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Friday, October 14, 2016

Cal Poly SLO and San Francisco State make the List of Institutions Under Federal Title IX Sexual Violence Investigation

The U.S. Department  of Justice, Office of Civil Rights (OCR) is reported to have a backlog of more than 300 pending (active) investigations of campus sexual assault and sexual harassment complaints - complaints that were not resolved satisfactorily through institutional mechanisms, or that involve institutional mechanisms.

Just a few months ago (06-16-2016), the Huffington Post reported on the numbers: "There Are Far More Title IX Investigations Of Colleges Than Most People Know - How universities are able to keep these federal probes hidden."

An essential source of information on these probes is the Chronicle of Higher Education's Title IX investigation tracker project (About).

The database currently shows 26 active investigations in California, involving 19 different institutions.

On the list, Stanford stands out with four open cases, each involving multiple investigations. Not to be outdone, the UC system has 9 open cases spread across 5 campuses: Berkeley, Davis, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Santa Cruz.

The California State University is represented on the list by California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo and by San Francisco State University ... few details are provided, but look for the "Read more" link.

CSU Chancellor Tim White's office has been busy issuing new executive orders on civil rights issues for the last few years. Given the centralized responsibility, the outcome in SF or SLO could impact all of the CSU campuses.


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Donald Trump and the Future of Title IX: The Campus Could Become a More Dangerous Place

In an article titled "Trump, Clinton and Sex Assault" (10-11-2016), Inside Higher Ed has outlined the positions of the two campaigns on the issue of campus sexual terror. Reporter Jake New noted that their approaches "would differ" and factually reported what is known.

It is known that Hillary Clinton "has spoken of the issue repeatedly and highlighted it on her campaign website" and that Donald Trump has "not yet described what he would do."

Trump has not prioritized the matter, but according to Inside Higher Ed, "the Republican Party platform calls for removing the responsibility of colleges to investigate allegations of sex assault."

The history involves a core dispute about how Federal Title IX regulations are implemented and administered. 

In 2011, the Obama Administration issued "guidance" and established expectations about how universities should interpret the law. Through its Office of Civil Rights, the Department of Education provided standard and detailed policy guidelines that were hailed at the time as a "call to action on sexual harassment."

The Republican pushback has been focused on the rights of the accused, not the victims or the students at risk.

Pushback from academia has been focused on liability and responsibility (academic institutions are generally not in favor of institutional liability and responsibility). The pushback also involves themes of "male privilege." Resistance has most prominently been expressed in the ivory towers of the elite.

The leverage in this case involves Federal funds for academia, the Department of Education's budget, legal action in the courts, and political action on the quad.

The fulcrum for the argument is the "burden of proof" - the test that is used to determine whether a complaint is sustained or dismissed. The 2011 instruction from Education was that in the adjudication of sexual assault and harassment claims, the civil law "preponderance of evidence" standard was to be applied.

It took until November 2014 until the Ivy League was in full compliance, with Princeton being the last to give up the fight to retain a higher, "clear and convincing" evidence standard.

The "preponderance of evidence" rule considers whether the accusation is more probably true than not, or if most of the evidence (greater than 50%) points in one direction. The "clear and convincing standard" is a higher bar for finding fault, but not as protective of the defendant's rights as the "beyond a reasonable doubt" requirement of the criminal law.

The burden of proof applies when a matter proceeds to an administrative hearing, following investigation. On investigation, the standard is lower. A university is obligated to pursue a judgment when an investigation yields a "reasonable suspicion" or "probable cause" to believe that a rights violation has occurred. That is the same as in the criminal law - probable cause is enough for a prosecution to continue to trial or negotiation.

What the Republican platform proposes is to take the matter out of the hands of the institutions and make the criminal courts the only available recourse in cases of sexual harassment or sexual assault. Proponents of this position (quoted by Inside Higher Ed) say they are trying to make certain that "Title IX doesn't continue to silence speech and establish kangaroo courts."

What they are demanding, and what Trump has signed up for, is an effort to do nothing less than make campus disciplinary actions dependent on proof of a crime, beyond a reasonable doubt, following a law enforcement investigation.

This is, quite simply, a perversion of the due process concept - arguing that a campus disciplinary action should be treated as equivalent and conform to the demands of a criminal prosecution.

In the former, the consequence is an educational opportunity squandered and a work assignment in the family basement. In the latter, what is at risk is a deprivation of life and liberty. It is on an entirely different plane. Accused on campus, you have a right to "fair treatment," not the due process afforded to those we put behind bars.

On campus, as in the criminal justice system, the accused has the option of conceding and withdrawing, and escaping with some measure of dignity. A student who faces discipline or expulsion can transfer to a community college. An accused professor can "retire" and still become emeritus. A dean or a provost can usually retreat to the classroom, join the private sector, or pick up where they left off in some distant, swampland university. The exposure to consequences is nothing at all like in a court of criminal law. Attending Harvard is a privilege, not a right.

The campus will in fact become a more dangerous place if a Trump administration decides to defund or defang the Department of Education. Already hampered in their enforcement efforts by a backlog of complaints, a Trump administration would likely strip Education of its moral authority, while promoting a revisionist code of ethics.

The ethical principles espoused by the Trump campaign include the idea that misogynistic speech can be dismissed as "entertainment," that celebrity confers entitlement ("when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything”), and that having and sharing sexual assault fantasies is a perversion of no consequence if confined to the "locker room" or the bus. Moral guidance of this type would be expected only from someone who thinks that sneaking into little girls dressing rooms is "the funniest" thing.

Guided by Trump-like ethical standards, or with tolerance for such excuses, institutions would have little reason to consider sexual terror a concern of any sort.

A college campus should be a sacred place, a sanctuary for scholars and students to think, learn and to grow. It is a more dangerous place when it harbors deviant fantasies and allows impulses to go "unshackled."


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Shutting down the dialogue: Censorship at CSU Long Beach, Arts Director resigns in protest

File this under "Ain't supposed to die a natural death":

Story image for Michele Roberge, the director of the Carpenter Performing Arts Center at California State University, Long Beach, resigned from Gazettes.com (satire) (press release) (blog)

CSULB's Carpenter Center Director Michele Roberge Resigns In ...

Gazettes.com (satire) (press release) (blog)-Sep 6, 2016
Michele Roberge, executive director of the Carpenter Performing Arts Center, has resigned in protest after California State UniversityLong ...
Story image for Michele Roberge, the director of the Carpenter Performing Arts Center at California State University, Long Beach, resigned from New York Times

A Charged Title. A Canceled Show. Now a Cal State Official Resigns.

New York Times-Sep 13, 2016
Michele Roberge, the director of the Carpenter Performing Arts Center atCalifornia State UniversityLong Beachresigned last week after the ...
Story image for Michele Roberge, the director of the Carpenter Performing Arts Center at California State University, Long Beach, resigned from Los Angeles Times

Carpenter arts center director resigns, saying cancellation of race ...

Los Angeles Times-Sep 8, 2016
The head of the Carpenter Performing Arts Center at Cal State Long Beach isresigning after the university canceled a popular and ... Michele Roberge, who has served as executive director of the center for 14 years, called ...
Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death (Tunes from Blackness) by Melvin Van Peebles was first performed in 1970 at Sacramento State College, before it was staged in New York.


Friday, March 18, 2016

Statewide CSU Academic Senate resolution reaffirms the principle of shared governance; calls on Chancellor to explain his "shared leadership" rhetoric.

The Academic Senate of the California State University (ASCSU) has passed a unanimous resolution, calling on the Chancellor to honor a commitment to shared governance and to explain what he means when referring instead to "shared leadership."

CSU San Bernardino Campus Climate Report Released: issues with morale are prominent; integrity of leadership doubted.

From the Executive Summary:

"Results from 756 respondents indicate that there are significant problems with morale on the CSUSB campus. Two-thirds of respondents indicated that morale had changed since their hire. Nearly 90% indicated that morale had gotten worse. 

"Significant proportions of employees (said) they would leave if they didn’t already have so much invested in the university. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

More on CSU Sacramento lawsuit - complaint alleges discrimination in and by Human Resources

A lawsuit filed against CSU Sacramento has gained attention via a report in The Sacramento Bee.

The complaint by HR analyst Robert Bartley alleges employment discrimination and retaliation, perpetrated by managers in Human Resources. 

The Bee article focuses on a letter sent to HR Vice President Christine Lovely by a recently hired and fired manager who supervised Bartley. As described by The Bee, the manager wrote: 
"... Veronica Hodge, assistant vice president of human resources, 'was out to get rid of Bob Bartley, as she told me numerous times by any means she could.' The letter said Hodge wanted a new image in human resources – 'young, polished and preferably a person of color'.”
The five page letter was presented as Exhibit G in the lawsuit. The Bee ran the story with the headline: Sacramento State employee alleges he lost promotion because he’s older, white male.


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

CSU Sacramento provost steps down after less than 2 years in top academic post

From the Sacramento Bee:

"Frederika “Fraka” Harmsen stepped down Monday as California State University, Sacramento, provost less than two years after assuming the university’s second-highest position and being heralded as an academic innovator who could help fulfill ambitious visions for the university."


"President Robert Nelsen announced the move in an email to faculty members Monday morning, the first day the campus was open after last week’s holiday closure."

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/education/article53028030.html#storylink=cpy

Monday, January 4, 2016

CSU Chico Faculty Senate passes no confidence resolution

In the dead of winter, the Faculty Senate at California State University, Chico passed a resolution expressing a lack of trust in the campus president and its leadership.

The Faculty complained about a lack of shared governance and the diminished role of Academic Affairs in the campus mission.



Tuesday, December 15, 2015

CSU-Sacramento Human Resources Analyst files lawsuit alleging discrimination, harassment and retaliation

A self-identified "white 58 year old male" with 13 years experience in the CSUS Human Resources department has filed a legal action alleging age, gender and race discrimination. The civil complaint further alleges that the plaintiff Robert Bartley was subject to retaliation and suffered an acute work related stress disorder.

The claim states that the University failed to reasonably accommodate his physician prescribed need for reduced work hours. An attached Exhibit (K) shows that the Equal Opportunity Director sought to accommodate him by limiting his work hours to 50 per week, and promising 48 hours notice when he would have to work more. An additional cause of action questions whether Bartley was properly assigned to "exempt" status (not subject to overtime rules).

The complaint references a classification and work assignment dispute and an assertion that the plaintiff was not given proper consideration in his application for a management position. The person appointed instead (in 2014) was subsequently removed, and in a request for reconsideration, she complained herself rather extensively about the leadership of the CSUS HR office. The lawsuit's Exhibit G details her complaints about HR management, including the assertion that she was directed to help "get rid" of Bartley.

Her letter said that along with her staff, she had been "working in a climate of fear, intimidation and desperation."  She wrote that Bartley had for years conducted new employee orientation sessions and was removed from that assignment because he portrayed the wrong "image" to new employees - that of a "middle aged white male."


Sunday, November 29, 2015

Court rules Emir Macari "termination letters" are not subject to public disclosure

A petition seeking release of the "non-retention" memos (November 2013 - January 2014) sent to then CSU Sacramento engineering dean Emir Macari has been denied by the Sacramento Superior Court. The memos were identified from an HR document leaked to the press, informing Macari that his appeal of the termination decision had been denied.

From the ruling:
"The University informed Macari it had decided not to retain him in [the position of Dean]."
"Petitioner wants to know why."
 "Macari has submitted a declaration ... in which he states that the University based its decision not to retain him on 'alleged performance issues' and 'evaluations and assessments of my job performance'."
"Although the court has not seen the two requested documents, the University and Macari have described them essentially as termination letters." 
Legal authority did not support petitioner's argument that these were contract, rather than personnel records. Personnel records are exempt if disclosure would represent an unwarranted invasion of privacy.
"Even without these authorities, the court could take judicial notice of human nature in order to find that disclosing the reasons for terminating an employee could be extremely embarrassing." 
"The Court is simply not convinced that the public has a right to know further details."
---

On April 9, 2014, Macari testified at a confirmation hearing before the State Senate Rules Committee, on his re-appointment to the Alfred E. Alquist Seismic Safety Commission.

The Sacramento State Hornet reported: "Former engineering dean says he resigned from position."

Video:
video

Emir Macari Senate testimony: "I am a very ethical and very moral person."


Emir Macari currently serves as the Dean of Engineering at the University of New Orleans (UNO).



Friday, October 30, 2015

CSU Fullerton: professor reprimanded for choosing less expensive textbook

A CSU Fullerton associate professor has been reprimanded for failing to assign the "common textbook" chosen by the department for Intro to Linear Algebra and Differential Equations. 

Instead of a $180.00 tome written by the Math Department chair and vice-chair, the professor assigned a $75.00 text and additional open-source, OER materials (online educational resources). 

An appeal of this action is being heard today. 


Monday, August 24, 2015

Sacramento State's University Mansion: SOLD for $2.5 million - a $295,000 loss after 21 months of ownership.

Escrow has closed (August 2015) on the sale of  511 Knightsbridge Lane - the estate purchased in November 2013 by University Enterprises, Inc. for $2,795,000.

The $2,500,000 sale price is almost $300,000 less than UEI paid for the property just 21 months ago.

photos @: Zillow 511 Knightsbridge Lane 95864
Sacramento Magazine has reported that the six bedroom, six bathroom home with a dual staircase and elevator was purchased for "fundraising and community engagement" activities, and as a "possible" residence for then-President Alexander Gonzalez.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Sacramento State University Enterprises Inc. Mansion for Sale - Price drops to $2.95 million ... Offer Pending!

The asking price for the CSUS president's mansion has dropped to $2,950,000.



July update from Zillow: "This home has a pending offer." 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Sacramento State "University House" listed on real estate market for $3.1 million - mansion recently purchased for now retiring president.

CSUS University Enterprises (UEI) has listed for sale a 7,537 square foot luxury home it purchased in November 2013 for "fundraising and community engagement" activities, and as a "possible" residence for President Alexander Gonzalez.
photos @: Zillow 511 Knightsbridge Lane 95864

Zillow  shows that the property was purchased for $2.8 million in November 2013 and that it was listed for sale in January 2015 at an asking price of $3.1 million. The mansion is located on Fair Oaks Boulevard, just East of Munroe, on a 1.64 acre lot, in a gated Sierra Oaks compound.

In a roundup of 11 of the most valuable homes in the Sacramento Region  (What's it Worth?), Sacramento Magazine reporter R.E. Graswich wrote: "Gonzalez would not discuss his vote to purchase the estate, or why he has not moved in."

Graswich noted that Gonzalez sits on the UEI board that approved the purchase and also recounted the president's earlier troubles with a kitchen remodeling.

UEI executive director Jim Reinhart told Graswich by email that their plan for the property "would be too intrusive on the neighborhood."

The purchase of the property was approved by the UEI Board of Directors, meeting in closed session on September 26, 2013.

All that was recorded publicly about the closed session (the last item on the agenda) was that a vote was taken to authorize the purchase of "Parcel #294-0098-034-0000."

At the December 6, 2013 board meeting, UEI director Reinhart stated: "the University House closed escrow in November and is being leased back to the seller on a month-to-month basis terminating on or before August 15, 2014."

On or before the end of August of 2014, president Gonzalez announced his retirement.

In September 2014, the UEI board held a "special meeting" and in closed session voted to authorize the sale of "Parcel #294-0098-034-0000."

The public notice of the special meeting referred only to the real estate parcel number. It mentioned nothing about the 6 bedrooms, 6 baths, palatial entry, elevator, gourmet kitchen or pool house.

Earlier, at the regular meeting on the same day (September 25, 2014), Reinhart reviewed the past year's "highlights." Included on that list: "UEI purchased a house in November 2013 for possible use as a 'University House'."

Aside from the December 2014 Graswich story in SacMag and the cryptic references in the UEI minutes, there has apparently been no public notice that a presidential mansion was in the works.


Friday, March 20, 2015

Lawsuit served on Sacramento State seeking disclosure of public records re: removal of former Dean of Engineering

A petition for a writ of mandate has been filed in the Superior Court against California State University, Sacramento, asking the Court to compel CSUS to produce for inspection the non-retention memo (11-25-2013) and non-retention decision (01-23-2014) that served to remove Emir Jose Macari from the position of Dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science.

March 15-21, 2015
www.sunshineweek.org
The dismissal of the Dean was an unusual and extraordinary event that The Sacramento Bee said was "cloaked in secrecy."

The State Hornet headlined an editorial on the event, writing: "Sacramento State must clear the air to students about decorated engineering dean Macari's leave."

The civil action filed with the Court includes a petition and a memorandum of law in support, with the facts of the case considered.

Emir Macari currently serves as the Dean of Engineering at the University of New Orleans (UNO).

* This is Sunshine Week - a celebration of the public's right to know how public business is conducted.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

$123,000 paid to settle Alexander Gonzalez, Jr./Sacramento State sexual harassment lawsuit

The Sacramento Bee reported today that CSUS employee Jeffrey Sharp's complaint against the campus and the president's son has been settled with a payment of $123,000, a vow of silence on both sides, and Sharp's resignation as an employee.

Gonzalez, Jr. left his $84,000 per year position at CSUS after the lawsuit was filed.  His employment had earlier been a subject of controversy amidst accusations of nepotism that were chronicled in the State Hornet.

The settlement was reached two years after Sharp filed the lawsuit and seven years after he first complained and sought relief from the campus administration.

A statement released to The Bee said that both sides remained "ready and willing" to proceed through what was expected to be a three week trial.  Both sides were spared the costs and risks. The university was spared the potential for public exposure.

The university's attorney told The Bee in 2013 that a "thorough, objective investigation" had failed to substantiate any of the claims.

University complaint procedures do not provide for any type of due process hearing on the findings of an investigation. When the university rejects a complaint (in this case, a complaint against the President's son), there is no hearing of fact.  The employee can only appeal on procedural grounds or seek legal remedies.

The university admitted no wrong and is prevented by the settlement from making any claims of vindication.




Saturday, February 7, 2015

Trial date vacated in Alex Gonzalez, Jr./Sacramento State sexual harassment lawsuit

The March 3, 2015 court date for civil trial assignment in the case against CSUS has been vacated.

As previously reported here, CSUS employee Jeffrey Sharp complained that he was sexually harassed by fellow employee Alexander Gonzalez, Jr., and also that the University was culpable for failing to prevent or stop the alleged abuse.

The defendant is the son of the soon-to-retire University President. 

A third mandatory settlement conference had been scheduled for February 6th, but was cancelled. 

It is expected that a settlement notice will be filed with the Court at some point in time. According to the civil complaint, the alleged improper behavior was first reported to CSUS in 2008.

A settlement agreement with a public entity is an open public record. If an agreement was reached,  it will be available by request from the University.

Updated 03/14/2015: $123,000 paid to settle Alexander Gonzalez, Jr./Sacramento State sexual harassment lawsuit

Friday, January 23, 2015

No settlement in Alexander Gonzalez, Jr./Sacramento State sexual harassment lawsuit

A Mandatory Settlement Conference (MSC) held on January 21, 2015 failed to bring the case against CSUS and the President's son to a conclusion.

The Department 51 case minute order indicates that after a three hour conference, the matter was continued until January 29th.

As previously reported here, CSUS employee Jeffrey Sharp complained that he was sexually harassed by fellow employee Alex Gonzalez, Jr., and also that the University was culpable for failing to prevent or stop the alleged abuse.

The matter is scheduled to proceed to trial on March 3rd.

Updated 03/14/2013: $123,000 paid to settle Alexander Gonzalez, Jr./Sacramento State sexual harassment lawsuit

Monday, January 5, 2015

A new president for Sacramento State - Trustees seek community input!


Sacramento Bee op-ed
Special to The Bee
12/25/2014
the CSU Trustees invite you to:


The selection of a new president is a unique and significant event in the life of a University.

All sectors of the community should be heard from, including alumni, students, faculty and staff -- boosters and critics alike.

Now is the time to use your voice. Tell the Trustees what you like and what you would like to see change.

From The Sacramento Bee, some thoughts on "A new president for Sacramento State" (as originally titled):
"The trustees advertised for a president to head an institution with a “solid foundation.” Instead, they should disclose that the foundation has cracks, needs inspection and requires repair."
"Now would be the time to choose a president who is trusted as a local leader, invested in the community and whose vision and experience comes from outside the ivory towers."
What does Tim White think about Sacramento State now?

Interviewed by Ben Adler at CapRadio (broadcast 01/06), the Chancellor was asked if saw any weaknesses at Sacramento State.

He could not think of any ... so maybe you can help him.

Send an email:  presidentsearch@calstate.edu

Friday, December 12, 2014

UC Davis settles Federal double dipping allegations - pays $500,000 in refund to the Department of Energy

For the next three years, UC Davis will supplement its current research training with an hour-long module covering time and effort reporting and reasonableness of costs under federal grants.

The University will also be paying $499,700 to resolve civil allegations under the False Claims Act, according to a statement released by U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District Benjamin B. Wagner.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Sacramento State students turn out to vote down event center fee

In what was said to be a record voter turnout for students at the campus, a clear majority of 80% voted against a $219 per semester fee that would have been used to construct a new building. 

President Alexander Gonzalez said that he would not override the vote and act on his own authority to impose new fees.

More from the State Hornet and the Sacramento Bee.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Abuse of public funds at CSU Sacramento? - two professors were paid over $100k each for extra effort in the first 10 months of 2014

Emir Macari (r.)
with President Alexander Gonzalez
According to current wage verification statements obtained from University Enterprises, Inc. (UEI), Sacramento State engineering professors Emir Macari and Suresh Vadhva have each claimed over $100,000 in extra effort wages in the first 10 months of this year.

As was previously reported here, the money comes from a series of Smart Grid Center stimulus fund "research" grants.


Friday, November 21, 2014

Sacramento State releases feedback and comments from 2013 employee campus climate survey

In response to a California Public Records Act (CPRA) request, CSUS has released the feedback and comments solicited from employees (faculty, staff and administrators) as part of the Fall 2013 Campus Climate Survey. 

Survey respondents were told that the results would be published. According to the University, no report was ever prepared until October 6, 2014 - after a CPRA request was made for a copy of the results.

As previously reported here ("CSU Sacramento releases 2013 employee survey results - job satisfaction falls well below national average"), the Human Resources report included just numbers and graphs, with no explanation, summary or discussion, and no consideration of the feedback.

Announcing the release of the numbers in October, HR Vice President Christine D. Lovely noted: "the report and results should be reviewed in context." What the employees said provides the context.

A good example of employee sentiment:
"Thank you for conducting this survey. Please actually do something with the feedback to improve employment situations on campus."


*Note: the comments are published in full, as received from CSUS. The cost was $5.20 for copies and $11.54 for preparation and handling (total = $16.74). 

Responding to the record request, the campus indicated that the feedback had not previously been compiled for review.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

CSU Faculty vote to approve contract; CSU Trustees vote to increase executive pay

On Tuesday November 11th, the California Faculty Association announced that its membership voted to approve a new labor contract.

All faculty will receive a 1.6% raise.

Additional pay increases will go to faculty hired during the dark days of recession and salary depression. The disparities caused by salary inversion (i.e., hired first, paid less) were central to the contract negotiations.

On Thursday November 13th, the Trustees voted to approve a 3% raise for the Chancellor, other top executives, and the 23 campus presidents.

The Chancellor and six of the presidents had previously been given supplementary salary boosts from university foundation accounts (e.g., for Tim White, $30,000).

Before the vote, questions were raised about the propriety of applying the 3% raise to their total compensation.  Trustee Lupe Garcia said:
“I’m not comfortable with using the state funds to apply the 3 percent increase on supplemental income ... I don’t feel that that is the appropriate use of the state funds.”

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Shooting threat at Cal State Sacramento - message scrawled on bathroom wall

CSU Sacramento employees were told today that they should "remain vigilant" after a threatening note was found scrawled on a bathroom wall.
CSUS Police photo

Similar threats have been reported at four area high schools in the last few weeks and there was an arrest of a 14 year old female in connection with one incident.

The threats are not considered to be credible.

CSUS Police Chief Mark Iwasa told the Sacramento Bee:
“I don’t consider it to be a significant serious threat ... it’s likely a prank."
"We will take the investigation as far as we can go ... it’s not a crime worth a significant investment (of resources).”
Isawa noted that busloads of teenagers had been on campus today and that 3:00 passed without incident.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Presumed Suicide - disability rights lawsuit proceeds quietly against CSU Sacramento

Rockefeller Lookout, Englewood Cliffs N.J.
Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times


In the Spring of 2011, graduate student Kenneth Costello was prepared to take his final exam and graduate from CSUS with a Masters degree, and certified as a teacher of English as a Second Language.

Going into the teacher certification exam (the "TESOL"), Costello had a 3.95 grade average. According to a Federal lawsuit filed in 2013 by his sister, Claudette Scoras, Costello did not receive a diploma or a credential in June 2011, and he did not march at graduation.

In the Summer of 2012, the New York Times reported that he died in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey ("Third Fatal Fall From Palisades") :
"Kenneth Costello, 45, was found dead 225 feet below the Rockefeller Lookout, after someone called the police to say that a cane and walker had been abandoned at the railing. Mr. Costello’s car was found in the handicapped parking spot, and park commission officials said his death was presumed to be a suicide."
The lawsuit attributes his death to the actions of Sacramento State.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Former CSU Sacramento Business College Dean Sanjay Varshney joins Wells Fargo as Vice President and Wealth Advisor

Near the end of this year's Spring semester (May 2014), CSUS announced that Sanjay Varshney was stepping down as Dean of the Business College and would be returning to the classroom.

Varshney told the Sacramento Business Journal that he wanted to spend more time with his family.

Today, in a prominent advertisement in the Sunday Business section of the Sacramento Bee, Wells Fargo Private Banking announced that the former dean has been named a Vice President and Wealth Advisor in the bank's El Dorado Hills office.

Update 10/24/2014: The Sacramento Business Journal reported today that Varshney will continue teaching as a CSU professor and that he will be coordinating a team of 100 asset managers in his "new job."   Varshney said that his role was to "play quarterback" and to "deal with high level clients and make sure their needs are being met."

Saturday, October 18, 2014

CSU and Faculty shake hands - labor agreement reached after 100 days of negotiations

Contract negotiations between the California State University and the California Faculty Association were said to be "crumbling" just days ago, with one hundred days having passed since the start of talks.

Negotiating for a three year contract, the offer from CSU was 3% this year and 2% in each of the following two. CFA wanted a salary increase of 4% now and 3% later. 

The tentative agreement announced this week will increase the total compensation pool by 3% and give all faculty a 1.6% raise. 

Additional compensation will be paid to faculty and instructors hired during the days of recession and furloughs, those who have ended up earning less than junior faculty hired later (hired first, paid less).

Although the contract term is three years, it allows either side to reopen talks before the start of the next two academic years. The agreement requires a vote of the Faculty.

Monday, October 13, 2014

CSU Sacramento releases 2013 employee survey results - job satisfaction falls well below national average

According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the U.S. job satisfaction number has not fallen below 80% since 2007. In 2013, the national job satisfaction figure was 81%.

At CSUS in the Fall of 2013, the number of Executives reporting positive job satisfaction was just 74%.

For Staff, the job satisfaction number was 61%. For Faculty at Sacramento State, it was 52%.

Announcing the release of the 2013 Campus Climate Survey results last week, HR Vice President Christine D. Lovely cautioned: "the report and results should be reviewed in context."  

Friday, October 10, 2014

CSU faculty protest statewide - salary inequality, inversion and stagnation on the bargaining table

California State University faculty took to the quads this week in protest, while contract talks continue.  CFA members have been without a contract since June.

California Maritime Academy
The offer from CSU is 3% this year and 2% in each of the following two. The union is asking for 4% now and 3% for the next two years.

A raise is not the only demand.

Speaking for CSULB faculty, CFA chapter president Douglas Domingo-Foraste told the Long Beach Press Telegram:

"We've been very patient in sacrificing for the university for eight years, since we last had a raise, and since that time the salary structure has gotten all screwy. Some people aren't paid enough. Some people are making more as a beginning assistant professor than an associate professor."

California Maritime faculty member Amy Parsons explained to the Vallejo Times Herald how salaries became inverted:
"Those hired before me have the same qualifications, but because they were hired during the economic downturn, they make less. Inversion hurts everybody."
Contract talks continue next week.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

CBS News report: CSU administrators use donated funds to spend lavishly on parties and alcohol

A public university cannot operate without an auxiliary, non-profit "enterprise" foundation as an arm. A separate structure is necessary to receive donations, administer grants, and to operate off-state-budget enterprises such as student housing and dining.*

Wading deep into the CSU-LA foundation's tax returns and the expense vouchers of a few CSU presidents, CBS (LA) investigative reporter David Goldsten highlighted money spent at fancy restaurants, exclusive clubs and private homes ("CSU Administrators Spend Hundreds Of Thousands In Donated Money On Parties, Alcohol").
leading by example:
CEO pays own hotel bill

The CBS report features a number of students with predictable reactions; those interviewed do not see it as fair and proper - money donated for education being used for wining and dining. One student said, "this is a low income university ... a lot of students who come here come from low income families and low income communities."

Among other expenses highlighted in the report:
  • $3000 spent on an American Express gift card at CSU-LA, sent as a gift to the retiring president of CSU Fullerton
  • a kitchen remodel at the home of the CSU Northridge president (reminiscent of "CSU Kitchengate Sacramento")
  • membership dues and catering charges at an "exclusive" San Bernardino country club
  • and food and liquor expenses for receptions at the "Manor House" home of Cal Poly Pomona President Michael Ortiz
Interviewed on camera, an unabashed Ortiz said: "I really need to point out that alcohol is only one of the beverages we serve."

Ortiz continued: "We would not spend state money on the same things we spend foundation money on ... (Alcohol) would not be something that we we'd use state money for."

Ethics consultant Robert Stern (former general counsel for the Fair Political Practices Commission) responded: ""I think they should be using it as if it were tax money."

Stern said "I don't think they should be saying 'Okay, well, because this is all private money that's coming in, we can spend it as we choose'."

Chancellor Tim White defended the practice of indulging donors and dismissed the suggestion that executives benefit. "It's hard work," the Chancellor said, "hard work to build relationships over time."
Chancellor Tim White
(video link)

Referring to any extravagance involved and whether it is necessary to secure donations, the Chancellor reflected, saying: "I think people expect the normal hospitality. I mean these people that are wealthy live at a lifestyle of being taken ... of comfortable living." 

The CSU auxiliary foundations are dark warrens of off-budget accounts controlled by various executives on campus.  Funds developed by "enterprises" (e.g., centers, institutes and programs) can be significant and largely for discretionary use.

The institution profits (adding to discretionary accounts) by charging as much as 38% for "indirect costs" on grants and other funds, as they are spent or paid out.

As previously reported at the CSU-Independent Observer, enterprise accounts at CSU Sacramento enable the Engineering College to pay extra effort wages to two salaried professors. In just the first nine months of this year, one earned more than $97,000 in extra hourly wages, and the other claimed more than $100,000 (on top of salary).

The CSU faculty labor agreement (Article 36) allows professors to earn extra, but only 25%.   The Chancellor's it-is-hard-work rule allows for much more. 

A few years ago in a recorded statement, a Sacramento State executive described an enterprise account he controlled saying: "it's a general fund raising account for the college ... a slush fund for the Dean."

The CBS investigation describes CSU as an institution in which talk of slush funds may be part of the culture and where tasting the lifestyle of comfortable living is part of the executive entitlement.  


*Note: this article includes editorial opinion.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

$100 million UC-CSU infrastructure boost goes up in smoke with Governor's line-item veto

Governor Brown took his pen to the budget Saturday and signed a line-item veto eliminating $100 million in deferred maintenance funds that California public universities were hoping to share, $50 million for UC and $50 million for the CSU.
CSU Sacramento Guy West Bridge
deferred maintenance underway

The money was allocated with the passage of AB1476 by Democratic Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner of Berkeley, but there was a condition attached. 

The funds were dependent on property tax revenues meeting certain projections by July, and those projections were not met. 

In his veto message to the Assembly, the Governor wrote: "Making investments to maintain the state's aging infrastructure continues to be a major priority for my administration, ... However, ..."

The Governor said that he was concerned with debt and other long-term liabilities.  He concluded by noting:  "we should not commit additional General Fund monies of this magnitude when we are facing unanticipated costs such as fighting the state's extreme wildfires."

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

"Taco Tuesday" event draws sanction for sorority at CSU Fullerton

CSU Fullerton has placed the CSUF chapter of Alpha Delta Pi on probation, with conditions including the development of a "We are a culture, not a costume" educational campaign for the campus.

As described in the Orange County Register,  Tuesday night student party-goers wore costumes that evoked stereotypes and caricatures associated with Latino culture.  A number of students were dressed in attire assumed to be typical of criminal street gangs. 

Accepting responsibility and the conditions of probation, sorority president Mikel Floth said: ""We are profoundly embarrassed about our naivete and lack of judgment."

Speaking for the University, Dean of Students Tonantzin Oseguera noted: "This is a pervasive issue in student organizations throughout our nation ... we are not so naive as to think that this is the first instance of such behavior at CSUF." 

Monday, September 22, 2014

CSU student "success fees" in suspense, Trustee's workgroup convenes on-campus open forums

CSU Chancellor White
In January 2011, the CSU Chancellor reissued under one directive (Executive Order EO 1054) the "philosophical statement on fees and educational costs" adopted by the Trustees in 1993 and the most recently approved Fee Policy statement from May 2010. 

Based on the authority of EO 1054, the Chancellor approved the first in a series of "student success fees" in February of 2011 (Executive Order 1055).  Since then, the Chancellor has issued orders approving new fees at a dozen more campuses.


Friday, September 12, 2014

California State University withdraws recognition of evangelists on campus

The CSU has "de-recognized" InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (a 700 chapter campus ministry) at all 23 of its campuses. The move came after the organization failed to sign a general non-discrimination statement.

CSU spokesperson Mike Uhlencamp told the Huffington Post that University rules and State law require recognized campus entities to maintain such a policy.

The group accepts "all comers," but it demands that they subscribe to certain beliefs (e.g., the sanctity of heterosexuality) and refrain from certain conduct (e.g., being gay).

In Christian Legal Society v. Martinez (2010), the Supreme Court ruled that such policies serve to effectively discriminate.

As a result of the University's action, the group will have to pay to use campus meeting rooms.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Federal "stimulus" funds provide "extra effort" wages to CSU Sacramento Engineering College professors

Four years ago, the Sacramento Business Journal noted that the region’s Federal "stimulus" funds from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act were not finding their way into the economy at the anticipated pace. With money sitting idle, the local impact of the economic intervention was uncertain ("Stimulus effectiveness unclear as region waits for bulk of funds to be allocated").

The story was illustrated with a picture captioned:  "Emir Jose Macari keeps the Smart Grid Center humming at Sacramento State."  

Sacramento Business Journal
It was not mentioned in the article, but by that time, almost $4 million in stimulus money had been given to the CSU Sacramento Engineering College to establish the California Smart Grid Center.

At the CSUS Smart Grid website , there is little to indicate that anything has yet been accomplished or that anyone is in charge. 

Speaking to Smart Grid Today online  last December, former Engineering Dean Emir Macari reflected on the enterprise, saying: "the public has noticed that there's been a lot of money spent on smart grid, yet they don't seem to think that they are getting any benefit out of it."
What might be noticed by the public is that a lot of money has gone to the benefit of the CSUS Smart Grid directors, Macari and Professor Suresh Vadhva. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

CSU Northridge investigation points to fraternity hazing in death of 19 year old student

CSU Northridge President Dianne F. Harrison has announced that on investigation into the death of student Armando Villa, "it is clear" that Pi Kappa Phi members "engaged in hazing."

The fraternity was given a choice between "voluntary permanent withdrawal of recognition" or to proceed to a formal hearing of the allegations, while facing permanent removal. 

The fraternity "took the deal," voting to withdraw from the University and disband the CSUN chapter. 

From a photo in the LA Times
 (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
As reported here previously, Villa died from exposure and dehydration after being found barefoot and alone in the harsh, Angeles National Forest. 

Villa was participating in a wilderness survival initiation that was described by the L.A. Times as brutal and sadistic. Villa's parents called it a "barbaric ritual."

Disciplinary action by the University against the individual students involved will wait for and depend on the conclusion of the Sheriff's criminal investigation.


Friday, September 5, 2014

Creationist fired by CSU Northridge claims religious discrimination, sues University

In a widely reported case (e.g., Fox News), a lab scientist at CSUN was fired from his position just days after publishing a paper claiming that dinosaurs roamed the earth as recently as 4,000 years ago. 
Spencer Tracy (left) in classic
film dramatization of the
Scopes Monkey Trial

Now he is suing the University, alleging that before he was terminated, his new supervisor shouted at him: "We are not going to tolerate your religion in this department!!"

A University spokesperson said that the university, "strictly forbids discrimination on the basis of religion" and that the matter was being investigated.

The science involves the dating of material found in the bones of a Triceratops. These herbivorous ceratopsids now roam wild only in Jurassic Park, according to USA Today.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

CSU Sacramento President Alexander Gonzalez announces end of school year retirement plans

Alexander Gonzalez
Noting that he had been in higher education as long as the Apple ][, President Gonzalez said:

 "... it's time for me to find other ways that I can contribute to the lives of students in our communities ."

"It was a difficult decision, because I feel there is much more work to be done. And while I'd like to be the one to continue the momentum we've built, I also know it is the right time for me to make the transition and let someone else lead this great institution."

More from the Sacramento Bee.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Major CSU online education initiative put on "re-visioning" status - next phase "listening tour" underway

A four year effort to establish a centralized business, marketing and technology gateway to deliver online education from Cal State University campuses has entered its "next phase."

Envisioned in 2010 by the CSU Presidents' Technology Steering Committee, the plan for Cal State Online was described as both aspirational and controversial by Inside Higher Ed (2012).
online education in earlier years?

Governor Jerry Brown and Senator Darrell Steinberg were both supporters of the online effort.


In the Spring of 2013, Steinberg pushed for legislation (SB 520) that would significantly involve UC and CSU in the world of "massive online open courses" (MOOCs) and place the universities in competition with other online providers. According to the New York Times, "it would be the first time that state legislators have instructed public universities to grant credit for courses that were not their own — including those taught by a private vendor, not by a college or university."  

Governor Jerry Brown was expected to support Steinberg's measure.  As reported by Inside Higher Ed (2013): "Gov. Jerry Brown is a big backer of tapping online providers like Coursera for public-private partnerships." Earlier in the year, the Governor was actively involved in promoting an ill-fated contract between CSU San Jose and private MOOC vendor Udacity. 

Steinberg's bill passed the Senate last year and died a quick death (no action) in the Assembly. The San Jose State-Udacity project favored by the Governor ended, but not well. 

After requesting proposals and signing a contract with the Pearson Corporation, the CSU system-wide portal went live last Fall: "California State University unveils 'radical' new plan for online courses," (Oakland Tribune). 

Now, as reported by educational technology analyst Phil Hill at e-Literate online: "It's the end of Cal State Online as we know it . . ."

Hill published a memo (July 13, 2014) from the Chancellor's Chief Academic Officer, outlining the change in strategy to the CSU Presidents, "Subject: Next Phase and Re-Visioning of Cal State Online."

Rather than maintaining an independent office for online education efforts, responsibility has reverted to the Academic Technology Services department within the Chancellor's Office.  

Rather than trying to establish a single-point of access portal and a common platform for the campuses, the memo said that CSU was making "a shift to a communication, consultation and services' strategy" in which the Chancellor's office will provide "opt-in shared services" for the campuses. 

As described by Inside Higher Ed 2014 ("Shrinking Cal State Online"), the centralized system did not have enough "buy-in" or participation from either the individual campuses or campus faculty. Online initiatives were already established and distributed throughout the system, and they continue to operate on multiple platforms. Pearson will continue to have some involvement, but it will no longer serve as a common OSP (online service provider) for the CSU.  

Going forward, the Chancellor's office will provide support when requested (i.e., "opt-in") and will seek to consolidate relevant technology and business services, and to leverage opportunities.  The CSU memo indicated that the office could develop "Master Enabling Agreements" for contracting with vendors. The emphasis in the proposal was on agreements that would enable the individual campuses to "choose the vendors" based on their individual "needs and goals.

According to the CSU memo, "the re-visioning of Cal State Online was recommended by the Council of Presidents and approved by the Chancellor."  

The first step in the process is a "listening tour."