Media Coverage 04/24/17

Ann Coulter’s insistence on speaking in the Berkeley area on Thursday, April 27 has raised fears of another violent political clash on UC Berkeley’s campus. The conservative commentator was invited to speak on campus by a student Republican group, which failed to inform the administration of their invitation. After campus leaders got wind of the invite, they insisted the organization and Coulter agree to a number of conditions aimed at preventing a repeat of the riot which stopped Milo Yiannopoulos from speaking on campus. Eventually, the administration cancelled the April 27 event, offering to host the speaker at a later date.

The cancellation was criticized by the student group and across right wing media outlets, which repeatedly questioned the campus’s commitment to free speech. Prof. Robert Reich, who has a following on the left, also waded into the fray, saying Coulter should be allowed to speak. The university insisted Coulter was being allowed to speak, but that moving the date would allow her to do so safely. Coulter rejected the later date, saying it would not work for her schedule and she had committed to April 27. Since the Yiannopoulos event, the city of Berkeley has been the scene of violent clashes between supporters of President Donald Trump and those opposed to the administration, many of whom identify as Antifa, or anti-fascists. Some media reports have noted there is an effort to find a nearby off-campus venue for Coulter to use on April 27. The student Republican group has stated it may sue the university over the incident. On the lighter side, the controversy was lampooned by the satirical website The Onion, which ran the headline, “Berkeley Campus On Lockdown After Loose Pages From ‘Wall Street Journal’ Found On Park Bench.”

In other news, an audit by the state questioned the management of the California State University system. The report found that between fiscal years 2007-08 and 2015-16, the number of managers grew by 15 percent while the number of faculty rose by only 7 percent. It also raises questions about how managers are evaluated and compensated. UC’s finances are also in the news, as a digital overhaul of UC’s payroll and personnel system entitled UCPath has seen four years of delays and costs triple.

News Articles

4/21 – How Berkeley has become the far left’s and far right’s battleground (WaPo): The article notes how UC Berkeley and the City of Berkeley have become sites for frequent clashes between activists on both ends of the political spectrum, though its discussion of the far left conflates distinct movements. It notes targeting campuses is often a successful strategy for the right:

The showdowns are, for many on the far right, part of a successful strategy: schedule a controversial event on campus or in town, wait for the liberal outrage and threats of violence to grow, and when the event is canceled, point out the hypocrisy and oppression against free speech.

4/21 – Berkeley Is Being Tested on 2 Fronts: Free Speech and Safety (NYT): The article frames the campus’s weighing of free speech, violence and its reputation.

4/20 – How Berkeley became a hotbed of violence in the Trump era (Politico): Politico takes a deep look at the recent eruptions in Berkeley and what’s motivating protestors.

4/20 – Satire: Berkeley Campus On Lockdown After Loose Pages From ‘Wall Street Journal’ Found On Park Bench (TheOnion): The satirical website wrote:

Advising students to remain in their dormitories and classrooms until the situation was resolved, the University of California, Berkeley declared a campuswide lockdown Thursday after several loose pages from The Wall Street Journal were found on a park bench outside a school building. “At 11:15 this morning, several pages from two separate sections of today’s Wall Street Journal were discovered spread across a bench outside of Eshleman Hall in Lower Sproul Plaza,” read the urgent alert sent to all students and faculty, emphasizing that while campus security and local police had safely disposed of the pages, there was no way of knowing if others were strewn elsewhere on university grounds. “As of now, the perpetrator remains at large, so it is vital that you stay where you are until the all-clear is given. In the meantime, notify police immediately if you have any additional information at all regarding this incident.” At press time, a black-clad group of 50 students were throwing bottles at the bench while chanting, “No Nazis, No KKK, No Fascist U.S.A!”

4/20 – Cal State hires too many managers, needs better budget oversight, state audit finds (LATimes): The article notes Cal Poly was singled out as a particularly bad apple. According to the article, the campus “increased pay for at least 70 management personnel in 2016 who either had outdated performance evaluations or no evaluations on file.”

You can read the audit here.

4/17 – Cost triples, delays mount for UC computer system upgrade (SacBee): A total of $327 million has been spent on the project so far, which is only operational at UC’s system headquarters.

 

Media Coverage 4/16/17

The UC system settled lawsuits with Sujit Choudhry, former dean of UC Berkeley’s law school, and Tyann Sorrell, a former assistant to Choudhry who accused him of sexual harassment. The deals were reached in March but not announced until Friday. As part of the settlements, Choudhry, who resigned as dean in 2016 amidst the scandal, will pay $50,000 to Sorrell’s lawyers and an additional $50,000 to a charity Sorrell will choose. Choudhry will be on an unpaid sabbatical through May 2018, retaining travel and research benefits. After that point, he will resign from the university. According to the Associated Press, “(UC) also will withdraw all disciplinary complaints against him, and will not be able to say he acted with sexual intent or posed a risk to faculty, students or staff.” In a comment to the AP, Sorrell’s attorney said, “This is just one more example of UC refusing to take sexual harassment seriously and once again offering a soft landing even after a finding of harassment.” The settlement ends a series of lawsuits and investigations that began after Choudhry began allegedly harassing Sorrell in 2014. After Sorrell complained that Choudhry kissed and hugged her, the university reportedly substantiated the claims and issued a temporary 10 percent pay cut to Choudhry. Sorrell subsequently sued the university, arguing that the punishment was too light. Choudhry also sued the university, in part claiming the school had discriminated against him.

In related news, the university has narrowed its search for Choudhry’s successor to three candidates: Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of UC Irvine’s law school; Laura Gómez, a law professor and interim dean of UCLA’s College Division of Social Sciences; and Kimberly Yuracko, a law professor at Northwestern University. Elsewhere, UC has appealed a U.S. patent ruling concerning CRISPR. If the ruling stands, UC would likely share licensing rights to the gene-editing technology with the Broad Institute.

4/15 – Harassment accuser condemns UC Berkeley deal (AP): The article quotes Sorrell stating, “This deal insults all who suffer harassment at the hands of those with power and privilege.”

4/12 – Search committee for new Berkeley Law dean narrows in on 3 candidates (DailyCal): In contrast to UC Berkeley’s recently completed search for its next chancellor, the three law dean finalists were invited to public events.
4/13 – University of California files appeal over CRISPR patents (Reuters): The wire service report offers an overview of the CRISPR legal saga.
4/13 – Why the University of California Is Appealing the CRISPR Patent Decision (Atlantic): The Atlantic highlights the high financial stakes of the appeal.
Also see UC Berkeley’s statement

Media Coverage 4/10/17

According to a BuzzFeed report, UC Berkeley knew of at least three sexual misconduct complaints against John Searle, professor emeritus of philosophy, before he was sued last month by a 24-year-old woman. The suit alleges the woman was fired from a post as Searle’s research assistant after refusing his advances. BuzzFeed’s report claims that in 2014 Searle told an undergraduate he could not employ her in a research position because she was married and therefore would not be committed to the job. In 2013, Searle allegedly tried to kiss a foreign exchange student in his office. In 2004, a graduate student reported to the chair of the philosophy department that Searle had tried to play footsie with her under a table at an event for prospective students. After it appeared the university took little action in response, the graduate student transferred to another school. BuzzFeed reports that the three newly uncovered incidents were reviewed by UC Berkeley’s Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination. In a statement made through his attorney, Searle has denied the claims advanced in the March lawsuit, stating that he “questions the plaintiff’s motives for bringing her complaint.” The statement also notes that UC Berkeley treated any past allegations “appropriately” and that the footsie incident was “rejected by the university” after an investigation. UC Berkeley declined to comment to BuzzFeed due to confidentially concerns, but said a “rigorous investigation” into the claims related to the March lawsuit and past allegations are on-going. In other news, University of California President Janet Napolitano penned an op-ed championing the system’s research ties with Mexico, an initiative she says President Donald Trump has complicated. In another op-ed, UC Berkeley’s next chancellor, Carol Christ, and two coauthors criticized an attack by the Hungarian prime minister on the Central European University. Christ and her coauthors are trustees on the university’s board.

4/7 – UC Berkeley Was Warned About Its Star Professor Years Before Sexual Harassment Lawsuit (BuzzFeed): The article also notes that Searle is accused of inappropriate behavior in large undergraduate classes and of impersonating an offensive accent.

4/4 – Op-Ed: Hungary’s xenophobic attack on Central European University is a threat to freedom everywhere (WaPo): The authors have a harsh take on the PM’s move to limit the immigration of international students and faculty:

Let’s not sugarcoat this attempt at purging CEU. This is nothing less than an attack rooted in a xenophobic nationalism and an anti-intellectual mistrust of the conduct of free inquiry, research and teaching. The crackdown on CEU is part of Orban’s (the prime minister) larger crackdown on nongovernmental organizations and freedom of expression. In October, Hungary’s biggest opposition newspaper, which was critical of Orban, was shut down. The government has also pledged to tighten its grip on foreign-backed NGOs.

4/7 – Op-Ed: UC initiative with Mexico shows advantages of cooperation over confrontation (SacBee): Napolitano highlighted some outcomes from UC’s program in Mexico:

The initiative is now showing results, and these successes have come at a propitious time. Among the outcomes announced during this trip were a $10 million grant from Mexico’s Energy Ministry for energy efficiency projects with UC researchers, gains in combating diabetes on both sides of the border, and new student internships. A reception at UC’s Casa de California brought together more than 200 UC alumni living in Mexico who were eager to support the UC-Mexico partnership.

4/6 – UC president walks downtown Merced, future site of administrative center (MercedSunStar): A new $45 million UC Merced building in downtown Merced is intended to help revitalize the town. The university’s main campus is set off away from the Central Valley city.

4/6 – UC lead Napolitano brings can-do message to Johansen High (ModBee): Napolitano’s appearance was part of a program intended to increase the diversity and number of students applying to the UC system.

 

Media Coverage 04/02/17

A ruling on March 23 by the European Patent Office is good news for Berkeley. According to Science, the office ruled in Berkeley’s favor concerning a fight over licensing rights to the technology popularly known as CRISPR, announcing its intent to grant Berkeley a patent covering all of the technology’s applications. In February, the US Patent and Trademark Office ruled that Berkeley would have to share a patent for the gene-editing technology with the MIT and Harvard-affiliated Broad Institute. A Berkeley scientist, Jennifer Doudna, and her collaborator were the first to use the technology to edit the genes of prokaryotic cells. Shortly after, a scientist at the Broad Institute used the technology on eukaryotic cells, the type of cells found in animals and plants. Berkeley had asked the US Patent and Trademark Office to deny the Broad Institute’s application for a patent, but the office ruled the Broad application’s more narrow definition, which only covers the use of the technology in eukaryotic cells, could stand. The Berkeley application, which is still under review in the US, will apply to CRISPR technology more widely. As a result, any revenue from medical applications in the US, which is speculated to be in the billions of dollars, would likely be shared between the two patent holders. Science reports the Broad Institute is likely to challenge the European ruling, which would cover the technology’s use in about 40 countries, while Berkeley is also likely to continue fighting the US ruling.

In other news, the UC system saw its first drop in applications from international students in 12 years, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The article argues that the one percent drop from last year is driven by the election of President Donald Trump, noting that the decrease in applications from Mexico and nations with large Muslim populations were 30 and 10 percent, respectively. In The Atlantic, a right-leaning writer wrote a lengthy piece criticizing UC for spending $1 million on its investigation into misconduct by former UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi. Also, a planned visit to Berkeley by Ann Coulter has raised fears of violent protests. The event is co-sponsored by an organization that promotes discussion across the political spectrum.

3/27 – Europe says University of California deserves broad patent for CRISPR (Science): The article quotes a patent expert who advocates for the two sides to work out a deal. According to the article:

Cook-Deegan (from Arizona State) long has advocated that the public would benefit most if UC and the Broad reached a peace treaty and agreed to share, through what’s known as a cross-license agreement, in the CRISPR spoils. The new decision, he says, “further emphasizes the need for a cross-licensing deal, so folks can have some sense of what they can do and sell without getting sued, and from whom they need to get licenses.”

You can read UC Berkeley’s press release on the matter here. To brush up on the February ruling, click here for coverage from the LA Times.

4/1 – UC sees 1st drop in international applicants in more than decade (SF Chronicle): The article notes there is a precedent for US foreign policy impacting international applications:

The last time undergraduates from around the world shied away from UC, the United States had just led a multinational invasion of Iraq in 2003. The war coincided with a plunge in international interest in UC campuses and other American universities in 2004 and 2005 that even post-9/11 security crackdowns had failed to achieve.

3/31 – Commentary: Spending $1 Million to Get Rid of a Single Bureaucrat (The Atlantic): The right-leaning author recounts the Katehi story and criticizes UC for spending $1 million on its investigation.

3/29 – Planned Ann Coulter Visit To UC Berkeley Has Organizers Fearing Another Backlash (CBS): The article notes concerns that the event will result in protests similar to those which prevented right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos from speaking on campus.

Curious how the right-wing media is covering the Coulter news? Here’s a link to Breitbart’s take, which focuses on the violence which prevented Yiannopoulos (a former Breitbart editor) from speaking. Surprisingly, the article, much like UC Berkeley, seems to blame the violence not on students but outsider groups. The article also notes UC Berkeley’s history in the Free Speech Movement.

 

Media Coverage 3/25/17

Once again UC Berkeley is in the news after a high-profile professor has been accused of sexual misconduct. John Searle, professor emeritus of philosophy, has been accused in a lawsuit of sexual assault, sexual harassment and wrongful termination. A 24-year-old UC Berkeley alumna alleges that, while she was employed at the Searle Center for Social Ontology, Searle groped her and told her they would become “lovers,” promising to support her career. The lawsuit alleges that the plaintiff told university employees, including the Center’s director, Jennifer Hudin, who took no formal action. The plaintiff claims that her salary was cut and she was fired after refusing Searle’s advances. The lawsuit, filed in Alameda County Superior Court, also alleges Searle watched pornography on campus. Searle stopped teaching an undergraduate course in March.

In other news, the Sacramento Bee reported that the four-month UC investigation into former UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi cost nearly $1 million, which came out of UCOP’s endowment. The UC system’s other tarnished chancellor, soon-to-be-former Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, was found to have improperly received around $10,000 worth of free gym benefits. At UC San Diego, a conservative organization is supporting a poster campaign targeting UC President Janet Napolitano over her support of sanctuary campuses. In an interview, Napolitano insisted the UC system is committed to continuing partnerships with Mexican researchers.

News

3/23 – A Former Student Says UC Berkeley’s Star Philosophy Professor Groped Her And Watched Porn At Work (BuzzFeed): The article contains a PDF of the lawsuit and notes that BuzzFeed has received tips of other complaints against Searle.

Also see: Inside Higher Ed | SFGate

3/24 – UC spent nearly $1 million in probe of former UC Davis Chancellor Katehi (SacBee): UCOP insists the money does not include tuition or state funding.

3/23 – UC is moving forward with Mexican initiative, regardless of Trump actions (LATimes): Despite President Trump’s hostile stance toward Mexico, UC insists it will continue a close collaboration with researchers within the United States’ southern neighbor.

3/24 – UC probe finds Cal chancellor got improper freebies from gym (SFGate): The report notes:

“After a months-long investigation by the president’s office, UC concluded in September that Dirks had improperly allowed a ‘newish’ $3,500 elliptical exercise machine to be installed in the chancellor’s home; had been given a complementary, four-year membership to the Recreational Sports Facility worth $1,870; and had 48 free workout sessions with Wicks worth ‘a minimum of $3,120.'”

Also see: LA Times

3/23 – Posters to go up at UC San Diego targeting Janet Napolitano and ‘sanctuary campuses’ (LATimes): A conservative organization plans a poster campaign to target UC President Napolitano over her support of sanctuary campuses.

3/23 – Press Release: UC, Teamsters reach tentative agreement on labor contract for clerical staff (UCOP): The contract will last until 2022. According to the press release:

  • Wages: An annual 3 percent wage increase for every covered employee, totaling 18 percent over the life of the contract.
  • Ratification bonus:  A $1,200 bonus per clerical employee, paid upon contract ratification (except those at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory due to U.S. Department of Energy regulations).
  • Health care: A $25 limit on any rate increases to the Kaiser and Health Net Blue and Gold health insurance plans, to further protect lower-salaried employees in an ever-changing health care market. The typical UC clerical employee will continue to pay an average of just $32 a month, or $384 per year, for generous health benefits for themselves and their dependents. By contrast, the average American worker pays more than $5,200 per year for less generous health benefits for just themselves.
  • Retirement benefits: Employees hired before July 1, 2016 — the vast majority of all UC clerical staff — will continue to receive the same retirement benefits they currently do at the same contribution rates. Employees hired on or after July 1, 2016 will have the option to choose either a traditional pension plan or a 401(k)-style plan, whichever fits their preference and needs.

Media Coverage 3/17/17

Carol Christ has been appointed Berkeley’s next chancellor, the first female to hold the position. An expert on Victorian literature, Christ served as executive vice chancellor and provost for six years in the 1990s. In 2002, she left Berkeley, where she had worked since becoming an assistant professor in 1970, to become president of Smith College, a role she held from 2002 to 2013. Christ returned to UC in 2015 to lead the campus’s Center for Studies in Higher Education and became interim executive vice chancellor and provost in May, replacing Claude Steele who resigned due to a perception that he and other campus leaders were tolerant of sexual misconduct. Christ has again been called on to fill a post vacated by a controversial resignation, as current Chancellor Nicholas Dirks agreed to step down following mounting criticism around his handling of sexual misconduct and an investigation into misuse of funds. The move was met with a high-level of praise from various bodies representing campus communities, including the Faculty Senate, the BFA and the Daily Cal’s editorial board. Christ’s salary will be$532,000, the same as what Dirks currently earns. Regents approved her appointment on Thursday and she will officially take over July 1.

In other news, Assembly Democrats announced a plan to reduce student debt. The plan has four components: (1) to make community colleges tuition free for one-year; (2) to expand the Success Grants program for low-income community college students; (3) reject Gov. Brown’s proposed elimination of the Middle Class Scholarship, which covers about 40 percent of tuition for 55,000 students; (4) and to create a new Degrees Not Debt Scholarship to help with non-tuition related costs of attending a UC or CSU campus. The governor’s office has expressed skepticism about the state’s ability to fund the $1.6 billion program. Elsewhere, the UC Regents delayed a vote on the non-resident enrollment cap until May. While it hasn’t received media attention, Assemblymembers Kevin Kiley (R-Roseville) and Bill Quirk (D-Hayward) have proposed a bill that would “urge” higher education campuses in California to adopt a free speech statement similar to the one produced by the University of Chicago (which you can read here).

3/13 – Carol Christ is named UC Berkeley’s chancellor (SFChronicle): Note the following reactions quoted by the paper:

“It’s fantastic news for the campus. Carol already commands a great deal of respect from the faculty,” said Robert Powell, a political science professor who chairs the Faculty Senate on campus.

“Carol Christ’s integrity, commitment to transparency and genuine love for UC Berkeley make her a worthy choice,” said the group’s co-chair, Celeste Langan, an associate professor of English, though “we don’t expect always to agree with (her) on every issue.”

For example, Langan said, her group believes the solution to the campus deficit “is to restore full public funding of tuition, not to turn the university into a revenue-generating business enterprise.” But she said Christ, who has not advocated eliminating tuition, has “demonstrated her willingness to engage in respectful, collegial dialogue.”

Michael O’Hare, a professor at the campus’ Goldman School of Public Policy, was so enthused by her selection that he emailed lyrics from Gilbert & Sullivan’s “Mikado,” which include the sentiment: “With joyous shout and ringing cheer, inaugurate our new career!”

O’Hare said he thinks Christ might be the first chancellor willing to slash money-losing intercollegiate athletics.

“I think she’ll have the courage to put them on a short financial leash, even if that means we have to leave Division 1, which I think would be great,” he said.

Kathryn Lybarger, a UC Berkeley gardener and president of the statewide labor union, congratulated Christ in a statement while inviting her to “join our efforts to address skyrocketing executive compensation (and) prevent outsourcing of career jobs to poverty wage contractors.”

3/17 – Editorial: Appointment of Carol Christ good for campus (DailyCal): Student editorial praises Christ for her knowledge of the campus and notes some of the challenges she may face, such a decision over whether to build a dorm on People’s Park.

3/14 – Editorial: Assembly Democrats over-promise free college (SacBee): Given uncertainty around Federal funding for social programs, now may not be the best time for a large new expenditure, the paper writes.

Also see: Official Statement

3/13 – Debt-free college? Assembly Democrats want to make it possible for California students (SacBee): The plan would cost the state about $1.6 billion, a figure the governor is citing in statements reflecting his office’s skepticism toward the state’s ability to pay for plan.

3/16 – UC regents debate enrollment limits on students from other states and countries, approve Berkeley chancellor (LATimes): The Regents delayed until May a vote on a proposal to limit out-of-state enrollment system-wide to 20 percent. A number of issues are in the air, including how to treat campuses which already exceed the limit and will be allowed to maintain their current levels under the plan and whether the cap is set at the right level. There is pressure both to lower the cap and to eliminate it.

3/16 -Four-year degree costs drop at California systems (IHE): According to a report, the institutional costs per degree dropped by 6 percent at UC from 1987 to 2013. In 2013, the cost was $109,000.

3/15 – University of California Fund to Double Private-Equity Holdings (Bloomberg): UC will double its investment in private equity (such as startups) and reduce what is held in traditional stocks, a move the fund’s manager said is made with long-term stability in mind.

Media Coverage 3/10/17

UC has proposed capping out-of-state undergraduate enrollment at 20 percent. The details to the proposal are key, as the cap would apply to the system-wide proportion, meaning some campuses would be able to exceed the 20 percent threshold (at Berkeley, nonresidents make up about 24.5 percent), so long as the inflated nonresident enrollment is balanced out elsewhere (at UC Merced, the rate is below one percent). However, the three campuses currently above 20 percent — Berkeley, UCLA and UC San Diego — would not be allowed to grow their share of out-of-state ranks any further. Last year, lawmakers in Sacramento said UC would not receive an additional $18.5 million unless it established a cap on such enrollment, a demand tied to a controversial state audit which criticized the system for admitting too many students from outside California. Currently, nonresident students make up 16.5 percent of the system’s 210,000 undergraduates. UC contends out-of-state enrollment increases diversity and funds the education of additional Californians, as nonresidents brought in $550 million in tuition in 2016-17. The average percent of nonresident enrollment within the 62-member AAU is 27.9 percent. In other news, a large group of former students of Nezar AlSayyad — a Berkeley architecture professor accused in media reports of sexual misconduct — decried the academic’s ‘trial by the press’ and questioned the validity of any investigation into his conduct.

3/6 – UC proposes its first enrollment cap — 20% — on out-of-state students (LATimes): The article notes a lukewarm response to the proposal, including from Assemblymen Kevin McCarty and faculty representatives:

“It’s a mixed bag,” McCarty said of the UC proposal. “Finally, after all of these years, UC is on the verge of setting a firm nonresident policy that will help us prioritize California kids. But we were hoping the cap would be at today’s numbers. It’s close, but it falls a little short.”

…Faculty members are not enthusiastic, said UC Academic Senate Chairman James Chalfant. They oppose an “arbitrary quota,” he said, that could force UC to turn away the best and the brightest and forgo additional needed dollars. The group has presented an alternative that would impose enrollment limits only on campuses at which the expansion of nonresident students hurts Californians and only after UC is given enough funding to maintain its quality.

3/6 – Op-Ed: Berkeley professor accused of misconduct being railroaded (EBT): Thirty-six former students of Berkeley Professor Professor Nezar AlSayyad question the treatment of their former mentor who has been accused in media accounts of sexual misconduct. The authors claim support for AlSayyad and question the investigation into his actions.

3/8 – Sexual harassment: records show how University of California faculty target students (Guardian): More coverage of last week’s records release concerning over 100 cases of sexual misconduct. This article highlights how faculty members have targeted students.

3/10 – UC Berkeley cops release photos of 31 suspects in campus riot (SFGate): UC Berkeley police have asked the public for help in identifying 31 suspects in the riot that prevented Milo Yiannopoulos from speaking on campus.