Monday, June 18, 2012

A connection?

There may be a connection between these articles, one a book review and the other a front page article from a recent Sunday New York Times.  I think there is.  What do you think?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

I've often wondered why health care costs go up exponentially

I've heard that the reason that health care costs increase at such a great rate has something to do with the lack of adherence to medical advice, including when or how strictly prescription medication is taken.  I know if people would follow preventive health care practices that often they wouldn't wait until their health would be so compromised that going to the E.R. would be the only way to get better.
I was reading an opinion piece in The New York Times over the weekend titled, "Why Medical Bills Are Such a Mystery."  The basic premise is best summed up by the following statement: "We don’t know what it costs to deliver health care to individual patients, much less how those costs compare to the outcomes achieved."
Please read the full opinion piece at
and let me know what you think. 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Computer industry "ripe" for funding requests

In my Institutional Effectiveness Committee meeting that I chaired on Thursday, February 16th, we had two items on our agenda: the first was plans for the Southeast Campus and the second had to do with a discussion on approaching the computer industry for funding.

With the recent article surrounding Apple's cash holdings, this may be the best time for defining why the computer industry should support City College. Companies such as, Twitter, Zynga, Facebook, Yahoo, Google, Intel, and Hewlett Packard should be on the list. And, the Computer History donors' list should be given an in-depth review (see and

With the recent devastating loss of State funding, CCSF must look to the private sector to make up some of the lost revenue. I'll do my best to make certain that all avenues are explored.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

"City College information desk. How may I help you?"

An "analog internet" powered by the phone and staffed by "people".  What a concept!

Would this be part of the solution to increase how well City College students take advantage of all of the resources offered by the College?

Or, does City College need an ombudsman to represent students in maneuvering through the institution?

Maybe both....

I'm looking forward to working with the new student leadership starting this month, and hope to get their full participation in exploring options.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

My speech as Board President at the May 29th
City College graduation.

A few nights ago at our monthly meeting of the Board of Trustees, I had an epiphany or, rather, the reappearance of an epiphany from some time ago, if that is at all a logical concept.

The meeting had started with student testimony.  Students had lined up to let us know about some of the exciting and highly positive new developments at the College, and many others had told us about how recent changes in their departments were making their lives much, much harder. 

Towards the end of the meeting, the Chancellor passed me a piece of paper on which were printed a few paragraphs.  He asked me to read it out loud at the appropriate moment in our meeting.

I had the earlier student testimony very much on my mind when the Chancellor handed me the piece of paper.   What was written there and  what the students had had to say combined in a particularly meaningful way for me, and I remembered why I chose to seek a position on the Board of Trustees.

See, on the paper the Chancellor handed me was the notice of the sudden passing of a long-time, former member of the classified staff, a woman who spent decades working at the College as a custodian.  In her retirement, Queen Esther Williams loved spending time with her family, she continued to be devoted to her union, and she enjoyed traveling to Reno and casinos operated by Native American tribes.  Just two days after a trip to a casino, she passed on.

I never knew Ms. Williams since she had already retired before I came to City College.  While I had never met her, I knew that, like many of those who have spent their careers working at the college, she had been a person with justified pride in her job and in the way in which she did her work, and who knew and felt the appreciation the college community had for her.

We often forget that we serve people – students, staff, faculty, administrators.  We spend the majority of our Board meetings deciding important matters that are essential to the operation of City College; yet it is abstract conversation with a focus on dollars and cents, balancing budgets, approving courses that show up on our agendas in a long list, determining the details of a parcel tax to help fund essential programs that would be the most palatable to the voters. It is sometimes easy to lose touch with the immediacy of the passion for serving the community of people that make up the college (students, staff, faculty, administrators) that brought us to this work in the first place. Quite frankly, we are often so caught up in details and logistics that we get far too divorced from what is truly important at City College: the people who learn and work here.

This year more than ever, we have been reminded that when we approve a reduced budget, we affect the lives of students who cannot take the few remaining classes they need to transfer to S.F. State, we lower the pay of faculty whose summer classes have been eliminated, and we make the work of people like Queen Esther Williams even more challenging by leaving open vacancies and limiting supplies that she would need to have to complete her assignments as well as she would want.  One of the truths about the culture of City College is that people make do, they pitch in to help each other, they open their classes to more students than required, and they find ways to secure what they need to meet their custodial duties and enable fellow City College employees and students to work and study in the best environment possible.  There is real pride at City College

I have come to the City College graduation for nine years.  I have been to many other graduations – of my own, my siblings, and friends:  high school graduations, college graduations, law school and graduate school graduations– yet this graduation remains the most special to me in many ways.

Let me tell you why I love the City College graduations.   After I was first elected to the College Board in 2000, I spent the initial five months of my term in shock at how hard it was to see the relevance of the day to day activities of the Board to the reasons I had wanted to be a part of the college  -- much of our debate seemed stuck in internal politics or in the minutia of detail, and I felt removed from the meaningful contact I had hoped to have with what had inspired me about the college and the potential for greatness here. 

At that first City College graduation in May 2001, I found my spirits lifted, my hope renewed, and my reasons for seeking to join the Board of Trustees reconfirmed.  The student speakers were captivating, the hoots and shouts expressed the joy people were feeling, and shaking hands with graduating students as they came up to the stage felt personal, if only for a few seconds. I wouldn’t quite call it a religious experience, but it sure felt pretty close.  I left Davies Hall considerably lighter, positive, and hopeful than when I went in.

For most of my education, I attended private schools.  Between kindergarten and 8th grade, I was in a private boys’ school here in San Francisco.  While I flourished academically, there were others who didn’t, and when they expressed their frustration by acting out, or when they were stuck academically and could not do their work, the school sometimes responded by deeming them not to be the “right sort” of boy for the school.  Often, these kids were shuffled out or dropped out.  I’ve lost track of most of my classmates who left before the 8th grade.  I really don’t know what became of them.

Things are different, way different from that at City College.  Instead of trying to shape students into a certain kind of image or channeling school work only into “appropriate” and “approved” avenues, City College embraces everyone where they are, and for whom they are, and the College doesn’t give up on anyone.  When people finish at City College with a degree, a certificate, or simply with the skills to return to the workforce retrained and ready to go, they take well-earned pride in their accomplishment.  That’s what we are feeling here today.

You see, there is always amazing hope within the students who are graduating on this day.  Some of you are graduating FINALLY after many years of juggling classes, family, and work.  Some of you did so fairly quickly following high school.  And, some of you after returning to school after a long break to raise a family or focus on a career.  Some of you have had relatively easy lives, while others have overcome obstacles that most of us could never summon the courage and strength to do.  All of you are role models for those of us up here today on this platform.  You inspire us as do your families whose love and support have helped you get here.

My hope is that I, my colleagues, the Administration, the lab aides, the cafeteria workers, the Presidents of the Academic and Classified Senates, the coaches, the groundskeeper, the Department Chairs, and everyone else at City College can retain this remarkable sense of accomplishment and pride that we witness today.  On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I am proud to welcome you here today and thank you for inspiring us to serve you with even more awareness that people, rather than numbers on a balance sheet, make what we do profoundly rewarding.
In Jewish life, whenever there is a happy occasion, we say mazal tov to each other as members of a community sharing in the joy.  Please join me by turning to your neighbor and saying mazal tov to each other.  Congratulations to us all, members of the City College community.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A sense of humor always helps

I have to share this email I received today from an alumnus of a certificate program at City College. Seems that this former student (and still very proud graduate) noticed an error after displaying his certificate in his office for all to see.

His email to the Department's Chair (and copied to me) goes on:

"Professor Laws taught us much about engineered plumbing systems with pipes and such. There was, however, no instruction on feather arrangement...."

I must admit that I didn't yet get the error and the relationship to feathers until I read the rest of the sentence and saw the photo:

"I don't believe the department is qualified to issue certificates in Engineer Pluming Systems!"

And now, back to our regular blogging.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

How "Wanted: Green talent" caught my eye

"Wanted: Green talent" is what I read on my phone the other day when I was looking at the headlines on SFGate, the San Francisco Chronicle's online website. Truth be told, I was in a meeting and should not have been "checking out" during the meeting and "checking in" to the internet, but I'm glad I did.

David Bank, a vice president at San Francisco's Civic Ventures, was right on target when he wrote in his open forum about the need for workers who can help energy companies and other green industries. There just aren't enough trained people to fill the available jobs. At the same time, however, having the right kind of training programs are still not as widespread or asLink standardized as they need to be. And, demand is lower than it needs to be to drive these industries to even greater growth than in the recent past.

While Mr. Bank mentioned some nonprofits and government initiatives to help with all of the above, he left out an important piece in how we will find the trained workers needed to help green industries thrive: community colleges, our nation's training institutions.

Within a day of this opinion piece appearing on SFGate, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel had a equally compelling headline: "Some businesses having a difficult time filling 'green' jobs". Again, no mention of community colleges, though technical colleges appear in the article.

The article developed from the release of a new report by...COWS. Not the kind that moo, but the Center on Wisconsin Strategy at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. The report, "Greener Skills: How Credentials Create Value in the Clean Energy Economy", follows an earlier report released two years ago. "Greener Pathways: Jobs and Workforce Development in the Clean Energy Economy".

One important conclusion in the just released report cautions community colleges as they seek to develop programs to train students for green jobs: "Community colleges, for example, shouldn’t simply rush to start their own “green jobs” programs (though many already have,
with offerings that range from important and critical to redundant and ridiculous). While opening a new program may offer a press opportunity and prove your campus is on the green edge, in fact the ways that all schools manage to integrate the green content into existing programs, and the resources they save by doing so in consistent and industry-defined ways are
likely to prove both more important and sustainable."

How does all of this relate to City College? At our January 2009 meeting, the Board of Trustees approved Resolution S7, "Directive to Create Major Green Training Programs and Establish a Green Jobs Industry Advisory Group"

Two months later, at our March 2009 meeting, our Board passed two related resolutions, "Creation of City College of San Francisco Bridge to Green Jobs Program" (Resolution S1) and "Resolution supporting the creation of a City College Bridge to Green Jobs Policy" (Resolution S2). Both resolutions can be found at

Vice-President John Rizzo took the lead in convening a Green Industry Advisory Task Force in 2009, and chaired several meetings to discuss how the College might grow how it trains students for careers in green industries. As the College continues to develop Phase 2 of the Sustainability Plan through which curricular elements of sustainability will be laid out and with all of the recent research that analyzes the effectiveness of existing programs and proposes changes for improved training programs, now would be a great time for the College to report back to the Board on the status of all of the resolutions noted above. And, of course, to demonstrate how City College will be a leader in training San Franciscans for "green" jobs.