Alec Weisman's

Archive for the ‘Investigative Reporting’ Category

The Decay of SunGod

In Higher Education, Investigative Reporting on May 14, 2012 at 6:39 pm

A Tale of Privilege, Patronage, and Prejudice

Alec Weisman, California Review Editor-in-Chief Emeritus ‘08-‘11

The Sun God Festival is the highlight of most UCSD students’ college careers. It is a time to let loose, have fun, and de-stress from the rigors of the quarter system. Yet it is also a time for the UCSD Associated Students (AS) to take credit for an event that has been progressively declining since at least 2008. The Sun God Festival is also the time of the year that reveals the intricacies of student government and shows the full extent of the perks that they receive.

After 2007, the Sun God Festival went from a campus wide de-stress celebration to a caged and heavily policed event isolated at RIMAC. Prior to the caging, the UCSD AS spent $200,000 on the Sun God festival. After the restrictions, the AS spent $550,000 on the event. Students now pay around $15 in student fees for the Sun God festival even as they receive a smaller return on their investment, with the money being used less efficiently. Some exceptionally poor decisions by the AS have included their erection of a fence around the dance tent and their inane purchase of a giant inflatable Sun God that cost $5,000-$6,000.

In addition, Daniel Watts, a former candidate for AS President in 2005, discovered that AS had a private Sun God guest list for former AS members as recently as 2011. According to a public records request, this guest list composed several former AS members, celebrities, University affiliates, and sponsors.

According to Oliver Zhang, the AS Associate Vice President of Concerts & Events (ASCE) responsible for the 2012 Sun God Festival, a guest list is industry standard and is “consistent for all ASCE shows throughout the year.” Although the Sun God guest list has included more than 500 people since 2007, Zhang explained that the 2011-2012 AS worked “to keep the guest list as modest as possible” in order to “make our events as accessible to students as possible.”

This is not the only privilege that AS has given itself. The UCSD AS pays themselves more than $100,800 in stipends for AS cabinet members and office staff. These stipends have more than doubled since 2006-2007, when AS Cabinet and AS Office stipends were only $47,250.

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Popping the UCSD Housing Bubble

In Higher Education, Investigative Reporting on January 30, 2012 at 12:06 pm

Los Angeles – The University of California, San Diego Housing, Dining, and Hospitality (HDH) Services has made more than $250,000 in profit over the past five years through unused dining dollars, according to data released through a California Public Records Act Request. In addition, data also revealed the price per square foot for UCSD residence halls far exceeds the surrounding community.

A total of $286,421 unused dining dollars have returned to the HDH since the 2006-2007 academic year. The largest inflow of unused dining dollars occurred in the 2008-2009 academic year, when the HDH received $68,722. This increase in unused dining dollars corresponds to a mandatory meal plan increase of $650 for all students living in the dorms. In the years since, the price of many goods in campus dining halls have been inflated dramatically, which has reduced the amount of unused dining dollars received by the school from the 2008-2009 peak by more than $20,000 and $15,000 in the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 academic years, respectively.

This is profit for the self-supporting department of Housing, Dining, and Hospitality Services, which operates without any state funding and relies on students who choose to live on-campus to be conveniently located close to their classes. Although HDH claims that its meal plan is intended to be flexible, plans are not refundable and do not carry over to the next academic year. Therefore HDH keeps all dining dollars that are not used by students. Only in “unique circumstances,” such as withdrawal and participation in a Study Abroad program, can students recover a portion of their unused dining dollars.

This profit from dining dollars has been used by HDH on projects that include a fully vegan restaurant called Roots in Muir College, Meatless Mondays (where the dining halls provide vegan-only grill options), Farm 2U (where local farmers sell their goods on-campus), and cage-free eggs. However, student opinion has been repeatedly ignored in the development of these programs, as shown by a 2009 study sponsored by The Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS) of the University of California, Santa Cruz.

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Budget Woes? Live Off-Campus and Save Money

In Investigative Reporting on September 19, 2011 at 4:17 pm

Washington, DC – Students at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) now pay less if they live off-campus, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics.

The estimated cost to live on campus has risen by more than $1,000 over the last five years. This more than thirteen percent increase is stark when compared to the cost of living off-campus. These lucky commuters will pay a mere $300 more than five years ago, a 3.2 percent increase that is below even the Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation rate of 3.6 percent. In the 2011-2012 academic year, UCSD students who live off-campus are expected to save more than 800 dollars when compared to their on campus peers when considering all non-tuition expenses.

The 2010-2011 academic year was the first time that it was cheaper for a student to live off-campus after considering all expenses. For the 2011-2012 academic year room and board on the UCSD campus is expected to cost $11,571 on average, while commuters are expected to pay $9,669 for room and board.

Students at every college in the University of California (UC) system will find it is more expensive to live on campus. Yet as housing on the UC campuses grows more costly, students who live on campus in the California State University system and many California private universities will pay less. Students living on campus in the UC system paid on average $2,238 more than the surrounding community, whereas students saved on average $842 to live on campus in the CSU system. Several private universities saved students living on campus an average of $645 compared to students who commuted.

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My Past Articles

In Investigative Reporting on June 22, 2011 at 7:50 pm

A compilation of my work as Editor-in-Chief of the California Review from 2008-2011.

Articles, brief blog posts, and commentary are posted from most recent to oldest. To get a better taste of my writing style or to understand the corruption and problems at UC San Diego, read some of the articles.

May 12, 2011 – Graduating Editor-in-Chief’s thoughts on the UCSD Associated Students

April 25, 2011 – The Dream Act Comes to UCSD

April 20, 2011 – AS Resolution Passed 4/13/11

April 14, 2011 – SunGod Guest Ticket Fiasco

April 13, 2011 – Resignation Letter of Sarmad Bokhari

April 13, 2011 – Impeachment Roulette: An AS Council Circus

April 12, 2011 – The UCSD Bait and Switch – Transportation and Parking Services

April 10, 2011 – Students First “Guide to Winning UCSD AS Elections” – Disqualify Your Opponents

April 5, 2011 – UCSD Libraries are Dust in the Wind

March 9, 2011 – The California Review Hosts Successful Debate

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Money, Votes, and Climate Change

In Industry, Investigative Reporting on June 20, 2011 at 4:34 pm

Alec Weisman

Who were the winners and losers from the passage of California Assembly Bill 32 and the failure of Proposition 23. These were some of the important questions that I asked as I dove into a final paper for my ENVR 120: Global Warming class.

Brief Background

AB 32, also known as the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, is a California “law that designates the California Air Resources Board (ARB) to develop and enforce regulations to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the state of California to 1990 levels by 2020. All 47 Democrats in the California Assembly voted yes in support of AB 32, and all 33 Republicans voted no in opposition to AB 32.

Proposition 23 was the attempt to suspend AB 32 until California’s unemployment rate had dropped to 5.5% or less for four consecutive quarters. It was nicknamed the California Jobs Initiative by supporters and the Dirty Energy Proposition by opponents. In addition, Proposition 23 lost by a vote of 38.5% in favor and 61.5% in opposition

Assembly Bill 32 and Proposition 23 are a classic example of industry vs. industry, with the more politically popular using big government to give it special incentives or drive competition out of the market.

Some of the key findings:

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