graphic of large eye and seated students

Recording Classes Diminishes Learning Environment, Villasenor Argues

In an opinion piece for the Chronicle of Higher Education, John Villasenor, professor of public policy, electrical engineering and law, explained why he does not allow his classes to be recorded. Villasenor acknowledged that recording a lecture could be beneficial for a number of legitimate reasons, including helping out students who miss class due to illness. However, he said he is more concerned with protecting his students’ privacy. “A highly interactive classroom should be a space beyond the reach of the digital panopticon,” Villasenor said. Recording can chill classroom discourse, with students perhaps choosing to speak more cautiously. This can rob students of  “the opportunity to engage in dialogue with fellow students who hold perspectives that, while legitimate and valuable to consider, might not fit neatly with their own views.” Especially in smaller, highly engaged classrooms, the convenience of a recorded lecture is outweighed by the cost of a diminished learning environment, Villasenor argued.


 

image of protestor holding sign that reads, Democracy is not for sale"

Citizens United Ruling Was ‘Outrageous,’ Dukakis Says

Michael Dukakis, 1988 Democratic presidential candidate and visiting professor of public policy, spoke to the Los Angeles Times about the Citizens United v. Federal Election Committee ruling and its profound effects on American politics. It has been 10 years since the momentous Supreme Court ruling that declared corporations had the same rights as people under the First Amendment and therefore were exempt from restrictions on political spending. Dukakis said the concept of a corporation having First Amendment rights is “outrageous.” Since the ruling, campaign finance has changed and Dukakis believes it does not align with what the Founding Fathers envisioned for the country.  “The Founders who wrote the Constitution would be astonished,” he said. “The right has been peddling this idea for years, and it’s nonsense.”


 

We Are More United Than Separate, Leap Says

A new LA Stories episode on Spectrum News 1 highlighted the work of Jorja Leap, adjunct professor of social welfare, who has changed the narrative surrounding gang members by sharing their stories. As a social worker in South Los Angeles, Leap earned the trust of many current and former gang members and forged bonds with people she now considers family. “I think if each person could hear the story of even one gang member, their views would change radically,” she said during the interview. Leap argued that these communities are worthy of investment and that the people in them deserve our help and attention. Leap has published two books sharing the stories of those she has come to know and is the co-founder of the Watts Leadership Institute, which provides community members with the resources to create positive change. “It’s not enough to understand. I had to take action,” she said.

Yaroslavsky on the Tight Race for the Democratic Nomination

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, spoke with KCAL9 News following the Democratic presidential debate in Des Moines, Iowa. Yaroslavsky observed that the fireworks that some had expected between Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren did not materialize. “Neither one of them had an interest in beating up on the other,” he said, noting that some candidates who had previously launched personal attacks are no longer on the debate stage. The six who did qualify — former Vice President Joe Biden, former Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, businessman Tom Steyer, Sanders and Warren — debated foreign policy, healthcare and trade. Yaroslavsky predicted that no clear winner will emerge from the Iowa caucuses, less than three weeks away, or perhaps even from subsequent voting in New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. “It’s a very close race,” he said.


 

Matute Stresses Tactical Urbanism in Bus Transit Projects

Juan Matute, urban planning lecturer and deputy director of the Institute of Transportation Studies, spoke to Streetsblog about the key obstacles to improving public transportation and bus infrastructure in cities. It can take years to build new bus routes, with funding and political opposition serving as obstacles along the way. According to Matute, “The key issue for the delay is funding with other people’s money such as state or federal discretionary apportionment and grant funds.” He also explained that “chasing funding also leads planners to create more ambitious, more costly projects with a more extensive planning process.” Planners are often tempted to create more elaborate and expensive projects beyond what is necessary for improving bus transit. Instead, transportation experts recommend introducing temporary pilot bus lanes, starting with “No Parking” signs and painting red bus lanes in order to quickly improve transit services at a low cost.


Akee Addresses Lack of Diversity in Economics

Associate Professor of Public Policy Randall Akee’s views on the lack of diversity in the economics profession were featured in the Economist after the annual American Economic Association conference in San Diego. Conference attendees expressed concern that the lack of racial and gender diversity within the profession has limited the field by excluding certain perspectives. At the conference, Akee joined a panel on “How Can Economics Save Its Race Problem?” to speak about the pressures to be taken seriously as a scholar, not merely a race scholar. He explained his decision to postpone the research he wanted to do on indigenous people and work instead on other subjects, in order to be taken seriously as an economist. Akee argues that race should occupy a more central space within the portfolio of economic research. Despite efforts to increase diversity within the profession, many economists worry that this movement will stall before achieving long-term change.


Loukaitou-Sideris on Strategies to Ease Sidewalk Congestion

In an interview with the Chilean publication MasDeco, Urban Planning Professor Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris discussed design strategies necessary to make sidewalks safe for all users. Loukaitou-Sideris explained that, while sidewalks were originally designed with the sole purpose of accommodating foot traffic and separating pedestrians from fast-moving cars, these narrow corridors are now overwhelmed by bikes, scooters and pedestrians, all moving at different speeds within the same space. New laws require bikers in many cities to ride in the street instead of on the sidewalk, but Loukaitou-Sideris stressed the importance of creating a designated bike lane to protect bikers riding alongside cars. In the interview, published in Spanish, Loukaitou-Sideris said design should be informed by the demography of the area in order to create space for everyone, especially older adults and small children. She concluded that urban planning and design can minimize conflict by creating space for all types of sidewalk users.


Newton on Decision to Leave Congressional Seat Vacant

Public policy lecturer Jim Newton spoke to Reuters news service about California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s decision to leave the congressional seat vacated by U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter unfilled throughout 2020. Hunter submitted his resignation after pleading guilty to federal corruption charges. His district, encompassing parts of San Diego and Riverside counties, will go without elected representation as Democrats and Republicans vie to win the seat in November elections. Newton said the governor had no particular political motive to rush a special election to fill Hunter’s seat. He said the yearlong vacancy probably gives Democrats a slight edge in providing more time to mount a campaign operation and raise money in a district that remains heavily Republican by registration but is, like much of California, moving to the left.

Manville Speaks to Inevitability of Congestion Pricing

Michael Manville, associate professor of urban planning, spoke to the Los Angeles Times about the logic behind congestion pricing. While the idea of paying for freeway use has prompted backlash from drivers, transportation experts argue that congestion pricing is the only way to combat the traffic problem in California. “What happens on the 405 every day is what happens at Best Buy and Target on Black Friday,” Manville said. With the implementation of congestion pricing, “those who can afford to pay the fees are able to avoid congestion for a reliable daily commute, while presumably lessening traffic for those who don’t pay and use the general lane,” he said. Toll lane expansion is in the works across the state, including plans in Los Angeles, Riverside, Alameda and Orange counties. “People who study congestion have known for a long time that the only thing [that will relieve congestion] is dynamic pricing,” Manville said.


Villasenor Warns Against Digital Misinformation

Public Policy Professor John Villasenor joined CNN London to discuss the growing threat of deepfake videos, which use artificial intelligence to alter images, swap faces or edit voice audio to create very realistic footage. In one example, a deepfake video was released showing British Prime Minister Boris Johnson appearing to endorse his political rival, Jeremy Corbyn. Villasenor explained that digital misinformation is a real concern in today’s political environment. “We can expect both here in the United States and in other countries that the technology that can be used for these deepfakes will, in some cases, be used in an attempt to influence elections,” he said. Villasenor explained that there are “subtle differences between the audio and the mouth movements, but you have to be looking carefully.” Moving forward, he urges people to “recalibrate their expectations” and unlearn the habit of assuming that what we see on video is always true.