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For the Week of July 19, 2010
University of California actions were the subject of news and protests last week. On Thursday, over objections reported in last week’s Monday Memo, the regents launched the pilot test of an online undergraduate degree program. Pros and cons appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere. UC Berkeley Law School dean Christopher Edley, who has championed the idea, thinks “online education could become central to the University of California,” while a Chronicle editorial muses that “As it stands now, online education is a hodgepodge effort by private, for-profit companies that are making gobs of money -- but not providing much in the way of quality to students.”
The regents also banned a filmmaker from their meeting in violation of the state’s 1967 Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act, which “ensures that anyone may film a public meeting.” UC spokespeople also violated the law by requesting that the filmmaker identify himself. As a result of protests by state Senator Leland Yee and a professional journalists’ association, UC is reviewing its policy about filming meetings.
Also making the news were revelations about two for-profit educational investments that may constitute conflict of interest for regent Richard C. Blum, according to a Los Angeles Times columnist, both of which have been investigated by federal authorities and may raise questions about Blum’s vision for public higher education.
Like other state employees, UC whistle-blowers who are fired will be able to sue for damages as of January 2011 thanks to legislation recommended by a California Supreme Court justice in 2008. The new bill, Senator Leland Yee’s SB 650, was signed into law on Thursday by Governor Schwarzenegger, over UC objections. One former whistle-blower and others complain the law doesn’t go far enough because “employees must still take their grievances to UC's administrative review board before going to court.”
The final report of the UC Berkeley faculty-alumni committee that has been investigating athletics budget deficits claimed that “intercollegiate athletics has been playing by a very different set of budgetary rules from the rest of the campus” and the “culture of what has appeared to be unconstrained spending must change.” Chancellor Birgeneau will announce next month “how he plans to deal with a chronic athletics deficit that has forced the university to pump up to $14 million per year into the department's budget.”