Monday, January 31, 2011

Boalt Hall News Update: White Folk Somewhat Racist

Or at least, that's what I think is suggested by the headline, "Whites Often Resist Effort to Create Multicultural Work Environments."

There's no link to the forthcoming research, but I bet it's more nuanced than the article describing it. For one thing, the research appears to focus less on obstructionism than on the ineffectiveness of diversity programs that exclude important stakeholders.

Consider the research results, described as follows:
Research in three of the studies—of college students and employees—shows that whites associate multiculturalism with exclusion as opposed to inclusion. But importantly the same bias does not exist when whites are explicitly included in conceptualizing a multicultural paradigm. . . .

In a fourth study[,] the research team found that whites are less likely to endorse diversity than minorities—in part because they feel less included in their organization’s definition of diversity. In their fifth study, the researchers found that white business students with a high need to belong are less attracted to multicultural than color-blind organizations.
This leads to the authors' conclusions:
“We’re not arguing that diversity initiatives should cater to whites instead of to racial minorities,” Plaut said. “But our research does suggest that signaling to whites that they have no place in diversity programs will hinder the success of these efforts.
That last sentence doesn't sound controversial to me. It's almost a tautology that non-inclusive inclusion programs are going to be ineffective. But when a diversity program signals--rightly or wrongly-that it has no place for certain groups of people, I don't think it's fair to blame those people for "resisting" that program.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Egypt Erupts

Watching Al Jazeera's English language coverage of the protests in Egypt.  Any one have good sources for more substantive commentary? 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

SOTU Drinking Game

Most SOTU drinking games involve the contents of the speech itself.  I personally like to drown the inanity of cable news coverage with alcohol.  So, for this year's SOTU, here are my proposals, and please feel free to add to this:


Any mention of "gearing up for 2012" or like language
Any mention of "jobs killing"
Any mention of "business friendly"
Any mention of Paul Ryan as a "policy wonk."
Any mention of Ryan vs. Bachman as voice of the Republican response
Any mention of the absence of Justice Alito
Any mention of economic turnaround
Any definition of bipartisanship that is essentially doing what Republicans want
Any mention of "shakeup of President Obama's inner circle."


Any mention of the First Lady's attire
Any mention of Rahm Emmanuel
Any mention of approval ratings
Any mention of Sarah Palin
Any mention of Ronald Reagan


Any mention of the seating arrangement


There's actual substantive commentary beyond the vapid, superficial soundbites from the likes of David Gergen.

CNN sets the curve. 

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Boalt Admins/Faculty Propose a New 13 Week Semester

If you're reading M*ndi's emails, then you know that the law school is considering substantially altering the class and semester schedules beginning next fall. Seeing as these changes affect law students, there's bound to be a bunch of complaining about these changes.

The change is meant to coincide with the change in OCIP (now scheduled for August 8 to 12). Classes would begin on August 29th and there would be no flyback week. This would also mean that semesters are 13 weeks long instead of 14, with Spring semester being pushed back a week. This shift also means that the Fall semester wouldn't end until December 19th, instead of December 15th.

Additionally, we would go from having 6 "bands" of classes (scheduling times over the week) to 5 "bands." This means there would no longer be classes before 9:00am, but at the cost of having one fewer time to schedule classes a week. This will inevitably lead to worse course conflicts than we see now.

While this is probably a good idea and will likely be instituted, it does raise the question of financial aid disbursement. Right now, aid is disbursed during the first week of classes. Under the new schedule, this means aid wouldn't be disbursed until September 1, 2011 or somewhere thereabouts. The Curriculum Committee recognizes this is an issue and is looking into whether or not the disbursement can be moved up.

The elimination of Fall Break is sort of sad. It's a great week for 1Ls, 3Ls and 2Ls like me who weren't looking at firm jobs to spend the week doing whatever we wanted. We will lose this and late November will probably seem more horrible than it already does as a result. However, that seems a small price to pay for an extended summer vacation.

BHSA will be hosting a Proposal Panel Discussion this Thursday, January 20th at 12:45pm in room 140 regarding the proposal. Representatives from the CDO, Financial Aid, and Faculty will be on the panel.

Also, can someone explain Pope Gregory make up days? The calendar attached to M*ndi's email has them, but I do not understand what in Christ's name it means.

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Monday, January 17, 2011

Rally to Support Dean Edley to be held Wednesday

The following popped up in the inbox this weekend:


Wednesday, January 19, 2011
12:45pm – 1:45pm
Steinhart Courtyard, Boalt Hall

We write as members of the Boalt Hall community concerned over recent criticism of Dean Edley. As you may have heard, Dean Edley wrote to the Board of Regents on December 9 to remind them of their “moral and ethical” responsibilities to increase the pensions of University of California executives earning over $245,000. Taking a moral stand isn’t always easy or popular, but we applaud Dean Edley for doing so.

Although there are a host of problems now plaguing the University of California system, we agree with Dean Edley that this is an issue our community needs to address URGENTLY. While all of us have had to undertake sacrifices – rising tuition, cuts to financial aid, and layoffs – the demand letter serves as a timely reminder that, eventually, a line must be drawn.

Dean Edley’s powerful e-mail to the community serves as a moral challenge to us all. We hope that this dispute does not result in a “costly and unsuccessful legal confrontation for the University.” But if it does, we want to show the Board of Regents that some of this nation’s brightest young legal minds will be supporting Dean Edley in his fight for higher executive pensions.

This is probably the funniest response to Edley's letter/position I've seen.

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

July 2010 Bar Pass Rate

Specific statistics here.  Things that stand out:  out of California schools, only Stanford beat us in passage rate (I'm excluding out-of-state schools because they tend to submit a handful of graduates to the Calbar).  The racial disparity is striking.  The relevant gender equality is also noteworthy (the gals get 1% edge). 

Also, I realize this is petty and small, but I'm still miffed that USF folks gloated about beating our passage rate a few years back.  Glad to see normalcy restored.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Fall 2011 OCIP

The wizards that decide these things announced today that Fall 2011 OCIP is going down the week of Aug. 8. For those of you keeping track, that's the week before school starts, continuing the progressive calendar creep that we've seen the last few years. There are obvious benefits here (being able to actually attend those $40k/year classes chief among them), but for those like me who never went to class anyway, there are also some serious drawbacks. For instance, as Terry G puts it, you will have to end those summer jobs a bit early. In addition, Diablo III isn't going to beat itself.

OCIP 2016 O/U: two weeks before you apply for Boalt.

Full text of email after the jump.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Edley Responds to Pension Concerns

From: Christopher Edley, Orrick Professor of Law, and Dean

The UC Pension Controversy and Me

I cosigned a letter to the UC President Mark Yudof and the Regents concerning pension benefits which has generated a great deal of concern, anger and confusion. My reasoning will leave many people unsatisfied, but I nevertheless owe you a careful explanation. First, some background. (You may want to skip these details.)


Benefits in UC’s retirement plan depend on (1) length of service and (2) the three highest-salary years (typically the years just before retirement). To get 100% of your salary in retirement, you must serve 40 years and be over age 65. An IRS regulation, however, provides that the amount included in that highest-salary calculation is capped, currently at $240,000. The IRS has discretion to lift that cap, and typically does so for non-profit organizations, where deferred compensation tax gimmicks or abuses are rare. In 1999, UC officials said promised to seek that waiver, which the IRS finally granted in 2007. UC has never implemented it.

The overall UC pension problems were created largely by the Regents’ decision 18 years ago to eliminate employee contributions to the plan, which had generous balances at the time, coupled with their failure to reinstitute those contributions when the ink turned red early in the new century. So, in the fall of 2009, President Yudof ordered senior UC officials to conduct a detailed review and propose reforms. The Regents discussed the resulting proposal in November 2010, and planned to act at their December 2010 meeting. Among other reforms, employees will start again contributing to their pensions this spring, with higher paid folks of course contributing more. (Currently, California contributes nothing, but does contribute to pensions in the California State University and Community College systems.) Tucked away in Appendix E was a proposal to “undo” the 1999 commitment to lift the $240,000 cap. Whether that commitment had contractual force is what I would call a “nice” legal question. It’s disputed.

Meanwhile, a year ago and shortly after the pension reform study began, a group of administrators wrote a letter to the UC Office of the President pointing out that the commitment to lift the cap had not been implemented. The letter, which I cosigned, stated that doing so is an important part of offering the competitive compensation packages that help us hire and retain the faculty and executives required by the “excellence” component of UC’s mission. There were further discussions, not including me, but to no avail. Therefore, as final Regental action drew near and because UCOP officials requested a formal document, an expanded group sent the most recent letter, which I signed at the request of UCLA colleagues. The most numerous and energetic people have been from UC’s five medical centers. The letter was volunteered to a San Francisco Chronicle reporter by a leader of the UC faculty senate, not by one of the signers, nor by a UCOP official. Of course, as a public document, UCOP would have provided the letter if anyone requested it.

The letter effectively caused the Regents to defer action on the “salary cap” issue until their March 2011 meeting. A few days later, a media brouhaha ensued. President Yudof and Regents Chair Russ Gould issued a statement that implementing the 1999 commitment to lift the cap is not required as a matter of contract law, and should not be honored in light of our budget circumstances.

My Reasoning

On the policy merits, my view in December 2010 was the same as my view in January 2010, when I cosigned the first letter to the pension study group. I have spent almost seven years battling successfully to hire and retain the best possible faculty and the strongest possible administrative team. It is the most difficult, satisfying, painful and important part of my job. My experience has made me absolutely certain that paying competitive total compensation is necessary (though not alone sufficient) if we want to sustain excellence. If Boalt and Berkeley had not been interested in that excellence, I—like most faculty and students—would not have come.

Within a few short years, approximately 50 Berkeley faculty will be affected by the cap, concentrated in Business, Economics and Law. The same pattern exists at UCLA, plus their world renowned Medical Center. Across UC’s ten campuses, I am told there are about 450 affected individuals, overwhelmingly faculty or faculty who, like me, are serving temporarily as administrators. More will be affected as salaries rise competitively.
  • Some deans report the signal that UC may not keep its promises is already having a chilling impact on recruitment and retention of faculty and top administrators. The issue comes up in every single recruitment conversation I have with a faculty candidate, and the expected round of new state budget cuts can only make things worse.
  • Why did I sign the December 2010 letter? Simply put, I believe in the institutional principle at stake and, therefore, I felt that the honorable thing to do was join others in stating my position and taking the criticism. I’d probably do the same thing again, but lose more sleep first.
  • The politics are awful, and yes, the timing is terrible. But the timing was driven by the Regents’ schedule, not us. The timing of the voluntary disclosure, without any context, was driven by a leader of the faculty senate, not us. As for politics, the real story here is that the UC leadership has rejected the pension claim, demonstrating commendable frugality. If I were in President Mark Yudof’s shoes, I would do the same thing he has done, at least until the budget environment improves. Ultimately, however, making this investment in competitive compensation is a fight about three or so ten-thousandths of the UC budget—even less after employee contributions.
  • The fight is also about something else. Many UC practices necessary to its mission are unpopular with newspaper editorial boards and with much of the general public. There are circumstances—one must debate which—when UC leaders have a responsibility to defend those policies and publically explain themselves, even when disapproval is inevitable. You expect and receive criticism and even protests because these choices are inescapably difficult.
  • But it is what it is. I suppose some members of the public object to competitive salaries because they (correctly) believe that professors are privileged, or (incorrectly) believe that working at a “public” institution should have a component of voluntarism. They may think that the luminous public mission and the personal satisfactions we faculty and staff derive from it will help pay the rent or mortgage, the childcare or tuition, our healthcare or retirement security. Some may even believe that the cost of educating students should be subsidized not only by taxpayers and alumni, but also by employees, or at least some employees.
  • I think that a certain amount of controversy is necessary because excellence always means exceptional. Most of the public would probably oppose tenure, sabbatical leaves, support for basic research, admitting out-of-state or foreign students, and below-market tuition for students heading for elite careers in business or law. And, as I’ve discovered and Berkeley has experienced, much of the public doesn’t care about academic freedom. UC leaders must be prepared to defend these policies despite their unpopularity, and have almost always done so.
As a result of the financial crisis, everyone at Berkeley and across the UC system has made sacrifices, with more to come. Students have seen sharp tuition increases. (Sharp tuition hikes specific to Boalt predate the immediate crisis, and are primarily to offset years of steadily declining state support and historically limited alumni donations.) Employees have suffered layoffs, salary freezes, increased workloads, furloughs, pay cuts, deteriorating working conditions, and more. Most of us are about to take a reduction in our monthly paychecks to help fix the pension problem we didn’t create.

The faculty and administrators who signed the pension letter are personally prepared to continue making sacrifices; there are many possibilities for compromise, now or later. But retirement security is especially sensitive, especially those of us in advanced middle age. So, Yes, many of the letter’s signatories also have a personal financial stake, and stating that in our letter was tactically important in case there is litigation. Apart from the disputed legalities, however, the issue is an important one of policy and principle for the University.
Meanwhile, our law school continues to make forward progress on several fronts, including faculty hiring, support for students pursuing public interest careers, and the nearly-completed construction and renovation projects. The newly renovated first floor corridor and classrooms opened for business this morning, and the smiles I see are gratifying beyond words. Many people, led by Associate Dean Kathleen Vanden Heuvel, have labored to make this happen, literally for years. Neither the state nor the Berkeley campus provided funds for these improvements. It was students, alumni and friends.

Finally, returning to the pension controversy, I’m not surprised by the comments from the general public, nor from several faculty across campus—some of whom who think nothing of spending $2 million to renovate laboratory space for a new assistant professor but resent the Law School trying to compete with NYU or Chicago or Virginia in compensation. I expect all of that.

I can’t help but be dismayed, however, by the remarkably ugly tone of some blog postings and emails authored within the Boalt community. Of course there will be grumbling and even opposition to some of the things I’m trying to do to move Berkeley Law forward. Clearly, however, I have not done all I can and must to explain and persuade. If you’ve read this far, then I thank you for letting me try.


Friday, January 07, 2011

Retirement of Justice Moreno

Well this is certainly unexpected.  He's not exactly hiding the ball that he's jumping ship to pursue more lucrative opportunities in the private sector.  While it's not my place to opine on what is a very personal decision, I am a bit disappointed that Justice Moreno did not stay on for a year or two longer.  Even during the tenure of Chief Justice George, Moreno was very influential in moderating the conservative tinge of the Court.  I think his influence would have grown under the tenure of Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye (i.e., I think she's even more of a moderate than George, so much more likely to be persuaded by someone as effective as Moreno). 

On the bright side, this gives Gov. Brown the chance to replace Justice Moreno, who is from that other school across the Bay, with a Boaltie.