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Sunday, February 28, 2021

Prime Numbers

The Legislative Analyst's Office (LAO) at this point in the budget cycle churns out reviews of details within the governor's January budget proposal. These publications are fed into the legislature's hearings on aspects of the budget. Some of these reviews pertain to the UC components of the state budget. 

Buried within the budget proposal by the governor is an augmentation of general fund support for a program at UC medical schools called PRIME (Programs in Medical Education) which LAO describes as focused on health equity. 

According to LAO, "some of the courses PRIME students are required to take... are focused on health equity matters, and PRIME students’ clinical experiences tend to be focused on underserved populations and communities. Beyond the standard four-year training program, a portion of PRIME students (as well as a portion of other medical school students) take additional coursework by pursuing a joint master’s degree requiring a fifth year of study (often in public health).

Enrollments at the 6 UC med schools are shown below:

The state put some money into ramping up these programs early on in their history but it has generally not explicitly funded them since then (with one exception). In the governor's January budget - probably prompted by concerns about health equity raised during the coronavirus crisis - there is an added $12.9 million for expanding the PRIME programs. LAO, however, has grumbles about the way the funds are to be distributed and lack of an explicit connection (formula?) tying the money to actual enrollment growth. It wants a more detailed plan.

The governor's plan is to increase PRIME enrollment by 34% (although some of the growth is offset by a drop at UCLA) and to focus on aspects of health related to Native Americans and African Americans. Exactly why there should be a drop at UCLA is unclear.

It seems unlikely that the proposal originated in the governor's office or in the Dept. of Finance. More likely, it originated at UC and made its way from there into the budget proposal.

For more details, see https://lao.ca.gov/reports/2021/4389/UC-PRIME-022621.pdf

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Expansive Data

From the LA Times: Blue Shield of California initially sought an “expansive” amount of medical data from the University of California Health system in exchange for vaccine doses under the state’s revamped allocation plan that awards extensive powers to the insurance giant, a move that has prompted objections from UC and alarm from patient privacy advocates.

UC Health spokeswoman Heather Harper said representatives for the UC system contacted Blue Shield and the contract was revised to “limit access just to vaccination records and only by federal and state agencies and their contractors.” The university health system declined to elaborate on what kind of patient data Blue Shield requested.

“We brought concerns to the attention of the Third Party Administrator about a seemingly expansive scope of access to patient data,” Harper said of discussions with Blue Shield about the original contract. "... We were able to resolve the issue.”

UC ultimately signed the contract Thursday...

Full story at https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2021-02-26/blue-shield-patient-data-covid-19-contract-california

Berkeley: Inside and Outside

From CalMatters 2-26-21: ...UC Berkeley... began offering indoor classes this week, despite a coronavirus outbreak earlier in the semester that saw students confined to their dorms. 

Classes will be capped at 26 students, said spokesperson Janet Gilmore, with all students required to test weekly for COVID-19, complete a daily symptom screening and wear a mask. Students in the university’s Rausser College of Natural Resources are conducting outdoor labs, string ensembles are rehearsing al fresco, and engineering students are attending outdoor meetings...

Full story at https://calmatters.org/education/higher-education/college-beat-higher-education/2021/02/california-colleges-vaccines/

Ramp Up

From an email circulated late Thursday:

Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Creative Activities 
Dear Bruin Community:
On December 3, 2020, as a direct result of the post-Thanksgiving surge in COVID-19 cases throughout our region, UCLA’s COVID-19 Response and Recovery Task Force (CRRTF) implemented a state of “hold in place” for new research activities. We have operated under this state for the past two months, during which time limited changes have been processed on approved Research Operational Plans (ROPs), with approval to commence new activities granted under exceptional circumstances only. This state of “hold in place” was also communicated with a December 7, 2020 BruinPost from the CRRTF.
With the decline of new positive cases, and the progress made toward vaccinating research personnel, the CRRTF has agreed to lift the “hold in place” moratorium, allowing new ROPs to be submitted via DocuSign under our Phase 2 guidelines.
The CRRTF is also considering when and how campus research activities will shift from Phase 2 to Phase 3. When those decisions are made, an announcement with instructions will be distributed and posted on my Research Ramp-Up website. Meanwhile, see the Guidelines for UCLA Research Ramp-Up (PDF) for information about activities permitted under each phase.
While we continue the vaccination program, it remains critical that personnel reporting to campus continue to follow public health mitigations such as physical distancing and wearing face coverings, complete the required symptom monitoring survey, and participate in regular COVID-19 testing and community screening as detailed in the UCLA COVID-19 Community Screening Protocol (PDF).
Any researchers working on campus and not receiving regular email reminders about testing should sign up for UCLA’s Community Screening Program. (This same form can be used to unsubscribe from the screening lists for those erroneously receiving reminder emails.)
I thank you for your patience during these past few months and request just a little more while we discuss how to continue moving our campus and field research activities forward. Please contact me at c19@research.ucla.edu if you have any questions.
Sincerely,
Roger M. Wakimoto
Vice Chancellor for Research and Creative Activities

Is UC-San Diego More Aggressive Than UCLA in Vaccinating Its Employees? - Part 2

Yesterday we posted part of an article that suggested that UC-San Diego seemed to be further along in vaccinating employees than UCLA. Both campuses are subject to regulation by county authorities, and the current rules in San Diego County are less restrictive than in L.A. County. That difference partly explains why UC-San Diego has been able to go further than UCLA in terms of reopening.

However, from what I have learned, UC's supply of vaccines is not coming through the various counties in which its campuses are located. Moreover, there are separate allocations to the health-sector of UC (those campuses with hospitals and med schools) and the non-health campuses and parts of campuses. These non-health allocations apparently come from UCOP. Of course, if that is the decision process, one could ask whether or why UC-San Diego is being treated more generously than UCLA. And one could ask about who is allocating the overall supply of vaccines going to UC campuses as opposed to counties or other sources of vaccination. Is it the state? Somehow, vaccine gets from the federal government - which is purchasing them - to vaccination centers through opaque channels, both in terms of physical supply and decisions on allocation shares.

In the end, with a limited supply as the ultimate constraint at present, more vaccine for somebody is less vaccine for someone else, a zero-sum game. But some groups have not been reluctant to push for more for their constituents, notable K-12 teachers. Just an observation...

PS: I am told this morning that some folks seeking vaccination have had luck with:

https://myturn.ca.gov

Clicking on it may produce error messages, etc. But if you keep refreshing the page and are patient (no pun intended), you may get an appointment. (Or not.)

Friday, February 26, 2021

Is UC-San Diego More Aggressive Than UCLA in Vaccinating Its Employees?

Dedicated dose supply gives UC workers a vaccination advantage

PAUL SISSON, FEB. 25, 2021, San Diego Union-Tribune

Essential workers at UC San Diego are not waiting in the same vaccination lines as their off-campus peers, university officials confirmed this week. County officials announced Wednesday that teachers, law enforcement officers, farmers and others — a group estimated to exceed 500,000 people throughout the region — can start signing up for vaccination appointments through state or county-operated scheduling systems Saturday. But similar opportunities have already been afforded to UCSD employees.

And, while the county warned that it will not have enough supply on hand to make much of a dent in the expected demand for doses among the droves of workers likely to to start requesting appointments this weekend, the UC system, officials confirmed in an email Tuesday, receives a vaccine allocation directly from the California Department of Public Health that “is separate from vaccine supplied by the County of San Diego for other operations.”

It was unclear Thursday afternoon exactly when the broader effort started on campus. The university did not specify the start date, but two local residents connected to the university who requested anonymity out of concerns for their continued employment said they thought the effort got going in earnest last week. One of the two said they were surprised to learn that a teacher’s assistant in their 20s had received their first dose at a time when widespread vaccination of local school teachers has not yet begun. In a statement, the university said that it has begun vaccinating “frontline essential employees,” including “emergency response personnel, housing and dining workers and other essential employees working on campus.”

The university said it is following CDPH guidelines in deciding who to vaccinate. Those guidelines do include “all staff in colleges, universities, junior colleges, community colleges and other postsecondary facilities.”

As an entity that is legally separate from the county where it resides, the university does have some leeway in who it decides to vaccinate and when. In a statement, the CDPH noted that it considers the University of California to be a “multi-county entity” able to receive vaccine for inoculation of its patients and employees in addition to the public. That designation has sent a significant number of doses directly to UCSD, with a statewide dashboard maintained by CDPH listing the university with 24,820 doses on hand as of Wednesday, significantly more than were listed for any other UC campus. It was unclear, though, whether all of those doses were part of the university’s allocation or whether some came from the county to supply UCSD’s super vaccination clinic near Petco Park. That facility does serve the public.

UC, however, does seem to have a leg up on its peers where vaccine supply is concerned. A representative of California State University, which operates 23 campuses statewide, confirmed in an email Thursday that its locations receive doses from their respective county public health agencies.

UCSD has made state and national headlines for its vaccination might. Working with the San Diego Padres baseball team and San Diego County, it was the first in California to set up a vaccination superstation capable of putting thousands of vaccines in arms per day. As of Wednesday, the university reported having administered 146,504 total doses, with about 120,000 at Petco. More than 40,000 first and second doses are said to have gone to UCSD health system patients with more than 20,000 firsts and seconds going to health system employees. It was not clear whether the employee numbers included non health care workers.

Since the first few thousand doses began arriving at local hospitals in December, vaccination prioritization has seemed as sensitive an issue as beach access at the La Jolla children’s pool. Health systems who have received supply to vaccinate their workers have faced significant grumbling for any doses that land outside the group that works directly with patients. Scripps Health, for example, received some backlash for vaccinating its board of directors which it said was made up either of trustees who intended to volunteer in its hospitals during the frenetic holiday surge or who were old enough to meet the 65 and over age criteria.

...But, it does appear that campus workers will continue to enjoy more immediate access to vaccine because the UC system has its own dedicated vaccine supply that is not open to all comers. Why shouldn’t university workers draw from, and wait for, the same supply as their off-campus peers with similar risk profiles? Neither the California Department of Public Health nor the University of California president’s office responded to the question this week...

Full story at https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/health/story/2021-02-25/dedicated-dose-supply-gives-uc-workers-a-vaccination-advantage

Thursday, February 25, 2021

A turnaround (maybe)

 
As blog readers will know, we have been tracking new weekly claims for unemployment insurance as an indicator of the direction of the California labor market and economy. While the national outlook generally seemed to be in the recovery direction, for several weeks the California situation seemed to be worsening, probably reflecting tightened lockdown rules. The most recent week (ending Feb. 20) suggests there may be a turnaround (improvement) in California. We'll have to see if the trend continues in the coming weeks.

The latest data are at https://www.dol.gov/ui/data.pdf

Watch the Regents' Investments Committee Meeting of 2-18-2021


The Regents' Investments Committee met last week on Feb. 18. As usual, yours truly has preserved the recording which the Regents discard after one year. The first part of the meeting was public comments by telephone. Topics discussed were fossil fuel divestment verification and a defense of the Hawaiian telescope. The second part was a review of recent financial market returns and investments.

It was the third segment that was most of interest. The Chief Investments Officer was seeking endorsement of a proposed policy for "private credit" investments. These appear to be investments by firms specializing seeking out "hot" investments in other new firms using other people's money. As is often the case, Regent Makarechian had the most critical questions, essentially involving the risk entailed. If the hot investments turn cold, it will be UC who is left holding the bag. It appeared under questioning that in fact UC had been investing in private credit all along within other categories and that the guidelines for how much of the portfolios of the various funds could hold were more or less already reached. In the end, however, the concept was approved.

The meeting can be watched at the link below:

https://archive.org/details/investments-committee-2-18-21

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Vaccine Coming (someday) - Part 2

The email below was circulated today in response to LA County's announcement that (among others) "educational" employees would be eligible for coronavirus vaccinations. 

COVID-19 Response and Recovery Task Force
Dear Bruin Community:
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (LACDPH) announced on Feb. 22 that colleges and universities will be allowed to ease a few of the restrictions that have been in place over the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At this time, the UCLA COVID-19 Response and Recovery Task Force is reviewing the updated LACDPH guidance (PDF) and developing plans for a limited variety of activities and resources to resume for on-campus students and those living off campus or in the neighboring community. These changes may include reopening of libraries at limited capacity; small group academic support to be held outdoors; reopening of some performing arts studio and practice spaces; reopening of some outdoor recreation and fitness facilities for faculty, staff and students; and resumption of certain kinds of club and intramural sports practice.
Detailed information about when these operations resume will be shared with the campus community in the coming days. Please note that the new guidelines do not alter our current operations around reduced on-campus housing capacities and remote learning through the end of summer sessions.
While an easing of community and campus restrictions is a hopeful step toward recovery from the pandemic, we must double down on preventing the spread of COVID-19 by abiding by strict health and safety protocols, including maintaining at least six feet of physical distance from others, the proper use of face coverings, frequently washing our hands and avoiding large gatherings. Although the case numbers have continued to decline since the peak in January, the virus is still active in our community and continues to threaten the health and lives of our families, friends, colleagues and neighbors. We must continue to do what we can to keep one another safer.
A return to in-class learning for K-6 learners
UCLA is also preparing for a staggered return to in-class instruction for students in kindergarten through sixth grade (PDF) at the UCLA Lab School beginning March 3, with strict adherence to state and county requirements. Plans for a return of sixth grade students at the UCLA Geffen Academy are also in the works; and a date for in-class instruction at that location will soon be announced. The Lab School and Geffen Academy communities will receive separate communications about reopening details from their leadership.
Voluntary twice weekly testing for campus employees and students
UCLA continues to provide mandatory weekly COVID-19 testing to its non-Health System employees and students living, learning or working on campus. In response to employee requests for additional availability of testing, UCLA is also welcoming those who wish to be tested a second time in any given week. Just drop by any of the three testing sites for a walk-in test or schedule your second appointment online. Please note, this will not disrupt the weekly invitations for testing or messaging about test results, and you should continue to schedule at least one test each week.
Vaccination distribution expanded to education sector
LACDPH has announced that along with food and agriculture workers, first responders and law enforcement officers, vaccine distribution will be expanded to include those working in education and childcare, including employees at colleges and universities, starting March 1. Students working for UCLA on site are included in this group. In addition, individuals aged 16-64 with underlying medical conditions may become eligible for vaccinations beginning March 15.
While these changes will expand access to the vaccine within our community considerably, additional changes at the state level may impact your ability to receive the vaccine through UCLA Health. We are still working with Blue Shield (the new third party administrator) and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to understand how these changes may impact our ability to prioritize vaccine distribution by groups and social vulnerability index, or to directly invite eligible employees to schedule their vaccine through UCLA Health as planned. Once there is more definitive information, we will let you know. As we have mentioned previously, you should try to receive the vaccine wherever it is first available to you. Visit the CDPH My Turn website to receive a notification when vaccines are available in your area.
It is important to note that the vaccination process is expected to take some time — possibly weeks or months — as distribution remains contingent on the state’s ability to receive sufficient doses of the vaccine in a timely manner, and how those doses are distributed to UCLA Health and other vaccine providers.
COVID-19 information town halls
A COVID-19 vaccine town hall for faculty and staff was held at noon today and is now available to view on demand.
A subsequent town hall meeting for parents and families of UCLA students will be held Thursday, March 4 at 5:30 p.m. Registration is open and this event will be livestreamed to the Parent & Family Association Facebook page.
For general information about vaccines, please visit UCLA Health’s COVID-19 vaccine information hub and for more information pertaining to vaccines at UCLA, please visit UCLA’s COVID-19 resources website. If you have additional questions, concerns or thoughts about UCLA’s COVID-19 response, please write to COVID19@ucla.edu.
We look forward to keeping you updated on campus developments as we all do our part to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Sincerely,
Michael J. Beck
Administrative Vice Chancellor
Co-chair, COVID-19 Response and Recovery Task Force
Michael Meranze
Immediate Past Chair, UCLA Academic Senate
Professor of History
Co-chair, COVID-19 Response and Recovery Task Force

What you've been missing...

Here's something you've missed if you haven't been recently on campus. The question is, what do you say to a robot if you encounter one? One suggestion below, although you might get carried away:

or direct to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5NZXmq-E2tM

The UC Fall Rollout

From the Daily Cal: In a conversation hosted by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), UC President Michael Drake spoke Friday about the priorities and challenges that the University of California will aim to address in the near future. Among other topics, Drake expanded on the reopening of UC campuses in fall 2021, efforts to diversify student and faculty populations and keeping the cost of a UC education affordable for students.

“In the fall of ’21, what exactly that will look like will be determined by the behavior of the country and (COVID-19) over these next few months, but we’re hoping to be able to get classes back together in a modified fashion,” Drake said at the event. Drake said he expects in-person instruction to begin on all UC campuses in fall 2021, given that the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines and case numbers continue their current trends. He also expects to open dorms in a modified capacity this fall...

Full story at https://www.dailycal.org/2021/02/21/uc-president-michael-drake-discusses-university-reopening-affordability/

The PPIC conversation is at:

or direct to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MP28h0fDVb0

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Make it more suitable

Faculty and staff will have received a survey from UCLA today asking various questions about the current coronavirus environment, working from home, plans about going back on campus in fall, etc. 

Just as was the case with a survey that was supposed to be part of the vaccination process for eligible employees, the survey is largely worded for non-faculty employees. There are lots of references to "supervisors," etc., that really don't work for faculty, especially ladder faculty. 

Surely, a separate survey that focused on the faculty would have provided more insight into the current situation and the process needed to go forward. Indeed, there was no question that indicated what kind of department was involved, although there were questions about research. Faculty who depend on laboratory access are going to have different experiences than those who don't. Those in the health-related areas, particularly if they have clinical responsibilities, are going to have a different experience than others. Perhaps a more detailed questionnaire would have been helpful. Perhaps one should be designed.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Everyone seems to be falling in line

From the LA Times: The University of Southern California is planning for a “full return” to campus this fall, with in-person classes and residential life, President Carol L. Folt said in a letter to students Friday... 

USC’s announcement follows others made by California college leaders in recent weeks. University of California President Michael V. Drake said at a Public Policy Institute of California event Thursday that most instruction in the fall would take place in person, with dorm life also resuming, although not at pre-pandemic levels. 

The California State University said in December that it planned to resume a majority of instruction in person this fall...

Full story at https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2021-02-19/usc-announces-plan-for-full-return-to-campus-in-fall-and-a-vaccination-plan

Take the Fall:


Or direct to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-sC_08XQf0c

UCLA Student Said to Be Involved in Jan. 6 Insurrection - Part 2

From the LA Times: In March 2020, UCLA student Matthew Richard went on Twitter and called for the university to investigate and expel fellow undergrad Christian Secor. He posted a thread with 21 recent tweets from the account of Secor, who founded America First Bruins, a far-right student group. “Anyone else cop the Hitler sneakers?” one tweet read. “Can ICE just cough on illegals or something?” read another.

Outrage followed. Students complained to administrators. More than 30,000 people liked a Twitter post by one student who asked, “Ya’ll think UCLA can expel someone for xenophobia and wishing death upon undocumented ppl during a pandemic?”

Secor was arrested Tuesday and charged with federal crimes for his alleged role in the U.S. Capitol riot. But long before he was identified as having sat in the chair Vice President Mike Pence had vacated, the 22-year-old had stirred up tensions over free speech at UCLA. “In our opinion, this was not some random action that occurred,” said Naomi Riley, a senior and president of UCLA’s Undergraduate Students Assn. Council. “Him showing up at the Capitol was not out of the ordinary. It was very in line with what has been going on within that organization.” ...

“UCLA, being a government institution, is bound by the requirements of the 1st Amendment,” said Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino. “One of the benefits of a free society is having the government not censor for the most part what we can hear.” That protection extended to Secor...


Full story at https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2021-02-21/ucla-student-charged-in-capitol-riot-had-stirred-political-tensions-at-ucla

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Where the other half lives


From the Bruin: ...According to U.S. News & World Report, more than half of the UCLA student body lives in housing that’s unaffiliated with the university, which translates to approximately 17,000 out of 32,000 undergraduate Bruins – including commuter students – looking for housing each year...

Full story at https://prime.dailybruin.com/WestwoodLandlords/

Saturday, February 20, 2021

What a difference a month makes (let alone 7). And then there's the recall


Let's consider two factors that should help UC in terms of what it actually gets from the state during the upcoming budget year 2021-22 which starts July 1. First, there is the state budget situation as it stands today. Second, there is the effort to recall Gov. Newsom about which you surely have read.

The Budget

The chart above compares forecasts of general fund revenues for the state for the first 7 months of the current fiscal year made in the governor's January 2021 budget message of a little over a month ago with what has actually been received through January 2021 for this fiscal year (2020-21). Both the Dept. of Finance and the controller say we got more money than forecast to the tune of $10.5 billion. That's a lot. The forecast underlying the January estimates was based on data available to the forecasters in December. So, what you see is above largely a January surprise. And most of that surprise came from the personal income tax, particularly as quarterly estimated payments were made that month. Why did the income tax play such a big part in generating extra funds? It's because that tax depends on more affluent taxpayers including some of the very highest earners. And those folks were not much affected by the pandemic-related economic slump.

If we look back to the forecast made last June when the current budget for California was adopted, the margin of actual vs. forecast is even greater. The controller puts it at over $27 billion! Wow!

You have to believe that with extra revenue comes a more generous legislature and more willingness to put more money into the UC budget.

The Recall

Various groups - mainly linked to the currently-marginalized California Republic Party - have been gathering signatures to recall Gov. Newsom. Could they succeed? If you dump enough money into signature-gathering, you can pretty much get anything on the ballot. Proponents of the recall claim at present to have enough signatures. But you have to have a lot more than enough because typically many signatures turn out to be invalid. So, we'll have to wait and see once petitions are turned in to the secretary of state and analyzed. However, it is possible they will have sufficient signatures. If so, the recall would take place in the fall.

Is Newsom at risk, given the "blue" politics of the state? There are many groups that have grumbles with Newsom based on such things as scandals related to the handing out of unemployment benefits, vaccine distribution, etc., as well as pre-coronavirus issues such as homelessness. Does a Republican candidate have a chance? Republicans have about a fourth of registered voters and they would pick up some independents and a handful of disgruntled Democrats. Note that in the last gubernatorial election with a no-name candidate and with no real budget for a campaign, the no-namer got about 40% of the vote. So a Republican could win even if there are more votes to retain Newsom than the Republican gets. Newsom loses if he gets a vote for retention of less than 50%. So he could get 49.9% and still lose. 

Who would win? The winner is whoever gets more votes than anyone else, not more votes than Newsom. So a Republican could win with a lot less than 49.9% if he/she gets more than anyone else. For that result to occur, what you would need is for Republicans largely to unite around one candidate and for a lot of Democrats to jump into the race and split the remaining vote. So, for Republicans there is a path to the governorship, albeit narrow.

From Newsom's perspective, however, he is out of office even if he is replaced by another Democrat. So, he has every incentive to ensure that he gets a retention vote of 50%+. To do so, he needs to make people happy. From the UC perspective, that means no tuition increase for next year - but one was not on the table anyway. But it also means that, particularly with the greater-than-forecast state revenue, the governor is unlikely to oppose legislative efforts to give UC "more." And with a fall recall, even when the budget is adopted in June, such generosity would still prevail. 

Bottom Line With Gravy

The budget situation alone is a Good Thing from the UC perspective. And the recall is potentially gravy on top of the Good Thing.


Data for the chart are from:

Friday, February 19, 2021

Something else to worry about


From Forbes: It’s called “chegging.” College students everywhere know what it means. “If I run out of time or I’m having problems on homework or an online quiz,” says Matt, a 19-year-old sophomore at Arizona State, “I can chegg it.”

He means he can use Chegg Study, the $14.95-a-month service he buys from Chegg, a tech company whose stock price has more than tripled during the pandemic. It takes him seconds to look up answers in Chegg’s database of 46 million textbook and exam problems and turn them in as his own. In other words, to cheat. (Matt asked that his real name be withheld because he knows he’s violating his school’s honor code.)

Chegg is based in Santa Clara, California, but the heart of its operation is in India, where it employs more than 70,000 experts with advanced math, science, technology and engineering degrees. The experts, who work freelance, are online 24/7, supplying step-by-step answers to questions posted by subscribers (sometimes answered in less than 15 minutes). Chegg offers other services students find useful, including tools to create bibliographies, solve math problems and improve writing. But the main revenue driver, and the reason students subscribe, is Chegg Study. 

“If I don’t want to learn the material,” says a University of Florida sophomore majoring in finance, “I use Chegg to get the answers.” 

“I use Chegg to blatantly cheat,” says a senior at the University of Portland.

Forbes interviewed 52 students who use Chegg Study. Aside from the half dozen students Chegg provided for Forbes to talk to, all but 4 admitted they use the site to cheat. They include undergrads and grad students at 19 colleges, including large and small state schools and prestigious private universities like Columbia, Brown, Duke and NYU Abu Dhabi...

Full story at https://www.forbes.com/sites/susanadams/2021/01/28/this-12-billion-company-is-getting-rich-off-students-cheating-their-way-through-covid/

Thursday, February 18, 2021

California's Wrong Way

Each Thursday, we check in on new weekly claims for unemployment insurance as an index of the direction of the labor market and economy. Through the week ending February 13, California seems to be going the wrong way. Claims have been increasing for the past three weeks. Even if we take the claims level of 4 weeks ago as artificially low, there is at least an index of a stalled economy - probably related to recent lockdown rules. 

At the national level, new claims were also up in the most recent week on a seasonally-adjusted basis and down slightly without adjustment. (Normal seasonal adjustments are suspect in an abnormal situation.) 

Below is the chart we have been updating weekly.


As always, the underlying data for the latest information is at https://www.dol.gov/ui/data.pdf.

(Some of) The Regents Are Back Today

Back in pre-Zoom days.

Another off-cycle meeting of the Regents will take place today. This time, it's the Investments Committee. The committee agenda is below:

INVESTMENTS COMMITTEE

Date: February 18, 2021

Time: 2:00 p.m.

Locations: Teleconference meeting conducted in accordance with Paragraph 3 of Governor Newsom’s Executive Order N-29-20

Agenda – Open Session

Public Comment Period

Action: Approval of the Minutes of the Meeting of September 15, 2020

I1 Discussion: Update on University of California Investment Products – Retirement,

I2 Action: Endowment, and Working Capital Private Credit as an Asset Class and Amendment of Regents Policy 6101: University of California Retirement Plan Investment Policy Statement, Regents Policy 6102: UC General Endowment Pool Investment Policy Statement, and Regents Policy 6111: University of California Retirement Savings Program Defined Contribution Plan, Tax Deferred 403(B) Plan, and 457(B) Deferred Compensation Plan Investment Policy Statement 

The full agenda with attachments is at:

https://regents.universityofcalifornia.edu/regmeet/feb21/invest.pdf

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

UCLA Student Said to Be Involved in Jan. 6 Insurrection

UCLA student from Costa Mesa arrested, suspected of role in Capitol riot

By ERIC LICAS & JONAH VALDEZ | Orange County Register

PUBLISHED: February 16, 2021 at 8:19 p.m. | UPDATED: February 17, 2021 at 9:29 a.m.

Authorities identified one of the protesters who allegedly forced their way into the U.S. Capitol during a fatal riot on Jan. 6 as a UCLA student from Costa Mesa who founded a conservative campus organization; and arrested him Tuesday, Feb. 16.

Federal agents in Orange County took Christian Secor, 22, into custody after searching his Costa Mesa home Tuesday, FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said. He was charged on suspicion of assaulting, resisting or impeding officers; violent entry and remaining on restricted grounds, civil disorder and obstructing an official proceeding in a complaint filed later that day in federal court for the District of Columbia. Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui ordered the defendant held without bail.

Footage and images recorded during the riot at the Capitol show Secor forcing his way past at least three police officers blocking a set of double doors leading into the building while wearing a red hat bearing the slogan “Make America Great Again,” authorities said in an affidavit supporting his arrest. He was also seen standing on the floor of the Senate and sitting in the chair of the congressional body’s Presiding Officer, while carrying a blue flag with the words America First in white writing.

Students at UCLA identified Secor as the founder of America First Bruins, a conservative campus organization, an FBI arrest affidavit said. Other tipsters provided photos of Secor participating at a political rally in Huntington Beach, and said he is a self-described fascist who has called for America to become a “whites-only” nation in social media posts, according the the complaint filed against him.

“Jews will not replace us!” and “nationalism everywhere,” he wrote from  his Twitter account, @fullautonat, in posts that were featured in an article dated April 1, 2020, according  to court documents. Secor is known to go by the alias “Scuffed Elliot Rodger.”

The FBI interviewed five informants, then conducted surveillance on Secor for three days beginning Jan. 25. He was taken into custody once investigators were able to match his description to the man seen in footage recorded during the Jan. 6 insurrection.

It was not immediately known if Secor is represented by an attorney who could comment on the allegations against him...

Full story at https://www.ocregister.com/2021/02/16/ucla-student-from-costa-mesa-arrested-suspected-of-role-in-capitol-riot/

UPDATE: Affidavit at https://beta.documentcloud.org/documents/20485485-1-1

Vaccine Coming (someday)

Some UCLA employees have been getting email notices such as the one above. Exactly when distribution of vaccines is to take place is unspecified.

Simplifying Admissions

Note: UC-EVP Nathan Brostrom is a member of the group that produced the underlying report.* 

From: EdSource: In a development that would be no doubt welcomed by many would-be college students and their parents, California should develop a common application form for admission to all levels of public higher education in California, including the state’s community colleges system. Currently, students must apply to each system separately. The proposal is just one of myriad recommendations issued by a task force convened by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration to come up with what it is calls “a roadmap for higher education after the pandemic.”

The common application outlined in the task force’s “Recovery with Equity” report released Tuesday would replace what it called “the currently overwhelming and Byzantine application and transfer processes.” To do so, the task force said, would require developing an “integrated technology platform” that currently doesn’t exist. The 20-member panel was organized by Lande Ajose, Newsom’s principal advisor on higher education, in consultation with Newsom’s Council for Post-Secondary Education which he established in 2019. The council is made up of the heads of all public education systems in California, labor leaders and others...

Full story at https://edsource.org/2021/california-needs-a-common-application-for-admission-to-its-public-college-and-universities-higher-ed-panel-urges/648931

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*The report is at:

https://www.capostsecondaryforall.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Recovery-with-Equity_2021Feb15.pdf

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Unlocked

From SFGATE: The lockdown order at UC Berkeley was lifted as of midnight on Tuesday ending a 'self-sequester' for residence hall students that initially began on Feb. 1. The order that affected about 2,000 people living in UC Berkeley dorms, permitted students "to leave their room only for medical care, food, mandatory testing and in an emergency," according to the Daily Cal.

The lockdown began due to a January surge on campus that saw  more than 400 people, mostly students, contract coronavirus. But on Monday, students received notice in a bulletin that began: "We are writing today to share some good news: the number of COVID-19 cases within campus residents have continued their downward trend, which means that we can lift the general self-sequester for residential hall students by 11:59 p.m. tonight." ...

Full story at https://www.sfgate.com/news/article/UC-Berkeley-lifts-lockdown-students-can-leave-15953787.php

Watch the Regents Health Services Committee Meeting of Feb. 10

Yes, it happened last week and yours truly, although he downloaded the event, could not go through it until now. Basically, the meeting was largely composed of reports by UC president Drake and others dealing with the coronavirus situation and its effects on UC Health and student health.

There was also a report about a homelessness initiative by UC-San Francisco and about the economic impact of UC Health.

The main decision-making component was an approval of a conflict of interest disclosure and prevention plan for UC Health, after some unfavorable publicity about such matters. Among the prohibitions (with some very limited provisos):

• Gifts from Industry to any UC employee (including faculty), medical staff, workforce member, trainee or student;

• Participation in speakers’ bureaus;

• Ghostwriting activities;

• Travel preceptorships;

• Receipt of pharmaceutical samples;

• Receipt of medical device samples;

• Receipt of free equipment or software; and

• Industry-sponsored Chairs or Fellowships.

You can watch the meeting at the link below:

https://archive.org/details/2-10-2021-regents-health-services-committee

As we have often noted, the Regents "preserve" their recordings for only one year. We preserve them indefinitely.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Group 1B includes university employees


It is now clear that university employees fall into the definition of who is in Group 1B in terms of vaccine priority. See below from the California Dept. of Public Health. Of course, whether coronavirus vaccine is available is another matter.

Phase 1B

Food/Agriculture, Education/Childcare,* and Emergency Services:  5,960,528 Californians

65+: 6,254,300 Californians

========================

*Persons at risk of occupational exposure to SARS-CoV-2 through their work in any role in the following Education and Child Care settings

All formal and informal childcare workers, including day care providers

All staff in colleges, universities, junior colleges, community colleges, and other postsecondary education facilities

All staff in educational support services and administration

All staff in Pre-kindergarten, elementary, middle, and high schools

All staff in technical and trade schools

Any other workers involved in child and/or student care, including school bus drivers and monitors, crosswalk guards, etc. 

Source: https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/COVID-19/VaccineAllocationGuidelines.aspx

Going public


If you subscribe to the paper format version of the LA Times, you will have seen the ad above in yesterday's paper announcing the Heaps settlement. In the ad is a QR (quick response) code - the box on the lower right - which, assuming you have a QR reader on your phone, provides information for claimants.

 Other methods of obtaining the information are also provided.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Our Valentine's Day UCLA-Linked Traditional Post

As we have done in the past, we repost this video:

Or direct to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c0dGRDvmO54

And here's a grammatical tip for the day:

There are only three important points you need to remember:

Capitalize both the V and the D in 'Valentine's Day'.

Make sure you include a possessive apostrophe in 'Valentine's Day'. The day is named for Saint Valentine, so it 'belongs' to him. (Check our guide to apostrophe usage if you're not sure why this matters.) Modern usage generally drops the 'Saint' or 'St.' prefix, though you can throw it in if you like.

The noun 'valentine' (describing the card you send or the individual you're pursuing) doesn't have a capital. So you can ask "Did you get my valentine?" or "Did you get my Valentine's Day card?"

Accuracy isn't always sexy, but it matters.

Source: https://www.lifehacker.com.au/2013/02/how-to-spell-valentines-day-correctly/

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Life in Berkeley Dorms - Part 2

Blog readers will recall that Berkeley dorm students were placed under a severe lockdown recently - not allowing outdoor exercise - due to a coronavirus outbreak.* Some relaxation of the rules is now being reported. From the Mercury-News:

UC Berkeley has reversed a ban on students exercising outdoors that was imposed earlier this week after a rise in coronavirus cases on campus.

About 2,000 students isolated in their dorm rooms will now be allowed to exercise outside again, Cal announced on Friday afternoon. However, students are still under a strict lockdown imposed Feb. 1 that is in effect until Monday. The exercise ban went into effect this week, along with stricter restrictions as the university saw a rise in daily coronavirus cases.

“New positive COVID-19 cases have slowed and as a result we are permitting some limited additional activities for students who are in self-sequester,” read an email sent out to students Friday.

Only those that are not under isolation or quarantine may leave their door rooms to exercise outside during daylight hours, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Student athletes also may now leave to practice as directed and monitored by Cal Athletics...

Full story at https://www.mercurynews.com/2021/02/12/cal-reinstates-outdoor-exercise-to-isolated-dorm-students/

===

*https://uclafacultyassociation.blogspot.com/2021/02/life-in-berkeley-dorms.html

New Stamp


 From Smithsonian Magazine: On the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, Chien-Shiung Wu, a Chinese-born American physicist, will be commemorated with a U.S. Postal Service (USPS) stamp for her significant contributions in nuclear physics during her 40-year career. More specifically, Wu’s experiment on parity violation that had a monumental impact on particle theory and floored physicists at the time, reports Adrian Cho for Science.

Before Wu brought her innovative skills to physics, she pursued graduate studies in physics at the University of California at Berkeley in 1936 under Ernest Orlando Lawrence, a nuclear scientist. Lawrence was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1939 for inventing the cyclotron. After receiving her Ph.D., she became the first woman hired as a faculty member in Princeton University’s physics department, according to the U.S. Embassy in Georgia. She later left Princeton for Columbia University in New York.

In 1956, Tsung-Dao Lee and Chen-Ning Yang, two theorists, wrote a paper proposing that parity may not remain symmetrical in conditions where particles decayed. They recruited Wu to consult on their experimental design, reports Science.

In physics, it was thought that nature did not distinguish left from right, and everything was completely symmetrical. Therefore, it should apply in at a subatomic level as well. This theory is known as parity, reports Jennifer Ouellette for Gizmodo in 2015. For example, if our world had a mirror image, it would be identical.

While this is true in electromagnetic interactions and strong interactions, the 1956 experiment showed that parity conservation was not true when radioactive decay was involved. Decaying particles were not always symmetrical, and left from the right could be distinguished.

Wu and her colleagues discovered parity violation through experiments involving cobalt-60, a radioactive isotope that Wu suggested for use in the experiments, Science reports. Lee and Yang were awarded the Nobel Prize in 1957 for this experiment, also known as the “Wu experiment." Despite the experiment later bearing her name, Wu did not receive the Nobel prize for her contributions to the groundbreaking find.

“It was an incredibly important experiment, and she was an amazing scientist,” says particle physicist Melissa Franklin at Harvard University to Science

Other contributions Wu made to science include aiding the Manhattan project during World War II through experimentation on uranium enrichment and studying molecular changes to hemoglobin related to sickle cell anemia later in her career. Wu received numerous awards and honors throughout her life, including having an asteroid named after her and the National Medal of Science in 1975.

Wu’s postage stamp illustrated in egg tempera paint, features her in a traditional black and white qipao, against a lapis lazuli background, according to the U.S. Postal Service. William Gicker, the director of stamp services at USPS, tells Science that they want to feature more stamps involving scientific figures and hope that this engages the viewer to ask more questions about who they were and the work they contributed to science.

Source: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/us-postage-stamp-will-honor-first-lady-physics-180976979/

Friday, February 12, 2021

$29 Million

We like to take note of donations to UCLA that involve research, teaching, and student support, i.e., more than brick and mortar construction. Read on:

UCLA has received a $29 million gift to establish a center where scientists and physicians will work side by side to examine the role of genetics in disease and develop therapies that improve patients’ lives.

The gift creates the Dr. Allen and Charlotte Ginsburg Center for Precision Genomic Medicine. The new center will build on UCLA’s efforts in precision health to leverage large data sets and innovative genomic technologies such as CRISPR engineering to improve diagnosis and treatment of a wide variety of genetic disorders. They include both rare diseases and more common illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and immune disorders, diseases of the eye and brain disorders such as autism, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s...

Genes carry the biological instructions for life but also can be a source of human disease — alone and in combination with environmental and other factors. The Ginsburg Center will harness massive computing power and human-genome sequencing to better understand genetic factors in disease, identify genetic risks in populations and develop gene therapies and other innovative and individualized treatment strategies...

Allen Ginsburg is a real estate entrepreneur and philanthropist. Charlotte Ginsburg is a performing arts patron and enthusiast...

Full story at https://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/ucla-health-29-million-ginsburg-center-precision-genomic-medicine

The direction is up


From EdSource: Freshman applications to the University of California surged this year, a trend that college access advocates hope will translate into higher enrollments of low-income, Black, Latino and other underrepresented students across the university’s nine undergraduate campuses. The university received 203,700 applications for freshman admission this cycle, about 32,000 more than a year ago. Experts attribute the increases partially to the elimination of the SAT and ACT as an admission requirement, saying more students likely felt optimistic about their chances of being accepted without having to submit a test score. In announcing the massive increase in applicants, UC emphasized that applications were up significantly among Black and Latino students — a welcome sign to critics of standardized tests who point to data showing the exams are biased against those students and have often served as a barrier to them accessing college.

There’s no telling yet, however, whether the increase in applications will lead to a significantly more diverse freshman class this fall. Because freshman applications were also up considerably among white and Asian students, the proportion of Black and Latino students in the applicant pool is similar to last year. The 2020-21 admitted freshman class was the most diverse in the university’s history. For the first time, Latino students in that class made up the largest ethnic group of students, comprising 36% of admitted freshmen. That reflected changing demographics in California: In 2019-20, Latino students made up a majority of high school seniors.

Still, Latino and Black students remain underrepresented across the UC. And even as UC touts its record-breaking number of applications this cycle, there’s one major caveat: The system’s overall enrollment capacity is not increasing to the same degree, so acceptance rates will likely be lower than usual.

...Also of concern to college access experts is that applications are down at the state’s other four-year university system, the 23-campus California State University. The worry is that some students, optimistic about their chances of being admitted to a UC campus, may not be considering CSU campuses. Across the UC, the campuses that saw the biggest spike in applications are those that are traditionally the most selective, such as Berkeley, Los Angeles, Irvine, San Diego and Santa Barbara.

Dale Leaman, executive director of undergraduate admissions at UC Irvine, said he expected the surge in applications when the university decided to go test-free. Some UC campuses initially planned to give fall 2021 applicants the option to submit test scores, instead of requiring them to do so as they have in past years. Then, in the fall, a court ordered that UC campuses could not consider the tests at all this admissions cycle.

...Other factors may also be at play. The pandemic forced the UC campuses to recruit virtually, which may have increased access to some students...

Full story at https://edsource.org/2021/why-the-university-of-california-is-seeing-a-massive-surge-in-freshman-applications/648309

Note: When you look carefully at the article, the percentages of UC applicants from various groups changed only a bit, despite headlines you may have seen. The main change was more of everybody.