Director of Counseling and Psychological Services terminated after raising concerns about allocation of mental health funds

Published: The California Aggie. February 16, 2018. Viewable here


On Feb. 9, 2018, Sarah Hahn, the director of Counseling and Psychological Services, was made aware that Margaret Walter, the director of Student Health and Wellness, intended to terminate her from her position. Hahn was presented with a letter from Walter stating that her termination would be effective on Feb. 23. Until that date, Hahn has been placed on paid administrative leave.

The letter comes on the heels of mounting criticism and concern expressed by Hahn to both her superiors and administrators at UC Davis, as well as officials from the UC Office of the President, that an increase in student fees for the ongoing $18 million mental health initiative from UCOP was not spent to hire 12 additional counselors at UC Davis, as the money was intended to do. A recent investigation published by The Aggie confirms that UC Davis has not hired an additional 12 counselors and that a portion of the money was not spent as it was meant to be.

“You have failed to demonstrate the professionalism, tact and diplomacy required of your position,” Walter stated in the letter. “This intended action is in response to serious and substantial deficiencies in the execution of your duties, namely your failure to provide effective leadership to Counseling Services. This is evidenced by your failure to provide the expected and necessary level of administrative oversight, an inability to support a positive team environment, and a lack of proficiency in college mental health service delivery.”

Hahn has served as director of Counseling and Psychological Services since 2013.

The letter was delivered one day after Hahn filed an official Whistleblower Retaliation Report — which protects those who have come forward with concerns of improper governmental activity and feel they are being targeted for doing so — with the Office of Campus Compliance. Hahn said she filed the report after learning “that an HR investigation” which targeted her “was being conducted in a manner, and at a time which [she feels to be] consistent with possible retaliation against [her] for protected disclosures.”

“I was concerned that I had been retaliated against for reporting issues related to the limited number of counselors in Counseling Services,” Hahn said via email. “I was concerned that I would be terminated as a result of these disclosures. I had expressed, multiple times, that Counseling Services was not growing its staff as we should be, given the new Mental Health Fee which is specifically earmarked to hire new counselors. When I have brought up such concerns I often felt intimidated.”

Hahn said she was unsure as to why she was given the letter on Feb. 9, but then remembered a Management Corrective Action outlined in a recent internal audit of UC Davis Counseling Services performed in late 2017. The action states that SHCS will consult with Budget and Institutional Analysis “to determine a level of access to, or specific original output from financial systems that is appropriate to the Counseling Services Director’s responsibilities.” Hahn would have been granted access to financial information on Feb. 15 — six days after she received notice of her termination.

In response to news regarding the intent to terminate Hahn, the Facebook page “Stealing From Students: Our Mental Health Matters” stated that Hahn “had been in contact with students about the 12 missing counselors and advocating to upper administration for transparency regarding the lack of promised hires.” The post received close to 120 shares and around 100 likes and reactions.

“When I inquired about the status of counselor hirings in late 2016, Sarah Hahn reiterated that she would do her best to find all necessary information and advocate for the counselors students had already paid for with our fees,” said Samantha Chiang, a fourth-year English major and the director of the UC Davis Mental Health Initiative. “Now knowing that the other administrators in Student Health had been deceiving us all along, I’m not surprised in the slightest that they have chosen to silence Sarah and make her the scapegoat for all of their appalling errors.”

Recently, on Feb. 13, a Mental Health Town Hall was held by SHCS to discuss UC Davis mental health and was attended by around 200 students, faculty and community members. During the hour-long audience Q&A, Katrina Manrique, a fourth-year English major, asked the panel of administrators, including Walter, about the termination of Sarah Hahn.

“[Hahn] has been a consistent advocate for the 12 missing counselors,” Manrique said. “And now that that audit has been released and she has filed for whistleblower protection, she has been fired. Many students have expressed immense displeasure in this decision. You made it very clear that you all want to work with students, but how can you all take away the one person who’s advocated for our demands? We don’t want apologies, we want answers.”

Manrique’s comment was met with loud cheers and snaps from the audience, and a chant of “shame, shame on you, shame on you, Margaret” from one audience member.

“We want to be accountable to you,” Walter stated in response to the comment. “It breaks my heart you thought you had one contact, I want to be a good contact to you. We can’t comment on any confidential personnel issues related to what you just mentioned, but we all want to be contacts for you and advocates for you.”

Chiang then responded that Hahn was “the one who didn’t lie to our face about counselors being hired.” At the end of the event, there were chants of “bring back Sarah” from multiple students in attendance.

In the chronology of events Hahn provided to Chief Compliance Officer Wendi Delmendo as well as The Aggie, she stated that she expressed “concerns that earlier financial agreements were not being met, that some decisions about Counseling had been made” without her knowledge and “that there was a lack of transparency” with her administrative supervisors, including current Assistant Vice Chancellor for Divisional Resources of Student Affairs Cory Vu in an email in January of 2017.

According to Hahn’s chronology, in April of 2017, she emailed Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Adela de la Torre after letting Vu know she would be doing so, to remind de la Torre that “as she knew, the Regents had agreed to raise student fees to support hiring 85 mental health clinicians systemwide, growing the counseling center’s clinical staff by 43 percent.” Hahn said she told de la Torre that “by next year, the UCD Counseling Service will only have increased by one counselor over a three year period. The one additional counselor is due to externally funded satellite positions. There is no increase in counselors which is attributable to new funds.”

Three hours after she sent this email, Hahn said Vu contacted her telling her “not to communicate” her “concerns to UCOP.”

A meeting was held in May with Hahn, Vu and other UC Davis officials. Hahn shared an email she received from Vu in May of 2017 with The Aggie. In it, Vu referenced this meeting, held to discuss Hahn’s “concerns about Counseling Services’ (CS) funding and staffing levels.” Vu then outlined the expectations he required of Hahn.

“Follow the chain of command protocol when you need consultation or to address some other matter such as a complaint,” Vu stated in the email from May of 2017. “Comply with the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs’, Associate Vice Chancellor’s , and Executive Director of Student Health and Counseling Services’ requests, instructions, or directives. Stand behind the campus’, division’s, and organization’s decisions and work ardently toward their realization, even if you would have chosen a different direction.”

In her statement to The Aggie about the letter, Hahn said she “was accused of violating communications protocols/procedures (inaccurately), or making others uncomfortable with the information.”

“There seemed to be no way to make queries about financial matters related to the Mental Health Fees that was not met with criticism,” Hahn said. “But it was my job to be a steward of allocated Mental Health funds; I did not of course have the option to ignore this responsibility.”

In an email to Vu and former Associate Vice Chancellor of Divisional Resources John Campbell — the position Vu currently serves in — Hahn discussed her inability to obtain financial data.

“Despite the fact that I am the Director of the Counseling Services and a member of the Executive Team and the Governing Body, I have not been able to successfully obtain clarifying financial data about my area,” Hahn said. “Such requests have yielded the response, for years, that I am not being a team player or am not fostering good relationships with my colleagues, which I have been told is a performance issue. This had effectively shut down my ability to get information for the past 3.5 years out of fears that my job will be threatened. Just yesterday I was told that my questions about finances was creating a divide in our organization. I find these comments threatening. I find them to be an indication, again, that requests for financial clarity will be used against me.”

Hahn said she believes the May meeting with Vu “was an effort to intimidate” her “into silence and be part of a cover up.”

“I was told that concerns had been raised that I was talking to CS staff regarding budgetary issues and my concern about lack of growth in our counseling department,” Hahn said in her whistleblower chronology. “I was told that my communication about these matters was a professionalism issue and had to stop immediately. I was told that I was insulting members of the Budget staff by asking questions, and upsetting the HR manager when I asked about delayed hires.”

In June of 2017, Hahn said she received a below-average yearly evaluation from Vu.

“I indicated to Cory [Vu] that it was not appropriate that he downgrade me, because my performance only became problematic in his eyes once I reported concerns about how the monies were being spent,” Hahn said. “My performance had not changed in any way since before I reported concerns. He cited my relationships with HR and the Administrative Director of SHCS. I indicated that my communications with the HR department were in the context of asking them to initiating hires as we were expected to, and my communications with the Administrative Director and team was related to raising concerns about funding. My downgraded performance was clearly causal to retaliation for my asking appropriate questions and concerns about stalled hires and lack of clarity about funds.”

In June, Margaret Walter was hired as the new UC Davis director of Health and Wellness, replacing Vu in directly overseeing Student Health and Counseling Services. Hahn said she sent an email response to university and UCOP officials stating that “it was hard to ascertain if we were receiving the funds.” Later in June, Hahn said Walter referred to the email as unprofessional, perpetuating what Hahn says is “representative of a pattern” that if she discussed the mental health fund, she was accused of unprofessionalism. Walter cites Hahn’s professionalism issues in the intent of termination letter.

One of the findings of the audit showed a low number of clinical sessions per day per counselor. Counseling psychologists have expressed concerns with the numbers published.

In October of 2017, Hahn said the findings of the audit concerning low productivity data were discussed. According to Hahn, there was an agreement that “counseling should not be allowed to hire more counselors until this matter was looked into.” Hahn said she was not in support of this agreement.

“I explained again that delay was not an option, and the funds are not set up to be held back by campuses,” Hahn said. “That is not the initiative. There was agreement around the table (not by me) that there was neither a mandate by UCOP nor a mandate from the Provost to follow [UCOP’s] recommendation.”

Hahn sent an email to UCOP officials in November of 2017.

“We need outside help; it is apparent [to] me that, at this point, it will take a VERY clear and powerful voice to reverse the current,” Hahn said she stated in her email to UCOP. “There needs to be unequivocal clarity that current, future, and past MH Fees need to be allocated to Counseling, without condition or delay, in order to immediately hire licensed clinicians to serve the students. I think this would need to be communicated at all levels of leadership on our campus.”

In December, Hahn said she asked Walter whether productivity was an area of improvement, but Walter said “‘not to worry about it.’” Hahn said she was worried because productivity would be in her yearly evaluation and said she felt she “was being threatened without being given information or opportunity.”

Walter did mention productivity issues in her letter of intent to terminate, stating that “clinical productivity has been alarmingly low for several years under your leadership.” Walter also stated that Hahn had “described the productivity data in the audit as ‘inherently flawed.’”

Katie Fuller, the UC Davis Human Resources manager, Vu and Walter all responded with the same decline to comment — “Unfortunately, I am not permitted to comment on confidential personnel matters.” Vu and Walter also did not respond to any of the aforementioned claims which allegedly involved them.

Hahn said she hopes to be able to “continue to serve” the “amazing students” of UC Davis.

“Anyone who is trying to uphold our commitment to the students deserves to be protected from retaliation- not walked out of the office the day after they ask for that protection,” Hahn said. “I have faith that mistakes have been made, and will be quickly corrected. We are better than this.”

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Reality of counseling services in UC system

Published: The California Aggie. January 21, 2018. Viewable here.


 

This article is the second in a three-part series examining issues that counseling psychologists in the UC system are currently facing, including under-market wages, understaffing and high demand leading to systemwide recruitment and retention issues. The final installation will examine how these issues affect UC Davis.

When Rodolfo Victoria, a senior staff psychologist at UC Irvine, first began working for the university as an intern in 2011 and then as a postdoc from 2012-15, every senior staff psychologist was doing about two intakes — initial appointments with students — every week. Now, every senior staff psychologist does an average of four to five intakes a week in order to “get folks in […] within 10 business days.”

But seeing a student within 10 business days is just the goal for an initial appointment and assessment. According to Victoria, the follow-up appointment, to actually give therapy to students, can take up to two to four weeks to schedule. At particularly hectic points in the quarter, a follow-up appointment can take up to six weeks.

In conjunction with what Victoria says is an increase in “the severity or acuity” of student mental health needs on campus, UC Irvine also struggles with recruiting qualified mental health professionals and retaining staff.

“In the last three years, we have been trying desperately to fill vacated spots, and because of the turnover that we’ve been experiencing, essentially over the last three or four years, we’ve only increased our full-time senior staff by one,” Victoria said. “We constantly have searches for a senior staff psychologist — we’ll interview three or four people [and] we offer offers. In the last two or three years, I can list off probably six names of people that didn’t last more than two years. Retention has been a huge issue.”

When asked whether or not UC Irvine was meeting the overall mental health needs of students in a timely and efficient manner, Victoria first said “yes and no.” Later, Victoria qualified his answer. After the initial appointment, he said, “no, we’re not meeting the mental health needs of students. I think we could do more.”

A very similar sentiment was expressed by Diana Davis, the clinical director of Student Health and Counseling Services at UC Davis.

“Sometimes people have to wait for an appointment because we only have so many of those,” Davis said. “We’re very accessible. I think where it gets slowed down is if students want ongoing counseling. We may not be able to see them every week for like four or five weeks and usually […] five sessions is an average amount we can offer students. The appointment, getting it for ongoing counseling, may require a wait.”

Issues relating to wait times, recruitment and retention, turnover and burnout are apparent at several, if not all, UC campuses. These issues are ongoing, even two years after the UC Office of the President announced serious steps toward promoting and expanding mental health resources at all UC campuses.

In 2016, UCOP announced that an additional $18 million, composed of annual student service fees, would be added to the mental health budget to hire 85 new clinicians UC-wide. According to UC Spokesperson Stephanie Beechem, “as of October 2017, 98 mental health providers have been hired across the UC system.”

“I would expect there’s also a significant number of staff who have left,” said Aron Katz, a psychologist at UC Davis’ SHCS.

The additional hires “will bring UC staffing in line with recommended ratios” of one psychologist per 1,000 to 1,200 students and one psychiatrist per 6,500 students. The staff-to-student ratio UCOP recognizes is a number established by the International Association of Counseling Services, Inc. The IACS states on its website that when a university is not meeting the recommended staff-to-student ratio, there will likely be longer wait times, decreased availability, increased risks for liability and an overall decrease in support for students.

“Imagine the liability that the counseling center and university would have if it was discovered that a student who went on a shooting spree had gone to the counseling center for help only to be put on a wait list,” the IACS website states.

Jamie McDole, the vice president of the University Professional and Technical Employees, which represents counseling psychologists, said she doesn’t know of any UC campus that is currently meeting or close to meeting the IACS ratio.

“There are some campuses that are certainly better staffed than others,” McDole said. “Throughout the campus, the one that is absolutely the worst staffed that I’m aware of is UC Riverside who’s currently at, I believe, six therapists for 22,000 students.”

A source from UC Riverside who wished to remain anonymous stated that the current number of counseling psychologists is five full-time staff members. With a total student body of 23,278, the ratio of psychologists per students is roughly 1:4,655. In the past, UCR has had as few as three full-time psychologists.

“Prior to me working there, UCR lost their entire staff and had to rehire,” the anonymous source said. “I know that […] probably at least over the last three years [they’ve] lost their staff three times. We should be hiring about three times the amount of people we have now.”

According to the source, retention issues are not unique to UC Riverside, but are “especially worse at UCLA and UCR.”

An anonymous counseling psychologist at UCLA spoke about the reality of counseling services at the university.

“I would say UCLA has a reputation in the mental health community in the wider Los Angeles area of being a very challenging place to work at due to the acuity and the large caseloads and the pace of work here,” the source said. “That became rapidly and readily apparent when I began working here. We have a large staff, but we have an enormous student body too, and we also have one of the highest utilization rates of any campus in the country, […] in terms of the percentage of students that seek counseling.”

Due to retention issues at UCLA, the counselor said that when they were first hired, they were “struck” by the number of staff members who would jokingly ask how long they planned to say.

“Like, ‘Are you going to stick around?,’” the counseling psychologist said. “It was very apparent that there was a fear, basically, and sort of a trauma of the number of people that had left. I kept hearing […], ‘We keep losing really good people.’ It’s often like you don’t have any idea why people are leaving either because it’s sort of shrouded in secrecy often due to HR reasons.”

Victoria spoke about a systemwide issue regarding the recruitment and retention of qualified mental health professionals. Just last quarter, Victoria said UC Irvine lost one staff psychologist and one social worker — “we just don’t have enough staff to provide the services that we want.”

“All of this kind of preventative work that we could be doing to prevent the next kind of crisis from occurring, that gets put off and completely put on the side because we can’t give our attention to that,” Victoria said. “We are a place that really values doing preventative outreach work, and that I can tell you has gone down over the years because we just can’t dedicate time and attention to that. I worry that eventually we will simply become just a crisis center — […] that’s an important element of what we do, but it can’t be the only thing that we do. Not only is that not really addressing the mental health needs of students, but it’s not fulfilling. That’s what leads to these burnout and turnover numbers that we’re seeing, because it takes a toll.”

According to the IACS website, after the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, which left 32 people dead, counseling centers nationwide were “asked to provide training to faculty and staff to help them detect warning signs of students who might be a risk to themselves or others.”

“It would be very difficult to find the time to do this when the counselors are hardly able to keep up with the growing clinical demand,” the IACS website states.

With regard to to the additional $18 million of student fees allocated across the UC system by UCOP specifically meant to bring staff in line with recommended staff-to-student ratios and “increase access to mental health services,” neither the source from UC Riverside, Victoria or a counseling psychologist from UC San Diego who wished to remain anonymous could say definitively how much of the money has come to their respective universities or where it has been allocated.

Another issue prevalent at several UC campuses is the lack of space allocated for mental health resources and professionals. The anonymous counseling psychologist from UCLA discussed their frustration with seeing a multimillion dollar football facility built “less than a hundred yards” from their offices, while the campus says “they, ‘can’t find any more space.’”

“If student mental health is a priority of this campus, as they seem to indicate, it would be important to demonstrate that with actions,” the UCLA counseling psychologist said.

Victoria also said he sees the lack of space allocated to counseling services at UC Irvine as a reflection of how the university chooses to prioritize mental health needs on campus.

“Even if, by some miracle next month we got 10 new staff, where would we put them?” Victoria said. “You can say all the right things about how mental health is a priority to the campus, but unless you show me, it’s just talk.”

The anonymous counseling psychologist from UCSD expressed, almost word-for-word, the same problem.

“Even if we have the money right now and had a great candidate, we wouldn’t have any place to put them,” the UCSD counseling psychologist said.

The IACS website discusses a nationwide trend regarding the increase in the severity of mental health issues in recent years.

“Of the 367 universities and colleges that filled out the National Survey of Counseling Center Directors (2013), 95% reported that the number of students with severe psychological problems has increased in recent years,” the website states. “As the severity increases, so does the time that’s required by the mental health professional to adequately manage the case. Thus, the ratio of counselors to students should actually decrease as severity of issues increase.”
The UCSD counseling psychologist, alongside the aforementioned sentiments from Victoria and the counseling psychologist from UCLA, discussed an overall increase of the acuity in the problems seen on campus.

“My biggest concern is wanting to not just have the quantity of staff but the quality of staff,” the UCSD counseling psychologist said. “Our staff is really hard-working. The stuff that we’re dealing with is not what some of the administrators would make it sound like, like we’re just dealing with people with relationship problems or someone’s having trouble in their classes. We’re dealing with really intense, acute issues — people who are seriously contemplating suicide, people who are going through their first mental or psychotic break. It’s just a ton of stress that we have in our job, and there’s this pressure that we need to be the ones preventing anything from happening, like preventing someone from acting out in a suicidal manner or a homicidal manner. I know that’s something that weighs heavily on our staff. With limited resources, that just adds to […] the pressure and stress and frustration, […and] it’s a reality of our experience as a psychologist on campus.”

Counseling psychologists demand market-level salaries during negotiations with UC

Published: The California Aggie. January 15, 2018. Viewable here


 

This article is the first in a three-part series examining issues that counseling psychologists in the UC system are currently facing, including under-market wages, understaffing and high demand leading to systemwide recruitment and retention issues.

Bargaining negotiations are currently taking place between the UC Office of the President (UCOP) and University Professional and Technical Employees (UPTE) over terms relating to employment under the job titles Counseling Psychologist 2 and 3 in the UC system, including and perhaps most notably relating to the under-market pay scale these employees receive at the UC.

When asked why several, if not all, UC campuses are severely understaffed in terms of counseling psychologists, Aron Katz, a psychologist at UC Davis’ Student Health and Counseling Services said “it comes down to money.”

“I love my work, I love being here, but you can go ten miles down the road in either direction and make 20 to 50 percent more,” Katz said. “It’s a tough sell.”

According to Jamie McDole, the vice president of UPTE, the below-market salaries counseling psychologists currently receive, in addition to heavy workloads, are the main factor behind the retention and recruitment issues UC campuses struggle with. McDole said counselors are “stressed, overworked and overburdened.”

“The only way to achieve adequate staffing is to have adequate salary to recruit competent therapists and then retain them,” McDole said.

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In January, UPTE successfully petitioned the Public Employment Relations Board, a state agency, to add the job titles Counseling Psychologist (CP) 2 and 3 into union membership. Previously, counseling psychologists were not unionized. According to Katz, the distinction between CP2s and CP3s is not “meaningful” — currently, the title of CP3 is used to denote “semi-management positions.”

Two separate processes between UPTE and UCOP are now occurring. Accretion is the process of adding counseling psychologists to the pre-existing healthcare contract (Hx). Since accretion negotiations began, the pre-existing Hx contract counseling psychologists are being added to expired on Oct. 31.

“Accretion negotiation began in January,” said Katz, who is also the UC Davis counseling psychologist representative for bargaining in the accretion process. “In the time it’s taken to negotiate this, the Hx contract has expired, so that also needs to be negotiated. We are fighting to keep those two negotiations separate, because if they were combined, counseling psychologist staff would have next to no influence on our terms because we would make up such a small proportion of Hx members.”

According to Katz, salary negotiations are the “major sticking point to resolving accretion.” The current pay range for CP2s is $66,214 to $119,186 — “but no one is at either end” of the scale, Katz said, “so it’s terribly misleading.” Using the list of counselors posted on the SHCS website, The Sacramento Bee’s 2016 state worker salary database shows most of these full-time counselors received salaries in a range between $86,000 to $98,000.

At a local healthcare provider such as Kaiser, the job title “psychologist” has a pay range of $119,955 to $155,764. UPTE has presented UCOP with a step scale structure of pay ranges for counseling psychologists reflective of local markets. Each UC campus has a different salary structure it is presenting.

“The current step that has been presented to represent UCR is pretty much indicative of other community colleges [and] it also […] takes all those different local pieces into consideration,” said a source from UC Riverside who wished to remain anonymous. “I think the biggest issue that UCOP has with the step salary is that it requires them to pay us more, basically comparable to what people are leaving the UC system for — people are leaving the UC system for higher paying jobs. The only argument is that they have no money or that there’s no funding for it, that it would require too much stretching of the budget to give us comparable pay.”

During negotiations, UCOP presented UPTE with three offers. UCOP has proposed a step 1 entry pay of $72,850.32, according to a source who wished to remain anonymous; for comparison, the UC Davis Medical Center’s entry pay for the job title “Psychologist 2” is $96,653.52 and the entry pay at Kaiser for the job title “Psychologist” is $119,955.60. Both UPTE and UCOP are proposing a step scale for salaries — UCOP’s salary proposition would place existing counseling psychologists on a salary step corresponding with the salary range they currently receive.

According to Katz, UCOP’s salary proposals are effective wage reductions. Although counseling psychologists could potentially receive a small raise, when union dues and an increased contribution to the UC Retirement Plan are taken into account, there is “a reduction in the take home pay.”

According to UC spokesperson Stephanie Beechem in an email interview, the UC has, since March, “offered multiple fair and reasonable proposals on wages, benefits and other employment matters in order to reach a settlement.”

In 2016, the UC Office of the President publicized and promoted a mandate which stated that, by 2018-19, an additional $18 million would be allocated to the mental health budget to “support hiring 85 mental health clinicians” UC-wide. Counseling psychologists in the UC system are funded by student fees. The additional $18 million allocated to the UC’s student mental health budget is comprised of “an increase in the annual student services fees,” according to the UCOP website.

“UC states that salary funding is limited to student fees (which students recently voted to increase for additional availability of services),” McDole said via email. “That limit is set by the university and there is no reason, other than an arbitrary university decision, that mandates the limited funding source. We have brought this up many times in bargaining, but the University continues to limit funding.”

Beechem did not respond specifically to the question: “If there is an additional $18 million in the mental health budget, why is UCOP’s most recent salary proposal for counseling psychologists unreflective of local markets?” Beechem did say that the UC“continues to negotiate in good faith.”

McDole and Rodolfo Victoria, a senior staff psychologist and the bargaining representative from UC Irvine, however, both allege that UCOP has engaged in bad faith bargaining.

“We thought, coming into this, that we would be negotiating in good faith and that has not been the case,” Victoria said. “There seems to be a very strong reluctance to negotiate with us in any kind of meaningful way. They initially had offered to lower our salary and then now they’re at a place where they’re trying to present themselves as very generous and offering to give us a raise that we would have been entitled to under the […] system that we were under. They’re trying to say that we are a valuable resource on campus, but yet, when we ask them to […] at least give us fair and competitive market wages, they have been incredibly reluctant to do so.”

In a memo from June 1, composed and sent by Dwaine Duckett, the vice president of human resources for UCOP, he claimed “UPTE has presented a wage demand UC believes is unrealistic that would almost double costs for our Counseling and Psychology Services and Student Health Centers.”

“That is false,” McDole said about Duckett’s claim. “I think if we did all the full calculations of what we are proposing, [it] is overall approximately a 30 percent increase in total costs. We did the math, they didn’t.”

Duckett was unavailable for comment.

An online petition titled “Petition for Good Faith Bargaining With Campus Counseling Psychologists” states that the “UC has lost staff due to the lack of competitive campus wages, which has substantially decreased the availability of mental health staff for students. The intensity of student needs is increasing to the point that we, the staff, fear for our safety and that of the students and campus community.”

A counseling psychologist from UCLA, who wished to remain anonymous, said they signed the online petition, which has over 200 signatures, because, after working “at a number of different counseling centers, […] there’s something about the fear and dispirited, disjunctive culture that is palpable here.”

Several counselors at multiple UC campuses said both they and their colleagues feel that the UCOP sees counseling psychologists as replaceable. Victoria said, at UC Irvine, “there’s already a huge morale burnout issue on our campus.”

According to Katz, a UC employee asked UCOP’s Chief Negotiator Patty Donnelly at a meeting during negotiations “if recruitment and retention of counseling psychologists is a bargaining interest of UCOP” and Donnelly said “no.”

Donnelly was not available for comment. Beechem did not respond to the specific question: “Is the recruitment and retention of counseling psychologists a bargaining interest of UCOP?”

“We get the message that we should be grateful to work for UC and that if we’re not happy here for any reason, that we should just consider leaving,” said a counseling psychologist from UC San Diego who wished to remain anonymous.

The same UCSD counseling psychologist said, as negotiations drag, there is the risk of losing more staff — “I’ve already heard murmurings about people looking elsewhere and feeling frustrated.”

Another meeting for accretion negotiations is pending scheduling for Jan. 12. Asked how hopeful he was that negotiations would be completed within the next month or two, Victoria said “not very.” McDole said, most recently, “the university has proposed scant increases that in no way moves therapists toward market wages.”

At this point, there has been informal discussion of a strike among several individual campuses.

“I can say that […] we are quite frustrated with how things are going and the lack of progress on UCOP’s end,” Victoria said. “There has been talk about [striking]. We obviously would like to avoid that at all costs — we don’t want the students and the campus community to be impacted by this. But at some point, if this continues like it has been, that’s obviously an option we’ll have to consider.”

UC Student-Workers Union organized statewide, UC Davis grade-in

Published: The California Aggie. December 18, 2017. Viewable here.


 

On Tuesday, Dec. 12, the UC Student-Workers Union (UAW) Local 2865 coordinated a statewide grade-in in order to increase the visibility of the work done by graduate student workers throughout the UC system. UC Davis’ grade-in was held at the CoHo from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. More than 50 graduate students attended. They congregated at multiple large tables to complete end-of-quarter work and grading.

A poster board which asked graduate students “How much grading do you have to do?” was posted on a window of the CoHo. Post-it notes attached to the board answered: “58 (5-6 page) term papers,” “40 papers (6-10 pages), 40 finals, 40 take-home essays,” “60 essay questions, 40 quizzes, 40 response papers,” “72 lab reports/week” and “50 essays, 50 final exams.”

According to Amara Miller, the head steward of the UC Davis UAW unit and a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Sociology, the work graduate students do for the university, including research, “contributes to the appeal of the UC system for potential students,” and the universities also profit “from research work through grants or private contracts that we work on.”

“Essentially, graduate students on campus are currently doing a great deal of labor to support undergrads through their classes whether as teaching assistants, associate instructors (acting professors […] who get paid roughly $200 more than a TA does), tutors, and readers,” Miller said via email. “Most of this labor, though, is often done in spaces that are not visible to the broader campus community and to undergraduates, whether that is grading from our homes or working on our research in our offices/lab spaces.”

Maggie Downey is a fifth-year Ph.D. candidate studying social welfare at UC Berkeley. Downey talked about the importance of making private graduate work public.

“A lot of academic work […] can be lonely and isolating, so [the grade-in] is a way for us to come together and sort of share the work we do,” Downey said. “It’s also a way our undergraduate students [can] see us doing the work and make sure that they know that this is about us wanting to give them the best mentorship and feedback that we can. We also want the UC administration, the UC Regents [and] the UC chancellors to know how much we value our students’ work. Our own working conditions are student-learning conditions.”

The grade-in also raised awareness about the upcoming contract renegotiations between UAW 2865 and the UC Office of the President which begin in February. Savannah Hunter, a second-year Ph.D. student at UC Davis studying sociology, who is also a recording secretary for the union, discussed the 12 different bargaining goals the union has outlined.

“All throughout Fall Quarter, members could vote to let us know what things were priorities for them, and these were the list of 12 things that were collected,” Hunter said. “One of the biggest things, of course, is increased compensation. Housing across all the UCs is really expensive and there’s not enough housing. We also want UCD to be established as a sanctuary campus.”

Another bargaining goal is the complete remission of tuition and fees, specifically for international students. Tanaya Dutta Gupta, an international Ph.D. student studying sociology, said she is especially supportive of the proposed fee remission.

Undergraduate student workers, who might work as tutors or readers, are also protected by the same contract up for renegotiation. Additionally, Hunter stated that the contract also impacts undergraduates who are not student workers.

“We do a lot of the work that’s vital to make the university run — TAs actually provide about half of the contact hours for undergrad students,” Hunter said. “If we’re underpaid, and we don’t have housing and we don’t have healthcare benefits, it’s really going to affect the quality of education that undergrads get.”

Michael Culshaw-Maurer, a third-year Ph.D. candidate in the graduate group in ecology and a head steward of the union, emphasized the importance of establishing consistency. Culshaw-Maurer said he alternates between holding a TA position and a research position, which is common among graduate students.

“You’re not a completely different person, you’re not a completely different student, but your rights, your pay [and] your contract varies wildly across those different positions,” Culshaw-Maurer said. “What we want is to establish continuity of rights and benefits for graduate students regardless of what their position is throughout the year.”

Culshaw-Maurer said he is hopeful that all 12 bargaining goals will be met.

“We’re building a lot of solidarity here,” Culshaw-Maurer said. “We’ve had a lot of really good turn-out at events recently, statewide our membership is going up, we’ve been doing a lot of outreach [and] a lot of organizing. I feel really confident we’re going to have a good result this coming year. We’re going to win.”

Interfaith event on Oct. 22 met with protest outside Islamic Center

Published: The California Aggie. Oct. 22, 2017. Co-reported & written. View here.


 

Community members who attended the Oct. 22 event “Walking Our Faith and Sharing a Meal,” an interfaith potluck and walk, were met with protestors when they arrived at the Islamic Center of Davis. The event began at Congregation Bet Haverim where Rabbi Greg Wolfe presented, participants then walked together to the Islamic Center of Davis to hear a presentation by Imam Ammar Shahin. The group Davis United Against Hate had pre-planned to assemble in front of the Center to protest for the removal of Shahin.

Shahin’s sermon in July of 2017 sparked outrage in the community and was covered nationally. Although Shahin claimed that part of his sermon was mistranslated, he says in English during the speech that “the time will come, the last hour will not take place until the Muslims fight the Jews.” Shahin has since apologized.

“To the Jewish community here in Davis and beyond, I say this deeply, I am deeply sorry for the pain I have caused,” Shahin said at a joint press conference in late July. “I let my emotions get the best of me and cloud my better judgement.”

Amr Zedan, the president of the Islamic Center of Davis, told The Aggie on Oct. 22 that the Imam’s sermon is “not a statement that we endorse here.”

Ralph Libet, one of the protestors outside of the Islamic Center, held a sign in Arabic which he said, read “dear Imam, you are crazy, please leave here now.”

“I find it very disturbing, and to me it’s just ridiculous that we […accept] people talking about annihilating other people,” Libet said. “It just doesn’t fit in our society, it doesn’t fit in our city and it shouldn’t be happening across the University of California, either.”

About 20 people gathered to protest in front of the Islamic Center and across the adjacent streets. Gail Rubin, the organizer of Davis United Against Hate, said the group is a “loose affiliation of residents in the community.” Recently, Rubin’s guest opinion piece was published in The Davis Enterprise. In the opinion piece, she asked members of the community to join her group in the “peaceful interfaith vigil” they held on Oct. 22 from 4 to 6 p.m.

“UC Davis students who are Muslims, all they have to do is cross the street […] and hear those words now to become radicalized,” Rubin said. “We’re here to say, ‘He needs to go.’ We are here because the interfaith community is being cynically manipulated by this Imam to stand with them as a show of solidarity.”

Frohar Osmani, a third-year international relations major, said the Islamic Center of Davis is where she and others go to feel safe; “one person doesn’t represent Islam,” Osmani said.

Protesters held signs that read “I am a Jew. Here in Davis an Imam wants me and my family DEAD,” “Speak out no hate peace please,” “teach love practice tolerance,” “no hate in Davis words hurt” and “stop attending Mosque that preaches genocide of the Jews.”

Alexander Groth, a professor emeritus from UC Davis’ Department of Political Science as well as a survivor of the Holocaust from the Warsaw ghetto, was one of the protesters in attendance. Groth emphasized the need to stand up against hateful and anti-Semitic speech and likened Shahin’s speech to Hitler’s call for the “decimation of Jews” in World War II. He also expressed dismay that the Davis “city council has done nothing” in response to the July sermon.

A large group of around 60 or more were inside, around and behind the Islamic Center as part of the interfaith event — the group was a diverse mix of children and adults talking, eating snacks and passing around glow sticks. After the Imam spoke, the group was preparing to continue the walk and end the night at the Davis United Methodist Church for a reflective discussion and potluck dinner.

Kate Snow was one community member at the interfaith event. Snow works as a school climate coordinator for the Davis Joint Unified School District and is involved in “restoring justice” as well as in how to “use conflict as a place to transform.”

“It’s so clear that this community, Davis as a whole, wants to transform and I think wants to be connected,” Snow said. “To me, [this event] is an opportunity to see another group of people […and] to build our learning, our education and to build our connection and then to think about what it is we can do ourselves to continue to build a community.”

When asked about her thoughts on the gathered protesters outside of the event, Snow reflected on what she had heard from Rabbi Wolfe and Imam Shahin earlier in the day.

“As the Imam said — and as Rabbi Wolf [said] — it’s important for us to listen,” Snow said. “My belief is that, as [the Imam] said, we make room for all and that […] includes people who say things you don’t like and […] includes people who scare you.”

 

Hillary Clinton gives first speech at UC Davis

Published: The California Aggie. Oct. 19, 2017. View here.


 

 

On Oct. 9, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressed a packed crowd in the Mondavi Center, who greeted her with screams of “I love you.” In Clinton’s first speech at UC Davis, she talked about her recently-published memoir “What Happened,” which addresses her accomplishment of becoming the first-ever female Democratic presidential nominee, the unprecedented 2016 presidential election and its aftermath.

UC Davis Chancellor Gary May introduced Clinton, a figure who he said needed “absolutely no introduction.” The night’s event was comprised of two parts — Clinton gave a speech focused mainly on the issues she touches on in “What Happened” and then sat down with moderator Scott Syphax, the CEO of a Sacramento nonprofit, to answer questions mainly about the election.

Both at the beginning of her speech and toward the end of the Q&A portion, Clinton addressed the need for an increase in gun restrictions in the wake of the mass shooting in Las Vegas.

“One of the fatalities [was] a UC Davis graduate by the name of Michelle Vo,” Clinton said. “I read about how last week Michelle’s friends and family as well as members of the UC Davis community have remembered her as a joyful, kind person who made friends everywhere she went. She was just 32 years old. Everytime there’s a mass shooting, people claim, ‘Well, it’s somehow impolite or too soon to address the need for common sense gun safety reform.’ I disagree. It’s always time and what better time than now?”

Clinton, who spoke in front of a wall stocked with copies of “What Happened,” said that the book is her “most candid” and “most personal effort” yet to write about personal experiences.

Fourth-year African American and African studies major Denisha Bland was chosen to address house rules before the event started; backstage, she shook Clinton’s hand and took a photo. Bland said she was “so excited” when Clinton thanked her by name in her speech.

To hear her say my name, […] it felt like she really cared,” Bland said. “I also liked her spirit and I wish she would have had that spirit through the election and showed her truth.”

Speaking openly about her reaction to the election, Clinton said she spent a significant amount of time with her family before deciding to get back to work.

“I […] started a new organization called Onward Together,” Clinton said. “It is designed to […] encourage the outpouring of activism and engagement that we’re seeing across America now. I still yell at my TV, [but] it helps a lot to be able to channel the worry and the pent-up emotion into something constructive. I hope that many of you here tonight will come to that same conclusion about how important it is to stay engaged, stay active [and] fight for causes and candidates you believe will make a difference. There is too much at stake not to speak up about the things that matter most.”

At several points throughout the night, Clinton addressed Russian involvement in the presidential election. When asked by Syphax whether she thought the scandal could be “larger than Watergate,” she said yes.

“Everyone, regardless of political party, should be disturbed by the fact that Russian agents used Facebook and Twitter […] to place targeted attack ads and negative stories intended not only to hurt my chances but to fan the flame of division within our society,” Clinton said. “New research […] found that content posted by Russian trolls and bots had been shared upwards of 340 million times. We’ve never seen it on a scale like this. When it comes to the threat we face from Russia, we need to get serious about cybersecurity and closing loopholes in our election process, get tough with Putin [and] get to the bottom of what really happened in 2016.”

One continuing theme throughout the event was the topic of women in politics. Syphax inquired as to the advice Clinton might give to senators such as Kamala Harris or Elizabeth Warren or other women who might run for president in the future.

“You have to have a high pain threshold, because the double standard is alive and well,” Clinton said. “Kamala was questioning Jeff Sessions, who […] deserves to be questioned, and […the] chairmen tells her, ‘Enough.’ One commentator said she’d been ‘Hillary’d.’ For any woman in politics — [or] in the public eye — you have to call it out, but you have to do it in a way that doesn’t create a backlash against you for calling it out. It’s a constant balancing act. The final thing I would say to them is […] just be prepared if we have another reality TV campaign to have the most horrible lies said about you.”

The final question Syphax asked was whether Clinton would “indulge” the audience and read a part of her prepared victory speech to the audience; the request was met with a roar of applause.

“This summer, a writer asked me if I could go back in time and tell anyone in history about this milestone, who would it be?” Clinton said. “And the answer was easy — my mother, Dorothy. You may have heard me talk about her difficult childhood, she was abandoned by her parents when she was just eight years old. I think about my mother everyday. I dream of going up to her [at eight] and sitting down next to her, taking her in my arms and saying, […] ‘As hard as it might be to imagine, your daughter will grow up and become the president of the United States. America is the greatest country in the world, and from tonight going forward, together we will make America even greater than it has ever been for each and every one of us.’”

When speaking about her future, Clinton said she is “not going anywhere.”

“If you take nothing else away tonight, please understand I am here to tell you we cannot just move on,” Clinton said. “The lessons we draw, or fail to draw, from 2016 will help determine whether we can heal our democracy and protect it in the future [and] whether we can begin to bridge the divide that is tearing up so much of America. I’m going to do everything I can going forward as an active citizen to speak [up] and I hope you will do exactly the same. I’m confident and optimistic that we’ll win together.”

Hillary Clinton to speak at Mondavi Center on Oct. 9

Published: The California Aggie. Sept. 28, 2017. View here.


 

As part of the book tour for her memoir “What Happened,” former Secretary of State and Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton will speak at the Mondavi Center on Oct. 9. The event, one of 15 listed stops on her book tour website, is her only scheduled event in California.

According to the Mondavi Center director Don Roth, the event is “virtually sold out.”

“We’ve just never had anything at this level of popularity –– this has been amazing,” Roth said.

In the past, the Mondavi Center has hosted former US President Bill Clinton, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former Republican Senate Leader Bob Dole, among others.

Christian Monsees, a fifth-year political science major and the president of Davis College Democrats, said he “could not be more excited” for Clinton’s visit.

“Hillary Clinton is one of the most accomplished politicians not just on the left, but in our entire current political sphere,” Monsees said. “Whether it’s being the first lady of Arkansas, first lady of the United States, [a] US Senator or Secretary of State, she’s been on every level of politics. I believe that it can only benefit us to hear her perspective on what was perhaps one of the most historic elections that our country will ever see.”

The date for Clinton’s visit to the Mondavi Center was released on her website before tickets were made available due to some last-minute contract negotiations.

Tickets were released for Mondavi Center donors and subscribers, as well as for UC Davis faculty, students and staff, on Sept. 15. Members of the general public have a slim chance of securing a ticket to the event; however, 100 additional tickets for UC Davis students will be released on Oct. 5, on “Student On Sale Day.”

“Any time we add a show, […] we always have a pre-sale, before it goes on sale to the general public,” Roth said. “We want our Mondavi Center subscribers, the Mondavi Center donors, and all UC Davis faculty, staff and students […] to have an opportunity to buy tickets. Normally, for most events, a lot of the tickets get sold to that group, but there’s usually still plenty of tickets available to the general public. This time, there will not be many tickets.”

Student tickets were priced at $25, while tickets for non-students were priced between $150 and $250. Everyone who bought a ticket to the event will be presented with a voucher for a copy of “What Happened,” which can be claimed before the event.

Since the book’s release on Sept. 12, it has received some mixed reviews. It has, however, remained in high demand –– selling 300,000 copies its first week in print, according to The Guardian. The New Yorker has stated the “memoir radiates with fury at the forces and the figures ranged against her,” and The New York Times has called it a “feminist manifesto.”

Clinton has been criticized for blaming Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who she defeated in the Democratic primaries, for his role in her own eventual defeat in the presidential election.

“I can understand where the frustration is coming from,” Monsees said. “I would point out that in another part she […] owns up to the fact that her campaign [did] make mistakes and only she can really take the blame for that. Obviously there are multiple reasons why Hillary Clinton lost the presidential election, so I’m glad she was willing to take the responsibility for the mistakes she made on her end.”

Fully aware that she will be addressing a mostly university-affiliated audience, Monsees said he suspects Clinton will tailor her speech to the demographics in attendance, which include college students. Although Monsees also acknowledged that the focus of the speech will likely still remain on Clinton’s version of what happened in the unprecedented 2016 presidential election.

“If there’s any chance to really get a [sense of] what was going on in her mind through that whole process, I think it will really be very fascinating,” Monsees said.

Chancellor May –– UC Davis officially has its seventh chancellor

Published: The California Aggie. July 31, 2017. View here.


 

Today, August 1, marks Gary May’s first day as the seventh chancellor of UC Davis. Several separate meet-and-greets with UC Davis students, faculty and staff members as well as members of the media have been planned at the North Lawn of Mrak Hall and the Welcome Center in Davis and at the UC Davis Health Education Building in Sacramento.

May, who has spent almost three decades at Georgia Tech as both a student and  faculty member, moved to Davis on July 24 with his wife, LeShelle. Upon his departure from Georgia Tech, leaving his position as Dean of the College of Engineering, May was honored with over a dozen goodbye parties. May said he is committed to creating the same kinds of close relationships he has fostered at Georgia Tech at UC Davis, though he acknowledges it will take time.

“Both LeShelle, my wife, and I, from a very early point in time, will be trying to meet as many faculty, staff, students, alumni, Davis community [and] Sacramento community members as we can,” May said. “[I am] just trying to be as open and accessible as I possibly can –– I don’t plan to turn down any requests for meetings. I have to listen and learn about the place. I know what I’ve read, but it’s always different hearing it from the people who are there, experiencing the university.”

May outlined several long-term and short-terms plans for the coming year, from fostering business ties between Sacramento and UC Davis to earning the university more recognition on a national scale as well as immediate action to fill open positions on his team.

“What I’d like to do is have the campus start thinking about strategic planning and […] where we want to be in the next five to ten years,” May said. “We’re already a top public university, but I think we can aim higher, I think we can raise the level of visibility for the campus.  We just need to be a little bit better about telling our story and bragging about ourselves to the rest of the state, the country and the world.”

May was visited by Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg in Atlanta about a month ago to discuss plans to maximize the university’s presence in California’s capital.

“We’ve had really good success here in Atlanta, with Georgia Tech partnering with the city and the business community to put innovation centers very close to the campus,” May said. “Sacramento is 11 miles away, […but] if we can overcome those transportation issues, we can build a really strong partnership with the city of Sacramento. What I’m thinking about and dreaming about is […] a place for business entrepreneurship and innovation –– something that becomes a win-win for our campus and for the city of Sacramento.”

Addressing university-related issues he will face in the coming year, May said plans are currently being formulated to help alleviate the consequences of a growing student body –– consequences including higher rents in the community and larger class sizes.

Furthermore, one especially relevant issue at UC Davis and many college campuses nationwide is the handling of hateful speech on campus.

“We have to have, at our universities, the ability for people to express popular and unpopular points of view,” May said. “We can’t inhibit that. Now at the same time, our primary function is to educate the students at the university and we can’t have a place […] where anyone feels so inhibited that they can’t perform academically. You can talk about whatever you’d like to talk about, you can give speeches, you can have rallies, but if you’re promoting an […] environment that inhibits the learning of other students, that’s where we have to draw the line. I’m a big believer in free speech, but I also think that students should feel like they have a safe environment to work and study in.”

ASUCD President Josh Dalavai said he is hopeful and excited for the coming year with May as chancellor.

“I’m excited about fresh perspective,” Dalavai said. “I think that he’s definitely bringing a lot of new ideas to the table. I hope that he sees students as an important stakeholder on campus, which it definitely seems like so far [is] the case.”

After May’s selection as chancellor, both Dalavai and ASUCD Vice President Adilla Jamaludin met with the Mays. The meeting took place before The Sacramento Bee ran an article announcing Gary May’s positions on the boards of Leidos, a technology and defense company, and Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, a defense, technology and medicine lab –– and the near $300,000 he earns from the positions.

“I was slightly disappointed in [regards to] the board involvement, especially with the nature of what it was,” Dalavai said. “I understand that it was Georgia Tech and that his involvement on those military external boards was correlated to the academic missions of the university and career employment and internship employment opportunities for students. That being said, it was still something that was somewhat concerning.”

Following the publication of the article, May requested to meet with both The Aggie and the students who planned to –– and later did –– protest at the Pack the Patio event to discuss his board positions. Students at the event called May a “war profiteer.”

“I think that’s a really unfair characterization,” May said. “My great-uncle was a Tuskegee Airman, my sister works at Boeing in the defense part of the company in St. Louis and many family members have had military service –– I think that’s honorable.  I don’t find that to be objectionable in the least, and I know that there will be people that will disagree with that position, but I hope there’s room for various points of view at UC Davis and [that] we can agree to disagree.”

May also added that Leidos does not build or deploy weapons. Leidos is involved in such areas of defense as “airborne intelligence” and simulation technology used in the U.S. Army. Additionally, May said he feels the salary he earns sitting on these boards is not related to his professional role as chancellor.

“I don’t really think […] the money I receive from boards should be a concern from the Davis community, unless somehow that was taking away from my performance as chancellor,” May said. “I’ve been on this board for two years now, […and in] my last performance review as dean, the provost said this is my best year. Clearly, board service does not detract from, or at least has not detracted from, my performance in my day job.”

May is open to discussing his board positions; he said transparency is a personal priority of his.

“Transparency is my style,” May said. “I try to explain my decision-making process […] and give the rationale very openly. Not everyone will agree with the decisions I make, that’s unrealistic, but I think at least people will understand my thought process and rationale and won’t feel like anything was done under the table.”

During the chancellor-search process, some students were frustrated with their lack of involvement; ASUCD passed a resolution calling for greater transparency in the process. As dean at Georgia Tech, May said he met with an undergraduate and graduate student advisory council monthly to discuss student issues; May said he is planning to involve student voices in a major way as chancellor.

“We’ll be sure to make sure that students are represented on search committees for high-level leadership positions,” May said. “I also have two student [representatives who are] basically my liaisons to the rest of the student body; I’ll meet with them regularly. I’m a very big believer that students should be involved in all aspects of student life.”

Additionally, on his personal Facebook account, May has begun to accept all UC Davis students –– his friends list totals over 3,200. As a result, May said people can have access to him “in a different format than they might otherwise have.”

May also remained involved and actively engaged with students at Georgia Tech through the Summer Undergraduate Research in Engineering/Science (SURE) and Facilitating Academic Careers in Engineering and Science (FACES) programs he created. For his efforts with these programs, May was awarded a Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring from former President Barack Obama.

“SURE […is a] ten-week, undergraduate research experience, targeted at underrepresented minority students, but open to all students,” May said. “The ultimate goal is to get those students into graduate schools. Over the life of this program, more than 500 students have participated, about 75 percent –– based on our last longitudinal study –– have gone to graduate school.”

May, who attended Georgia Tech as an undergraduate student, said he was the only black student in “many of his classes.” The first black dean of the College of Engineering at Georgia Tech, May is also UC Davis’ first chancellor of color.

“I think it’ll be a visible symbol that UC Davis praises diversity,” May said. “But I stress to people –– I’m not the dean of the black students, I’m not going to be the chancellor of the black students. I’m going to be the chancellor of the university. My responsibilities will be broader than that, but they will also have to pay attention to that very important role I’ll have as an advocate and a champion for diversity.”

Having met both members of the faculty and staff population as well as the student population, May said he feels UC Davis is “a very impressive place.” One of the main differences, he said, between Georgia Tech and UC Davis is that student activism has a very minimal role at Georgia Tech. Dalavai said he hopes May will embrace the student activism of UC Davis.

“It’s a large part of the culture here and I think a crucial part of the culture,” Dalavai said. “Oftentimes when the ‘proper’ channels fail to establish accountability, it’s student activism that carries that burden.”

Having experienced student activism firsthand during his initial meeting with the general student body, May said he hopes his board involvement does not “become a distraction” and that the UC Davis community will judge him based upon his “performance as chancellor.”

“I’m very flattered that I have the opportunity to be in leadership here,” May said. “It’s really going to be an exceptional opportunity not just for me, but I think for the university. We hope to make Davis one of the […] handful of universities that people think about when they think about the nation’s great public research universities. I’m looking forward to joining the community of Davis and becoming an Aggie.”

UC Davis MIND Institute receives $1.4 million grant to improve effectiveness of evidence-based practices for individuals with autism spectrum disorders

Published: The California Aggie. Sept. 4, 2017. View here.


 

The UC Davis Medical Investigation of Neurodevelopmental Disorders (MIND) Institute is the recipient of a competitive $1.4 million grant, which will be used to study how to best improve the implementation and effectiveness of evidence-based practices in schools statewide for individuals with autism spectrum disorders

According to Aubyn Stahmer, the director of community-based treatment research at the MIND Institute and the principal investigator for the project, evidence-based practices are often based on “behavior analysis or behavioral psychology.”

“It might be something as simple as using a picture schedule to help a student know how to make it through the classroom day […] without a behavior challenge,” Stahmer said. “There are different practices like that; there are about 18 of them for autism –– depending on the age of the student and the goal of [the] teachers –– […] that they know work.”

Though it varies on a case by case basis, Stahmer said effective uses of evidence-based practices have shown improvements in the language, reading, academic and/or social skills of individuals with an autism spectrum disorders.

This project is a partnership between the UC Davis MIND Institute and San Diego State University. Jessica Suhrheinrich, a professor at SDSU, is the co-principal investigator. Suhrheinrich is also on the research board of the California Autism Professional Training and Information Network (CAPTAIN), which will conduct the research throughout the state of California.

Suhrheinrich explained that the project’s research will examine the effectiveness of CAPTAIN, which functions like a network throughout the state to circulate information about evidence-based practices.

We’re looking at factors that influence the effectiveness of a collaborative statewide network for sharing information about evidence-based practices,” Suhrheinrich said. “The idea would be, that if this is effective, we can identify factors that are related to the success of individual regions […and] then we could look towards replication in other states to support [the] dissemination of information.”

According to Stahmer, information about evidence-based practices is learned through district-sanctioned trainings.

“A couple of people from each of the districts […] come to the training and they basically agree to get trained in these practices we know work for kids with autism,” Stahmer said. “They take them back to their district and work with other teachers there to train them. We think that’s a really good start, but that people need support from their leadership, for example, to have time for training and time to go into the classrooms and do supervision. We’re trying to figure out what kind of infrastructure and leadership support the trainers and teachers need to make the techniques they’re learning really stick.”

The project will also examine how policies, from individual schools to the state level, impact the success of the trainings for evidence-based practices.

“For example, the state now has a policy that we have to use […] evidence-based practices, or practices that work and have research behind them,” Stahmer said. “But there isn’t really anyway to track whether people are using those or how they get trained in those. One policy or change might be that teachers who are using evidence-based practices and using them well maybe get some kind of recognition for that –– […] so all this extra work that they’re doing is worth it for them.”

Data will be collected primarily through the use of electronic survey data –– an estimated 5,000 surveys will be distributed and collected virtually. Additionally, focus groups will also be set up.

“We will be asking for a variety of different types of information,” Suhrheinrich said. “For example, at the teacher level, [we will ask about] the types of training teachers receive or participate in [and] their feelings on the effectiveness of that training. We’ll also gather some information about what they’ve used in their classrooms, based on teacher report.  But then at the higher level, within the organization, we’re also looking at how organizations make decisions about adopting new programs. This will […] provide information about how that dissemination of practices currently happens and if the CAPTAIN network is playing a key role in that process.”

The three-year grant is scheduled to go into effect in September.

“Our goal is to be able to identify factors that support state-level implementation,” Suhrheinrich said. “We are hoping to –– by the end of the grant –– know more about factors that would be helpful in continuing to improve dissemination of evidence-based practices within the state of California. This is focused on services for autism, but we’re hoping that this model may be helpful for other statewide collaboration, focused on other needs for other groups, or focused on other disability services within our own state.”

Ultimately, Stahmer said, the goal of the research is to ensure that “students with autism do the best they can do in school.”

25th Annual Production Sale raises close to $50,000

Published: The California Aggie. July 7, 2017. View here.


 

On June 24, the 25th Annual Production Sale auctioned off 17 animals 15 horses and two mules which were bred and raised by UC Davis students. The students were accepted into one of two six-month horse-based management internships. With around 200 people in attendance at the auction, in addition to bids that had been placed over the phone, the sale raised close to $50,000, a record-breaking total.

The money raised will support and maintain the UC Davis Equine Teaching Program. Dan Sehnert, the facilities coordinator for the Animal Science Department, helped organize the first horse sale 25 years ago and has remained involved in the subsequent auctions. Sehnert said the money raised from the sale is vital to the maintenance of the UC Davis Horse Barn, which hosted the sale.

“Something that a lot of people don’t know is that […] the only funding we receive to operate [the Horse Barn] is for the salary of the barn manager,” Sehnert said. “We don’t receive any money whatsoever for feed, for veterinary care, for bedding [or] for supplies. The money raised in this sale helps offset those costs.”

The day’s events included a preview of the animals, a dinner  which served top sirloin steak courtesy of the Meat Lab and the auction itself. During the preview, the student-interns answered questions about the animals they had worked with over the past two quarters.

“A big thing in the horse world is pedigree — we had to learn those bloodlines,” said Alyssa Atilano, a UC Davis alumna and one of the nine foal managers.  “Mostly, as we found out, people wanted to see how they moved. In the horse world, if people don’t buy your horse, it’s most likely going to go into an auction and you have to make him or her look good.”

Dr. Amy McLean, the equine operations supervisor, also helped to promote and organize the auction. McLean worked with the students throughout the courses of their internships.

“The students have been here, some of them, from the time the horse was literally conceived they were responsible for breeding,” McLean said. “They were there when it was born, and they spent the last six months of a lot of these horses’ lives preparing for the auction. It’s really amazing to […] go from the very beginning of the process to when they’re then trained and ready to find a new home.”

Atilano said that as part of the internship, one or two students were assigned to a yearling and two to three people were assigned a pregnant mare; her yearling was a Quarter Horse.

“He was a perfect gentleman by the time the auction came, he really showed off,” Atilano said. “He didn’t act up at all during the auction. Ultimately, he was bought by someone who wants to use him for trail riding in Oregon. I’m really happy with how that turned out, I think that he will be happy over there.”

Deanna Overton, another one of the foal managers and a UC Davis alumna, said that watching the sale of her yearling was bittersweet.

According to McLean, the average sale price per animal was around $2,822. The animal sold for the highest bid was the Andalusian weanling, which sold for $8,600. The third highest-selling horse was bought by the father of one of the interns.

“She did an outstanding job training this horse,” McLean said. “I thought that was really nice to see one of the students directly involved in the program having her family’s support and giving back to the program.”

Dan Macon, the assistant specialist for rangeland science and management in the Department of Plant Sciences, who has served as auctioneer for 24 of the production sales conducted the auction again this year. Compared to the very first year of the sale, Macon said the quality of the breeding has improved immensely.

“They’ve all been successful,” Macon said. “But this one really set the mark.”