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Sunday, February 18, 2018

Dirks

Former Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks is apparently writing a book about about the history of universities. This endeavor may be a continuation of a project that was underway when he was chancellor and delivered what amounted to a lecture on undergraduate education to the regents.*

In an interview today in the LA Times, he is quoted as follows:

While the American university has become the world standard for excellence in teaching and research, it has also been under growing attack. It’s the whole set of headlines from the cost disease, the irresponsibility of administrators, the runaway nature of college sports, the prohibitions on free speech, the coddling of students, the incidents of sexual harassment. … It’s a call to arms for people to step up and … call out the fact that this kind of generalized attack has really been chipping away at any kind of previous consensus that public universities really do provide a significant public good. … A lot of it is a function of our polarized political situation. But I also think it’s because there's a sense that universities like Berkeley are public in name only and they're not really open to the public.

Full interview at http://www.latimes.com/local/education/la-me-edu-dirks-uc-berkeley-20180218-htmlstory.html
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*Lecture at the link below:

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Open for business

From the BruinUCLA said it has no plans to shut down a Chinese language and culture center affiliated with the Chinese government, despite comments from federal authorities who believe the center expands China’s political influence.
Christopher Wray, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, said in a Congressional hearing Tuesday that the bureau was concerned about Confucius Institutes, which are educational centers for Chinese language and culture at universities worldwide. Wray’s comments followed a question from Sen. Marco Rubio, who last week called on universities to close Confucius Institutes.
“It’s one of many tools that (China) takes advantage of. … It is something that we’re watching warily and in certain instances have developed appropriate investigative steps,” Wray said at the hearing.
Wray added the FBI has seen instances in which Chinese students and professors collect intelligence on behalf of Chinese agencies and the government.
Confucius Institutes are funded by both Office of Chinese Language Council International, a Chinese government-affiliated organization, and universities at which they are based. UCLA opened a Confucius Institute in 2006.
UCLA spokesperson Ricardo Vazquez said in a statement the UCLA Confucius Institute provides training and programs for students and members of the public who want to become proficient in the Chinese language and learn more about Chinese culture. He added the institute helps train K-12 Mandarin-language teachers in California schools...

Friday, February 16, 2018

Birds

Bird Scooters Pose Campus Safety Concerns

A growing number of people on campus are using electric scooters from Bird Rides. UCLA prioritizes the safety of the campus community, and as such, UCLA Transportation would like to highlight the importance of campus road safety and California laws regarding electric scooters. UCLA currently does not have an agreement with Bird but has begun discussions regarding a potential partnership.

California Vehicle Code (CVC) 407.5(a) defines a motorized scooter as any two-wheeled device that has handlebars, has a floorboard that is designed to be stood upon when riding, and is powered by an electric motor. CVC 21235 mandates that all scooter riders in California:

  • Must wear a properly fitted bicycle helmet
  • Have a valid driver license
  • Ride on the road and remain off sidewalks
  • May not park scooters on a sidewalk in a position that blocks pedestrian paths

Be aware of your surroundings as you may not be seen or heard by other vehicles. Drive defensively. Please be safe and ride responsibly. Use common sense; these scooters are motorized vehicles, not toys, operating on streets.

Source: http://beagreencommuter.com/bird-scooters-pose-campus-safety-concerns/

Note: Casual observation suggests that the four rules listed above are generally violated. The City of Santa Monica sued the operator and recently reached a settlement. See the link below:
http://santamonicalookout.com/ssm_site/the_lookout/news/News-2018/February-2018/02_15_2018_Bird_Rides_Agrees_to_No_Contest_Plea_More_Than_300000_in_Fines_in_Santa_Monica_Case.html

LAO on higher ed funding

The Legislative Analyst's Office (LAO) has issued a new report on higher ed funding (UC, CSU, community colleges). As in previous reports, the LAO continues to fret about whether UC is admitting more than the top 12.5% of high school students, as per the old Master Plan of 1960. It also doesn't like the tendency for funding to be detached from actual enrollment.

LAO notes that faculty pay is below the comparison-8 because it is below the private universities in that grouping. But pay is above the public universities. After pointing to this (now longstanding) situation, LAO seems to draw no conclusion.

Below is an executive summary of its findings on UC:

UC’s budget is affected by certain key cost drivers—most notably employee compensation, enrollment growth, its academic quality initiatives, and facility projects. The Legislature likely will want to consider supporting certain faculty and staff compensation increases in 2018‑19. We note, however, that UC faculty salaries remain very competitive relative to other public universities that conduct intensive research. Regarding enrollment growth, we believe UC’s funding redirection plan to support 1,500 additional students in 2018‑19 generally is consistent with legislative intent. We recommend enrollment decisions for 2019‑20 be made within the context of any broader discussion on UC eligibility. We recommend the Legislature consider additional funding for UC’s academic quality initiatives as lower priority. Though UC’s student‑to‑faculty ratio has increased the past several years, its student outcomes have continued to improve. Finally, several of UC’s proposed capital outlay projects lack sufficient justification. For example, four projects entail relatively large, expensive expansions despite UC providing no systemwide analysis of existing unused capacity. Whatever cost increases it ultimately supports for UC, we encourage the Legislature to think about how to share those costs between the state and nonfinancially needy students. (The state covers tuition for financially needy students.)

And below are LAO's recommendations:

University of California
  • Determine which University of California (UC) cost increases to support in 2018‑19 and consider sharing these cost increases between the state, nonfinancially needy California students, nonresident students, and other savings and fund sources.
  • Use UC’s planned programmatic reductions and redirections as a starting point to fund enrollment growth in 2018‑19.
  • Make enrollment growth decisions for 2019‑20 consistent with any broader decision regarding UC eligibility pools.
  • If UC is unable to attain a 2‑to‑1 transfer ratio at each campus, consider establishing a systemwide ratio to give UC more flexibility to meet the target while still ensuring transfer access. Also encourage UC to pursue efforts to simplify the transfer process and accelerate time to degree for entering transfer students.
  • Signal to UC that funding for its academic quality initiatives is a lower priority for 2018‑19. Were the Legislature interested in providing additional funds for more targeted purposes, specify the use of the funding in the budget act.
  • After making decisions regarding eligibility, direct UC to develop a systemwide enrollment plan that includes (1) enrollment projections based on anticipated demographic changes and eligibility criteria, (2) strategies to maximize the use of existing facilities across the system before adding new space, and (3) clear justification for the need to add space within the system.
  • Direct UC to report on construction costs per square foot and explain any variation in these costs for the same type of space across campuses. To the extent UC is unable to provide sufficient justification for the differences contained in its four 2018‑19 proposals for new academic buildings, we recommend the state withhold authorization of those projects.
  • Require UC to develop a long‑term plan to (1) retire its maintenance backlog and (2) improve its ongoing maintenance practices moving forward to prevent a backlog from reemerging.
  • Direct UC to report in spring hearings on its current efforts to reduce pressure for new physical library storage space and expand its digital collections.

The full publication is at:
http://www.lao.ca.gov/Publications/Report/3748

Much of what is to be found in the recommendations is micro-management. Now you can argue that the Regents, or UCOP, or someone, needs to do it. I think, however, that you would have a hard time arguing that the legislature (120 members) attempting to do it is feasible. An interesting question (not asked) is whether other top universities do it better.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Money Loser for UC/UCLA

House Republicans’ rewrite of the Higher Education Act was a dud in almost all respects for student aid advocates and higher education associations. But in its proposal for the Federal Work-Study formula, the bill appeared to deliver on calls to make the program’s funding allocation more equitable.

The work-study formula has long been criticized for unfairly favoring elite private colleges in the Northeast.

Under the PROSPER Act -- as House Republicans have deemed their bill -- those are the institutions that would lose out the most on funding, according to an analysis by the American Council on Education.

The new formula would distribute funding in some surprising ways, however. Community colleges would see a big boost in work-study funding. But for-profit colleges would, too.

...The list of colleges potentially losing the most under the new formula does include some large public institutions with high proportions of Pell recipients, like University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of Washington Seattle. But they also include elite private colleges like Harvard, Northwestern and Cornell Universities.

The formula in the PROSPER Act was designed to move the distribution of work-study funds away from a system that awards traditional participants in the program like those institutions. It phases out existing base allocations over several years, instead rewarding institutions that serve a high proportion of Pell students. A separate formula for any program funding above $700 million would reward colleges that have success working with Pell students.

According to ACE’s projections, big winners in terms of total new work-study funds under PROSPER's formula, meanwhile, include public four-year institution Georgia State University, the for-profit Florida Career College and the private American Baptist Theological Seminary.

House Republicans say that’s because those campuses are the ones serving the students with the most need. A GOP committee spokesman said the PROSPER Act is the biggest expansion of the work-study program ever.

“Through the much [needed] formula reform, work-study dollars would flow to those institutions serving the neediest students rather than those charging students the highest tuition,” the spokesman said.

But ACE said the work-study formula shouldn’t be discussed without acknowledging the elimination of the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, the other major remaining campus-based aid program. While critics of work-study have said it is not distributed equitably, SEOG was weighted toward campuses with the most Pell recipients. And while the bill proposes doubling the size of the work-study program, it eliminates the $732 million in campus-based aid from SEOG.

The group also says the exclusion of graduate students from work-study fits within a larger framework in the PROSPER Act that disadvantages those students.

In 2016-17, more than 13,000 students in the University of California system received work-study aid, said Claire Doan, a spokeswoman for the system. That figure included about 800 graduate students, who would be ineligible for the program under the House legislation.

The University of California, Berkeley, and UCLA, the two biggest recipients in the California system, would lose about $2.2 million in work-study funding in year six of ACE's projections.

“By reducing the funding to Federal Work-Study and similar campus-based financial aid programs, students will have to find alternative funding sources, such as loans,” Doan said. “Further, if these students do not have access to federal loans because they are capped, they would be forced to seek out private loans, which do not offer the same consumer protections.”...

Full story at:
https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2018/02/14/projections-show-house-work-study-proposal-would-benefit-profits-community-colleges

Now you will see him; now you won't

Back in the hat
The UCLA Republican club recently invited, and then quickly cancelled, a talk by Milo Yiannopoulos on "10 Things I Hate About Mexico." The cancellation was apparently a response to an open letter by sociology Prof. Gabriel Rossman who is an adviser to the Bruin Republicans. The letter, which appeared in the conservative Weekly Standard, is below, followed by a response from Chancellor Block:

An open letter to the Bruin Republicans,

I was very glad to meet everyone at a recent lunch. You seem to be a great group of students with serious aspirations and a strong interest in conservatism. As you will recall, in my remarks I expressed the hope that you would follow the traditional debating society model of the Harvard Republicans rather than the épater les SJWs* performance art model of the University of Colorado Republicans as described in Binder and Wood’s Becoming Right. You will also recall a very specific corollary I mentioned: Do not invite Milo Yiannopoulos. It was for this reason that I was surprised when I learned Tuesday that you were doing exactly that, and for a talk entitled “10 Things I Hate About Mexico.”

One thing I left out of my remarks about the impact of the ideological skew of academia is that the dearth of conservative faculty means a lack of mentorship for conservative students. Which is part of the reason you see students at places such as University of Colorado engaging in ill-conceived political theater that can be amusing and provocative—but is ultimately counter-productive.

As one of the few conservative faculty at UCLA, and one of a very few who knows the campus club, I feel obligated to provide some mentorship here: I strongly urge you to rescind your invitation to Yiannopoulos. Allow me to explain why.

The most important reason not to host such a talk is that it is evil on the merits. Your conscience should tell you that you never want anything to do with someone whose entire career is not reasoned argument, but shock jock performance art. In the 1980s conservatives made fun of “artists” who defecated on stage for the purpose of upsetting conservatives. Now apparently, conservatives are willing to embrace a man who says despicable things for the purpose of “triggering snowflakes.” The change in performance art from the fecal era to the present is yet another sign that no matter how low civilization goes, there is still room for further decline.

I want to be clear that my point here is not that some people will be offended, but that the speaker is purely malicious.

Many speakers and many speeches will offend people, especially given the sense among many on the campus left that they are entitled to complete isolation from ideas with which they disagree.

This is different.

Looking at the fall quarter calendar, I see Richard Sander, Rafael Dagnesses, Keith Fink, and Ben Shapiro recently gave talks sponsored by your group. Lots of people disagree with these speakers, and I disagree with some of them about certain points, but none of them are malicious.

I can understand why some people were offended by Heather Mac Donald’s ideas when she spoke on campus last year. But reasonable people can disagree about whether all Americans, and especially African Americans, on net benefit from aggressive policing. More to the point, Mac Donald expresses her pro-police position without animus, so sponsoring her talk was an entirely legitimate and honorable thing to do.

If the Bruin Republicans were considering a talk with a journalist or scholar giving a temperate and reasoned lecture on “ten reasons why Mexico’s social development lags,” then it could be a very reasonable event to host, even if people were offended by it.

I would also caution you to expect that speakers who take ideas seriously are often repelled by association with deliberately offensive speakers. For instance, when the organizers of “Free Speech Week” at Berkeley circulated a list of (proposed) speakers, Charles Murray told the Chronicle of Higher Education that he “would never under any circumstances appear at an event that included Milo Yiannopoulos.” Obviously, Murray is someone whose ideas many people find offensive, but he expresses them without hatred and so declines to appear with someone he (correctly) considers a “despicable asshole.” Likewise, I know many conservative writers, but I imagine an invitation would be much less attractive to them (nor would I extend it) if they had to bring Lysol to clean the podium from the prior occupant.

There are other reasons not to associate yourselves with Yiannopoulos. Whether or not anyone notices, you want to be on the side of the person getting attacked for being a Jew (such as Ben Shapiro, who you have hosted before), not the person who mocks that Jew by dressing midgets in kippahs (and on a separate occasion debases “America the Beautiful” by singing it to an audience of giggling Nazis as they throw sieg heils).

The merits are more important than appearances, of course, but the fact is that people will notice if the Bruin Republicans host someone offering nothing more than alt-right camp and this is a secondary reason not to do so.

You need to ask yourselves, what is your goal as an organization? If you’re in it for the lulz and just want to see the world burn, then I guess go ahead and bring in a vapid provocateur.

But if your mission is to spread conservative ideas, you should recognize that hosting Yiannopoulos will only render your organization and our ideas toxic. The left often suspects that principled conservative positions are actually born of racism. Conservatives have traditionally pushed back against this criticism. Here at UCLA, that will be a much less tenable argument for Bruin Republicans to make if they host a talk by someone whose sole recommendation is that his offensiveness to others is his big idea.

My understanding of the proposed Yiannopoulos event is that it is intended in part to be a fundraiser. Remember the question Jesus asks in the synoptic gospels, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” In the case of the Bruin Republicans, the question is not poignant but pathetic: What does it profit a club to cover the costs of an event—and maybe get enough to cover an end-of-year party—if they lose their integrity and reputation.

I am a strong believer in freedom of political speech. However, there is a distinction between tolerating speech and sponsoring speech. Neither I, nor you, nor Chancellor Block have the right to say that Milo Yiannopoulos cannot give a speech on campus.

But neither does that mean that I, or you, or Chancellor Block needs to actively invite him and actively promote his childish provocations. If he wants to stand on Bruin Walk ranting with the other creeps and lunatics, he can do so. I believe people have the right to do all sorts of things in the privacy of their own homes, but that doesn’t mean that I would invite them to do them in my living room for an audience of me and my dinner guests.

If you go through with hosting Yiannopoulos, I will vociferously support your right to do so—and the duty of the UCPD to use force if necessary to maintain order and prevent a heckler’s veto. However, I must just as vehemently and publicly disagree with your decision to host him.

Specifically, should the event go forward, I will decline to have any association with the Bruin Republicans until it has experienced a complete turnover in membership. I hope that will not be the case and that I can continue to support you.

Sincerely,
Gabriel Rossman

Extracted from full article at http://www.weeklystandard.com/open-letter-to-the-bruin-republicans-who-invited-milo-yiannopoulos-to-ucla/article/2011582

*Note: "épater les SJWs" = "shock the social justice warriors"

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After the announcement of the cancellation, Chancellor Block issued the following emailed statement:

To the Campus Community:

Free speech and intellectual debate, even when uncomfortable, are critical for thriving communities. And yet some speech, although legally protected, is intended primarily to insult, demean and spark outrage among members of our community.

Recently a student group invited an outside speaker to give a talk on campus. The title of the talk referenced what the speaker "hated" about Mexico – a country with deep ties to our city, our state and our nation. This is also a country that is an important part of the heritage of many Bruins. The expression of disdain did not appear to be an attempt to engage in reasoned discussion, but rather a move by the speaker to gain notoriety through a mean-spirited, racially tinged publicity stunt. This kind of tactic and his rhetoric are totally contrary to our values. I was grateful to learn earlier today that the sponsoring student group decided to cancel the event.

As a prominent university, we will continue to be a target for such provocateurs. I hope we will all continue to resist such provocations and further nurture our campus culture, which values ideas over hatred.

Sincerely,
Gene D. Block
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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Yes, we'll have no bananas?

From the San Diego Union-Tribune: Once again, a free speech controversy has erupted at an American university.

This time, it’s UC San Diego. The fight involves Woody Allen. It involves the #MeToo movement as well as speech. And some of the main figures aren’t speaking freely. At least not at the moment.

At the center of it all is Savanah Lyon, a 23-year-old theater major who is demanding that the campus stop teaching a course on Allen’s films because the director has been accused of, but never charged with, sexual abuse of his adopted daughter. She believes he’s morally unworthy of the attention.

Lyon created an online petition to pressure the campus on the matter. So far, it’s drawn about 15,000 signatures and generated a considerable amount of publicity and news coverage.

“When you have a class that has Woody Allen in the title you’re saying something to (sexual abuse) survivors everywhere — that once again these abusers are being put up on pedestals they don’t deserve,” Lyon said.

The university — which trumpets the value of free speech on its website — has decided to say almost nothing about the issue.

Steven Adler, the prize-winning theater professor who teaches the Woody Allen course, did not respond to requests for an interview. Nor did Cristina Della Coletta, dean of the Division of Arts and Humanities. Chancellor Pradeep Khosla has deferred comment until after the Academic Senate reviews the course.

But faculty elsewhere aren’t hesitating to talk about the subject, which at its core involves academic freedom.

If you ban the Woody Allen course “does it also mean you should not teach a course about the writings of Adolf Hitler?” asked Erwin Chemerinsky, the constitutional law expert who serves as dean of the law school at UC Berkeley.

“Lots of horrific people get studied in college. It would be frightening if campuses were making decisions based on the personalities and wrong-doings of people rather than the academic merit of the course. I hope (UC San Diego) bases things on merit.” ...

Lyon doesn’t believe that silencing a university professor — Steven Adler — violates the First Amendment, which she describes as a law “written by a bunch of white men …It was written in the 1700s — late 1700s. I mean, those men were experiencing things that are completely different now. (It’s) outdated.”

When asked how the law is outdated, Lyon said, “Well, it protected Donald Trump when he said --- a breadth of offensive things.”...