Monday, February 28, 2022

Regent Richard Blum Dies

The LA Times has this obituary: Richard Blum, a San Francisco businessman, philanthropist and the husband of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, died late Sunday, the senator’s office announced Monday morning. “My heart is broken today,” Feinstein said in a statement. “My husband was my partner and best friend for more than 40 years. He was by my side for the good times and for the challenges. I am going to miss him terribly.” Blum died at the family home after a long battle with cancer, the senator’s office said. He was 86.

Blum was chairman of equity investment management firm Blum Capital Partners. He also dedicated much of his life to the people of the Himalayas, founding the American Himalayan Foundation in 1981 — something Feinstein described as “one of his proudest achievements."

“As a role model, Dick was second to none, and I think his compassion and devotion to the people of the Himalayan region may prove to be his most enduring legacy,” she said.

Feinstein has represented California in the U.S. Senate since 1992. She and Blum married in 1980 when she was mayor of San Francisco.

“Dick was incredibly devoted to his family, particularly his daughters and his grandchildren, and my heart is with them and everyone who Dick encountered,” Feinstein said. “He was the type of man who really replaced his divot in life, who left things better than he found them. His enormous generosity is an inspiration for so many of us."A longtime friend of the Dalai Lama, Blum was an honorary consul of Nepal, the senator’s office said. He also founded the Blum Center for Developing Economies at UC Berkeley, which is focused on addressing global poverty.

For nearly two decades, Blum served as a member of the University of California Board of Regents and was chairman emeritus of the board...

Full story at

The UCLA Numbers

For UCLA, freshman applications are up in the post-SAT/ACT period. All categories seem to be rising. Note that actual admissions data are not yet available. But they can't rise at a rapid pace which means that the rejection rates are likely to be higher when they become available. (Note that some applicants, even if admitted, will go elsewhere.)

It might be noted that applications for transfers from community colleges are not showing an upward trend. Such applications are not affected by the decision on SAT/ACT.

The complete applicant numbers for all UC campuses are at:

Sunday, February 27, 2022

Finally, into the normal range

We have been tracking new weekly claims in California for unemployment benefits as an index of the labor market and general economy. We seem finally to have arrived back at the normal range, i.e., where we were at this time two years ago before the pandemic. Let us hope we stay there in spite of current events - inflation, the Ukraine invasion - that could lead to another economic upset. It will be interesting to see what the UCLA Anderson Forecast conference participants have to say about the direction of the economy at its March 9th meeting.

As always, the latest claims data are at

On Speaking Officially: An Unofficial Comment

What this isn't.

From time to time, the UC Regents have taken positions on such issues of the day as propositions appearing on the state ballot. It is clear that the Regents, as a quasi-legislative state constitutional body, can represent the official position of the UC system.

From time to time, UCLA's top administrators have taken positions on behalf of the university on particular matters of public concern. A recent example is with regard to the transit line proposed to come through the Sepulveda Pass. UCLA has taken an official position that the line should have a station on campus rather than requiring passengers to switch to a shuttle bus or to other means of transportation to get from the line to campus. This official position of UCLA appeared recently both on the campus "newsroom" website with the headline "UCLA advocates for campus station on Metro’s proposed Sepulveda rail line," and in a letter to LA Metro signed by Michael Beck, Administrative Vice Chancellor:

I think it's safe to say that no one doubts the ability of the Regents to take an official position on a ballot measure or the ability of the Administrative Vice Chancellor to represent the view of UCLA on a transit station. But what about official units of the university?

Yours truly notes this matter because he recently received an email sent out on several official campus emailing lists by two units of UCLA on behalf of those units.* The first line reads:

"The UCLA International Institute and Center for European and Russian Studies (CERS) condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine..." The email is signed by Cindy Fan, Vice Provost, International Institute; Laurie Hart, Director, Center for European and Russian Studies, and Marjorie Orellana, Associate Vice Provost, International Institute. 

I suspect that most readers of the email would agree with the sentiment expressed in that particular statement. But the question is whether official units should be expressing such sentiments as opposed to the individuals connected with those units. When unit of the university says it has a position as a unit, does that mean that every individual connected with that unit agrees? Every faculty member? Every staff member? Every student? It surely seems to imply such a uniform view of everyone connected.

This issue came up before the Regents' January 2022 meetings in public comments with regard to a "Statement of Solidarity with Palestine" that has been posted on the official website of the UCLA Dept. of Asian American Studies since last May. In response, several Regents asked that UC policy on units of the university taking official positions on behalf of the entire unit be put on the agenda of a future Regents meeting.** 

Here is the problem: When departments or units of the university take official positions as departments or units, the effect may be coercive on anyone who might dissent. It may act to repress dissent. Are junior untenured faculty who may have different views likely to object to the views of senior faculty? Are PhD students, who will need recommendations for future jobs from those senior faculty, likely to object? Staff employees? Non-ladder faculty who need to have their contracts of employment renewed regularly? What about individuals who might be thinking of applying for positions as unit faculty or in some other capacity? What about students who may be thinking of enrolling in courses or applying for degree programs? In short, when units of the university make official pronouncements, the effect can be coercive or exclusionary.

Note that what is not at issue is whether individual faculty or others within such units can express views, however controversial, on events of the day in lectures, conferences, publications, op eds, blogs, tweets, etc. Academic freedom protects and encourages expressing such viewpoints. The issue is whether units of a public university, as official units, should make unit-wide pronouncements on issues of the day seeming to imply that everyone affiliated with those unit holds - or should hold - the same opinion.

What are people who click on the websites of units of the university or receive mass emails from units of the university expecting? Presumably, they are looking for such things as faculty biographies, lists of upcoming programs or lectures, information on degree requirements, etc. And when dramatic news events occur, such as the Ukraine invasion, they may well be looking for what Professor X, who has expertise in that subject matter, has to say about such events as an individual

That is the opinion of yours truly as an individual.


*The email was sent out on "" <>, "" <>, and "" <>.

** The Regents' January meetings are at:,, Full disclosure: Yours truly was one of the public commenters.

Saturday, February 26, 2022

That Harvard Case - Part 2

In prior posts, we have followed the progression of the admissions case Harvard (and University of North Carolina) that will be decided by the US Supreme Court and is likely to determine the fate of "affirmative action."*

We have noted that since voters in California imposed - and then recently maintained - Prop 209 which bans affirmative action, UC might appear to be unaffected by the forthcoming decision. However, elements of UC's admissions policies could become an issue in the future. For example, the Regents ended use of the SAT/ACT as part of the admissions policy. Recently, however, a court has ruled that a public high school that discontinued such a test did so for racial reasons, essentially, to reduce the share of Asian American students and increase admissions of other groups. 

From the NY Times: A federal judge on Friday struck down changes that had been made to the admissions process at a magnet school in Virginia that is one of the most prestigious high schools in the country, saying that the new rules left Asian American students “disproportionately deprived of a level playing field.” The school, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, known as T.J., which sits just outside of Washington, D.C., in Fairfax County, Va., had adopted the admissions protocols in late 2020 with the aim of diversifying the student body. The new rules did not mention race but eliminated a standardized testing requirement and specifically guaranteed eligibility to top students at middle schools that had sent few students to T.J. in the past. After the rules went into effect, the percentages of Black and Hispanic students in the incoming class more than tripled, while the number of Asian American students fell from 73 percent to 54 percent, the lowest share in years.

In changing the admissions process, school officials “expressed their desire to remake T.J. admissions because they were dissatisfied with the racial composition of the school,” Judge Claude M. Hilton of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia wrote in his decision. “A means to accomplish their goal of achieving racial balance,” he wrote, “was to decrease enrollment of the only racial group ‘overrepresented’ at T.J. — Asian Americans. The board employed proxies that disproportionately burden Asian American students.” ...

Full story at



Masks, etc., to continue on campus through winter quarter

We noted that earlier this week that LA County had relaxed some of its coronavirus requirements for indoor locations as of yesterday. UCLA's position up to that point was that it was following County rules, even though state rules were less strict. So, it was unclear whether there would be some change in UCLA rules in response to the County's move. A recent announcement indicates no change in winter quarter, but a possible change in spring:

COVID-19 Response and Recovery Task Force

Dear Bruin Community:

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health is set to ease restrictions on indoor masking for fully vaccinated individuals at certain businesses and venues that adopt the appropriate vaccine verification processes beginning tomorrow (Friday, Feb. 25). These changes will not apply to UCLA at this time, and our universal indoor masking protocols will remain in effect until further notice.

COVID-19 case numbers at UCLA have significantly reduced since the peak in January, but the case numbers are still much higher than where we were last summer and fall. For this reason, the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Task Force believes it is prudent to maintain our current protections, including indoor masking for all students, faculty, staff and visitors, regardless of vaccination status. 

The task force continues to monitor conditions and the evolving guidance from LACDPH to determine how to best align state and local orders with what is the best approach for the UCLA community.

We are optimistic that conditions on campus will continue to improve and we will be able to ease the indoor masking requirements and make other changes that will take effect this spring quarter.

Thank you again for your continued cooperation and patience.


Michael J. Beck
Administrative Vice Chancellor
Co-chair, COVID-19 Response and Recovery Task Force

Megan McEvoy
Professor, Institute for Society and Genetics, Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics
Co-chair, COVID-19 Response and Recovery Task Force




Note: An item in the LA Times provides some rationale for the UCLA decision:

Americans are no longer advised to wear masks in public indoor settings in many parts of the country under new federal health guidance unveiled Friday — but the same can’t immediately be said for Los Angeles County. The new guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ease general masking recommendations on a county-by-county basis based on local coronavirus case and hospitalization rates, as well as the share of a region’s inpatient beds that are occupied by COVID-19 patients. Using those metrics, counties are sorted into one of three COVID-19 Community Levels: low, medium or high.

As of Friday, L.A. County officially remains in the high category, the only one for which the CDC continues to recommend universal indoor masking. But L.A. County is on the knife’s edge of leaving the high level and entering the medium category, a transition that could occur as soon as next week...

Full story at

Friday, February 25, 2022

Oppenheimer at UCLA

Oppenheimer reference in Tenet

Hollywood is abuzz about a new movie by Christopher Nolan slated to come out in summer 2023 about J. Robert Oppenheimer, the Berkeley professor who became the research director of the Manhattan Project and developed the atomic bomb.* There have been other books, movies, TV series, even an opera, about Oppenheimer in the past. Apparently, this version is expected to be a blockbuster, filmed for IMAX, with a high-profile star cast. Cillian Murphy will play Oppenheimer, alongside Florence Pugh, Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Robert Downey Jr., and Rami Malek. 

Filming of Oppenheimer is currently taking place at UCLA. Filming is also going on in New Mexico. Nolan's previous film, a sci-fi time-travel action movie entitled "Tenet," included a reference to Oppenheimer as the image above shows.

Although Oppenheimer was a faculty member primarily at Berkeley, so far there has been no filming reported on that campus.

Oppenheimer did speak at UCLA in 1964:

or direct to



It may be hard to remember...

...with all that is going on in the world, but the saga of the Munger monster dorm continues at UC-Santa Barbara:

Munger Dorm: UC Santa Barbara Still Mum on Munger Hall

Community Group Pushes for Information on Alternative Housing Projects If Controversial Plan Fails

By Tyler Hayden, Feb 23, 2022 | Santa Barbara Independent

The war of words is escalating between UC Santa Barbara and a coalition of community groups taking the university to task over its housing shortage and what it called a “far-reaching storm of questions and criticisms” over the proposed Munger Hall project.

In a January 10 letter, SUN (Sustainable University Now) attorney Marc Chytilo repeats a demand for information from UCSB about its legally binding pledge to the organization to provide 5,000 new student beds and 1,800 units for faculty and staff. Chytilo asks for “a detailed description of the planning, permitting, development, and completion of construction” of any new developments as well as “a timeline for performance with specific milestones and guarantees.” He notes the letter is SUN’s fourth formal request for information since 2019 and that the City of Goleta recently filed a lawsuit against UCSB over its chronic housing shortage.

With respect to the controversial Munger Hall plan, which calls for 4,500 undergraduates to be housed in a single massive building with few windows for individual units, Chytilo said SUN wants to know the interim milestones (draft EIR release, project approval, California Coastal Commission review, etc.) that must be met for the dormitory to open in fall 2025 as planned. Also, if any specific restrictions exist on the $200 million in funding offered by billionaire financier Charlie Munger; where the remaining funds will come from to complete the estimated $1.5 billion endeavor; and if potential changes requested by the Coastal Commission would affect the project’s overall viability. In short, Chytilo wonders, if Munger Hall goes down, what is UCSB’s plan B for new housing?

In her response, UCSB attorney Nancy Greenan Hamill never addresses Munger Hall directly, only stating, “Plans are well underway for the addition of 4,500 additional student beds by Fall, 2025.” She notes UCSB has added 1,500 student beds since it signed its Long Range Development Plan agreement with SUN in 2010, and that the university is “continually addressing student housing need in a variety of ways.”

“You should also be aware,” Hamill continues, “that some of our housing problems can be attributed to the failure of an elevator in one of the on-campus dormitories,” which pulled 180 beds out of circulation “The elevator replacement part should be delivered and the repair complete by early Spring, which will free up an additional 180 beds for students,” she explains. 


Another CalPERS Scandal Coming at the Wrong Time

From the Sacramento Bee: Retired police officer Steve Landi complained to the California Public Employees’ Retirement System back in 2016 that his police chief was working full-time earning thousands a month while illegally collecting retirement benefits. A CalPERS audit team finally arrived in May 2021. Last month, it said that, sure enough, Landi’s boss, Broodmoor Police Chief David Parenti was one of three police chiefs and a top commander in the department that defrauded the pension system for a decade, together collecting as much as $2 million. It was one of the largest abuses of retirement benefits in years — so egregious that the local district attorney is considering criminal charges.

It also raises a question for Landi as well as Parenti’s two successors: Why did it take CalPERS so long to figure it out and take action? “They were lining their pockets for years,” said Landi, who joined the department in 2015 after retiring from the San Francisco Police Department. “It’s corruption at its finest.” 

CalPERS is a retirement system like no other in the U.S. It covers state employees but also the workers at some 3,000 municipalities, school districts, authorities and other governmental entities. More than 650,000 retirees and another 1 million or so current employees are covered by CalPERS. 


Broadmoor was under scrutiny by CalPERS for failing to enroll some officers in the pension fund at the time, but not for the chief’s double dipping. That suggests to former insiders such as J.J. Jelinic that the CalPERS division that monitors employee enrollment issues has little coordination with another unit assigned to examine double-dipping and other violations of state retirement law. “The right hand doesn’t know know what the left is doing,” said Jelinic, a former CalPERS investment staffer and board member...

Full story at:

You could ask what relevance this CalPERS scandal has to UC, which is not part of CalPERS and which has its own separate pension system. The problem is that CalPERS - which has a propensity for bad management and scandals - tends to tar public pension systems, including UC's, more generally. Recent adverse moves in the stock market suggest that all pension plans will be showing poor results unless the market quickly recovers. Issues of pension finance and unfunded liabilities will come to the fore again. UC tends to be caught up in the political problems of CalPERS (and CalSTRS), even though it is totally separate and doesn't have a history of scandals and bad management. That's the relevance.

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Remember the One-Day Shutdown? Update

Ex-UCLA lecturer accused of making threats pleads not guilty

By Colleen Slevin, 2-23-22, AP

A former lecturer at the University of California, Los Angeles, pleaded not guilty in Denver on Wednesday to allegations that he sent emails and posted videos threatening violence against the school. One of Matthew Harris’ lawyers, Ed Robinson, entered the plea during a brief hearing in federal court a day after a grand jury indicted Harris for the alleged threats, as well as weapons violations. Harris, who was arrested in Colorado, sat at a table with his two lawyers wearing a surgical mask and jail uniform but was not asked to speak. Harris’ lawyers did not argue against prosecutors’ request that he continue to be held behind bars.

Harris, 31, is accused of sending emails with an 800-page document and links to videos to people at UCLA. On Feb. 1, UCLA canceled classroom instruction as a precaution and Harris was arrested in Boulder, Colorado, where he had been living in an apartment across the street from the University of Colorado. The indictment alleges Harris also lied about never having been committed to a mental institution to try to buy a handgun and possess ammunition. According to court documents, Harris’ mother told authorities he was diagnosed with schizophrenia last year and she had him involuntarily committed to a psychiatric institution after he allegedly threatened her in April. Both of Harris’ new private attorneys, Robinson and Nancy Kardon, said they could not comment on the allegations so early in the case...

Full story at

Too Many at Berkeley? - Part 4

The Regents recently held a closed session on the court decision capping enrollment at UC-Berkeley:


Date: February 22, 2022

Time: 12:00 p.m.

Location: Teleconference meeting conducted in accordance with California Government Code §§ 11133

Agenda – Closed Session

B1(X) Discussion Litigation Update – Save Berkeley’s Neighborhoods v. Regents (California Environmental Quality Act)

Closed Session Statute Citation: Litigation [Education Code §92032(b)(5)] 



Since it was closed, that's all we know.

UCLA Needs to Clarify the Meaning of the Lesser Headline

No, the Ukraine situation is not something UCLA can do much about. However, the headline on the left indicates that LA County has moved - as of tomorrow - to dropping the mask mandate for indoor venues so long as vaccination and testing is required.*

In fact, UCLA does require vaccination and testing. So, what is the status of indoor events - such as classes that are currently in week 8 of the ten-week quarter? Are we going to continue to follow current protocols to the end of the winter quarter or make some change?

If you go to the UCLA website on such matters, the most recent announcement is dated February 11 and says the following:

...We want to share that California Gov. Newsom’s recent announcement regarding the state mandate to lift indoor masking requirements for fully vaccinated individuals beginning Feb. 16 does not apply to L.A. County, and in turn does not apply to UCLA.

Counties are authorized to keep stricter guidelines in place, if desired, and the L.A. County Department of Public Health (LACDPH) has opted to do so. UCLA cannot be less restrictive than LACDPH and therefore will continue with its universal indoor mask requirement until further notice...

Full notice at

The notice implies that we will not follow the statewide policy because LA County's policy is more restrictive. That situation appears to have changed, but there is no update on the campus website (as of 6:45 AM, Feb. 24).


*From the LA Times: Fully vaccinated individuals will soon be able to shed their masks indoors at Los Angeles County establishments that screen the inoculation status of visitors and patrons, health officials said Wednesday. While not a complete easing, the revised rules — which take effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday — represent a significant relaxation of the county’s universal indoor mask mandate, which has been in place since July. And depending on how many businesses elect to take advantage, the impact could be both widespread and widely apparent, especially in places like offices, gyms, restaurants, bars and hair salons...

Full story at


As we noted in a prior post, Berkeley has already moved:

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Another UC?

With all of the attention being paid to the litigation over capping UC-Berkeley enrollment, and the pressure to expand enrollment from the legislature more generally, there comes a proposal from LAist for developing yet another UC campus.* The article ostensibly includes CSU as well as UC in its discussion. But the focus is really on UC, complete with possible locations for new UC campuses:

UC-Santa Clarita. UC-Anaheim. UC-Palm Springs, UC-East LA, UC-Chula Vista, etc.

Exactly how such campuses would be paid for is not discussed, nor is the question of whether such campuses would be seen as carrying the UC brand level of prestige. Note that the legislative focus is entirely on undergraduate admissions, but what gives universities prestige is research and graduate education. 


Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Watch the Regents Special Committee on Innovation Transfer & Entrepreneurship: 2-17-2022

We are again catching up with an off-cycle meeting of the Regents, this time the Special Committee on Innovation Transfer & Entrepreneurship: 2-17-2022. There were no public comments at this session, probably because the Health Services Committee, which often meets off-cycle, had its public comments the day before. The Special Committee is focused on commercialization of intellectual property generated at UC. 

There was much discussion of the existing patent tracking system which is being devolved to the campus level. And much discussion of complicated legal and financial arrangements for having UC "participate" in an equity sense in start-up companies' use of UC intellectual property. It seems to be assumed that it is better for UC to participate rather than simply cash out valuable IT. It might be useful to have some articulate why it is better as a general rule. Obviously, you can always tell success stories. But presumably there are failures, too. There were some hints in the discussion that start-ups generally don't have the cash, or access to the cash, to buy IT but can offer participation. Still, it wouldn't hurt to look at this issue more critically.

You can see the meeting at

Monday, February 21, 2022

UCLA's Congressional Rep's Views May Disturb Campus Medical Researchers

Congressional Representative Ted Lieu, whose district includes UCLA, recently announced views that may disturb medical researchers on campus:


February 15, 2022 Press Release

WASHINGTON - Last week, Congressman Ted W. Lieu (D-Los Angeles County) and Congresswoman Nancy Mace (R-SC) led a bipartisan group of lawmakers in calling for the National Institutes of Health to discontinue animal experiments and find alternatives to animal testing. Congressman Lieu and the seven other Members asked the NIH to conduct a systematic review of animal-based research to determine other humane ways to conduct vital research.

In the letter, the Members write:

Dear Dr. Tabak,

Thank you for your service to our nation’s health. As Members of Congress, we are concerned the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is placing undue priority on funding experiments on animals that have failed to lead to treatments, vaccines, and cures for human diseases. NIH’s own startling statistic shows that 95% of new drugs fail in human trials and 90% of basic research, much of it involving animal models, fails to lead to human therapies. Moreover, in certain areas of research, the failure rates for new drugs are even higher: Alzheimer’s disease (99.6%), sepsis (100%), and stroke (100%).

On September 16, in a monumental move for scientific research, motivated largely by the scientific failings of animal models, the European Parliament passed a resolution calling on the European Commission to create an action plan to end all experiments on animals. The resolution was proposed by members of Parliament (MEPs) who reviewed PETA’s Research Modernization Deal and calls for accelerating scientific innovation without the use of animals in research, regulatory testing, and education. The MEPs have directed the European Commission to work with scientists, including scientists from animal protection organizations, to accomplish this. Currently, the U.S. and NIH have no such action plan.

The lack of a firm commitment to modernizing research puts the U.S. at risk of losing its role as the world leader in biomedical research and deflects funding from research that could address and alleviate some of the world’s most deadly diseases.

We ask that you direct the NIH to begin to address these issues by immediately taking the following actions:

Cease funding of new projects involving animals for areas of disease research where there is ample evidence of poor translation from animal models to humans.

Conduct thorough systematic scientific reviews of the utility of animal-based research in all remaining disease and research areas in order to identify additional areas in which the use of animals can be immediately ended.

Prioritize funding for research that uses non-animal, human-relevant research methods, including preventative and interventional research involving human participants.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.


Watch the Regents' Health Services Committee Meeting of Feb. 16, 2022

We are catching up with the Regents' Health Services Committee which had an off-cycle meeting last Wednesday. The public comment period consisted of anti-vaccine and anti-abortion remarks. UC president Drake then spoke about the pandemic and other matters. EVP Carrie Byington also spoke about the pandemic. In answer to a question she said she expected that booster shots would be annual, not more frequently. Whether UC campuses will require such boosters was not discussed.

UC-Irvine's health center was reviewed and the discussion then turned to student counseling. Delays in appointments were part of the discussion. It was said that the speed of appointments is determined by a triage method whereby more serious cases such as potential suicides are given priority.

As always, we preserve the recordings of meetings indefinitely since the Regents - for no apparent reason - delete them after one year. You can see this meeting at:

Sunday, February 20, 2022

Still Half Way There

We have been tracking weekly new claims for unemployment benefits in California as an index of the labor market and general economy. For a long time, we were stuck at around 60,000 when 40,000 would be more like normal. We seem now (as of the end of the week ending Feb. 12) to be about half way towards normal, about the same as last week. California still has a higher-than-average unemployment rate. 

As always, the weekly data are at

Top Donations of 2021

From time to time, we like to acknowledge gift to UCLA that don't involve major construction projects, but rather support research, teaching, students, and other activities. The LA Business Journal has a listing in the Feb. 14 issue of the top philanthropic donations in LA County of at least $1 million including to UCLA. The UCLA gifts, some of which we have noted in prior postings, are:

  • $29 million from Allen and Charlotte Ginsburg to establish a center for precision genomic medicine.
  • $5.15 million the the UCLA Hammer Museum from Jarl and Pamela Mohn to support an award and Made in LA exhibitions to support acquisitions of works by emerging and underrecognized artists.
  • $2 million from Irla Zimmerman Oetzel to support the Darling Biomedical Library.
  • $1.45 million from Raphael Montañez Ortiz for an endowed fund at the Chicano Studies Center to support research and other activities.
  • $1 million from Timothy and Jill Harmon to support former foster care students.

Saturday, February 19, 2022

Too Many at Berkeley? - Part 3

In a previous post we ventured a "wild guess" that the blocking of enrollment expansion at UC-Berkeley wasn't going to happen.* Here is a step in that direction:

Governor Newsom Files Amicus Brief in UC Berkeley Enrollment Case, Arguing for College Access and Affordability

Builds on the Governor’s unprecedented investments in higher education and actions to create more pathways for success

News release: Feb. 18, 2022

SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom today filed an amicus brief in Save Berkeley’s Neighborhoods v. Regents of the University of California, a case before the California Supreme Court that involves issues of college access and affordability, the state’s housing affordability crisis, and creating new pathways to success for Californians. The brief argues that the Supreme Court should block a lower court’s order capping enrollment while the ruling is under appeal because the order would undermine critical priorities of the state. Most notably, the order would force UC Berkeley to shut the door on over 3,000 potential college freshmen and transfer students — 1 out of every 3 undergraduate students who would have otherwise enrolled — disproportionately impacting students from disadvantaged or underrepresented backgrounds.

“We can’t let a lawsuit get in the way of the education and dreams of thousands of students who are our future leaders and innovators,” said Governor Newsom. “I urge the Supreme Court to step in to ensure we are expanding access to higher education and opportunity, not blocking it.”

The state, consistent with the Governor’s budget priorities, has made historic investments in higher education, including a total of $47.1 billion in the last enacted budget. Expanding college access is the keystone of the higher education vision, with the state supporting expanded enrollment of nearly 5,000 full-time equivalent students within the UC System and nearly 10,000 full-time equivalent students within the California State University System in the 2019-20 budget.

The Governor’s California Blueprint proposal builds upon these priorities by expanding access to education at all levels, with a focus on expanding enrollment for in-state residents and community-college transfers at the UC System, including UC Berkeley. The proposed expansion of access to California’s world-class higher education system includes the following:

For the UC System, beginning in 2023-24 and through 2026-27, increasing California resident undergraduate enrollment by more than 7,000, with a significant portion of the new enrollment growth occurring at UC Berkeley, UC Los Angeles, and UC San Diego – tracking demand from prospective students and families.

For the California State University System, beginning in 2023-24 and through 2026-27, increasing California resident undergraduate enrollment by more than 14,000.

In turn, both systems have committed – in exchange for historic investments – to close equity gaps in graduation, expand access for transfer students, create debt-free pathways, and increase by 25 percent the number of graduates entering into careers in climate action, health care, education, and technology.




Friday, February 18, 2022

The Good News is that a deal was reached. The Bad News...

Hybrids are tough to do that it's hard to produce a true hybrid. One faculty member alone in a classroom really can't do it without a lot of assistance. 

Student leaders suspend sit-in, reach agreement with UCLA administrators

By Kalani Seymore, Feb. 17, 2022, Daily Bruin

Students’ 16-day sit-in is now over. Student leaders decided Wednesday morning to suspend their 16-day sit-in at Murphy Hall after reaching an agreement with UCLA administrators regarding their demands for increased accessibility and education equity. The protestors had planned to occupy the hallway in front of Chancellor Gene Block’s office until the administration agreed to expand hybrid learning options for all classes and accommodate students with disabilities and immunocompromised students. Student representatives from the Disabled Student Union, Mother Organizations coalition and the Undergraduate Students Association Council reached the deal with UCLA Wednesday morning, said Samone Anderson, the Afrikan Student Union chairperson.

On Saturday, Block and Monroe Gorden Jr., the vice chancellor of student affairs, agreed to write a joint letter in support of hybrid education that will be sent to UCLA faculty with resources to provide online options, said Christopher Ikonomou, a DSU member and third-year communication student...

Full story at

Most classrooms are not equipped with cameras, adequate microphones, etc. You would really need a TA looking after the "broadcast" side of the class to coordinate it with the in-person component. There would need to be one and probably more cameras and microphones installed in each classroom and a tech operator. Of course, it has long been possible to do something like the 1950s TV Sunrise Semester as below, but that is not the hybrid that folks have in mind:

Or direct to:

Unintended Consequences of Delayed Dropping

Note the item below with some commentary thereafter:

From the Bruin: Faculty and student leaders expressed optimism after UCLA announced that students can drop classes until week nine without fee or transcript notation. The new policy in place for the winter quarter allows students to drop both impacted and nonimpacted classes much later into the quarter than previously allowed.

The policy was previously in effect for the spring 2020 quarter. Impacted classes are courses that do not have enough seats available to meet student demand. In the past, students were unable to drop an impacted class after Friday of week two unless there were extenuating circumstances, according to the UCLA registrar. Corey Hollis, the assistant dean of undergraduate academic support, said in an emailed statement that the change in the deadline to drop a class is temporary to accommodate extraordinary and unforeseen circumstances...

Full article at

Editorial Comment: Things that were done as temporary accommodations to the pandemic have a habit of sticking around thereafter. Consider, for example, the "temporary" dropping of the SAT/ACT that is now permanent. Students may be registered for courses that they have ceased to attend. They can even be registered for courses that they never attend. Scholarships, probation requirements, etc., may involve taking a minimum course load. If there is no need to drop, the date at which someone in authority notices that a problem has occurred is postponed - in this case until very late in the quarter. No intervention will occur in such circumstances to deal with whatever the problem is until it may be too late. In short, the temptation to postpone the inevitable can lead to adverse consequences for the student.

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Berkeley First?

Not everyone wants to take it off.
UC Berkeley to Drop Mask Mandate in Most Indoor Settings

By Stephanie Magallon, February 12, 2022 

NBC-4 Bay Area

UC Berkeley may be setting a precedent for schools across the state. The university recently announced that they will be following the state and the city of Berkeley in dropping masks in most indoor settings after Feb. 27. “Awesome. I can’t wait for it, the masks have been destroying my social life,” said UC Berkeley student Jay Liu.

The university said that starting Feb. 28th, fully vaccinated and boosted faculty and students can drop their masks in most indoor settings. But some UC Berkeley students said they are concerned and think it’s too soon. “Now that they are lowering the mask mandate and not providing online accommodations, it really is a slap in the face to everyone,” said UC Berkeley student Laura Nguyen.

Health experts like Dr. Monica Gandhi of UCSF said that she supports the move. She told NBC Bay Area Saturday that the Bay Area has higher vaccination rates, more immunity after the omicron surge and now, we have therapeutics. “There’s just lots going on in the world where adults are starting to have normal lives in this country and yet college students are less at risk than any other group and they are vaccinated so it really does make sense for this group for colleges to stop their restrictions,” she said.

Other experts like Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, also of UCSF said that if everyone is vaccinated, then it’s OK to not have mandates, but that doesn't mean we shouldn’t wear masks. “Critically those who are immune compromised or if they live off-campus and they live with elderly relatives or they are unboosted, they may want to take it really carefully and wear masks,” he said.


Note that UCLA is likely to follow LA County guidelines. At present, LA County is talking about dropping the mandate in late March or April. So, it seems likely that UCLA will go through the winter quarter masked, but that the spring quarter may be different.

An Advantage to the Provider of the UC Advantage?

A few years back, UC introduced a Medicare Advantage plan for retirees and emeriti. Medicare Advantage plans involve reassigning one's Medicare account from federal Medicare to a private carrier. Medicare then pays a risk-adjusted premium to the carrier which handles the administration of the benefits. The benefits are supposed to be equivalent to traditional Medicare, but privately administered. Private carriers have been actively seeking Medicare Advantage customers. Well over 40% of those folks eligible for Medicare now in fact have Medicare Advantage plans.*

Originally, UCOP appeared to want to replace its retiree/emeriti health plans with a Medicare Advantage alternative to save money. Eventually, after protests, it made Medicare Advantage - offered by United Healthcare - one option among the plans offered. However, it was the cheapest plan, even cheaper than Kaiser. This feature made it attractive to those eligible. It also cut the Regents' contribution to retiree/emeriti health because their payment is based on the lowest cost option.

There have been concerns that Medicare is overpaying Medicare Advantage carriers and that at some point Congress will step in and the costs to customers will go up. Whether Congress, given its current dysfunction, will take action anytime soon is unclear at best. 

In the meantime, yours truly noticed the ad shown above that appeared in yesterday's LA Times. It appears, based on the ad, that what is being offered to UC's Medicare-eligible population is now to be offered to the general public, at least in the Los Angeles area. Whether United Healthcare's ability to offer its advertised plan was partly a product of its earlier arrangement with UCOP is unknown. But it may be that offering Medicare Advantage to UC's eligible retirees/emeriti had spillover benefits to the carrier.


*Advocates of single-payer health insurance - by which they mean a government-run insurance organization - sometimes refer to the idea as "Medicare for All." They don't seem to realize that Medicare is in fact being rapidly privatized. But that is another story. See:

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Too Many at Berkeley? - Part 2 (Wild Guess)

Let me make a wild guess that this is not going to happen:

From the Sacramento BeeThousands of prospective UC Berkeley students were told that they might not get to attend the university in the coming academic year, following a court decision ordering the university to maintain enrollment at 2020-21 levels. The university announced Monday that it has been forced to reduce enrollment by 3,050 students, meaning it must rescind at least 5,100 admission offers — resulting in the loss of at least $57 million in tuition money for UC Berkeley...

Full story at

$21 Million

From time to time, we like to highlight large gifts to UCLA that don't involve building structures, but which support research, teaching, and student support. So, consider this:

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative has committed to donating $21 million to the UCLA Institute for Carbon Management to support the institute’s mission of developing new carbon removal technologies designed to combat climate change. Over the next three years, the gift will enable the institute to further develop promising technologies for carbon removal, bringing them from the lab to the field, and to test and validate the technologies at scale in real-world settings.  

“The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s generous investment, coupled with Bruin innovation, will allow the revolutionary technologies being developed at the Institute for Carbon Management to become more accessible, affordable and sustainable for communities,” said UCLA Chancellor Gene Block. “This gift will help us build on the outstanding research, ingenuity and activism of UCLA students and faculty to strengthen our position as a leader when it comes to carbon management and the fight against climate change.”

Founded in 2018 at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering, the Institute for Carbon Management focuses on developing technologies to reduce carbon emissions and accelerate their commercialization. The institute’s director is Gaurav Sant, a professor of civil and environmental engineering, and of materials science and engineering. In April 2021, UCLA CarbonBuilt, a team led by Sant, became the first university team in the world to win an XPRIZE, earning a $7.5 million grand prize in the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE global competition. Sant and his colleagues were honored for a UCLA-developed technology that turns carbon emissions into concrete...

Full release at

Too Many at UCLA?

We recently posted about UC-Berkeley's problem with litigation by a local neighborhood group that opposes upping the enrollment. A court decision has effectively capped new admissions.* Suffice it to say, that the upping of admissions that Berkeley was planning results from pressure by the legislature - and thus from the Regents - to increase enrollment at UC. The litigation is a symptom of that pressure.

So, are there symptoms at UCLA that suggest overcrowding? The Bruin recently updated an article about the priority arrangements for course registration, and changes in those procedures that are apparently in the mill to make them more fair, or effective, or something.** The elaborate procedures in place at UCLA determining when students with certain characteristics can register for courses - who goes first, second, etc. - is in fact a symptom. You can diddle with rationing systems. But at the end of the day, you are rationing only because demand is greater than supply. And that condition is exacerbated when you up enrollment (and thus demand) without sufficiently raising supply.




Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Postscript to Our Valentine's Day Posting

If you are wondering about the backstory to the Valentine's Day video posted yesterday,* here it is:

Months of planning culminate in flash-mob proposal for alumni Nam Tran, Trang Vu

By Kassy Cho, Oct. 5, 2011, Daily Bruin

Five minutes before his wedding proposal, UCLA alumnus Nam Tran worried that his plan would fall apart. His fiancee and fellow alumna Trang Vu, whom he had lured to UCLA on Sept. 24 to propose, suddenly disappeared, jeopardizing months of planning on Tran’s part. He found her just in time in Ackerman Student Union, looking at basketball jerseys. They left Ackerman to the sight of a flash mob of about 200 people, singing and dancing to one of the couple’s favorite songs, Frankie Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.” Many of the couple’s family and friends participated in the flash mob, including Vu’s high school and college friends, Tran said.

There were also around 100 more volunteer flash-mobbers who signed up through Flash Mob America. And there was Vu’s dad. “It was so funny seeing my dad trying to dance … in front of 200 people,” Vu said. “I just couldn’t stop laughing.” The video of the flash-mob proposal has since gone viral on YouTube, with more than 1 million views. The couple did not expect the video to gain as much attention as it did; they have yet to set a date for the wedding, Tran said. 

Tran met Vu in 2003 in Ackerman 2412, when Vu attended a workshop on theater fundamentals taught by Tran. The two became friends but didn’t start dating until 2007. Tran said he wanted to propose to Vu for more than a year. He said he began planning the now-famous flash mob about five months ago. “We both like musicals and dancing, so I thought a flash mob fit really well,” Tran said.

Tran contacted Flash Mob America about his idea. The company, which has coordinated flash mobs for many corporations and TV shows, including “Modern Family” and “The Bachelor,” agreed to work with his budget after hearing his story. Flash Mob America then sent an instructional video to all friends and family members who had registered, Tran said. After that, it was just a matter of mobilizing them. The flash-mobbers attended a rehearsal the day of the proposal to learn the formation before showing up at UCLA, Tran said.

The hardest part of the planning was keeping it secret from Vu. When her son explained his intentions to her, Tran’s mother, Trang Tran, couldn’t believe what he was thinking. “I thought (a) proposal was just for the couple,” Trang Tran said. “But that’s how he is. He likes to involve family and friends in his happiness.”

As the song drew to a close, Tran got down on one knee and proposed to Vu. “It was about four or five months of planning just culminating into that one moment,” he said.




Too Many at Berkeley?

UC Berkeley may be forced by court to cut 3,000 undergraduate seats, freeze enrollment

Teresa Watanabe, 2-14-22, LA Times

UC Berkeley, one of the nation’s most highly sought after campuses, may be forced to slash its incoming fall 2022 class by one-third, or 3,050 seats, and forgo $57 million in lost tuition under a recent court order to freeze enrollment, the university announced Monday. The university’s projected reduction in freshmen and transfer students came in response to a ruling last August by an Alameda County Superior Court judge who ordered an enrollment freeze and upheld a Berkeley neighborhood group’s lawsuit that challenged the environmental impact of the university’s expansion plan. 

Many neighbors are upset by the impact of enrollment growth on traffic, noise, housing prices and the natural environment. The University of California Board of Regents appealed the ruling and asked that the order to freeze enrollment be stayed while the appellate process proceeds. Last week, an appellate court denied that request. The regents on Monday appealed that judgment to the California Supreme Court...

The campus said the loss of $57 million in tuition revenue would reduce available financial aid, squeeze campus operations and possibly limit class offerings.

Phil Bokovoy, president of Save Berkeley’s Neighborhoods, which filed the lawsuit, blamed the crisis on the university, saying the campus has failed to build enough housing to accommodate its growing student population. He added that UC Berkeley could manage the court-ordered enrollment freeze without hurting California students by reducing admission offers to international and out-of-state students...

Meanwhile, demand for UC seats continues to rise. As more California high school students meet UC eligibility requirements and barriers to entry fall, such as UC’s 2020 elimination of SAT and ACT scores for admission, UC applications are skyrocketing. The record-shattering applications for fall 2021, however, led to major heartbreak in the spring, when campuses sent out acceptance letters: Although the UC admitted 132,353 freshman applicants, an 11% increase over the previous year, more than 71,000 were denied admission, including nearly 44,000 Californians. Admission rates fell at seven of the nine undergraduate campuses — dropping at UCLA to 9.9% for California freshmen applicants.

And future trends look bleak. The number of students who meet UC and California State University admission requirements but can’t enroll in a four-year institution because of a shortfall of seats could nearly double from about 73,000 students in 2018-19 to 144,000 by 2030, according to a study by the College Futures Foundation...

UC Berkeley’s announcement came during an Assembly budget hearing on higher education Monday featuring UC President Michael V. Drake, along with California State University Chancellor Joseph I. Castro and California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley. Drake told committee members that slashing the incoming class would have a “devastating impact” on the 3,000 students who would otherwise be admitted and continue to hobble the university going forward by reducing available funds for classes and other campus services.

In its appeal, UC asked the state high court to stay the order to freeze enrollment by 5 p.m. Friday because the campus is now assessing 150,000 first-year applicants and is scheduled to release most admission offers March 24. The enrollment cap will impose “immediate, significant, and burdensome changes to the UC Berkeley admissions process that could only be achieved at this point by delaying sending acceptance letters,” UC said. The university added that low-income, under-represented students would be disproportionately affected by a delay because they would have less time to obtain adequate financial assistance counseling in time for the May 1 commitment deadline.

Full story at