CVIndependent

Tue10202020

Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

Gyms, movie theaters, churches, nail salons and indoor dining at restaurants may now open—with limits, of course—in Riverside County.

The state of California earlier today announced that the county has officially been moved into the red, “Substantial” tier of the “Blueprint for a Safer Economy,” because we’ve had two straight weeks with less than 7 daily cases per 100,000 people, and a positivity rate less of than 8 percent.

This move out of the purple, “Widespread” tier means some big decisions will need to be made regarding schools. According to the state, after Riverside County has been in the “Substantial” tier for two weeks, schools can fully reopen for in-person instruction—if local school officials decide that’s what they want to do.

The move puts the county fairly close, reopenings-wise, to where we were back in June … and we all remember how that went: Cases spiked, and local hospital ICUs came close to maxing out. Let’s hope lessons were learned, and things go better this time.

As they say … stay tuned.

Some other news from the day:

• As of this writing, a marathon meeting of the Riverside County Board of Supervisors—regarding a proposal to defy the state and use a county reopening plan instead—was still ongoing. There are a lot of fascinating nuggets in Jeff Horseman’s coverage at the Riverside Press-Enterprise, like: “Speakers, some sobbing, others seething, spoke of missing weddings and funerals or feeling like they’re living in a totalitarian state. Others lamented those struggling with depression, isolation, substance abuse and unemployment. Pastors demanded that their churches be considered essential and for in-person worship to resume.” If the county voted to go along with this plan from Supervisor Jeff Hewitt, it would cause a huge mess, for a number of reasons, including the fact that Hewitt’s plan is oddly MORE restrictive in some cases (now that Riverside County has moved up a tier). Oh, and the state could decide to withhold funding from the county due to the defiance.

San Diego County will stay in the “Substantial” tier for at least another two weeks. After venturing into more-restrictive “Widespread” territory last week, the county’s case rate per 100,000 people eked down below 7 this week.

SFGate offers a nice, if slightly Bay Area-focused, summary of all the county tier movement across the state today. Lots of good news, as well as this: “In his update on the fourth week of the state’s new reopening plan, (Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Mark) Ghaly also announced nail salons will be allowed to open statewide, even if their county is in the most restrictive purple tier.” 

• And now some perspective: If the Coachella Valley were a separate county, we would not be moving into a less-restrictive tier. According to this week’s District 4 report from the county—District 4 consists of the Coachella Valley and mostly rural points eastward—our COVID-19 stats continue to head in the right direction. However, we still have a 10.3 percent weekly positivity rate. Also, the report offers a sobering reminder about how awful this disease is: Six more of our neighbors died over the last week as a result of this awful virus.

• On this day of reopening in Riverside County, the United States hit a milestone: A reported 200,000 people have died in the United States from COVID-19. CNBC offers perspective.

• While Riverside County and other parts of California are experiencing a decrease in COVID-19 cases, such is not the case in much of the rest of the country—and the world. From The Washington Post: “Twenty-seven states and Puerto Rico have shown an increase in the seven-day average of new confirmed cases since the final week of August, according to The Post’s analysis of public health data. Minnesota, Montana, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, Wisconsin, Wyoming and Utah set record highs Monday for seven-day averages. The global picture has reaffirmed that COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, is not about to fade away. Countries that had been successful early in the pandemic in driving down viral transmission—such as France, Spain and Israel—are struggling with new waves of cases and instituting new shutdowns. Most people remain susceptible to infection, and the virus is highly opportunistic.”

• STAT created a compelling theoretical “road map” for how the battle against the coronavirus may go over the next year plus. “In this project, STAT describes 30 key moments, possible turning points that could steer the pandemic onto a different course or barometers for how the virus is reshaping our lives, from rituals like Halloween and the Super Bowl, to what school could look like, to just how long we might be incorporating precautions into our routines. This road map is informed by insights from more than three dozen experts, including Anthony Fauci and Bill Gates, people on the frontlines at schools and hospitals, as well as STAT reporters. It largely focuses on the U.S.”

• Well this is interesting: SARS-CoV-2 may be able to block pain. This has some terrible health implications—but it creates some fascinating research opportunities, and opens the door to possible medical advancements regarding pain management. A professor of pharmacology for the University of Arizona, writing for The Conversation, explains.

According to the Los Angeles Times: “UC admitted 64 well-connected or rich students over more qualified ones, audit finds.” Sigh.

• And here’s another sigh-inducing bit of journalism, compliments of The Washington Post: “A $1 billion fund Congress gave the Pentagon in March to build up the country’s supplies of medical equipment has instead been mostly funneled to defense contractors and used to make things such as jet engine parts, body armor and dress uniforms.”

• College football remains a huge mess. On the heels of news that the Big 10 and Pac-12 conferences are taking steps to get back on the fields this fall comes this alarming news, from ESPN: “The Notre Dame-Wake Forest football game scheduled for Saturday has been postponed after the Irish announced 13 players are in isolation. In a statement Tuesday, Notre Dame said seven players tested positive for coronavirus out of 94 tests done Monday. Combined with testing results from last week, 13 players are in isolation, with 10 in quarantine. As a result, Notre Dame has paused all football-related activities. The two schools are working on a date to reschedule the game.”

Thanks for reading, and thank you to all the Supporters of the Independent out there; if you’d like to join them in helping us continue to produce quality local journalism without subscription fees or pay walls, find details here. Take care, and be safe, everybody.

Published in Daily Digest

Today was one of the biggest COVID-19-related news days in quite a while, so let’s get right to the links:

Reopening processes around the country—and in some parts of California—are coming to a halt or being reversed, due to increasing COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. In Texas and Florida, bars are being closed, and other business are being restricted.

San Francisco was planning on allowing hair salons, outdoor bars and other businesses to open on Monday. That move has been delayed indefinitely.

• And most worrisome locally: For the first time since the reopening process began, the state has told a county that it needs to re-impose a strict stay-at-home order—Imperial County, our neighbors to the southeast. And another neighboring county, San Bernardino, is close to running out of non-surge hospital beds

Riverside County is behind the curve at hiring contact tracers. The good news is that as of yesterday, the county was up to 220 of them, with 180 added in the last five weeks, according to the Riverside Press-Enterprise. However, the state says we need around 375 of them.

• Dr. Anthony Fauci said the federal government is considering a new way of testing for SARS-CoV-2—pool testing. “The approach works this way: Samples from, say, 20 people are combined into a single pool,” reports The Washington Post. “One coronavirus test is used on the entire pool. If the test comes back negative, researchers know they can move on to another pool of samples. If it comes back positive, only then would each individual be tested.

A Tucson emergency room doctor penned a column for The New York Times with this headline: “I’m a Health Care Worker. You Need to Know How Close We Are to Breaking.”

• While the state-by-state numbers here are probably too small to take too seriously … a recent Axios/Ipsos poll shows that 64 percent of Californians wear masks whenever they go outthe second highest percentage behind New York.

• A JPMorgan study shows a correlation between restaurant spending and the spread of the coronavirus, according to CNBC—and, conversely, “higher spending at supermarkets predicts a slower spread of the virus.” However, experts point out that this doesn’t necessarily mean restaurants are to blame for the spread.

• Also according to CNBC: The number of homeowners delaying their monthly mortgage payments is on the rise again, after falling for several weeks.

Can you shop safely in a brick-and-mortar clothing store? Esquire talked to some experts to get answers. Key quote from Erin Bromage, associate professor of biology and immunology at the University of Massachusetts: “It comes down to how long you spend in the store and how many people are in the store. If you are only in there for a short period of time, and they’re restricting occupancy, then the risk is low.”

From our partners at CalMatters, via the Independent: University of California campuses are telling students to prepare for a fall semester that will mostly—but not entirely—take place online.

• We’re now moving to our WTF?! portion of the digest, starting with the news that American Airlines is going to stop keeping middle seats open, and resume booking flights to capacity.

• It’s not often that I’ve wanted to tip my hat to Dick Cheney, but here we are: He says that real men wear face masks.

• Did you know North Carolina has an anti-mask law? It’s true—and it’s caused no small degree of confusion. It turns out the law is a decades-old measure meant to crack down on the KKK—but thankfully, it’s been temporarily suspended, at least through Aug. 1.

• Finally, this story is particularly devastating news to those of us here at Independent World Headquarters: Costco has stopped making half-sheet cakes. DAMN YOU ’RONA! DAMN YOU!!!

• No … we take back that “finally”; we can’t end the week on that awful note. So here’s some good news: San Francisco’s Transgender District was “the first legally recognized district in the world dedicated to a historically transgender community.” The economic downturn almost forced the nonprofit to close—but then came the Black Lives Matter protests. Now, the Transgender District is on firmer footing, as “the two movements have converged in a kind of intersectional synchronicity that is bringing renewed attention to the realities of transgender people of color,” reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

Readers, these are scary times. Please, take care of yourself this weekend. Wear a mask when you go out. Check in on neighbors and loved ones. Live in the now and enjoy life, because these days still count against the total number you have on this planet. Right? Oh, and help out the Independent, if you’re able, by becoming a Supporter of the Independent. The Daily Digest will return Monday.

Published in Daily Digest

Yadira Rayo-Peñaloza, an incoming senior at UC Berkeley, nearly sat out the fall term.

She didn’t want to spend another semester taking just online courses, which is what she expects all of her classes to be when school starts up again late August.

Rayo-Peñaloza, along with her girlfriend and a few of her other friends, weighed her options, considering the likelihood of finding work during a pandemic and what a pause would mean to her financial aid. Ultimately, she decided she’d remain a student.

“It was a hard decision to just say that we’re definitely going to go back in the fall.”

She also thought about returning to campus in the fall, but will remain at home in Orange County, where she attended community college before transferring. That decision, too, was tough.

“It’s really difficult to concentrate back home,” she said. “‘Are we hurting our GPAs?’ That was our biggest concern,” she said of the conversations she and her girlfriend had. But going back to campus meant taking out a loan, “and I really don’t want to do that.”

Distance learning

So far, eight of the nine undergraduate campuses of the University of California system have published their plans for the fall term, with most estimating that only a fraction of classes will be conducted in person.

UCLA, for instance, predicts that just 15 to 20 percent of courses will take place fully in-class or in a hybrid format, and the rest will be taught remotely, while UC Merced expects 20 to 30 percent of classes to be in-person in the fall. Several campuses, including UC Merced and UC Berkeley, plan to end any in-person instruction by Thanksgiving and shift all learning online through the end of the fall term.

The campus guidelines contrast with what UC President Janet Napolitano said in May, suggesting more classes will be conducted in-person with a hybrid model. Instead, the UC plans look more like what the larger California State University has been signaling since the spring: mostly online.

A largely virtual setting has some students concerned about how professors will react.

Louis Susunaga, a 21-year-old student at UCLA, said he’s returning in the fall but taking three courses rather than four, because he’s worried professors again will overwhelm him with assignments. He said one of his professors last quarter assigned per week more than 100 pages of reading, multiple reading responses, a Zoom meeting with a group project, and a pre-recorded lecture. “That’s way more than a normal load, when we were in person.

“It’s almost ridiculous,” he said. “Just because it’s online doesn’t mean it’s easier.”

Safety practices

UC students living on campus should also expect to wear masks in most areas, practice regular social distancing, and track any symptoms to help spot early signs of novel coronavirus infection. Several campuses outlined reductions in how many students can live on campus, citing the risk of disease spread as one reason to limit rooms to one or two occupants.

At UC Merced, students living on campus and others on the university grounds will have to report symptoms through an app—currently in development—and undergo viral testing. They’ll have to wear masks, remain six feet apart from others, sneeze or cough into an elbow or tissue, and self-isolate if they’re showing coronavirus symptoms. The university will set aside “isolation rooms” for individuals who test positive or are showing COVID-19 symptoms.

Students at UC Riverside will have to clean chairs and tables they occupy with wipes that will be available in actively used classrooms. Beyond standards like social distancing and wearing masks, in-person classes will have assigned seats, and instructors will take attendance to minimize the virus spread and help with tracking if someone in the class has a positive coronavirus test result. But the university’s guidelines also state that instructors should avoid attendance-based grading “to reduce pressure on students to attend class when they are not feeling well or should be isolating.”

Most universities have said they plan on prioritizing giving housing to students with the greatest need, the criteria for which varies by campus (like students who get financial aid, veterans and former foster youth).

Even students who do get on-campus housing will need to show proof of a negative coronavirus test, per systemwide guidelines. UC Santa Barbara may—leadership there hasn’t made up its mind yet—also ask students not to travel away from campus during the fall term.

Fiscal hardship

The caps on students in dormitories, extra cleaning and risk of seeing fewer students in the fall all add to the university’s fiscal anxieties. Through May, the system has absorbed a $1.54 billion hit in added costs and lower revenues, and about $1 billion of that is the result of losses and new expenses in the system’s medical enterprises.

“This is a daunting number,” said Paul Jenny, interim CFO of the UC system, during a UC Regents meeting on health June 17.

Adding to the hardship of planning for a possible spike in COVID-19 cases is the prospect of large budget cuts due to declining revenues from housing and food services, and cuts in state support during a grueling state fiscal period. The system faces a cut of $300 million from state money meant for student instruction in a budget deal between lawmakers and Gov. Gavin Newsom—unless the federal government comes through with another stimulus package.

Some schools have been hit financially harder than others. UCLA lost $151 million in revenue through May 31 due to cancelled housing and dining contracts and lost enrollments, according to a COVID-19 cost impact report the system sent to the state’s Department of Finance. The school also spent $18 million to make distance learning feasible. That’s more than twice as much as the $70 million UC San Diego incurred in pandemic-related expenses and lost revenue, the next-highest amount among the campuses. Those figures exclude the schools of medicine, clinical operations and medical centers. 

“This is the most complex planning exercise we have ever done,” UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ said during a campus video chat last week. “We simply don’t know what is going to happen.”

CalMatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics.

Published in Local Issues

As California officials desperately try to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, Chris Miller is coaxing a sample of the virus to grow in a secure laboratory at UC Davis.

Working in a laboratory nestled inside containment rooms and cut off from the world by filters, scientists dressed in space-suit-like protective gear are feeding cells to a virus isolated from a COVID-19 patient at UC Davis Medical Center.

The goal is to create a supply of viral genetic material to help the clinical pathology team develop new tests. Without these viral samples to provide an unequivocally positive result, researchers can’t tell if a test is truly working.

It’s a new mission for Miller, who, until about two weeks ago, was studying HIV and working to develop a pandemic flu vaccine.

“Flu, at the time, seemed like the virus that was going to kill us all and was going to be the big pandemic,” Miller said. “But it seems like coronavirus has other plans.”

Miller’s flu research meant he had the right facilities to join the fight against the novel coronavirus when Nam Tran, professor and senior director of clinical pathology at UC Davis, recruited him.

“When I got the call, my reaction was, ‘Drop everything,’” Miller said. “I’ve never been asked to directly contribute to an emerging health emergency that had to be addressed in days and weeks. And so I was just grateful that I had the expertise to be able to help the hospital.”

With California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order for Californians to shelter in place, university campuses across the state began gauging the risk of letting research continue. And scientists are finding their work, plans and lives upended by the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Some, like Miller, are switching gears to fight the virus—but for others, research is grinding to a halt, including critical medical research. Still more are caught in limbo, waiting to find out if they can continue important studies without endangering themselves or others.

William Ota, a second-year graduate student at UC Riverside, has put his research on ice—and hopes it stays frozen.

Ota studies a fish native to southern California called the Santa Ana sucker, including what eats it. That’s why he has 1,500 stomachs from invasive species of fish divided between a freezer in his lab, and a freezer at the Riverside Corona Resource Conservation District.

He’d planned to start dissecting the stomachs and looking for traces of the Santa Ana sucker in the contents last week. Now that the UC Riverside campus has shut down to all non-essential personnel, Ota will have to wait. At first, he worried that if power to the freezers went out, he wouldn’t be able to catch it. “Which is scary,” he said.

Now he’s found out that the university will allow people onsite to check on equipment and do maintenance, he said—but he’s not allowed to start cutting into those fish stomachs. So even if the freezers stay on, and those stomachs survive unscathed, Ota worries that the delay will cost him time and money, if his work stretches beyond the five years he has funding guaranteed.

“There’s no guarantee that if you fall beyond that five-year period that you’re actually going to get any teaching money, any grants or support from the university,” Ota said. “That’s something that I know myself and other students in my program whom I’ve talked to are worried about.”

Lynn Sweet, a plant ecologist and research specialist at UC Riverside, also is grappling with shutting down some research as she waits to hear what the agencies funding it still expect from her. “We don’t know how our funders will respond to this crisis. We don’t know the degree to which we’ll be given any leeway due to this. We have agreements we write, and deliverables that are due,” she said.

Sweet already has pressed pause on one study aimed at protecting stands of Joshua Trees from wildfires, because it would have been conducted by volunteers through environmental nonprofit EarthWatch. She was especially concerned about volunteers over age 65 who would be traveling to the park and living in close quarters. “As much as we want to get the research done, it’s not worth risking folks’ lives,” Sweet said.

Another project out in the Mojave Desert is continuing, for now. From her home office hastily constructed in a closet, Sweet is supervising a four-person crew as they keep their distance from one another and survey desert tortoise habitat in a stretch of the Mojave owned by the Department of Defense.

The desert tortoise is a federally threatened species, and the goal is to find out how well its home and food sources are holding up to environmental disruption like climate change and off-road driving. The study is time-sensitive—scheduled to match data collected 20 years ago. “We don’t get good years to study plants all the time,” Sweet said. “If we miss this year, next year could be a drought. … That’s why it’s really important.”

It’s not just environmental research that’s on hold; biomedical research that can’t be readily focused on the novel coronavirus is facing roadblocks, too.

Clarissa Araújo Borges, a postdoctoral scientist at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health, is investigating new antibiotics to treat drug-resistant infections of the urinary tract and bloodstream. “Antibiotic resistance is one of the greatest global public-health challenges of our time. New drugs are urgently needed,” Araújo Borges said.

It’s important research for people who find themselves in the hospitals, fighting not only what landed them there, but what they picked up in the hospital itself.

Araújo Borges spins out a hypothetical scenario: “You’re hospitalized, and then you’re weak, and then you get a bloodstream infection there through a catheter,” she said. “Sometimes they’re resistant to drugs available, and there is nothing to do.”

She found a promising candidate and tested it in a dish. The next step was to test it in mice—but when UC Berkeley closed its labs except for essential activities, Araújo Borges had to appeal to keep her research going. “If you have research that you’ve been doing for months, and then you have to stop and lose it, it’s terrible, because it’s a lot of money and time.”

Still, she said, she agreed with the university taking preventative measures, and said that others who aren’t collecting salaries during the shutdown have it worse.“People losing jobs, like waiters, Ubers, restaurants, small businesses—it’s terrible,” she said.

After waiting a week, Araújo Borges finally heard back from the university: She could go back to work.

For UC San Francisco graduate student Johnny Yu, the novel coronavirus pandemic chased him out of the lab, and out of San Francisco entirely. This academic year, UCSF set graduate student stipends at $40,000, according to the university, which Yu said is too low to afford to live in San Francisco.

That’s why he lives in a van—a tiny space with a chemical toilet where he can’t envision quarantining if he got sick or weathering an extended shelter-in-place order. “It’s suitable for sleeping at night. But for a two-month lockdown, it would be pretty impossible,” Yu said. He fled instead to a rented yurt in Grass Valley with his wife, where they’re digging into savings to pay for their stay.

Yu studies how a cancer evolves from a primary tumor to become a metastatic tumor, and looks for potential treatments. “You can treat a primary tumor; you can remove a primary tumor, but if you have a metastatic tumor, it’s pretty much the end of the game,” Yu said.

He’s had to abruptly end his experiments as he prepares to stay away from the lab for the foreseeable future. “I can’t do any of the experiments I had,” Yu said. “We killed everything. We killed all the mice; we killed all the cells.”

He estimates that stopping now will set his experiments back six months—and as other cancer research grinds to a halt, the search for new treatments could be delayed even longer. “If we can’t find the cancer drugs and cancer targets, industry can’t take it and develop it into a drug,” he said. “At least a year, I think it will set back the entire field of cancer.”

Yu’s Ph.D. mentor, assistant professor Hani Goodarzi (who is not responsible for setting Yu’s salary), said the same story is true for many of Yu’s colleagues. Half of Goodarzi’s lab studies cancer progression from the lab bench, like Yu; the other half models cancer computationally.

The experimental researchers, Goodarzi said, are at a scientific standstill right now. “We actually shut down the lab a few days before UCSF shut down,” he said. “So we’re focused on writing papers, and grants, and added a journal club discussion via Zoom—to keep everyone engaged while they can’t be at the bench.”

With no ongoing lab research and no way to pivot to studying the novel coronavirus, Goodarzi did what he could to help with the fight: He gathered up all the gloves and surgical masks his team doesn’t need now and donated them to UCSF Health.

“I wish we could do more,” Goodarzi said. “We kind of feel useless, to be honest. …The way that we can contribute is really just like everyone else, just by staying home.”

CalMatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics.

Published in Features

Jaelyn Deas and her four best friends shared everything, including late-night study sessions in the library at San Jose State University, and a never-ending preoccupation with how they’d pay for their tuition there.

The one thing they didn’t do together? Graduate.

While she was juggling a major in international business, a minor in Japanese and a job to help keep up with her expenses, Deas fell behind, and her friends put on their caps and gowns and walked across the stage in May without her.

It was her friends who were defying the odds. Fewer than 20 percent of her classmates who entered San Jose State in 2014 finished in four years—less than half the national average.

That didn’t make Deas feel any better. She considered quitting or transferring to a community college. Then she was summoned to the financial aid office, where she learned that the university, part of the California State University System, was giving her a grant of up to $1,500 to help her get across the finish line.

“I walked out of the office crying. I had no idea something like this existed, and it took a burden off my shoulders,” said Deas, who is on track now to earn her bachelor’s degree before the year is out.

It’s one example of the many ways that California is taking on seemingly intractable problems that are plaguing higher education nationwide.

These include the longer-than-expected amount of time it takes students to graduate; high dropout rates; financial aid that doesn’t cover living expenses; courses that cost more than students will earn from what they learn; institutions that prey on veterans and others; financial-aid applications so complex that many students never bother with them; admissions policies that favor relatives of donors and alumni; credits that won’t transfer; pricey textbooks; and “remedial” education requirements that force students to retake subjects they should have learned in high school, often frustrating them enough to quit.

Not all of the initiatives have succeeded, nor is California the only state that’s trying them, often in the absence of reforms at the federal level. That program at San Jose State to help students make it to graduation by offering them small bursts of financial aid, for instance, was pioneered at Georgia State University.

But California is bucking a national trend: Most other states are continuing to reduce, not increase, their higher education budgets. With a higher education budget of $18.5 billion in 2019-2020, it has invested heavily in helping community college students transfer into four-year programs; spent more than $50 million on food banks and other programs to combat student hunger and homelessness; opened an online community college to serve people who are already working; and boosted state grants for students with children, among other initiatives.

Meanwhile, all but four states are spending less on higher education, per student, than they did in 2008, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Those spending more? Hawaii, North Dakota, Wyoming—and California.

Some of what is happening here is inspiring similar reforms around the country. After California took on the NCAA in September by requiring that college athletes be allowed to sign paid endorsement deals, for example, legislators in New York, Florida, Minnesota, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and South Carolina started mulling comparable legislation. That prompted a decision by the NCAA to let college athletes benefit from the use of their names and likenesses, though the association is still working out the details.

Fueling the reforms and the funding behind them are a projected shortage of workers with the necessary degrees to fill the jobs of the future; a public backlash in response to budget cuts made during the recession; and a concern that the state had been abandoning its long tradition of high-quality, low-cost education.

Californians remember “when younger generations could truly expect to live a better life than their parents and grandparents. And that dream has been fading,” said David Chiu, a member of the State Assembly from San Francisco who is active in education issues.

“That’s why so many of us have been focused on how do we bring this back,” Chiu said. “Because we had that history, because we knew what a well-functioning higher education system could do, we aspire to that again.”


California’s Challenge

Over the course of a century, California built the country’s top-ranked public research university and its largest and most affordable community college system. Today, there are 10 University of California campuses, 23 Cal State (CSU) campuses, and 115 community colleges.

A California resident in 1960 could earn a bachelor’s degree at the world-class University of California, or UC, for just $60 per semester in “incidental fees”—about $500 in today’s currency. That same year, the state adopted a master plan for higher education: The UC would serve the top eighth of graduating high school seniors, while the top third would be eligible to attend a CSU campus. The community colleges would be open to all.

The goal, writes historian John Aubrey Douglass, was “broad access combined with the development of high quality, mission differentiated, and affordable higher education institutions.”

But in the coming decades, politicians of both parties responded to economic downturns by cutting higher education funding, causing tuition to rise. The trend peaked during the recession that began in 2008, when UC hiked undergraduate tuition by nearly a third in a single year.

The price of undergraduate tuition and fees, when adjusted for inflation, has increased sixfold in the last 40 years at the University of California, and is 15 times higher at California State campuses, according to the independent California Budget and Policy Center.

Only one student in 10 graduates in four years at Cal State Los Angeles; that number’s fewer than one in five at nine of the system’s other campuses.

In a poll of likely voters by the Public Policy Institute of California, 53 percent said the higher education system was going in the wrong direction, and 56 percent that an education was growing less affordable.

Like many states, California is behind in its progress toward a goal of increasing the proportion of adults with a college or university credential, according to the Lumina Foundation, which tracks this; today, fewer than half of its adults have one, short of the target of 60 percent by 2030 set by the advocacy group the Campaign for College Opportunity. (Lumina is one of the many funders of The Hechinger Report, which co-produced this story.)

“That number gets a lot of play across the street,” said Jake Jackson, a Sacramento-based research fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California, or PPIC, gesturing toward the state Capitol.

At the same time, California’s student population has changed in ways that foreshadow national trends, becoming more ethnically diverse, with growing numbers coming from low-income families in which they are the first to go to college. No racial or ethnic group constitutes a majority here; 39 percent of residents are Hispanic, while 38 percent are white; 14 percent are Asian; and 6 percent are black. More than a quarter are immigrants.

Those demographics have allowed for experimentation with ways to encourage college-going by people from a variety of backgrounds.

Doing this isn’t easy, even here. Cristina Mora remembers feeling lost and adrift after leaving her close-knit Latino neighborhood in Los Angeles to enroll at UC Berkeley in 1999, “like there had been a clerical error, and I’d been admitted by mistake.” She didn’t attend a professor’s office hours until her junior year, finally converting the Cs and Ds she’d been earning into A-pluses.

Today, Mora is an associate professor of sociology at Berkeley and a mentor to other first-generation college students. She says UC has made strides in attracting diverse applicants by increasing recruiting in previously ignored areas such as the Central Valley and towns along the Mexican border, and making it easier for community college students to transfer. Students of her generation returned to their communities, she said, bringing with them “a sense that the UC system provides an opportunity, and that these are places that would be welcoming.”

But black and Latino students today still are less likely than their peers to graduate from UC or CSU institutions in four years and are underrepresented on the state’s most selective campuses. Among UC students, they take on higher-than-average levels of debt.

“We have a long history of not catering to these populations,” Mora said.

If policymakers are going to close California’s graduation gap, they’ll have to figure out how to meet the needs of students like Mora once was, and Deas is today. And if California can do that, perhaps the rest of the country can, too.


Helping Students Graduate

Some of what is happening in California leverages the state’s vast power of the purse. For starters, the state is trying to increase the number of transfer students—especially from its community colleges—accepted by both public and private universities.

Then-Gov. Jerry Brown threatened in 2017 both to withhold a $50 million allocation to the UC system unless it increased its share of transfer students, and to strip private colleges and universities of their eligibility for the $2 billion Cal Grant program unless they did a better job admitting transfers.

Brown wanted some public universities with low numbers of transfers to take one transfer student for every two freshmen, a goal they’ve largely met. In addition, the private, nonprofit member institutions of the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities have agreed to collectively enroll 3,000 transfer students annually by next year.

The state invested $75 million last year to try to raise those low CSU graduation rates and plans to spend another $75 million this year. The rates have already slowly started to improve, with 27.7 percent of CSU students now finishing in four years, up from 19 percent in 2015. (The most recent available national average is 42 percent, the U.S. Department of Education says.)

Some of that extra money has gone toward adding sections of courses that were filling up too fast. Not getting into the classes he needs is a big fear for student James Soberano, a San Jose State freshman majoring in computer engineering who was pecking away at his laptop in the student center.

“I definitely want to be out of here in four years,” Soberano said. “If not, I’ll be taking summer classes to be sure I am.”

San Jose State has also added 30 new advisers in the last three years, a university spokeswoman said. Data analysis is being used to pinpoint bottlenecks, such as those overcrowded courses. The “Spartan Completion Grant” that Deas got is part of a program that began last year for seniors who are within two semesters of earning their degrees and meet other requirements. They can receive up to $1,500 per semester. The university says that 70 percent of recipients have graduated.

Another effective way of speeding students toward degrees is by eliminating noncredit remedial courses, which require them to repeat subjects such as algebra and English. More than four in 10 college students across the country end up in remedial—also called “developmental”—classes. That costs students $1.3 billion a year, according to the Center for American Progress, and many simply give up.

In California, 80 percent of community college students were being sent to remedial courses in English or math, and only 16 percent of them earned a certificate or associate degree within six years, according to the PPIC.

In response, in 2017, California’s community colleges began putting less-well-prepared students into credit-bearing introductory courses with extra tutoring. The CSU system, too, started doing this last year, and now also funnels students with low high school grades or standardized test scores into special preparation programs in the summer before their freshman years.

Though some faculty members have objected to the changes, early studies suggest they’ve led to big improvements: 63 percent of community college students who went directly into transfer-level English composition courses with tutoring successfully completed them, compared to 32 percent who went to remediation.


Costs Outside the Classroom

Bright murals decorate the walls of UC Berkeley’s Basic Needs Center, framing the entrance to a food pantry laden with organic mac and cheese, fresh produce and bread from a nearby bakery.

Students who have trouble affording food and rent come here to do their grocery shopping, sign up for public benefits or meet with counselors. A community kitchen is under construction, and volunteers use a bicycle with a custom trailer to pedal around nearby neighborhoods, collecting excess produce from residents’ gardens.

The center is the result of student activism spotlighting the nontuition costs of college in a state where the price of housing has reached staggering heights. The goal: to ease students’ stress about food and shelter so they can focus on their studies.

Researchers have documented widespread food and housing insecurity among students across the country, and the purchasing power of the federal Pell Grant, which can help cover living costs, is at a historic low. California students spend an average of $2,020 a month, or $18,180 per nine-month academic year, on food, housing, books, supplies and transportation, a survey released in September by the California Student Aid Commission, or CSAC, found.

California is well-equipped to address college affordability because, unlike in many other states, every low-income student who has completed high school within the previous year and meets academic requirements is entitled to a state scholarship, the Cal Grant, that helps pay his or her tuition.

While hundreds of thousands of students still miss out on the grants each year because they took time off before college, this tradition of comparatively generous tuition assistance has nevertheless freed policymakers to think about how to make the other aspects of college more affordable, said Lande Ajose, senior policy adviser on higher education to Gov. Gavin Newsom.

“For six of the last seven years, tuition has remained flat at our colleges, and yet we find the cost of college increasing, and that is because the cost of living is increasing,” Ajose said.

The California Assembly passed a bill this year that would have made it easier for all students with financial need to access Cal Grants and tied the amount to their full cost of attendance. Though the Senate left the measure stranded in its Education Committee because of concerns about the price, its authors, the governor’s office and higher education advocates say that they are discussing how to move forward on another version in the next session.

Given California’s size and diversity, Ajose said she hopes the solution they come up with can serve as a model for the rest of the country.

“Just as California’s student population is becoming more diverse, that’s not the time to disinvest in higher education,” she said. “That’s the time to double down on investment in higher education, if we really care about equity.”

California has thrown a lot of other ideas at making college more affordable.

The California State system and some UC campuses have substituted cheaper digital books and open-source materials for textbooks, for example, which the CSAC found cost California students $1,080 a year.

The CSAC itself last year began to address the complex process of applying for financial aid, which research shows makes prospective students less likely to enroll in college in the first place, by creating a more user-friendly website and making it easier to compare the costs of different schools.

In a pilot program by the California Policy Lab, redesigning and simplifying letters sent to 130,000 high school students about Cal Grants made them 9 percent more likely to register for the online Cal Grant system by June of their senior years. “That’s a lot of new students able to attend college and improve their career options,” said the lab’s executive director, Evan White.

Many campuses are opening food pantries like the one at UC Berkeley, holding outreach fairs to sign up students for the state’s version of the federal food stamp program, or starting emergency housing programs—all backed by that more than $50 million in this year’s state budget to help deal with student hunger and homelessness.

Those funds came after students packed legislative hearings over the past two years to testify about rising rents and having to work 30 hours a week on top of their study time. That kind of activism also stands out from what is happening in most other states, where students lack strong statewide organizations or are less involved in state politics, said Max Lubin, an Education Department official in the Obama administration who started the advocacy group Rise while a graduate student at Berkeley. The group provides paid fellowships for students to spend a semester lobbying politicians on college costs.

“California higher education leaders have learned in the last couple of years that they can get a lot more done by working with students than in conflict with them,” Lubin said.

The state is trying to help older students, too, a challenge also facing the rest of the country. More than 35 million Americans over the age of 25 have some college credits but never got degrees, the Census Bureau says; 29 percent of undergraduate and 76 percent of graduate students are 25 or older, the U.S. Department of Education reports. But many juggle families and jobs, and aren’t eligible for state financial aid.

This year, Gov. Newsom successfully pushed to provide students at public universities and colleges who are parents of dependent children with as much as $6,000 a year for books, child care and other nontuition expenses on top of tuition aid. An estimated 29,000 parents qualify, the governor’s office says. In September, the state debuted an online community college designed especially for people 25 to 34 who are already working but don’t have a college degree or certificate.

Legislators also filed several bills to tighten regulation of for-profit colleges and universities, which often serve older, low-income students. One would have required these schools to prove that the educations for which they were charging graduates resulted in jobs that paid enough to justify the cost—similar to the Obama-era “gainful employment” rule that has been blocked at the federal level by the Trump administration—or lose their access to state financial aid.

That proposal, which was introduced by Chiu, was beaten back by industry lobbying, but, in a compromise, the state will begin to collect information on graduates’ income and debt, by institution, so that consumers can make better-informed choices about which programs will and will not pay off.

“We’ll have a pretty good sense of how many schools are failing our students and exactly who they are. We can then decide what the consequences of that should be,” Chiu said.

Several other measures to crack down on for-profit schools stalled, thanks in part to the for-profit colleges’ aggressive lobbying campaign. But advocates say they were only the first salvos in an ongoing battle.

“In large part, it’s because of the federal retreat on oversight of for-profit colleges that California lawmakers are seeing a need to elevate the state’s attention” to it, said Bob Shireman, a senior fellow at The Century Foundation who served in the Clinton and Obama administrations.

With the entire structure of for-profit college oversight in California up for renewal next year, said Shireman, he expects that some of these proposals will be raised again. That will continue to put the state in direct opposition to the Trump administration on higher education regulation, as it is on many other issues.

Few clashes are as pitched as the fight over who gets to decide whether veterans in California can use their GI Bill benefits to attend for-profit Ashford University, which the state’s attorney general has accused in an ongoing lawsuit of misleading students, including veterans.

That tug of war began when the state stepped in to block veterans who enrolled at Ashford from receiving taxpayer-funded support. In response, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs in September stripped authority from the state veterans education agency to determine veterans’ benefits eligibility there.


Experimentation at Scale

California is not the only state trying to improve the success rates of its students, or to make policy in the absence of federal action; amid the partisan bickering in Washington, D.C., the Higher Education Act, which covers all federal regulations over higher education and which Congress typically reauthorizes every four to six years, hasn’t been updated since 2008.

Louisiana last year started to require high school seniors to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Texas will also require this, beginning in 2021-22. Currently, 30 percent of undergraduates or aspiring undergraduates never fill out this form, forgoing the chance to receive financial aid; a third of them would have qualified for a federal Pell Grant, research supported by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences found.

Colorado is dropping remedial courses beginning in 2022, and universities and colleges there have already started getting rid of them.

Many states have resorted to enforcement actions, lawsuits and new laws to crack down on for-profit colleges and universities and loan-servicing companies they say cheat or mislead students.

At the federal level, a House bill—introduced by U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff of California—would create a pilot program to help community colleges pay for free meals for students who can’t afford to buy food.

But few other states are trying as many reforms at once as California, or can do so at such scale; its financial aid program is the nation’s biggest, and its community colleges alone have a collective enrollment of 2.1 million.

California still has to figure out how to cope with the challenges that come with that scale. Each year, tens of thousands of qualified applicants are turned away from UC and CSU campuses due to lack of space.

But California’s size will also continue to make it a laboratory for innovation, Kevin Cook, associate director of the PPIC Higher Education Center, said.

“There’s a lot of interest from large funders,” he said. “Because of the size of the state, if you can make something work here, it will probably work anywhere else.”

This story about California higher education was produced by CalMatters, a nonprofit news venture covering California policy and politics, and The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. This story also appeared in CalMatters, The Hechinger Report and NBC News.

Published in Features

Although California can’t do much to block the Trump administration’s controversial immigration policies, opponents in the “Resistance State” keep finding ways to chip away at their foundations.

The latest: pushing the state and its Democratic leaders to cancel its business deals with, investments in, and campaign donations from private companies with federal immigration contracts:

• A group of K-12 teachers are urging their retirement system to divest from GEO Group, CoreCivic and General Dynamics.

• Some University of California students and workers are pressing the UC system to sever ties with General Dynamics Information Technology. The company helps the system administer a placement test for incoming first-year students.

• Politicians and the state Democratic Party are shedding donations from CoreCivic, operator of private prisons and detention facilities.

“I don’t think we should profit off of the lives of other people,” said Adrianna Betti, one of hundreds of teachers who are urging CalSTRS, the organization responsible for the pensions of California K-12 teachers, to divest from the private prison companies. “The concept that I’m going to retire off of this type of money—it bothers me immensely.”

Betti told a recent CalSTRS investment meeting that the organization needs to provide more transparency about its portfolio and realize they are making moral choices with their dollars.

“Nobody with a moral lens would have made this decision ever,” she said.

Amid public outcry last month, President Donald Trump backed off of his initial policy of separating undocumented parents from their children at the border. “So we’re keeping families together, and this will solve that problem,” he said. “At the same time, we are keeping a very powerful border, and it continues to be a zero-tolerance. We have zero tolerance for people that enter our country illegally.”

More than 1,800 children have been reunited with families after being separated at the border, but more than 700 still remain separated—and some of those may be in California.

The state—which Trump branded “out of control” in its immigration defiance—passed a trio of laws last year designed to make California a “sanctuary state” for undocumented immigrants who don’t commit serious crimes. Although the Trump administration sued to have the laws overturned, it has not yet been successful.

But the emotional family separations posed a particular frustration in Democrat-dominated California. Attorney General Xavier Becerra joined 17 other states in contesting the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy last month, arguing in the complaint that family separation is causing severe trauma that state resources will be strained to address.

The federal government “does have the right to decide how to conduct immigration processes. They’ve done a very poor job obviously—very harshly,” Becerra said on KQED earlier this month. “We are more limited there in what we can do as far as allowing these kids to be free.”

One move the state could make: divestment. It’s a tactic that various activists have proposed against gun manufacturers, tobacco companies and fossil-fuel firms. Successes include the UC divestment effort in the 1980s against South Africa, which Nelson Mandela credited with helping bring an end to the racist apartheid regime.

CalSTRS said it is determining potential risk factors the private prison companies may post to pensions. At its meeting, investment committee chairman Harry Keiley said he’s asked the chief investment officer update the board on the issue by September.

CoreCivic said in a statement that none of its facilities provide housing for children who aren’t under the supervision of a parent, adding, “We also do not enforce immigration laws or policies or have any say whatsoever in an individual’s deportation or release.”

“We are proud that for over the past 30 years, we have assisted both Democrat and Republican administrations across the country as they address a myriad of public-policy challenges,” said the company spokeswoman Amanda Gilchrist. “CoreCivic has a strong commitment to caring for each person respectfully and humanely.”

Other educators are urging the UC system to sever ties with General Dynamics Information Technology. The University Council-AFT—the labor union that represents librarians, lecturers and other university faculty members—sent such a letter to UC president Janet Napolitano in June, who also received a similar letter from the Council of UC Faculty Associations, the umbrella organization that represents the different faculty associations at each campus.

The University of California Student Association, an organization that represents students across UC campuses, is also pressing the UC system to end its contract. “To work with a company actively taking part in the state sanctioned violence of separating families seeking asylum, and profiting from it is to be complicit in the inhumanity of their actions,” the association said in a letter to the president.

“This is still happening, and they’re not doing as much as they could,” said Stephanie Luna-Lopez, a third-year student at UC Berkeley and associate chief of community development for the Associated Students of the University of California, the student association for UC Berkeley. “We actually cannot do anything, because it’s out of our control.”

Napolitano contends that UC has contracted with the company for years; that it assured her they were providing case work for unaccompanied minors to facilitate reuniting families; and that breaking ties would be “detrimental” and “disruptive.” (Although she presided over significant numbers of deportations as head of Homeland Security in the Obama administration, Napolitano has denounced Trump’s separation policy.)

General Dynamics Information Technology has worked with the Office of Refugee Resettlement since 2000, providing casework support for the Department of Health and Human Services. It says it has no role in the family separation policy, but facilitates reunifications.

Democratic legislators and the Democratic Party have, since Jan. 1, 2017, collected some $250,000 from private-prison companies that incarcerate undocumented immigrants. Now they’re distancing themselves.

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon tweeted last month that he would donate campaign money received from CoreCivic to the Anti-Recidivism Coalition, which works with formerly incarcerated people to reform the justice system.

After CALmatters noted that Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom received private prison money in his campaign for governor, an aide said Newsom donated $5,000 to the National Domestic Workers Alliance’s Families Belong Together project, which protests Trump’s immigration policies.

The California Democratic Party has also announced it will no longer accept contributions from organizations that run private prisons or other incarceration services.

“The private-prison system represents so much of what is wrong with our criminal justice system,” said CDP chair Eric C. Bauman in a statement. “Accepting donations from companies that profit from the systemic injustices and suffering that results from them is incompatible with the values and platform of our party.”

CALmatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics.

Published in Politics

As tribal archaeologist for the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, Myra Masiel-Zamora uses her UC Berkeley anthropology training daily. Her mission: track down skeletons of Native Californians extracted from gravesites over the last two centuries that were shipped off to museums around the world, and return them to the tribe’s ancestral land near Temecula so they can be reburied with dignity.

But lately, that quest has put Masiel-Zamora at odds with her alma mater.

The remains of thousands of Native Americans, along with possessions such as beads and fishhooks buried with them, now sit in drawers and boxes at University of California museums. Federal and state laws require their return to tribes able to prove a connection to them. Some tribes accuse university officials of delaying so professors can continue to study the bones, and are pushing state legislation to force the UC system to speed its efforts.

“As an anthropologist, you don’t own what you’re taking care of. They’re in your care,” said Masiel-Zamora. “But I think the research community does feel that they own them.”

Over decades, archaeologists and common looters excavated Native American cemeteries—with some people even motivated by the racist eugenics movement, which compared skull shapes to attempt to prove white superiority.

In 1990, U.S. law began requiring federally funded museums to list remains in their collections, along with any “associated funerary objects” or other sacred items, and share the list with tribes, who could then make repatriation claims. California law extended that approach to state-funded museums.

But UC campus responses varied widely. UCLA’s Fowler Museum has transferred nearly all of the 2,300 remains in its collection to tribes, according to its archaeology curator, Wendy Teeter. But at UC Berkeley’s Phoebe Hearst Museum, which holds one of the largest collections of human remains in the country, fewer than 300 bodies have been returned out of more than 9,000.

“It’s a huge black eye on the institution,” said Phenocia Bauerle, Berkeley’s director of Native American Student Development. She said the slow pace of repatriation has hurt her ability to build trust with Native American students and tribes.

Randy Katz, UC Berkeley’s vice chancellor for research, said the university “works diligently to care for (remains) in a respectful and legal manner.” He noted that he recently appointed more Native Americans to the campus committee reviewing repatriation requests, once dominated by anthropologists—and at one point with only one Native American member.

Pechanga’s dispute with the Hearst Museum began on San Nicolas Island, a sandy, scrub-covered outpost about 60 miles off the shore of Southern California, owned by the Navy. Archaeologists with the Navy and Cal State Los Angeles were digging there, seeking to unravel the mystery of the Lone Woman, a Native American whose story inspired the novel Island of the Blue Dolphins.

That didn’t sit well with the Pechanga tribal council, which said traditional songs and stories prove the tribe’s connection to the island. It filed a petition with the Navy, which agreed the tribe had a cultural affiliation with the area. That meant digging had to stop—and, by law, the nearly 500 remains uncovered on the island over the decades should go to the tribe.

In what tribal representatives describe as a six-year saga, other museums—including UCLA’s Fowler—have said they will return bodies they have from San Nicolas. The Navy has given permission for island reburial to Pechanga and three other Luiseño and Chumash tribes. But UC Berkeley insists it must conduct its own investigation before returning some of the remains.

The dispute reflects a longstanding clash of worldviews, with UC academics weighing concerns of descendants against potential research benefits.

“There’s a wealth of data in the human body,” said Robert Bettinger, professor emeritus of anthropology at UC Davis. “We can trace a whole series of isotopes that will tell us about your diet, about the water you drank and probably the region you came from.”

Bettinger worries that if tribes rebury remains without allowing anthropologists to examine them, society will lose the opportunity to gain detailed knowledge about life in western North America before Europeans’ arrival. “Maybe this is patronizing, from an archaeologist’s point of view, but I think someday, somebody in the Native American community is going to ask, ‘Why don’t we know this?’” he said. “And the answer will be because some of your forebears decided it was more important not to know that.”

But for many tribes, the very idea that their ancestors would become research objects is, in Pechanga chairman Mark Macarro’s word, “abhorrent.”

“As long as these remains are out there, and our people are in pieces in different institutions,” he said, “the tribes have this sense that things are really out of balance.”

Macarro subscribes to the Luiseño view that the world was created in the Temecula Valley, and is skeptical of academics who he sees as guessing at history, constantly changing their ideas as new evidence discredits the old ones.

“Look, if you want to know the past,” he said, “talk to us.”

California’s Assembly has passed legislation by San Diego Assemblyman Todd Gloria, a member of Alaska’s Tlingit and Haida tribe, to create a uniform UC repatriation process, overseen by the state’s Native American Heritage Commission. Tribes would have equal representation on campus committees, and the state auditor would review UC’s legal compliance.

“If (research) was done in a cooperative fashion with the descendants, maybe something could happen here,” Gloria said. “Sadly, right now, the relationship is very adversarial.”

Matching centuries-old skeletons with contemporary Native American groups can be challenging. Poor record-keeping abounds. Even when likely descendants are identified, they sometimes lack the money or land to take on repatriation.

UCLA’s Teeter said her team reaches out to tribes to help identify the origin of remains.

“We’re not talking about Neanderthals; we’re not talking about Homo erectus. We’re talking about people that are sometimes just a generation or two separated from us,” Teeter said. “There’s more value in making sure our relationships are true and ethical than in trying to hold onto (someone’s) ancestors.”

Teeter said the collaboration with tribes is one reason for UCLA’s high repatriation rate. At UC Berkeley, by contrast, campus officials have designated more than 80 percent of the remains in its North American collection as “culturally unidentifiable”—a legal limbo that means researchers can study the bones without seeking permission from any tribe. Katz says that’s because they come from a broader range of places and time periods.

In a basement room filled with white file boxes, UC Davis osteologist Michael Walters sorts through plastic bags full of bone fragments so small they look like wood chips. He’s searching for human bones that were mislabeled as animal, and sometimes he finds them—a body part from a child, for example, that was so small that an undergraduate in the 1960s decided it must have come from a bird.

Walters is part of a three-person team hired by UC Davis to update its inventory of about 300 sets of Native American remains—finding additional bones that researchers in the past missed, and returning those that can be repatriated to tribes.

Human bones go to a separate room closed to the public and the press. There, black curtains cover the shelves that house the remains; the lighting is dim, and there’s an area for tribal representatives to make religious offerings, according to staff.

Walters wears gloves, and speaks to the bones while he works. “I do say hello and good morning to them. I apologize for colonialism,” he said. “My goal is to get that person home.”

But even this process is controversial. The United Auburn Indian Community says its own claim for repatriation of remains and sacred items from UC Davis has dragged on for years, and objects to scientists handling the bones as disrespectful.

The scientists contend they must ensure there’s sufficient evidence to repatriate the bones—or they could be sued by anthropologists who want to study them. In 2012, Bettinger and two other UC scientists seeking DNA to study ancient migrations sued but failed to stop the university from transferring two 9,000-year-old skeletons to the Kumeyaay tribes.

The UC system has not taken a position on Gloria’s bill, though Berkeley’s Katz said he’s “concerned that, as written, it will increase layers of bureaucracy and hobble our ability to act swiftly on the advice of the new (committee) we’ve established that is more representative and inclusive of Native American perspectives.”

While the tribes await Senate action, Masiel-Zamora continues her work. Last month, she flew to Europe to consult with a museum about remains that she says have ties to her people.

“The tribe, we’re very patient,” she said. “We don’t forget. I will continue to fight for these people until they get returned back to where they came from.”

CALmatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics. This story and other higher education coverage are supported by the College Futures Foundation.

Published in Features