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News Briefs

08 March 2006

A promise is a promise, judge tells UC in ordering fee repayment

Ruling in a breach-of-contract case spearheaded by a Boalt Hall graduate, a judge has ordered the University of California to repay $33.8 million to thousands of professional-school students for breaking a promise not to impose fee hikes while they worked toward their degrees.

The decision in the class-action lawsuit requires the university to reimburse students who were enrolled in UC professional schools in 2002 and 2003 with the understanding - explicitly stated in university catalogs and brochures - that future fee increases would apply only to new students. When UC subsequently raised professional-school fees systemwide, wrote San Francisco Superior Court Judge James Warren, it effectively broke a contract with previously enrolled students, and now must reimburse them for the unexpected costs they incurred.

UC officials said they would appeal the ruling. "The university believes that there was no contract regarding the amount of fees," said spokesman Ricardo Vásquez, "since students were repeatedly notified that all published fee levels were subject to change without notice, that students received adequate notice of increases, and that the increases, which were necessitated by an unprecedented state budget crisis, were justified."

In his decision, Warren said such disclaimers were trumped by assurances in UC publications that current students would be immune to such fee hikes. Pending UC's appeal in the case, whose lead plaintiff was Berkeley law-school grad Mohammed Kashmiri, more than 50,000 former students now stand to receive payments ranging from less than $100 to more than $7,000.

Deadline for summer research apprenticeships extended to March 14

The Townsend Center for the Humanities invites proposals for Summer Research Apprenticeships to be offered under the Geballe Research Opportunities for Undergraduates Program (GROUP). The center intends to fund 12 apprenticeships (three in each of four broadly defined target fields) in the summer of 2006, pairing faculty and undergrads in summer research projects. Faculty members receive up to $5,000 each for research expenses; apprentices receive a $2,500 summer stipend. The four fields are humanities and the environment; humanities and human rights; humanities and new media; and humanities and biotechnology, health, and medicine. The deadline for proposals has been extended to March 14. For information, contact Teresa Stojkov, tstojkov@berkeley.edu.

Female member of Afghan Parliament to lecture March 16

Malalai Joya, whom the BBC has called the "most famous woman in Afghanistan," will speak Thursday, March 16, at 4 p.m. in 370 Dwinelle Hall. Joya is a 27-year-old member of the Afghan Parliament and heads the non-governmental group Organisation of Promoting Afghan Women's Capabilities. She rose to fame in December 2003 when, as an elected delegate to the Constitutional Loya Jirga (grand assembly), she denounced the presence of "warlords, drug lords, and criminals" in the parliament. The Afghan people, she reportedly said, "are like broken-winged pigeons caught in the claws of blood-sucking bats after being released from the Taliban cage . and most of these bats are in the parliament." Joya's comments led to her expulsion from the meeting; she has since survived four assassination attempts and travels in Afghanistan under a burka and with armed guards.

Visit www.afghanwomensmission.org for information.

Register by March 22 for California healthcare-policy symposium

The School of Public Health's Nicholas C. Petris Center will hold an afternoon symposium on Friday, April 21, entitled "Toward a Health Policy Agenda for All Californians." It is free and open to the public, but registration is required by March 22.

Keynoting the event, set for 1 to 5 p.m., will be Kimberly Belshé, secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency, and Paul Ginsburg, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Studying Health-System Change (his talk will cover trends in the U.S. healthcare market and implications for California). Distinguished panelists will discuss two topics, "The Impact of the Mental-Health Services Act of 2004 on California's Mental Health System" and "The Economics and Policy of Stem-Cell Research."

The symposium will be held at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave. To register, visit www.petris.org.

March 10 'patenting life' colloquium brings Daniel Kevles to campus

A new, interdisciplinary network of faculty and students called STELA (Science, Technology, Ethics, and Law) is hosting a spring colloquium on "Patenting Life and Its Parts: Rights and Ethics in the Political Economy of Intellectual Property" on Friday, March 10, in 22 Warren Hall from 2 to 5 p.m. A highlight will be a lecture by Daniel Kevles, the Stanley Woodward Professor of History at Yale University. Kevles is the author of In the Name of Eugenics (1985) and The Baltimore Case (1998) and co-author of Inventing America (2002), among other books.

Kevles will lecture on the history and politics of life patents in the global context, with an emphasis on future implications. His talk will be followed by commentary by Pilar Ossorio, visiting professor at Boalt Hall School of Law, and a moderated discussion. The event is free and open to the public.

March 11 History Day focus is on oral history at Berkeley

This year's annual event, sponsored by the history department, features faculty, undergraduate, and graduate students discussing how the experiences of ordinary people inform the discipline. Speakers include Professor Richard Candida-Smith, director of the Oral History Project at the Bancroft Library; David Washburn, whose undergraduate thesis is titled "Mexicans in Richmond During World War II"; Ann Chen, whose own undergrad thesis is on China's cultural revolution; and Christopher Agee, a doctoral student whose dissertation is on "Police-Community Relations in San Francisco."

The event will be held on Saturday, March 11, in the Toll Room at Alumni House between 9 a.m. and noon. It is free and open to the public; light refreshments will be served.

Advising conference set for end of March

The campus's 15th Annual Advising, Counseling, and Mentoring Conference will take place Tuesday, March 28, and Wednesday, March 29, at Clark Kerr Conference Center. For information, see students.berkeley.edu/advisingconference.htm or contact Karen Warren (642-1980 or kwarren@berkeley.edu). To register, see the website.