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Sunday, December 17, 2017

Waiting for leaks

John Myers writes a column in the LA Times about the behind-the-scenes, last-minute budget negotiations that go on around this time of year in Sacramento:

Few outside of Sacramento realize that some of the most important state budget decisions happen just before Christmas, in private meetings where the governor signs off on the spending plan he will present to the Legislature in early January...*

Sometimes - not always - bits and pieces of the state budget are leaked out, perhaps intentionally to see the reaction - or just leaked.

In any case, there is more money around currently than was forecast last June when the current budget was adopted. Whether UC will benefit from that circumstance is uncertain. But to the extent anything leaks, we'll try to keep on top.
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*http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-ca-road-map-california-budget-timing-20171217-story.html

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Pattiz may quit

The University of California regent who was recorded last year asking an actress at his podcast company if he could hold her breasts said Friday he’s considering resigning amid calls for him to step down from the powerful panel.

But Regent Norman Pattiz told The Chronicle that if does resign, it won’t be because of demands that he do so.

“Had this (recording) not come up, I might have considered retirement more than I’m considering it now,” Pattiz said, noting that he’ll be 75 next month and has been a regent for 16 years. “I certainly don’t like the idea of retiring under a cloud.”

Pattiz, who has apologized for his remarks and said they were meant as a joke, said he hasn’t yet decided whether to step down.
“I haven’t made that determination,” said Pattiz. “If I become a distraction, I don’t want that. I care too much about the university. Time will tell if I’m going to be a continuing distraction.”

Now, as the UC student government and student protesters demand that Pattiz resign, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and two other regents are raising questions about whether the Board of Regents has dealt too lightly with their colleague while cracking down on sexual harassment elsewhere in the university. In addition, a UC labor union has proposed a Constitutional amendment to give the state Legislature authority to remove a regent...

Full story at http://www.sfchronicle.com/news/article/UC-regent-who-asked-to-hold-actress-s-breasts-12435049.php

The Numbers

We posted recently about applications to UCLA and Irvine. Above is the full listing. More info on applications can be found at http://www.ucop.edu/institutional-research-academic-planning/content-analysis/ug-admissions/student-workforce-pages/2018-applications.html.

Friday, December 15, 2017

UCLA Also Brags About Setting Records

A previous post today noted that Irvine was bragging about setting records in applications. UCLA does it, too:

UCLA has shattered its own record as the nation’s most popular college choice for high school seniors, attracting more than 113,000 freshman applications for fall 2018, according to preliminary data released Thursday. Applications to the Westwood campus soared among California high school students and across all racial and ethnic groups. UCLA again led the University of California’s nine undergraduate campuses, which collectively received more than 181,000 freshman applications — a 5.7% increase over last year...

Full story at http://www.latimes.com/local/education/higher-ed/la-me-edu-ucla-applicants-20171214-story.html

Fires? Droughts? Earthquakes?

Don't complain about California. Yours truly is in Cambridge, MA at the moment:

Change of heart at Irvine

Remember last year's un-enrollment scandal at UC-Irvine in which admitted students were un-enrolled on technicalities? It led to apologies, regental action, etc.

Now it seems that Irvine is anxious to brag about record applications:

The number of applications from both incoming freshmen and transfer students vying to be part of the fall 2018 class at the University of California, Irvine totaled 116,192 — a campus record, school officials said Thursday.
It’s an increase of 12,000 applicants over last year’s high of 104,000 and a 41 percent increase over the last five years, representing the largest surge in the UC system, according to UCI officials.
“The verdict is in: high school and transfer students understand that UCI’s distinctive combination of quality, accessibility and affordability makes it a preferred destination among America’s leading universities,” said Chancellor Howard Gillman. “Earlier this year, the New York Times selected UCI as the college `doing the most for the American dream,’ and these 116,000-plus applicants exemplify our continued commitment to inclusive excellence.”...

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Waivers won't be taxed

Inside Higher Ed is reporting that taxation of grad student tuition waivers has been eliminated from the Republican tax bill:
Senate and House negotiators meeting this week to craft compromise tax-reform legislation plan to exclude from a final bill some controversial proposals affecting students and colleges, according to multiple reports.
Lawmakers from the two chambers of Congress agreed to drop provisions that would treat graduate student tuition benefits as taxable income and repeal student loan interest deductions. Both provisions were included in House tax legislation passed last month but left out of a bill that narrowly cleared the Senate Dec. 2...
Full story at: 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Unclear

The Sacramento Bee has a report on one of the now-common sexual harassment cases that came to light long after the event, this one involving a UC-Davis emeritus professor. (In this case, apparently same-sex harassment was involved.) The news report contains the following excerpt:

...Gray, director of academic employment and labor relations in the office of the vice provost for academic affairs, provided an advance copy of his blog post to the university last week. That sparked negotiations over the weekend between the university and Holoman that resulted in the professor agreeing to relinquish his emeritus status, said UC Davis spokeswoman Dana Topousis.
Holoman agreed to be demoted from distinguished professor to professor and relinquish his emeritus status, which means he can no longer teach or pursue research related to the University of California, according to a disciplinary letter signed by the university and Holoman on Monday. Holoman can, however, use the university library to finish his current projects as long as he has no contact with students...
It's not clear - despite the news report - that a ladder faculty member's emeritus title can be removed without some participation of the Academic Senate. Of course, there might have been some Senate participation which the news item missed. And the individual in question could voluntarily agree not to exercise whatever emeritus privileges the title offers. If there was no Senate consultation involved, maybe someone at Davis ought to take a look. Or maybe someone in the Academic Council. Bad cases make bad precedents.

Secret

UC submitted its bid to continue in a managerial role at the Los Alamos National Lab (LANL). But it won't say who its partners are. As blog readers will know, it has been reported that UC is partnering with Texas A&M.

The University of California was the only organization to confirm Monday it had submitted a bid to manage and operate Los Alamos National Laboratory for the next five years.

Bids were due to the National Nuclear Security Administration Monday. The NNSA would not release information about the contractors that submitted bids and would not say when bids would be opened.
The UC system confirmed its submission in an email to the Los Alamos Monitor.

“I can confirm that UC submitted a proposal today for the Los Alamos National Laboratory management contract. We aren’t confirming or discussing any of our bid partners at this time,” UC Spokeswoman Stephanie Beechem said.
UC is a managing partner in Los Alamos National Security LLC, the consortium operating the lab...

Many contractors on a list of possible bidders reached out to the Los Alamos Monitor Tuesday. While none that responded indicated they sent in a bid, many gave reasons why they did not bid. Many said after considering the issue carefully, that their companies would be better off in a support role to the companies that did put in a bid and later won the contract.
“Keystone has not committed to a team and does not have a plan to do so,” Keystone International President Michelle Detry said. “We believe our long-term options are best served by supporting whichever team wins.”

Bechtel, a for-profit company that is also in the LANS consortium, was also on the list of prospective bidders.
“We won’t be commenting on the procurement process right now. We’re concentrating on managing the Lab safely and efficiently as part of the LANS team,” Bechtel Nuclear, Security and Environmental Manager of Public Affairs Fred deSousa said. Other potential bidders said they thought that on further examination, it just wasn’t the path they wanted their companies to take at the time...

The UC system also manages the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and is also a partner that manages Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. 

The University of Texas system, which was expected to submit a bid to the NNSA, did not return requests for comment about whether the system submitted a bid.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Extra Billion

There's no evidence that he actually said it (and maybe you don't know who he was, anyway.)
The latest state controller's cash report though November indicates that there was an extra billion dollars in revenue during the current fiscal year. So, although the governor will undoubtedly push for fiscal prudence, more in the rainy day fund, etc., as he does with each budget message, there will be a counter-push in the legislature toward spending increases. Will UC benefit? We'll see.

The report is at:
https://www.sco.ca.gov/Files-ARD/CASH/November%202017%20Statement%20of%20General%20Fund%20Cash%20Receipts%20and%20Disbursements.pdf

Pots and Kettles at the Regents

There is a long article in the Huffington Post about Lt. Guv Gavin Newsom (a candidate for guv and an ex officio Regent) calling for the resignation of UC Regent Norman Pattiz because of the latter's sex-harassment scandal: [excerpt]

California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and education leaders are urging the University of California to address allegations of sexual harassment and workplace misconduct by University of California regent and radio mogul Norman Pattiz, nearly a year after several people said Pattiz made them uncomfortable in the workplace.

One of the women, comedian Heather McDonald, released a tape in November 2016 of Pattiz asking her if he could hold her breasts. Pattiz has confirmed that it’s his voice on the tape and apologized. Another employee accused Pattiz, a Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department reserve officer, of brandishing his firearm in a threatening manner. Pattiz denies those allegations.

In a letter dated Nov. 29, Newsom, California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and UC Student Regent Paul Monge asked university officials to make clear what they have done or will do about Pattiz, whom Gov. Jerry Brown reappointed to a 12-year term in 2014.

The issue is complicated by the fact that it’s not possible for anyone ― including the board itself, any California legislative body or the governor, who appoints most regents ― to remove Pattiz. Instead, Pattiz would need to voluntarily resign.

In a statement, Marvin Putnam, a lawyer for Pattiz, said the McDonald incident had been resolved and that if Newsom “took a moment to learn the facts, then he would not have sent the letter he did.”

“As Napolitano stated at the time, the matter is now closed,” Putnam said. “There is an American tradition of not rushing to judgment without knowing the facts; hopefully, we are not losing that august tradition in the midst of the important national conversation and reevaluation that is now underway.”

Brown wants Pattiz to resign, according to two sources familiar with his thinking. He has had a senior staff member request Pattiz’s resignation at least once, the sources said, but Pattiz refused.

The UC Regents, more formally known as the Regents of the University of California, is a governing board charged with overseeing the University of California system, including over 200,000 students and over 150,000 faculty and staff members. It has broad powers and helps to oversee a multibillion-dollar budget.

The scandal-plagued University of California system has been working to improve its handling of sexual harassment cases by speeding up investigation timelines. And earlier this year, the Board of Regents also strengthened its own ethics policies, addressing procedures for investigations into alleged misconduct and providing options for sanctioning a regent if allegations are proven...

Full story at https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/norman-pattiz-uc-regent-harassment_us_5a2ed463e4b078950282a560

The Huffington Post's report neglects some past sex-related history of Newsom's back when he was mayor of San Francisco:

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's re-election campaign manager resigned Wednesday after confronting the mayor about an affair Newsom had with his wife while she worked in the mayor's office, City Hall sources said.
Alex Tourk, 39, who served as Newsom's deputy chief of staff before becoming his campaign manager in September, confronted the mayor after his wife, Ruby Rippey-Tourk, told him of the affair as part of a rehabilitation program she had been undergoing for substance abuse, said the sources, who had direct knowledge of Wednesday's meeting.
Rippey-Tourk, 34, was the mayor's appointments secretary from the start of his administration in 2004 until last spring. She told her husband that the affair with Newsom was short-lived and happened about a year and a half ago, while the mayor was undergoing a divorce from his then-wife, Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle, said the sources, who spoke on condition they not be identified.
Alex Tourk "confronted the mayor on the issue this afternoon, expressed his feeling about the situation in an honest and pointed way, and resigned," said one source close to Tourk and his wife...

Interesting Profile of a Title IX Lawyer

There is an interesting profile of a Title IX Lawyer in the New York Times. He begins by developing a practice suing universities on behalf of the accused. Spoiler Alert: He ends with doubts as to how to achieve balance.

Last year, the phone rang in the office of the New York attorney Andrew T. Miltenberg. On the line was Tom Rossley, a trustee for 23 years at Drake University in Iowa. His son, Thomas, had just been expelled after a woman accused him of rape, and Rossley, such a longtime booster that he was sometimes called Mr. Drake, was on the verge of being kicked off the board for protesting the verdict, he believed.

While a trustee’s son might be expected to receive favorable treatment, Rossley thought that possibility had been eclipsed by the school’s greater urgency to demonstrate how seriously it took sexual assault, because it was under federal investigation at the time for supposedly mishandling a victim’s complaint two years earlier. “I’m not definitively saying it didn’t happen,” he told Miltenberg. “I’m not saying it did happen. What I’m saying is we don’t know, and they didn’t really want to find out.”

As Rossley would explain to Miltenberg, on the night in question, Thomas, then 21, met up with a woman in his circle of friends. Each had drunk heavily. According to the school investigator’s report, the woman remembered Thomas having sex with her in his dorm room, her telling him to stop and him stopping. But Thomas, who said he’d had the equivalent of 15 drinks, didn’t recall having intercourse and woke up fully clothed. Rossley noted what he believed to be many flaws in the process of his son’s case, including the school investigator’s not accepting key witnesses — among them Thomas’s roommate, who claimed he was present in the room the entire night. Although in the classroom Drake accommodated Thomas’s lifelong language-based learning disability, which made communication difficult, he was left to defend himself in a nine-hour hearing, in which he frequently stumbled and was asked to speak up. (Drake declined to comment on the details of the case but broadly disputes the Rossleys’ characterization. In court filings, the school said Thomas could have introduced additional witnesses at the hearing and did not request disability accommodations.)

Rossley had contacted Miltenberg to ask him to handle their suits — Thomas’s claiming gender discrimination and due-process violations, and Rossley’s for retaliation after the board removed him. Miltenberg’s name was easy to find because by then he had established a reputation as “the rape-guy lawyer,” as a colleague describes him, or “the due-process guy,” as he sometimes calls himself. To Miltenberg, the Rossleys’ experience showcased “the disparity between how men and women are being treated” under Title IX — the federal law that prohibits gender discrimination in schools that receive public funds — and demonstrated how campus responses to sexual assault have become driven by internal politics and institutional fears...

(That's the opening of the article. Here is the end below.)

...When DeVos rescinded the letter in September, Miltenberg released a statement that did not betray any doubts but instead stated that he was “encouraged” by the action. But when he elaborated to me, he sounded more conflicted. Although he was glad more people were talking about the issue, he said he was “having a bit of a crisis of conscience.” Over the months he had worked on the woman’s case, the conventional wisdom about campus sexual assault had changed, with greater public focus on concerns about due process. “And insanely, I’m one of the people, for better or worse, who had some impact on shifting the narrative.” At the same time, he worried that the rescission could lead to a reaction of its own. He had received nearly a dozen new cases — all decided in the weeks immediately surrounding DeVos’s speech — in which he believed the schools had meted out unduly harsh penalties to make “a political counterstatement.” That prospect was as concerning to him as the school’s inaction on his female client’s case.

“There are real topics in this world that are zero-sum games,” he said; finding a balance between addressing sexual assault and ensuring due process didn’t need to be one. He found himself thinking that advocates on either side of the debate shared a sense of battlefield camaraderie, because only they saw what was really going on. “Sometimes you sit in this hearing and your heart breaks for both people,” he said. “Sometimes I walk out and think the whole thing is a [expletive]: terrible for him, terrible for her, terrible for the parents.” It would be disingenuous, he said, not to acknowledge the concerns of the other side: That if the process is broken, it’s broken at least as much for victims as the accused. That correction can become overcorrection in either direction. The pendulum swings both ways. It shouldn’t, he said, “but I don’t know how to stop it.”

Full story (with the middle) at:

Monday, December 11, 2017

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Somebody at UCOP was thinking outside the box...

Was the somebody the politically-minded UC prez?

UC is about to bid to continue its managerial role in Los Alamos National Lab. But it is competing against the U of Texas (whose regents seemed to be split on making the bid)* and Texas A&M, which seems more gung ho about the effort. And, of course, California is not beloved to the Trump folks. So - read on:

Here is Wikipedia on Rick Perry, the current head of the Department of Energy (which will soon be evaluating the bid of UC to continue its managerial role in Los Alamos:

...Upon graduation from high school, Perry attended Texas A&M University where he was a member of the Corps of Cadets and the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity. He was elected senior class social secretary, and one of A&M's five "yell leaders" - students that lead Aggie fans in a series of "yells" during athletic events or other school events. He graduated in 1972 with a Bachelor of Science degree in animal science...

And here is an article dated Dec. 9 from the Santa Fe New Mexican:

When the University of California submits its bid Monday to continue management of Los Alamos National Laboratory, the public institution from the biggest, bluest state in the country will have an eye-grabbing partner: Texas A&M University.

The two large university systems, one from a solid Democratic state and the other from the largest Republican-led state, are planning to join forces in a proposal to manage the national lab for the next decade, the Austin American-Statesman reported Saturday, citing unnamed sources.

University officials would not confirm the partnership to The New Mexican, but the director of one lab watchdog group, who was unaware of the partnership, said while it might seem like the two university systems make “strange bedfellows,” a Cal-Texas A&M partnership would be a good fit in many ways.

“It would make sense politically, certainly,” Greg Mello of the Los Alamos Study Group said in an interview with The New Mexican earlier this week. “And it would seem to make sense from a research perspective. Both schools have a little different niche in that regard.”

Texas A&M, a land-grant college system with 11 campuses and a flagship in College Station, Texas, also gives the University of California, the lab’s operator in some form since its inception in 1943, a chance to move ahead with a fresh partner that can bring operational success in areas where it has been criticized: nuclear safety, hazardous materials handling, mechanics and logistics.

Another known bidder is the University of Texas System, a consortium of 14 campuses with a flagship in Austin. The UT System Board of Regents approved moving ahead with a bid at its November meeting...

University of California officials, who spent time in Northern New Mexico touting their long history and successes at the lab in late November, would not talk about potential alliances when contacted by The New Mexican.

“We can’t confirm or discuss any of our bid partners,” said UC’s Gary Falle, a government relations specialist working with California regents...

Full story at http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/uc-texas-a-m-to-team-up-on-bid-to/article_953ef4d6-1e04-57fb-833f-5edc42684a71.html

In short, the winds suddenly seem to have shifted in favor of UC's Los Alamos bid:

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*http://uclafacultyassociation.blogspot.com/2017/11/4-to-3.html

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Open or Close?

There was some confusion in the midst of last week's fire near UCLA as to whether classes were to be held or not. Students were critical about delays in info,* although I have to say my smartphone kept buzzing with official campus updates and updates also appeared in my email. Yours truly probably would have leaned towards holding classes, since it was the last week in the quarter, and since nowadays an awful lot of students live in campus housing. Yes, the air was bad, but it was bad outside whether you were going to class or just outside nearby. And classes are indoors, are they not?

Yours truly attended the UCLA Anderson Forecast on Wednesday morning (Dec. 6) - which was not cancelled. Yes, attendance was held down because some folks did not want to make the trip, or couldn't. (I had to re-route to come to campus because of the closure of Sunset Blvd. near the 405.) But the conference went off without a hitch and it ran until close to noon. The air inside the auditorium in which the event was held was not smoky.

Education is what UCLA is all about. So cancelling classes should be a Big Deal. I hope we don't come to err on the side of cancellation whenever "events" occur. In a ten-week quarter, for a class that meets twice a week, each day lost is 5% of class time. For a class that meets once a week, it's 10%. Given regularly scheduled holidays (two Mondays disappear in winter quarter!), the percentage loss is in fact greater.

Of course, this is one person's opinion. But there needs to be a little voice somewhere that says "wait a minute" before the panic button is pressed.
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*https://www.chronicle.com/article/California-Wildfires-Upend/242006

Friday, December 8, 2017

More on the wolf at the door in college athletics

There continue to be news items that suggest the college athletics is going to have to change. It becomes harder and harder to pretend that athletes in the major sports are just ordinary students that do a little amateur thing on the side. There have been lawsuits about football concussions, pay for playing (in the same way that professional athletes are paid), etc. Back last February, there was this report:

The NCAA and 11 major athletic conferences announced Friday night they have agreed to pay $208.7 million to settle a federal class-action lawsuit filed by former college athletes who claimed the value of their scholarships was illegally capped. The settlement still must be approved by a judge and it does not close the antitrust case. The NCAA said in a statement the association and conferences "will continue to vigorously oppose the remaining portion of the lawsuit seeking pay for play." The settlement will be fully funded by NCAA reserves, the association said. No school or conference will be required to contribute.

The original antitrust lawsuit was filed in 2014 by former West Virginia football player Shawne Alston. The case was later combined with other lawsuits and covers Division I men's and women's basketball players and FBS football players who competed from 2009-10 through 2016-17 and did not receive a cost-of-attendance stipend. In January 2015, the five wealthiest college conferences — the Atlantic Coast Conference, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and Southeastern Conference — passed NCAA legislation that allowed schools to increase the value of an athletic scholarship by several thousand dollars to the federally determined actual cost of attending a college or university.
Cost of attendance includes expenses beyond tuition, room and board, books and fees. Each member of the class will receive approximately $6,000, said Steve Berman, lead attorney in the case. "This is a historic settlement for student-athletes and there is more to come as the second part of the case seeks injunctive relief that will force the NCAA to pay student-athletes a fair share," Berman told AP in a text message Friday night...
Full story at:
It was reported yesterday that the judge in the case above has granted final approval for the settlement:

Change Coming to Grad Student Tax?

Inside Higher Ed is reporting a possible changing of the mind going on in the House on the so-called grad student tax (a tax on tuition waivers).

Representative Pete Sessions, a Texas Republican, on Thursday circulated a letter to House colleagues urging GOP leaders to exclude from final tax reform legislation a provision that would tax graduate students' tuition benefits. The letter signals at least one House Republican is focused on an issue graduate students across the country have organized around for weeks. 
On Tuesday, about 40 graduate students protested at the office of House Speaker Paul Ryan, leading to nine arrests...
See:
http://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2017/12/08/house-republican-opposes-grad-student-tax

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Fellows FYI

FYI: The new free speech center set up by the UC prez is accepting applications to become a "fellow" of the center. https://freespeechcenter.universityofcalifornia.edu/fellows/apply/

THURSDAY CLASSES CANCELLED...

...due to continued uncertainty about fires.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

UCLA History: Fire

For those who don't know it, the Bel Air fire today that led to partial closures at UCLA today had a precedent, as you can see above.

Down

From Inside Higher Ed: Citing uncertainty over federal policies as a contributing factor, Moody's on Tuesday downgraded its financial outlook for higher education to negative from stable. The credit ratings agency predicted that the growth of the industry's expenses will outpace revenue growth for the next 12-18 months, with public universities in particular facing money woes.
Increases of tuition revenue, research funding and state contributions will "remain subdued," Moody's said. And, over all, the sector's expenses will rise by 4 percent, according to Moody's. But less than 20 percent of public, four-year institutions will see their revenue increase by more than 3 percent. More than half of private institutions will achieve growth of at least 3 percent.
Cuts to federal financial aid programs or even funding growth that fails to keep up with inflation would exacerbate higher education's problems, Moody's said. Likewise, the report said the GOP's tax bills could hurt colleges' private fund-raising, increase borrowing costs for private activity bonds and depress graduate student enrollment. And federal immigration policies could decrease international student enrollment, the ratings agency said...
Full story with link to report at:

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

End of the Unfortunate Incident (for now) - Follow Up

Although it may seem like a long time ago, blog readers will recall the unfortunate incident involving shoplifting in China by some UCLA basketball players.*

Here is more of the aftermath: LiAngelo Ball, one of three UCLA basketball players placed on indefinite suspension following their shoplifting arrests in China, will be leaving the team and the university, officials said Monday. The three players were allowed to leave China after President Trump’s conversation with the head of that nation during a presidential trip to Asia.
“We learned today of LiAngelo Ball’s intention to withdraw from UCLA,” Bruins basketball coach Steve Alford said. “We respect the decision he and his family have made, and we wish him all the best in the future.”
Ball, the brother of Lakers rookie and former Bruin Lonzo Ball, was arrested in early November along with Jalen Hill and Cody Riley while the UCLA team was in China to take part in a season-opening game against Georgia Tech. They were detained for about a week in China before the case against them was dropped, with President Donald Trump saying he spoke on behalf of the players to Chinese President Xi Jinping. LiAngelo Ball’s outspoken father, Lavar Ball, told ESPN he decided to pull his son out of UCLA.
“We are exploring other options with Gelo,” he said. “He’s out of there.”
TMZ broke the story, but reported that LiAngelo Ball had not yet officially withdrawn from the university.
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*https://uclafacultyassociation.blogspot.com/2017/11/end-of-unfortunate-incident-for-now.html

Tuition Waiver for Grad Students and Tax Bill

Thousands of graduate students...across the country fear that their tax bills will climb dramatically if a proposal to end exemptions for tuition benefits makes it into the tax overhaul legislation that Republicans hope to send to President Trump by Christmas. Budding anthropologists, historians, scientists, and engineers who receive tuition waivers for working as teachers or research assistants could soon see those benefits counted as income. If that happens, earning an advanced degree could become significantly more expensive, students and universities warn...

But the tax bill approved by the Republican-led House of Representatives, which aims at cutting taxes and simplifying the tax code, calls for ending the exemption on those tuition waivers. Under the plan, those discounts would be considered income for tax purposes, even though students never see that money in their bank accounts. The Senate, which approved its tax reform package early Saturday morning, did not touch the graduate tuition exemption. The House and Senate will now negotiate the final legislation...

Critics argue that universities could lower their tuitions, since many of them provide students with waivers anyway. Or universities could convert the tuition waivers into scholarships, which aren’t taxed...

Full story at http://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2017/12/04/tax-reform-fight-reaches-graduate-students/htZ6Z0TVJEUKco0JZdUuaK/story.html

Yours truly's uninformed guess is that the Senate version will prevail. But there is an oddity in the argument raised by the defenders of getting rid of the tuition waiver. The last paragraph above suggests that universities could easily do a work-around. But if that were so, the waiver elimination wouldn't raise any money since no grad students would in fact pay the extra tax. The rationale for eliminating the waiver is that it raises tax revenue, however. You can't have it both ways. A tax provision that is easily avoided can't raise revenue.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Complications for Faculty Center Deal?

We reported last week that a meeting at the UCLA Faculty Center dealt with the Center's business plan and its negotiations with Murphy Hall. UCLA's CFO Steve Olsen - who spoke at the meeting - apparently was a key player in those negotiations.* However, an email today indicates Olsen is leaving UCLA:

Vice Chancellor and Chief Financial Officer Steven A. Olsen has informed me that he will be leaving UCLA on June 30, 2018. Although this will be a great loss for our campus, I am proud to share the news that he has been named vice president, chief financial officer and chief operating officer of the J. Paul Getty Trust...

No review of Steve’s accomplishments could be complete without mention of the essential role he played in every phase of the development of the Meyer and Renee Luskin Conference Center. Although the project faced significant challenges, today it serves as a national model for how conference centers can significantly enhance universities’ academic programs...

Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Scott Waugh and I intend to launch a national search for Steve’s successor, and we will soon announce the formation of a search advisory committee.

Sincerely,

Gene D. Block
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*http://uclafacultyassociation.blogspot.com/2017/12/competition-from-grand-hotel.html

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Is it a no-brainer?

As blog readers will know, UCLA recently paid a bundle of money for one football coach to go away, and even more to hire a replacement.

All of this expenditure is premised on the idea that college football pays for itself (no state money, etc.), attracts alumni support and donations, yadda, yadda, yadda. But as the Berkeley stadium fiasco shows, there are limits to that premise.

Inside Higher Ed last week ran a long article about the concussion problem in football.* Big-buck lawsuits are brewing. And then there are the ongoing pressures to treat college athletes, at least in the major sports, as employees rather than as students who just happen to have athletic talents on the side. There is an overused term - "disruption" - which has mainly been applied to industries which experience a technological change that drastically shifts (undermines) their business models. Something like that may be coming to college sports, even if technology isn't the driving force.
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*https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2017/12/01/avalanche-football-related-concussion-lawsuits-against-ncaa-and-conferences-could

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Calm and Sane Response to Audit

In contrast to some other California newspapers, the LA Times today seems to put things in perspective with regard to the state audit controversy:

Editorial: Closing the book on the UC audit

After an audit of the University of California system in April suggested that UC President Janet Napolitano maintained a $175 million slush fund, a whistleblower accused the president’s office of meddling in the audit. Separate investigations by the state Auditor’s office and the UC Board of Regents ensued, and the results are now in. Napolitano escaped the worst — there wasn’t enough evidence to show that she personally ordered UC campuses to change how they responded to the audit or that she knew such interference was occurring. But both investigations concluded that top aides, who have since resigned, did intervene to make the president’s office look better.

Napolitano gets to hold on to her job, which is good news for UC. She has been a strong leader for the university during troubled financial and political times, resisting efforts to weaken the university’s independence with a welcome level of toughness and dedicating herself to protecting the university’s undocumented students.

Still, Napolitano doesn’t come out untarnished. At the very least, she didn’t monitor her top aides closely enough to know that they were engaged in egregious interference, telling campuses to omit or temper their criticisms of the president’s office. That makes the UC president appear out of touch. When state Auditor Elaine Howle complained about Napolitano’s office inserting itself between the auditor and campus-by-campus responses to her May audit, you’d think Napolitano would have pulled her people together and asked, “What were you up to? Time to come clean.” Instead, though she apologized for asking campus officials to pass their responses through her office, she also insisted that her people were merely making sure the campuses were filling out the forms correctly.

That assertion was called into question by UC Santa Cruz Chancellor George Blumenthal, who was interviewed during the regents’ investigation (which was conducted by former state Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno and an independent law office). Blumenthal said that Napolitano had heatedly reprimanded him for sending the questionnaire directly to the auditor and demanded that he recall it. Napolitano responded that she had been concerned only because the chancellor’s office had not reviewed the questionnaire. Even so, the investigation found, one of her aides then intervened to have some of the answers modified.

It’s not the smoking gun of interference, but it also doesn’t square with Napolitano’s earlier claims that the various campuses sought her office’s help with the survey questionnaires.

As it turns out, her bad decision to involve her office in those questionnaires ended up being a bigger problem than the original audit itself. That probe never really showed what the initial ruckus seemed to indicate. The supposed slush fund was actually money legitimately collected by the president’s office from various funding sources for campus researchers, or held for important initiatives, such as UC’s program for students in Washington, D.C. and legal services for undocumented students. Even Howle never accused Napolitano or her office of misusing funding. No one was taking lavish trips abroad with the money, or filling private homes with big-ticket artworks. But the office’s spending was difficult to track because proper budgeting procedures hadn’t been followed, and spending on high-level administrators was too high.

The Board of Regents admonished Napolitano, and she’s apologized for getting her office involved in the audit questionnaires. At this point, the Legislature and the public should do what the regents have done and let her move forward without taint. If the state wants a well-run research university system that continues to command the admiration of the world — and it should — it cannot afford to weaken that system or its chief executive. It can’t micromanage a great university and still have a great university.

But Napolitano also is on notice. Her office will need to straighten its affairs, tidy up its procedures, move quickly to eliminate overspending on executives — and most of all, show that it is willing to be abundantly transparent with the regents and the public. As Napolitano goes, so goes the university she leads. Academic greatness and accountability aren’t mutually exclusive for the best public university in the world; on the contrary, they go hand in hand.

Source: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-napolitano-uc-audit-20171202-story.html

Aftermath: Making a Soft Landing

From the American University Eagle: American University President Sylvia Burwell is standing behind her choice for chief of staff, Seth Grossman, after he and a colleague were found to have interfered with a California state audit into the office of his previous boss, University of California President Janet Napolitano. Grossman is set to start at AU on December 4.
Burwell originally announced the hire on Oct. 30, citing Grossman’s experience as a top official in the Department of Homeland Security during the Obama administration and then as chief of staff to Napolitano. Napolitano oversees the UC system, which includes 10 campuses and nearly 240,000 students.
But, a recent investigation ordered by the UC Board of Regents said Grossman and another top aide to Napolitano had interfered in an audit of her office...
In a statement, Burwell told The Eagle that the University conducted “extensive reference checking and due diligence” when making the decision to hire Grossman...
“Trust and integrity are essential to me,” Burwell said. “Seth reassured me that he shares that commitment.”

Friday, December 1, 2017

Competition from the Grand Hotel

Those who are members of the UCLA Faculty Center will know that there was a membership meeting to review the current business plan of the Center and negotiations with the folks in Murphy Hall about a formal, contractual relationship.

One thing that came out - in response to an audience question - is that the Faculty Center is estimated to have lost 25% of its revenue to the UCLA Grand Hotel, according to the Center's new general manager.

The Grand Hotel - as can be seen on the left - is aggressively trying to solicit business, as can be seen from the emailed ad reproduced below. It's not clear, however, given the claimed tax-exempt status of the hotel, that someone attending a performance at UCLA meets the standard of "university business" to which the hotel is supposed to be confined. That issue may yet be tested.

In any case, the Faculty Center's manager expressed the hope that there might be some kind of modus vivendi accord eventually negotiated between the Grand Hotel and the Faculty Center. The Faculty Center, because of its size limitation, cannot handle very large conventions and could refer inquiries about them to the Grand Hotel. In exchange, small event inquiries received by the Grand Hotel might be referred to the Faculty Center.

Seems like an idea worth pursuing.


Promises not forever

Surprise Ruling Decertifies Retiree Class in LLNL Lawsuit

November 30, 2017 12:00 am
The Independent

An Oakland court reversed itself this week, decertifying the “class” of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory retirees three years after certifying it in a lawsuit aimed at regaining University of California health care. The surprise decertification order was issued Monday by Superior Court Judge George Hernandez, the judge who certified the class in 2014.

In his reversal, Hernandez acknowledged that certification is normally established early in a legal proceeding. That is not an “iron clad standard,” however, particularly if it becomes clear that “individual issues will engulf the litigation,” he wrote. That appears to be the case now, he indicated. In his judgment, it has not actually been established that “any members of the putative class (of retirees) were damaged” by the loss of University of California health care.

A class-action trial might be appropriate if the main question is the extent of individual damages -- but not if it remains to be resolved “whether each class member has in fact been damaged at all.” UC health care benefits were available to the LLNL retirees from the time of the Laboratory’s founding in 1952 until 2008, shortly after a for-profit consortium took over for the University as manager of the national defense laboratory.

The retirees considered the loss of UC health care to be a violation of promises made during their careers at the Laboratory -- promises on which some of them based career decisions. They filed suit in 2010, and the suit became a class action four years later. Following certification, the retirees spent many thousands of dollars compiling lists of those who might be eligible for UC health care and their survivors, sparring with University counsel and representatives of LLNL over the completeness of records provided by those institutions.

Neither the retirees nor the University commented publicly on the decertification order. At the time the Independent went to press, the retirees had not decided on next steps, which include the possibility of appeal.

Source: http://www.independentnews.com/news/surprise-ruling-decertifies-retiree-class-in-lawsuit/article_7b76ca3e-d541-11e7-9c6c-47e48d1fdcf4.html

Thursday, November 30, 2017

More on Los Alamos

UC leaders make case to keep managing Los Alamos lab

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/university-of-california-leaders-make-case-to-keep-managing-los/article_9cd86668-b81e-57fb-88c7-c45bfe5ae966.html

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

Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2sSOprKCEME [link below]
Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EX0fvoPHOZM
Part 3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=io3WSJwVk1I
Part 4: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uo0jZqxcrWE
Part 5: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xo6s9G1W8Ng
Part 6: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=msadwfwjWfo
Part 7: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s0dfw_uPlQo

More on Tax Bill

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

http://dailybruin.com/2017/11/29/graduate-students-join-national-protest-against-taxing-waived-tuition/

https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2017/11/30/graduate-students-across-country-protest-tax-plan

http://www.dailycal.org/2017/11/29/100-graduate-students-union-workers-swarm-sproul-plaza-protest-republican-tax-bill/

Inside Higher Ed has a summary of the versions of the tax bill in the House and the Senate at:
https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2017/11/30/how-senate-and-house-tax-bills-would-hit-higher-education

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Uncertain Political Environment for Higher Ed

House GOP to Propose Sweeping Changes to Higher Education

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

UCOP Daily News Clips, Wednesday, November 29, 2017

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