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 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.