Thursday, October 20, 2016

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Alternatives not considered

Jerry Kang, Vice Chancellor and head of the UCLA Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion office, issued a statement in July concerning a leaked report from last summer. The opening paragraph:

An investigation report completed by UCLA’s Discrimination Prevention Office has leaked to the Daily Bruin and was today produced under a public records request. It’s about a hot button issue: divestment from Israel. For multiple reasons, I’m wary about commenting on a report that we did not publicly release. But misunderstandings are spreading. And if this past year as Vice Chancellor has taught me anything, it is to embrace transparency and to meet challenges head-on...

The full statement is at

A recent email from VC Kang circulated to the UCLA community is in a similar vein and generally calls for everyone to be considerate.

One possibility not considered in the report and email is that UCLA needs to establish a greater separation between student government affairs and official university policy. The more that what goes on in student government is seen as a responsibility of the university, the more the university becomes entangled in matters it has little control over currently. Separation could involve a move away from mandatory student fees. There could be a fee opt-out option, for example. If separation is not possible, there could alternatively be some version of the old "fairness doctrine" for student-fee supported political programs, which for decades applied to radio and TV broadcasters. You can go for separation or you can go for more control. But the current situation - little control but responsibility for outcomes - is bound to create problems. General calls to be considerate are OK but don't address the issue.

In short, there are a variety of issues and alternatives to be considered. But at the moment, no one is even considering them. It's time to start such a consideration.

We're Number 1!

From the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF):

Inside Intellectual Ventures' Portfolio: Nearly 500 University Patents

Harvard researcher Yarden Katz has just published some fascinating findings on which universities have sold patents to notorious patent-holding company Intellectual Ventures (IV). Of the nearly 30,000 active patents that IV lists publicly, 470 of them were originally assigned to universities—a total of 61 institutions.
Katz explains how he arrived at these numbers:

How many of IV’s patents came from universities?

To answer this, I have scraped the names of the original assignees for each of the U.S. patents in the portfolio from patent records (see annotated patents list). The analysis shows that nearly 500 of IV’s patents originally belonged to universities, including state schools.

Katz found some other surprises in IV’s portfolio, including nearly 100 patents from the U.S. Navy.

If you know nothing else about patent trolls, you’ve still probably heard the name Intellectual Ventures before. IV is one of the largest patent trolls in the world and has been behind many of the most egregious cases of litigation abuse. Earlier this year, we wrote about IV suing a florist over its patent on crew assignments. For many years, it has tried to cultivate relationships with American universities so it can add their patents to its portfolio.

As we’ve discussed here before, over 100 universities have endorsed a set of principles for university patenting practices. Among other points, it suggests that universities should require that licensees “operate under a business model that encourages commercialization and does not rely primarily on threats of infringement litigation to generate revenue.” Unfortunately, a number of those institutions appear not to be living up to this principle.

From Katz’s post:

Both the University of California and Caltech signed the 2007 statement, yet IV now owns tens of patents from these schools that were filed after 2007. For instance, the IV portfolio includes a Caltech patent filed in 2010 (granted in 2011) and University of California patent filed in 2008 (granted in 2014). Other universities that signed the statement, such as Stanford, Harvard and MIT, did not have patents in the portfolio.

Along with a coalition of users’ rights organizations, EFF recently launched a campaign asking universities to sign a pledge that they won’t sell or license patents to trolls.

When universities sell patents to trolls, it directly undermines the role that they play as engines of innovation: the more patents trolls hold in a certain area of technology, the more dangerous that field is for innovators. The licensing decisions that universities make today will strengthen or sabotage the next generation of inventors. That’s why we encourage everyone to speak out: students, faculty, alumni, parents, and community members. These policies affect all of us...

Full story at

Trolls can be a problem:

Tuesday, October 18, 2016


University of California continues to cull active managers as performance suffers


Jagdeep Singh Bachher, the chief investment officer of the University of California Regents, cited volatile markets for the -3.4% return of the $9.1 billion endowment in the fiscal year ended June 30, and is continuing efforts to reduce the number of active equity managers.

“It's been a difficult time for endowments generally and UC specifically,” Mr. Bachher said, explaining the results at a UC committee on investments meeting Sept. 9.

Mr. Bachher, who also oversees the university's $54.1 billion defined benefit plan and other investment pools totaling more than $100 billion, has made major changes in his 30-month tenure, including terminating 66 of the fund's 80 external equity managers.

Mr. Bachher declined requests for an interview though a spokeswoman, who referred a reporter to a video of the Sept. 9 meeting of the UC committee.

Mr. Bachher said at that meeting that investment results were gross of fees. He said UC paid about $600 million in fees to external managers for the endowment, pension plan and the total return investment pool.

“We see a cost structure that is still very expensive,” he said, noting that equity fees by active managers were in the range of a 1% overall fee and a 12% carry fee.

UC statistics show that the endowment held $4.2 billion, or 46.3% of its assets, in equity strategies. Equities were UC's worst-performing asset class in the year, with a -10.6% return...

Full story at

Here's the question:

Monday, October 17, 2016

Kafka at Berkeley

UC Berkeley chancellor’s personal trainer in ‘Kafkaesque’ tangle

By Matier & Ross, October 17, 2016,  San Francisco Chronicle

The saga of the UC Berkeley personal trainer who was put on paid administrative leave over questions about his relationship with Chancellor Nicholas Dirks and his wife gets stranger by the day.

Devin Wicks was the subject of a whistle-blower tip that he was giving free training sessions to Dirks and had accompanied the chancellor’s wife, Janaki Bakhle, who is an associate professor in history, on an alumni association-sponsored trip to India — all on the campus’ dime.

Thanks to Wicks, Dirks had also received an annual membership at the campus’ Recreational Sports Facility valued at $420.

Now, after six months of investigations, Wicks’ former boss at the Recreational Sports Facility has filed his own whistle-blower complaint with the university and UC President Janet Napolitano’s office — accusing them of wasting money by hanging Wicks out to dry for so long.

“He has no idea if and when the investigation will ever be over,” said Wicks’ former boss, Michael Weinberger, who retired as head of the Recreational Sports Facility in February.

Weinberger tells us that he was the one — and not Wicks — who authorized the chancellor’s free membership as a way to encourage Dirks to pay more attention to the school’s recreational needs.

According to his whistle-blower complaint, if there’s been any improper spending, it’s the more than $53,000 in salary and benefits that has been wasted these past six months keeping Wicks on the payroll but not allowing him to work.

Weinberger said Wicks was going through a “Kafkaesque experience.” UC officials have ordered him not to speak to anyone at the university or to reporters, but he’s been given no updates on the status of the case or been charged with any wrongdoing, Weinberger said.

“Also, it should be noted that while this investigation has dragged on, the chancellor was never put out on administrative leave,” Weinberger said.

On Friday, Dianne Klein, spokeswoman for Napolitano, said that “the investigation isn’t finalized, but we anticipate that it will be soon.” Beyond that, she said, she couldn’t comment.

UCLA History: '37 View

A 1937 view of the campus

Sunday, October 16, 2016