Sunday, September 27, 2009

UC's Hidden Wealth: Why is UC Pleading Poverty?

Donohue points to UC's unrestricted assets at CUE event at UCI. Photo © Daniel C. Tsang 2009.

UPDATED 9/28/09 with audio link: To listen to the show, click here: .

Irvine -- It sure sounds like the University of California is in financial crisis, with layoffs, paycuts/furloughs, massive student fee increases and campus protests. But economist Peter Donohue thinks otherwise.

Looking at the UC's own financial reports, he has discovered billions hidden away in its unrestricted reserves. The UC likes to say these funds are already committed, but Donohue says these are not legally restricted. They could be freed up to offset the massive loss of state funding. But unlike the CSU system, UC funding is only 13% -18% dependent on state sources. On Subversity, we talk to Donohue about why the UC is pleading poverty.

Subversity airs Monday 28 September 2009 from 9-10 a.m. on KUCI, 88.9 FM in Orange County, California, and is simulcast via

Peter Donohue is an economist and head of San Francisco’s PBI Associates. Since 1982, he has assisted union, nonprofit, community and business groups with research, financial analysis, bargaining, arbitration and government relations. He advises clients in transport, construction, semiconductor, utility, printing, health care, retail, design, engineering, hospitality, transit, insurance, education and government. Donohue has taught at Portland State University, San Francisco State University, the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Texas at Austin and University of Missouri-Columbia.

He is currently compiling, for CUE (Coalition of University Employees), an updated analysis of the UC budget; see his earlier 1992 study: UC's Hidden Wealth: An Analysis of 10 Years of UC's Financial Reports.

See also Prof. Emeritus Charlie Schwartz's web site that tracks UC budget issues:

CUE's website, contains links to other resources, including our 20 July 2009 Subversity interview with CUE local president at UCI, Dianna Sahhar, and with Juan Castillo, union organizer with AFSCME local 3299.

Meanwhile, UC janitors are seeking to be in-sourced and represented by SEIU-United Service Workers West. A noon rally at UCI's flag pole is slated for October 2, 2009. 37 UCI janitors are under threat of layoff by cleaning contractor ABM. With workers laid off, UCI Labs are slated to be cleaned weekly only, but UCI offices only three times a year!

On the broadcast show, we also aired a clip from the 24 September 2009 rally at UCI of popular Sociology lecturer Chuck O'Connell talking about

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Activism -- UCI's Disorientation Week: First Disorientation Guide Debuts!; UPTE set to strike Thursday, 24 September! Faculty Plan Teach-ins

UPDATED 9/21/09 with audio link: To listen to the show, click here: .

Irvine -- As incoming UC Irvine students converge on campus this week as part of Orientation Week, they will encounter a UCI in turmoil Not only will their fees increase, UCI's faculty and staff are undergoing paycuts, furloughs and in some cases layoffs. Opposing the increasing privatization of the university are local activist groups who will be out in force this week, which starts off with an Anteater Involvement Fair on campus. And on Thursday, faculty plan walkouts and teach-ins, while the UPTE union stages a strike.

UCI's Radical Student Union is premiering a historic first, UCI's Disorientation Guide, aimed at uncovering what is not widely known about the institution, and seeking to provoke students and other readers into action. In its introduction, its anonymous authors state: "Between these covers, you have a guide into the belly of the University. Use it wisely. But don’t let this be your only map of this place, add your own experiences into the mix." It adds, cryptically: "Just remember what you don’t see is probably more interesting and important than what you do."

In the show's first half hour, we talk with members of the Disorientation Guide collective, about why they put out this first Disorientation Guide.

John Bruning is a second-year graduate student in Sociology, and a member of the Radical Student Union and the Disorientation Guide collective. John was first exposed to radical ideas after receiving a Disorientation Guide during Welcome Week as a freshman at the University of Wisconsin, and got involved in campus activism shortly thereafter.

Tim Brown is a second year grad student, studying the art of sound design. He previously lived in Oregon and and sought out the RSU after being immersed for too long in the terribleness that is the home territory of the New Majority.

The paper version of the Disorientation Guide will be distributed at the Radical Student Union table at the Anteater Involvement Fair on Monday, 21 September at UCI, and throughout the week on Ring Road. KUCI is cited in the first Guide as a "voice of freedom" while Subversity is mentioned as follows: "It's like Disorientation on the radio!"

See also other campus disorientation guides: UC Santa Cruz | UC Berkeley | NYU.

Moore on Subversity. © Daniel C. Tsang 2009

In our second hour, we talk with a union leader from UPTE, which will be on strike on September 24 university-wide, to call attention to the misplaced priorities of the current central administration, where administrative salaries have headed skyward even as the university claims it is in a budget crisis.

Michael Moore is UPTE's Leadership Development Coordinator for the past four years.
Active in the labor movement for 14 years, he has worked for various unions throughout the U.S., organizing and representing a cross section or workers. Originally from Georgia, he was mentored by Hose Williams, one of Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.'s organizers. His grandmother was one of the first presidents of the Newtown Florist Club, an environmental organization in his home town of Gainesville, Georgia.

The show airs Monday 21 September 2009 on KUCI, 88.9 FM in Orange County, Calif., and is simulcast via

For more on the hidden wealth within the UC's corporate structure, see UC Berkeley Prof. Emeritus Charlie Schwartz's latest analysis, posted at:

His analysis jibes with that of economist Peter Donohue, who last week held public sessions at UCI providing analysis with documentation on UC's hidden wealth. If the UC were really in an economic crisis, why would bond agencies increase UC's rating? Financial reports submitted by UC show clearly that millions are stashed away in the University's accounts, and are not legally restricted despite what the administration claims. The funds may be "committed" to some projects in some budget projections, but they are not legally restricted. See Donohue's earlier report

September 24, the first day of classes at UC Irvine, is also a day when faculty across the UCs plan to hold "walkouts" and teach-ins about the future of UC education. For more information, including flyers for a noon event at UCI's flagpole, see: Defend UCI.

See also: Remaking the University

And on Monday, 21 September, students protesting the closure of SAAS, which served first-generation, disabled and low-income students, plan to hold the first of two consecutive days of SAAS LOVE events at UCI, starting at 11 a.m. on Monday. See: Facebook page, SAAS Love.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

What's Different with Annie Le

by Tara Bui

If you hear the voice of Vivian Van Le on any other occasion, you will find yourself smitten by her vivaciousness and playful flirtation. But the past week has depleted her. At midnight in California, what was 3 a.m. in Connecticut, Le called me from the strangeness of her hotel room.

“My child is already dead,” she said.

This was hours after a press conference in which New Haven Assistant Police Chief Peter Reichard confirmed that the body of a female had been found wedged into a metal chase in the basement of 10 Amistad. The discovery, everyone feared, would now end the search for the missing Yale graduate student, Annie Le.

Spooked by the gruesomeness of the situation, and the utter deadness of her voice, I shook the weariness from my head and voiced the only thing that could be clung to.

“They still don’t know who it is 100% right?”


“Well, I know 99%.”


And so the story elevated to a higher level, and the press finally bothered to figure out that Annie Le had been of Vietnamese descent.
They took the real (her Western sounding name, Jewish post-grad fiancé, fancy Long Island wedding, and Ivy League medical student status), and spun it with embellishments.

Annie Le, it seemed, was a super-human who worked 12-hour days, spent ample time with friends, and still smiled constantly as she was, of course, the happiest girl in the world.

The term “American dream” was used as a myth spun around this young woman’s image. But all this spinning kept the story afloat. It kept the woman at the center looking like a model minority, and for whatever reason Asians who work hard and never have issues are endlessly commendable.

But the fact that Annie was raised by a PhD aunt in Placerville while she had a mother who was alive and well in Orange County may have been one minor inconsistency in the dream façade. And the fact that her first wedding celebration was not at a New York banquet hall, but at Emerald Bay, a Chinese-Vietnamese restaurant, was another. The restaurant, for those who don’t know, is the center for many anti-communist fundraisers and gatherings in Orange County’s Little Saigon. Its doors are secured with duct tape, but it is named after one of the most expensive real estate nooks in affluent Laguna Beach. Le’s August 8th reception was most likely loud, with balloons, a Vietnamese MC, and a bottle of Courvoisier at every table.

But the similarities were sidelined as the differences made Annie’s story more worthy of reporting. Perhaps many Vietnamese women thought, “Who would care if that happened to me? My name is hard to pronounce, and I clean nails for a living. I’m nobody.” It is a most legitimate fear. It is what makes Annie’s story so intriguing and frightening to us all.


They try to place Annie Le in the same category as Jennifer Wilbanks and Laci Peterson. But they conveniently overlook the fact that within 24 hours of her reported disappearance; a reported $60,000 dollars worth of city and state funds were used to implement on-foot searches for Wilbanks. $25,000 dollars was what the Board of Trustees at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill offered last spring for information leading to the arrest of their slain student, Eve Carson. In the Peterson case, she was last seen alive in December 2002, friends and law enforcement spanned out to search for her, and her body was found almost four months later; in the meantime, a $500,000 reward was offered for her safe return

And what about Yale? Well, in November 2007, the Office of the State’s Attorney in New Haven sent out a press release announcing that the State of Connecticut and Yale University were pooling together a $150,000 dollar reward for information leading to an arrest in the case of Suzanne Jovin, a Caucasian student who was found stabbed to death on campus in 1998. Of the $150,000 lump sum, Yale contributed $100,000 dollars. That alone has caused some family friends of Annie Le’s to wonder whether the $10,000 reward money offered in her case was actually scrapped together by desperate relatives.

Many eyebrows have risen as to why it took 5 days to find Annie’s body, when cadaver dogs and over 100 law enforcement officials were supposedly searching the 21,000 sq. ft lab. Police have tried to deter questions by stating that the lab was not of focused interest during the first 48 hours because they still believed that this was another “runaway bride” case.

The sexism of that claim is apparent; Women are self-centered, play games, and should not be taken too seriously. But even that has never stopped a sense of urgency before. In the first days of her disappearance, Le did not get as much air time as Peterson or Wilbanks .

So perhaps her story is more common to that of Eridania Rodriguez, a Manhattan cleaning lady who was brutalized and stuffed into an air conditioning vent by an elevator worker of the building she worked at. Surveillance cameras caught images of her working in the building, but never leaving. Her hair clip and cleaning cart were found in a hallway, and her purse was in her locker. Still, the search did not intensify on the building until 4 days later, when missing ceiling tiles and a foul odor lead to the discovery of a decomposing body. The office, like 10 Amistad, was still in use until blood was found dripping from the ventilation system.

Like Rodriguez, authorities did not launch on-foot searches as they did for Peterson and Wilbanks. Family and family friends also feared, particularly in the beginning, that the case would be mentioned in passing and then simply dropped unless tragic revelations soon occurred.

Take, for instance, the case of Kate Sue Yi, a California State University Long Beach nursing student who was found dead in her campus apartment in April 2009. Evidence led to the arrest of her unremarkable Vietnamese boyfriend, but updates on the case have not been reported on since that week.

In Irvine, California, the deceased and burned body of an unidentified African American woman was found in the parking lot of a closed business on September 5, 2009. The woman was also in her early 20’s, though the case has not been brought up much since September 10th.

The saddest part is that no amount of urgency or media frenzy could have turned this case from a homicide back to missing persons. However, changing the way we tackle cases of missing people of color – particularly women – could have significant effect on the way their lives are valued before and after they are met with potential violence.

Annie Le’s death is a personal tragedy for those who knew and loved her. For minority women, it is a blinding reminder that we must personify our double consciousness as a mode of survival. For many ambitious Asian American parents, it is a chance to sit their children down and say, “See? Become a doctor and marry a doctor. Don't make trouble, and you will gain social value.” Of course, the underlying issue here is whether or not we want that to be the bottom line.

Tara Bui is a writer on media & ethnic studies. She is based in Southern California. Write her at: .

Monday, September 14, 2009

First homicide on UC Irvine Campus

UPDATED (12:39 pm 14 September 2009): The victim in the UCI shooting has been identified as Rebecca Benedict; the trigger appears to be a doubling of child support a judge imposed on the suspect. See OC Register report.

Earlier entry:

The City of Irvine often touts itself one of America's safest cities. That may have been true, but no more. Even as college students across the country are shocked at what is believed to be the death of Annie Le, a Vietnamese American pharmacology graduate student at Yale, whose suspected body was discovered Sunday, a tragedy also happened closer to home for those in Orange County.

Last night (13 September 2009) a 30 year-old woman was killed in the parking lot at University of California, Irvine's Verano graduate housing on campus, the suspect a physics graduate student.

And earlier this month, the body of an unidentified black woman, in her 20s, was found after she was burned, in another parking lot, in an Irvine business area. See Irvine Police Department's request for help in identifying the victim. The Irvine PD press release calls Irvine "one of America's safest and most successful master-planned urban communities."

The suspect in the campus shooting death last night is, according to a report in the Orange County Register, Brian Hughes Benedict, 35, a graduate student. Benedict has been arrested and is being held on $1 million bail in Orange County Jail. He is listed as a resident of 4122 Verano Place, according to voting records, the OC Register reported. Apparently, Benedict was in a relationship with the unidentified victim; a 4-year-old child was also in the vicinity according to the report. An early Los Angeles Times story does not offer much detail.

UC Irvine records give his hometown as El Segundo, and his "major" as Physics.

In the meantime, in the Annie Le murder case, another Yalie who failed lie detector tests appears now to be a suspect, according to a news report in the New York Daily News.

Rest in Peace: Annie Le, and the two as yet unidentified Irvine victims.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Subversity Exclusive: UCI Undergraduate Dean Sharon Salinger on SAAS Closure

Photo © 2009 Daniel C. Tsang

On the 14 September 2009 Subversity Show, at 9 am on KUCI, 88.9 fm and simulcast via, we air our exclusive interview with Sharon V. Salinger, Dean of Undergraduate Education at the University of California. Under fire for closing an important unit on campus, SAAS (Student Academic Advancement Services), which served first-generation, low-income and disabled students, Salinger says it was budget cuts that led to the closure and layoffs of five staff members, including the SAAS director. The U.S. Department of Education recently renewed funding to UCI for the same services provided to SAAS, which closed August 31, 2009. A faculty member, with two academic advisors, will constitute the new team. The new federal grant provides more student financial aid as well as additional funding for student advisors. Salinger is hoping former SAAS student peer advisors will continue to work in the new restructured unit. Salinger is interviewed by show host Daniel C. Tsang.

SAAS supporters, meanwhile, have organized a "SAAS Love" sit-in slated for Monday 21 September 2009 and the next day from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. outside the old SAAS offices. Salinger says she may bring pizza. A facebook event page has been set up: SAAS Love. The original Save SAAS at UCI Now! Facebook page continues. A video from SAAS supporters is posted here: video. OC Weekly recently covered the SAAS closure: Navel Gazing blog