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Got the Monday blues? Start your week off right with a helping of useful information and informed opinion. 

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For the week of March 15, 2010

A Superior Court judge has ordered UC to refund $38 million in fees plus interest to medical, law, and professional school students whose costs were raised thousands of dollars despite UC’s promise their fees would not increase.

Meanwhile, the San Jose Mercury News reports that more promising young Californians are applying to out-of-state schools, foregoing the once sought-after experience of a UC education.

The Los Angeles Times reported this week that, while investigating the January 2009 death of UCLA lab researcher Sheri Sangji, CalOSHA discovered that a graduate student was injured in a similar accident a year before but that UC never reported the incident. Cal/OSHA this month fined UC $23,900 for the earlier incident. CalOSHA has also fined UC $31,000 for Sangji’s death and an additional $67,700 for safety violations that occurred since her death. It is also looking into criminal charges and has submitted the case to the LA County district attorney’s office. UC denied the violations.

AFSCME’s aggressive tactics against layoffs and contracting out have been paying off, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. From a sit-in at UC Irvine over custodian negotiations, to a threatened picket of a Bill Clinton speaking event, to dogging regent Richard Blum, AFSCME activists have been taking the fight directly to the regents -- and getting results. One union activist told ABC News about the contradiction of regents voting to furlough workers making less than $40,000 while handing out bonuses of $9 million to UC executives.

The Sacramento Bee’s recent editorial taking UC executives to task for “bloat at the top” elicited a sharp response from UC’s president, Mark Yudof, who seems to admit there is bloat but claims a good chunk of it is the medical centers and the system’s far-flung “enterprises.”

Growth at the top while slashing basic services is also an issue in Britain, where the Guardian reports that salaries have soared for the heads of UK universities, with most now making more than the prime minister, while the institutions themselves “face savage funding cuts, with students asked to pay higher fees to help balance university books.” In a similar vein, CBS’ 60 Minutes covered the bank bailout this week with an interview with Berkeley writer Michael Lewis, who called excessive executive compensation “an elegant form of theft.”

A recent letter from the chair and vice chair of the Academic Senate reminds Yudof of requirements for “consultation and shared governance,” noting “persistent anxiety and mistrust among campus faculty directed at the University’s response to the budget crisis.”

Berkeley Faculty Association co-chair Wendy Brown was among thousands who marched on Sacramento March 4, and gave this talk on the steps of the capitol detailing how public education makes democracy itself possible.

The California Labor Federation blogged about the joint student-staff March 4 action. More photographs and videos have also come out about the day at UCSD and UCSC. There’s an excellent collection of visuals at Spot.Us, a community-supported journalism site that is engaged in researching the regents’ investments.

And in the wake of a string of racist incidents at UCSD, a faculty member writes about the history of organizing for racial justice there. _____________________________________________________________________________________

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