Monday Memo: news & views about working at UC

For the Week of June 23, 2014

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The case against UCLA professor Patrick Harran in the 2009 death of 23-year-old staff research associate Sheharbano ("Sheri") Sangji was settled on Friday in a deal that "all but frees him from criminal liability," reports the Los Angeles Times. The deal concluded "a court battle that transfixed the scientific community," says the Toronto Star. Harran, noted Nature, is the "first academic chemist ever to face criminal charges in a United States lab accident.” He faced 4.5 years in prison. Instead, under a "deferred prosecution agreement," Harran got community service and a $10,000 fine to be paid to the burn center where Sangji was treated. The judge, apparently moved by testimony from Sangji's family and friends, doubled the fine and Harran's community service obligation. Sangji’s family was disappointed that the case wasn't tried; their statement is here. For background, see The Safety Zone, a Chemical & Engineering News blog.

Although the governor's budget includes a "modest increase" for UC, "it's nowhere near enough to lessen the burden on students and maintain the high quality" of the university, claims the UCLA’s Daily Bruin.

Not one more
UPTE's board, meeting in Santa Barbara in the wake of May's mass shooting, sends a message to gun profiteers
Photo: Susanne Paradis


The June issue of UPTE’s Update newsletter (PDF) is just off the press, with news about the fall of UC’s unfair Rule of 50 – thanks to union organzing – as well as the statewide petition campaign by UC administrative professionals for a better wage increase. Be sure to also check out the story on page 4 of the UPTE executive board’s resolution, in the wake of the mass shootings in Santa Barbara in May, to divest UC pension funds from gun profiteers and the National Rifle Association.

UC president Janet Napolitano said Friday she is forming a task force to guide efforts at preventing sexual violence at UC’s 10 campuses. Earlier this year, 31 UC Berkeley students filed complaints with the federal government alleging that UC administrators “mishandled assault allegations and have for years failed to inform victims of their rights, discouraged them from reporting assaults and conducted internal reviews that favored the accused,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

While some politicians are on the attack against public workers in California and nationally, it is useful to recall the history of labor organizing in the public sector. In the 1960s and '70s, a wave of walkouts, strikes and other creative mobilizations by public workers – from university and clerical workers to postal and sanitation employees – successfully brought better wages and working conditions to public-sector jobs. How did they do it? Take a few minutes to read this article by Joe Burns in Labor Notes.
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