreme Court nominee. It also might have some effect - although it is not clear in which direction - on Prop 16 (ending ban on affirmative action, especially UC admissions).

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*Prior postings are at http://uclafacultyassociation.blogspot.com/2020/09/a-bunch-of-times-part-2.html and http://uclafacultyassociation.blogspot.com/2020/09/a-bunch-of-times.html.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Costs of Zoom Orientations

Click on chart to clarify.

According to CalMatters, incoming students are complaining about the cost of "attending" online orientations. Perhaps also of interest is the wide variation in the costs; the range, as can be seen above, runs from free to $480.

Full story at https://calmatters.org/education/higher-education/college-beat-higher-education/2020/09/college-orientation-fees/

A Bunch of Times - Part 2

Blog readers will recall our recent post about Regent Blum's letters on behalf of applicants for admission that appear to be contrary to Regental standards. Blum said it was no big deal and that he did it "a bunch of times."*

According to the LA Times, in one case he wrote to the chancellor at Berkeley on behalf of an applicant on the waiting list. The letter did get attention. Among other things, it noted a donation to the law school an associated of Blum was poised to make.

There are two noteworthy elements in the story. One is that although the state auditor got the documents from Berkeley, Berkeley doesn't seem to have them. (Did the auditor get the original with no one making copies at Berkeley?)

...(Berkeley spokesperson Janet) Gilmore... said Berkeley officials have asked the auditor for the underlying documents that led to the findings “for several months now” but have not yet directly received any material...

The other is that the applicant was ultimately not admitted, despite the special attention the case received.

...The redacted emails appeared to indicate that the applicant was not admitted...

Although the letter was "accepted" by Berkeley contrary to policy and discussed, it appears that ultimately officials did the right thing, even if Blum didn't. It's not clear what would define not "accepting" the letter. Trashing it? Return to sender? No such chancellor at this address? The problem was at Blum's end of the transaction, at least in this case.** There is no way that a letter from a regent to a chancellor is not going to receive some measure of attention.

An ethics review of Blum's actions is now underway.

The article is at https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-09-25/how-uc-berkeley-handled-a-regents-inappropriate-support-letter-to-get-student-admitted

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*https://uclafacultyassociation.blogspot.com/2020/09/a-bunch-of-times.html

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**UPDATE: Later news stories indicate that another applicant endorsed by Blum was accepted.

Another Noteworthy Donation

Goldberg and Riley
As part of our continuing salute to donations to the university that don't require brick and mortar (see yesterday's "Donation" posting), we take note of the one described below:

UCLA School of Law has received a $15 million donation from the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria to advance the study and practice of Native American law. The gift is the largest ever contribution that a tribe has made to a law school and one of the biggest in history from a tribe to a university. The funds will be dedicated to scholarships for Native American and other students interested in pursuing careers as tribal legal advocates.

The gift will create the Graton Scholars program at UCLA Law’s Native Nations Law and Policy Center. Graton Scholars will be among the best and brightest Native students and others interested in pursuing careers as tribal advocates. Each year, they will receive full-tuition scholarships that will cover all three years of law school at UCLA Law, which is well established as the nation’s premier law school for Indian law.

“This is one of the largest gifts to support scholarships in UCLA history, and we are incredibly grateful to the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria for this visionary investment, which bolsters our university’s longtime commitment to service in Indian country and the success of Native people everywhere,” said UCLA Chancellor Gene Block. “This gift allows us to recruit the very best candidates to pursue their legal education at UCLA and prepare for careers as impactful advocates for Native Nations.”

The announcement of the gift, which is also among the largest contributions to the law school in its seven-decade history, comes just days before the 53rd annual California Native American Day is celebrated, on Sept. 25.

“Tribal law is a cornerstone of Native Americans’ quest for equality and inclusion within the U.S. justice system,” said Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria Tribal Chairman Greg Sarris, who received his undergraduate degree from UCLA and returned to teach English for more than a decade. “UCLA’s commitment to educating and preparing the next generation of tribal legal advocates is personally known to me, as an alumnus and former UCLA professor. We hope this gift will begin the drive for equity for our people in our native land. It’s particularly fitting that our announcement coincides with this Friday’s California Native American Day, which celebrates and honors the historic and cultural contributions by California Native Americans.”

Jennifer Mnookin, dean of UCLA Law, said, “We at UCLA Law are immensely proud of our national leadership in Indian law. Thanks to this extraordinary contribution, our faculty, staff and students will have far greater opportunities to collaborate in promoting tribal sovereignty, cultural resource protection, Native American child welfare and economic development in Indian country — work whose impact will last for generations. I am tremendously grateful to the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria for this vision, generosity and recognition of UCLA Law’s strength in this area.”

For decades, UCLA Law has been recognized as a leader among the nation’s preeminent law schools in developing courses, programs and scholarship addressing the legal standing and rights of Native Nations. The first legal casebook in federal Indian law was written by UCLA Law faculty, and the school developed the first joint degree program in law and American Indian studies.

UCLA Law’s Tribal Legal Development Clinic provides free legal services to tribes in the areas of constitution drafting and revision, tribal code development, establishment and operation of tribal court systems, and negotiation of cooperative agreements with local cities, counties and states to coordinate initiatives and services. Students in the clinic have acquired vital understanding and skills through on-site collaboration with tribal leaders, officials and community members.

“For decades, Native American students and those seeking a way of serving Native Nations have come to UCLA to gain an unparalleled education in Indian law and American Indian studies, launching them into influential careers in the field,” said Carole Goldberg, the Jonathan D. Varat Distinguished Professor of Law Emerita and founding director of the joint degree program in law and American Indian studies. “This exceptionally generous gift will enable the most talented and committed students to join them as powerful tribal advocates.”

UCLA Law Professor Angela Riley directs the Native Nations Law and Policy Center and currently serves as chief justice of the Supreme Court of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, her tribe’s highest court.

“This gift is a remarkable benefit to students, scholars and advocates whose hard work through the NNLPC advances the rights of Native Nations,” Riley said. “We are deeply honored that the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria chose to so strongly support our work to preserve and promote the rich history, culture and legal institutions of Native Nations across Indian country.”

Source:https://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/ucla-law-donation-scholarships-native-american-law

Friday, September 25, 2020

Change of Heart

From CNN: The Pac-12 Conference voted Thursday to return to play college football this fall. Beginning November 6, each team in the Pac-12 will play seven conference-only games, with the championship game scheduled for December 18.

The vote marks a reversal from the conference's previous stance, as it voted to postpone fall sports back in August, along with the Big Ten. The Big Ten, however, reversed that decision earlier this month, announcing it would begin play in October -- leaving the Pac-12 as the only Power Five conference still postponing.

Still, the conference's announcement comes while multiple college football games have been postponed because of Covid-19 concerns...

Full story at https://www.cnn.com/2020/09/24/us/pac-12-college-football-trnd-spt/index.html

Note: The Pac-12 includes Berkeley and UCLA.

A Bunch of Times

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s husband finds himself in the middle of the latest University of California admissions scandal, accused in a state audit of improperly using his clout to help an applicant get into the elite public system. But Richard Blum, a UC regent, told The Chronicle he’s done nothing wrong and has been writing letters on behalf of many friends and family for years.

I did it a bunch of times,” Blum said, adding that he has never considered it a problem to write recommendation letters directly to chancellors and bypassing the traditional admissions process. 

However, a policy prohibiting such influence has been in place throughout Blum’s 18-year tenure on the Board of Regents...

Full story at https://www.sfchronicle.com/education/article/UC-Regent-Richard-Blum-named-in-admissions-15594754.php

Do not enter?

We noted in an earlier post that Stanford - a private university - was planning to close its campus to outsiders in the context of the coronavirus crisis.* The idea has surfaced for public universities. As we have noted in the case of UCLA, it is not clear how it could be done as a practical matter. There are many ways to enter the campus; are we going to station guards at each one? And, as a public space, there would seem to be legal issues. We have also noted that the UCLA campus (apart from the medical area), seems to be used as a public park by outsiders. 

Nonetheless, see below from Berkeleyside:

UC Berkeley may ban walking, biking and running through campus

The ban on outside visitors is in response to a state recommendation that universities limit visitors as much as possible. It is unclear how much Cal intends to enforce the new guidelines, however.

UC Berkeley is considering prohibiting the broader Berkeley community from walking, running or bicycling through the campus as a way to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Cal officials have not officially announced a campus closure, but a draft document titled “State-Mandated Temporary Closure of Campus to the General Public” was provided to Berkeleyside. University officials have submitted the document to city of Berkeley officials and “once we have received and considered the city leaders’ input, the proposal will be submitted to the Chancellor for approval and if approved would become campus policy,” according to an email sent by Janet Gilmore, a university spokesperson...

Full story at https://www.berkeleyside.com/2020/09/24/uc-berkeley-shut-campus-ban

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*https://uclafacultyassociation.blogspot.com/2020/08/stanford-closing-most-of-its-campus-to.html

Donation

This blog likes to highlight donations to the university that don't involve bricks and mortar but do support teaching, research, and students. Here is a recent one:

UCLA has received more than $8.7 million from the estate of the late Bernice Wenzel and Wendell “Jeff” Jeffrey, UCLA professors who were well known for their longtime commitment to the university

More than $4.5 million of their gift will support four faculty chairs, scholarships, fellowships and colloquia in the UCLA College’s psychology department. The couple had previously endowed the department’s annual Jeffrey Lecture series and the Wendell Jeffrey and Bernice Wenzel Term Chair in Behavioral Neuroscience.

“Bernice Wenzel and Wendell Jeffrey were incredible supporters of UCLA Psychology and firm believers in collaborative education and research among students and faculty alike,” said department chair Annette Stanton. “We are deeply grateful for their own contributions to science and society and for their continuing commitment to training talented students and retaining exceptional faculty.”

Another $4.05 million has been given to the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music for scholarships in the department of music. Undergraduates, including transfer students, and graduate students will be eligible for support, which will help advance the school’s goal of improving diversity, equity and inclusion.

“Scholarships are of incredible importance as we welcome and support superlative students, regardless of their ability to fund their education,” said Eileen Strempel, dean of the school of music. “We deeply appreciate Bernice Wenzel and Wendell Jeffrey’s generosity in making musical education more accessible for generations to come.”

The rest of the funds will support the Hammer Museum at UCLA, the UCLA Emeriti/Retirees Relations Center and the UCLA Library, along with the annual Henry J. Bruman Chamber Music Festival in the UCLA College’s division of humanities. The range of benefiting areas highlights Wenzel’s and Jeffrey’s diverse interests. Lifelong learners, the two led distinguished careers as scientists but also enjoyed music, art and travel together, giving not only to UCLA but also to the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Ojai Music Festival.

The couple maintained a unique connection with UCLA, where they spent significant portions of their careers. Wenzel was a professor in the department of physiology and the department of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences and served as an assistant dean for educational research at the medical school from 1974 to 1989. Known for her groundbreaking discovery that pigeons smell and use sight and sound to guide themselves, she also helped break the glass ceiling as part of the first generation of female professors.

Jeffrey was a developmental psychologist in the psychology department, studying the learning processes of young children and mentoring graduate students by supervising research, facilitating collaboration and introducing them to well-known experts. Many of his protégés went on to become professors themselves.

The two hosted numerous student gatherings on campus and at their home, and they remained deeply engaged with UCLA after their retirement. They regularly visited campus, and Wenzel served as president of the emeriti association in 1994–95. She also was part of the Wednesday Group, a group of retired faculty and campus leaders that continued to meet weekly at the Faculty Center. Jeffrey died in 2015 and Wenzel in 2018.

“Bernice and Wendell were Bruins through and through, and their investment in education and the arts at UCLA will remain a fitting testament to their generosity and wisdom,” said Lynn Andrews, the couple’s niece, who recalls visiting her aunt and uncle on campus and benefiting from their philanthropic and artistic influences. “Having them in the family — whether my own or UCLA’s — was always an extra-special blessing.”

Source: https://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/ucla-faculty-couple-9-million-psychology-music

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Women's Basketball Practice Resumes

From the LA Times: Nothing has been certain during the past six months. That’s why Cori Close is even more grateful for days like Wednesday. After half a year without her players, the UCLA women’s basketball coach welcomed some back to campus for their first group workouts of the new season. The eight players who returned and passed a weeklong quarantine were split into two socially distant training cohorts. No one was allowed in the locker room. Coaches wore masks. Everyone was separated by 10 feet — still an improvement after being states and countries apart for so long.

“There have just been so many things going on that we have been venturing to attempt to do together, but it’s just really hard to connect,” Close said. “It was really good to see them face to face, to be with them and I’m really proud of this group of young women..."

Full story at https://www.latimes.com/sports/ucla/story/2020-09-24/ucla-womens-basketball-practice-together-after-six-months-quarantine-coronavirus

Alone at Davis

From KCRA 3: This week, hundreds of UC Davis students are moving into their dorm rooms ready to start the fall term with mostly online classes... UC Davis officials said only 1,600 students are staying in the dorms, compared to 6,000 students before the pandemic. However, students are seeing a big change this year: No one can have a roommate.

Students on campus told KCRA 3 they are excited to have their own room. As soon as students arrive on campus with their belongings, they have to walk to a nearby parking structure for COVID-19 testing. There, students get two tests. One is the nasal swab test and the other is the saliva test, which produces results in 24 hours. It's a pilot test on campus that could be rolled out to the community if it's proven effective in catching the virus. Students are required to wears masks, wash their hands frequently and do a daily assessment of their health. They will also have to take their food to-go in the dining commons and are being told not to congregate in large groups...

Full story at https://www.kcra.com/article/no-roommates-allowed-uc-davis-students-move-into-dorms/34128411

New Unemployment Claims Suggest Labor Market Doldrums

As we have been doing on a weekly basis, we today look at the data on new claims for unemployment insurance (through Sept. 19) as a proxy for labor market and economic activity. On that basis, we seem to be in a stagnant period. At the national level on a seasonally adjusted basis, there was a slight increase in weekly claims to 870,000 on a preliminary basis. Without adjustment, the increase was somewhat higher. 

California data also show a small uptick without adjustment. (Adjusted data are not available at the state level.) California continues to show a disproportionate share on ongoing participants in the system (lagged one week), but - as noted in a prior posting - there is significant evidence of fraud in the system.


Note: Future weekly data for California (and for the US) may be affected by the governor's decision to stop accepting new claims in order to catch up with the processing backlog.

As usual, the news release containing the data above is at https://www.dol.gov/ui/data.pdf.

And if you're tired of all of this slow-motion economic stuff, here is a nostalgic reminder of when things were totally locked down back in March 2020: 

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Training On Again

We noted in an earlier post that diversity training had been suspended at the UC-linked Dept. of Energy labs.* It appears that the training is back. Whether the latest executive order might have an effect is unknown.**

From the San Francisco Chronicle: One of the two federally funded Bay Area labs that scrapped their diversity program because of a new Trump administration directive said it will reinstate the initiative, according to a memo reviewed by The Chronicle. The resurrection of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s diversity, equity and inclusion program comes after lab Director Mike Witherell told employees that the program would be suspended on orders from the White House, which recently called such initiatives “un-American propaganda training sessions.”

The Berkeley lab is managed by the University of California, but funded largely by taxpayer dollars through the Department of Energy. More than 1,400 scientists and engineers work at the lab, which conducts unclassified research across several disciplines. In another memo over the weekend, Witherell said a review of the lab’s diversity initiatives, combined with “clarified guidance” from the DOE, found that trainings offered at the Berkeley lab “are not of concern.”...

Another lab run partly by UC but funded by the DOE, The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, also suspended parts of its diversity training, The Chronicle reported last week. Lynda Seaver, a spokeswoman for the Livermore lab, said the training seminars that were postponed pending review by the DOE are expected to be rescheduled “in the near future.”

Full story at https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/Lawrence-Berkeley-lab-reverses-decision-to-scrap-15588316.php

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*http://uclafacultyassociation.blogspot.com/2020/09/no-training.html

**http://uclafacultyassociation.blogspot.com/2020/09/applicable-to-uc.html

Testing at Irvine

UC Irvine to test students living on campus weekly for COVID-19

Alicia Robinson | Orange County Register | September 22, 2020 

A majority of classes at UC Irvine will be taught remotely when the fall term starts Oct. 1, but that doesn’t mean the campus is empty of students. With about 3,600 students already living in campus accommodations and another 3,500 expected to move in by the end of the month, the school launched a coronavirus testing program recently to make sure every student gets a test before school starts – and university officials plan to require weekly testing after that. The goal is “to protect the health and well-being of our campus,” because for some students, it’s the safest or most practical place for them to be, said Dr. Albert Chang, medical director of UCI’s Student Health Center.

The school enrolls many international students, young adults from the foster care system and students whose family home may be crowded, shared with higher-risk relatives or have spotty WiFi – making campus housing a more workable option, UCI communications officer Sheri Ledbetter said. Some graduate students are there to work in research labs, which opened over the summer at about a third of their normal occupancy...

The process usually takes about six minutes, and results are available within 48 hours, Student Health Center Executive Director J. Patrick Haines said... No one in the first round tested positive, Ledbetter said Tuesday, Sept. 22. The second phase, which just began, entails collecting specimens from arriving students before they move in, and asking students and staff to check themselves daily for symptoms... Newly arrived students get a welcome kit containing masks and other protective equipment and a “social distance blanket” that offers a visual cue to keep six feet from others. Dorm residents will part of a “pod” of six students that quarantine together for the first week.

Everyone is asked to sign the “Anteater Pledge” (named for the school’s mascot) that they will follow COVID-19 precautions, inform the school if they become infected, take part in contact tracing and the like. And while UCI officials can’t prevent students from attending parties or group activities, “if there’s a really egregious violation, the conduct process will kick in,” Ledbetter said... The university is expecting and preparing for outbreaks. With campus housing at less than half its capacity – about 7,200 students are expected in residences that can hold 16,000 – there’s room to isolate sick people if needed...

Full story at https://www.ocregister.com/2020/09/22/uc-irvine-to-test-students-living-on-campus-weekly-for-covid-19/

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Applicable to UC?

The Hill is reporting this evening that President Trump has banned "federal contractors" from "training" in critical race theory. All UC campuses, of course, are in various ways federal contractors, as are the three UC-linked Dept. of Energy labs. Exactly how the executive order might apply to universities generally is unclear, however. It appears to apply to training of employees (which would include faculty), as opposed to courses for students. And it applies to contracts entered into 60 days hence, and to the use of federal funds for such training. 

The White House website does not have the text online at this moment. However, by poking around on the web, I found what purports to be the text here:

https://christopherrufo.com/president-signs-executive-order-abolishing-critical-race-theory/ (Clicking towards the bottom of each page can advance the exhibit to the next page.)

From The Hill: President Trump on Tuesday extended his administration's ban on training involving race- and sex-based discrimination to include federal contractors, doubling down on an issue to appeal to his base, and white voters in particular. The White House released an executive order that outlaws the teaching of "divisive concepts," such as the idea that one race or sex is superior, that the United States is fundamentally racist or sexist, that any individual should feel "discomfort, guilt, anguish" or physiological distress because of their race or sex or that an individual bears responsibility for past actions by others of the same race or sex.

"[T]raining like that discussed above perpetuates racial stereotypes and division and can use subtle coercive pressure to ensure conformity of viewpoint," the order states. "Such ideas may be fashionable in the academy, but they have no place in programs and activities supported by Federal taxpayer dollars."

The order applies to executive departments and agencies, the U.S. military, federal contractors and federal grant recipients. The president announced the order via Twitter roughly three weeks after his administration ordered federal agencies to cancel programs that discuss "white privilege" or "critical race theory." ...

Full article at https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/517707-trump-extends-ban-on-racial-discrimination-training-to-federal

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UPDATE 9-23-20: The executive order is now posted officially at:

https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/executive-order-combating-race-sex-stereotyping/

State Auditor Faults UC Admissions, Especially UCLA, UC-San Diego, & Berkeley

The state auditor points to the phony-athlete admissions scandal, but also opaque other practices. A summary of the report is below. Exactly how the auditor's report might affect the upcoming vote to repeal Prop 209's ban on affirmative action is unclear.

SUMMARY

The University of California (university) is the most selective of the State’s public postsecondary institutions. The university relies on its campuses—which are bound by policies of its Board of Regents (Regents)—to make admissions decisions. This audit reviewed the general admissions practices of three campuses: the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley), the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and the University of California, San Diego (UC San Diego). It also examined the admission of athletes at those campuses and at the University of California, Santa Barbara. This report draws the following conclusions:

Campus Staff Took Advantage of Weaknesses in Admissions Processes to Inappropriately Admit 64 Students as Favors to Donors, Family, and Friends

We identified 64 applicants whom the four campuses admitted for academic years 2013–14 through 2018–19 based on inappropriate factors, including their families’ donations to the university and their relationships to campus staff. The majority of these applicants were white and at least half had annual family incomes of $150,000 or more. Campus staff used the campuses’ weak athletics admissions processes to admit 22 of these applicants, even though they possessed little athletic talent. In addition, UC Berkeley admitted 42 applicants through its regular admissions process based on their connections to donors and staff, while concurrently denying admission to others who were more qualified. The pervasiveness of this problem at UC Berkeley demonstrates that campus leadership has failed to establish a campus culture that values commitment to an admissions process based on fairness and applicants’ merits and achievements.

Campuses Lack Key Criteria and Standards to Support Their Admissions Decisions

UC Berkeley and UCLA do not have criteria for selecting applicants for admission, raising questions about why they have frequently admitted applicants whom their reviewers identified as less competitive while denying admission to applicants their reviewers more highly recommended. Additionally, UC Berkeley, UCLA, and UC San Diego lack adequate processes for identifying applicants who do not meet eligibility requirements for admission to the university.

Campuses Have Not Adequately Ensured That Reviewers and Faculty Consistently and Fairly Evaluate Applications

The campuses have not adequately trained or supervised the reviewers who rate applications. As a result, reviewers were sometimes overly harsh or overly lenient in the assessment of applicants, which made applicants’ chances of admission unduly dependent on which staff members evaluated their applications. Further, although the campuses allowed academic departments to have input in admissions decisions, the campuses provided little or no oversight of the processes that academic departments use when evaluating applications for majors in their departments, creating risk of improper influence on their recommendations of applicants for admission.

The Office of the President Has Not Safeguarded the University’s Admissions Process

The university’s Office of the President has not reviewed the campuses’ admissions processes to detect and prevent unfair or inconsistent practices. Instead, it has allowed weaknesses to persist for years. Further, the Office of the President has not monitored or encouraged high school participation in its program called Eligible in the Local Context, a critical university effort to increase campuses’ admission of disadvantaged high school students. Consequently, nearly 30 percent of eligible schools—more than 600 schools—in the State do not participate, resulting in thousands of high school students missing an opportunity to obtain guaranteed admission to the university.

Summary of Recommendations

Beginning with the admissions cycle for applicants applying for academic year 2021–22, the Office of the President should require all campuses to do the following:

  • Before admitting prospective student athletes, verify their athletic talents and review donation records for indicators of inappropriate activity.
  • Establish and follow predetermined criteria for how they will select the applicants they admit, including the circumstances under which they will admit an applicant whom their reviewers have determined to be less qualified than others they reject.
Beginning with the admissions cycle for academic year 2021–22, the Office of the President should oversee UC Berkeley’s admissions process for at least three admissions cycles to ensure that the campus provides a merit‑based admissions process that is free of improper influence.

By March 2021, the Office of the President should require that all campuses establish proficiency standards for application reviewers and monitor those reviewers’ ratings for consistency.

By April 2021, the Office of the President should begin regular audits of the campuses’ admissions processes to assess them for weaknesses, identify inappropriate admissions decisions, and recommend improvements.

At least annually, the Office of the President should assess its Eligible in the Local Context program to ensure that as many high school students as possible are able to participate.

Agency Comments

The Office of the President did not state whether it would implement our recommendations. Instead, it stated that the university is committed to safeguarding the integrity of its admissions practices, and that it would take prompt action to address the issues raised in our report.

Full report at https://www.auditor.ca.gov/pdfs/reports/2019-113.pdf

Remember UC's Dispute With Elsevier? Fall Reminder

UC's libraries cancelled expensive journal contracts with Elsevier and from time-to-time has negotiated more favorable deals with other publishers. An article in The Triton, a student-run news source at UC-San Diego has more details. You can trace the Elsevier issue as it evolved on this blog using the search engine and typing in "Elsevier." The most recent entry is back in March.* According to the item below, it was hoped an Elsevier-UC deal could be reached by the end of summer. 

The University of California (UC) announced a new four year contract with global research publisher Springer Nature on June 16. The contract, spanning from 2020-2023, will allow UC associated authors to publish their research at little to no cost, minimizing a major financial hurdle for researchers. The agreement will also expand access to 1000 Springer journals for UC students and faculty.

The agreement marks an important step in the UC’s Open Access (OA) Initiative, which aims to reduce or eliminate the cost of publishing and accessing academic research by 2020. Traditionally, academic researchers have had to choose between paying an additional fee for their research to be OA, allowing their work to be accessed for free without restrictions, or requiring readers to pay to read their work. This Initiative creates institutional support for OA publishing within the UC system.

“UC’s new transformative agreement with Springer Nature is another step in the right direction, signaling increasing global momentum and support for the open access movement,” said Eric Mitchell, Audrey Geisel University Librarian. “I am proud to see [the] UC and UC San Diego providing leadership to make the scholarship of our faculty and students openly available.”

The UC agreement with Springer Nature will proceed in three phases. During the 2020-21 phase, the UC will cover the additional fee typically associated with publishing OA articles. From 2021-22, UC libraries will contribute $1000 to help cover the OA fees. The UC libraries can also cover any remaining fees as needed. Finally, from 2022-23, Springer Nature will integrate its titles into the OA agreement, making them free to access...

Usually researchers publish through for-profit publishing institutions such as Elsevier, one of the world’s largest and most expensive academic publication services. In 2019, the UC terminated their contract with Elsevier after months of negotiations. Elsevier accounted for 25% of the annual systemwide journals budget and required UC associated authors to pay their fee, along with the UC’s subscription fees.

Since January 2020, the UC and Elsevier have remained in an informal dialogue to see if a new agreement can be made. As of July 27, the UC publisher negotiations team has restarted formal dialogue and hopes that negotiations can restart by the end of summer.

Full story at https://triton.news/2020/09/the-uc-reaches-new-publishing-agreement-with-springer-nature/amp/

Note that "end of summer" has now come and gone - it's now officially fall - and so far no new Elsevier deal has been announced.

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*http://uclafacultyassociation.blogspot.com/2020/03/remember-uc-dispute-with-elsevier-lots.html

Monday, September 21, 2020

Listen to the Regents' Afternoon Sessions of Sept. 16, 2020

We'll now go back to the Regents meeting of last Wednesday afternoon (Sept. 16) which featured meetings of the Governance Committee, Academic and Students Affairs, and Finance and Capital Strategies.

The Governance Committee was a routine approval of various items heard in closed session, notably pay for the chief investment officer. In Academic and Student Affairs, there was initial discussion of racial issues and then the meeting largely turned to discussion of the impact of the coronavirus crisis on student learning. 

There was a cautionary note by one regent about the Learning Management Systems (LMS) offered by various commercial providers. A suggestion was made that if UC, CSU, and the community colleges bargained in coordination with such a provider, more leverage could be had. (Exactly how much value such systems add was not evaluated.) 

Finally, there was related discussion of the A-G course requirements for entrance into UC in high school. UC has a program, which includes an online component, called UC Scout which is supposed to supplement or aid offerings by school districts.

In Finance and Capital Strategies, some projects were given routine approval. However, a dorm project at UC-San Diego - the theater district project - ran into trouble, with Regents' questions somewhat reminiscent of what went on when UCLA proposed its Grand Hotel.  Apparently, the project is located near the La Jolla Playhouse. There were questions about financing including about the general financial condition of the campus. Documents given to the Regents included confusing exhibits with tables which didn't seem to add up. Concerns were raised about the potential litigation from neighborhood groups that were opposed. 

Committee chair Makarechian said he could not vote for the project, given current documentation. He suggested that clearer documentation be provided at the next meeting of the Regents in November. UC-SD's chancellor said that if the approval was delayed by two months, the project would be set back a year. That assertion was debated. Finally, it was agreed that the campus and UCOP should come back to the next day's meeting with a figure of what it would cost to keep the project intact until November and it would be approved.

Another UC-SD ran into trouble as well. It involved the creation of a shell corporation that would allow a UC-SD extension building to benefit from a federal tax credit. Several Regents found the device to be an unseemly gimmick and abstained. However, the endorsement by the committee passed.

You can hear the various committee meetings at the link below:

https://archive.org/details/governance-committee-academic-and-student-affairs-committee-9-16-20

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We again note 1) a change in the Blogger system does not allow embedding of a player, although the link above will take you to the site of the recordings, and 2) we provide audios of the meetings because the Regents preserve their recordings for only one year. There is no apparent reason why they cannot preserve them indefinitely. The one time yours truly inquired about the one-year policy he was told that the Regent do it because CSU does it. (Perhaps CSU does it because the Regents do it.)

Another Tale of UCPath Issues

From the Davis EnterpriseThe University Council-American Federation of Teachers (UC-AFT), the union representing lecturers and librarians at the University of California, has filed an unfair labor practice charge against the university, UC-AFT Executive Director Bill Quirk announced Friday in a press release.

According to the union, UC failed to make contributions to employees’ retirement accounts over multiple years. When correcting for the failure, the university did not account for years of market gains, potentially depriving employees of hundreds of thousands of dollars. “UC-AFT asserts that, after discovering the error, the UC unlawfully failed to bargain with the union over how to correct it,” Quirk said.

“Correcting this error is a process that requires close attention to each individual’s DCP account and investments,” said UC-AFT Vice-President for Organizing Daniel Schoorl, in public comment to the UC Retirement System Advisory Board in June. “The lack of transparency around how this error is being corrected is a major concern for our union and our members.”

More than 2,000 employees did not receive their retirement account contributions, according to the press release. The combined amount the university failed to pay in retirement benefits totals roughly $650,000...

“The University administration claims it failed to make the contributions because of a coding mistake in its centralized payroll system, UCPath,” Quirk said in the press release. UCOP did not immediately respond to a request for comment...

Full story at https://www.davisenterprise.com/local-news/lecturers-union-files-unfair-labor-practice-charge-against-uc/

We might note that the Regents discussed "accountability" in last weeks meetings. It's not clear that we have ever had accountability in the case of UCPath's cost inflation and implementation problems.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Listen to the Regents Full Board meeting of Sept. 17, 2020

In our continued coverage of last week's Regents meeting, we will jump over the Wednesday afternoon session and go to the full board meeting on Thursday. (We'll get back to Wednesday afternoon when yours truly has a chance to listed to those sessions.)

The Thursday full board meeting began with public comments. Topics included disabled students, mental health, pay cuts, the Hawaiian telescope, police, UC pension investments in a Laguna hotel which has a labor dispute, layoffs, preserving historic murals at UC-San Francisco, outsourcing, and access to data related to Prop 209.

There were various reports after the public comments. The graduate student representative noted problems with the UCPath payroll system in getting proper pay to grad student assistants. Dr. Carrie Byington reported on the strategic plan for UC Health, with much discussion of diversity, retention, and the effects of the coronavirus. General issues of "accountability" were raised. A review of how UC reacted in the aftermath of the Great Recession of 2008. There was discussion of Prop 209 (anti-affirmative action) and its possible repeal via Prop 16 in November. Note was taken of the adverse poll results on repeal that discussed in Friday's post on this blog.* The Regents enacted an anti-quota resolution, apparently to persuade voters that Prop 16 would not produce strict numeral quotas on admissions. Finally, there was approval of formation of an LLC (limited liability corporation) to capture revenue from university inventions at Berkeley and UCLA. 

You can hear the recording of the meeting at the link below. Note that at the moment we cannot embed a player due to changes in the Blogger system. (The "legacy" system is no longer available on Blogger which permitted the embedding.) However, the link will take you to the recording:

https://archive.org/details/board-9-17-2020

(I have emailed Archive.org about the embedding issue.)

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*http://uclafacultyassociation.blogspot.com/2020/09/did-regents-undermine-prop-16.html