Author: USC Admin

The Key to JFK’s Leadership: Inspiration

WARREN BENNIS, USC Leadership Institute, USC Marshall School of Business.

This op-ed originally appeared at CNN on Nov. 21

I vividly recall those 13 days in the fall of 1962, watching President John F. Kennedy on our black and white television in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I was a professor at MIT focusing on the emerging field of leadership studies, and the Cuban Missile Crisis was about leadership writ large for the world to witness.

Fifty years after the Kennedy assassination, there is conversation everywhere about JFK’s unrealized potential. Amid the wave of sentimental reflection this year, there has been much focus on the mythical elements of Camelot or too many details about that tragic day in Dallas, and not enough on the real-world challenges of the JFK presidency.

Disaster Lessons Unlearned

COSTAS SYNOLAKIS, professor of civil and environmental engineering, USC Viterbi.

This op-ed originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal on Nov. 12.

The human tragedy of Super Typhoon Haiyan is unprecedented for the Philippines and possibly for the region. Thousands are dead and tens of thousands displaced. As the relief effort builds, the question to ask is whether the human impact was predictable and preventable.

The disaster bears striking similarities to the Indonesian tsunami in 2004, Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005, and the Japanese earthquake and tsunami two years ago. In each case, local scientists did not expect the depth of the floods or the strength of the water current

The 21st Century Silver Spoon

ELIZABETH CURRID-HALKETT, associate professor of urban planning, USC’s Price School.

This op-ed originally appeared in the New York Times on Nov. 10.

In 1899, the sociologist Thorstein Veblen scathingly critiqued what he called the “conspicuous consumption” of America’s upper class. The rich were so obsessed with their social status, he wrote, that they would go to gratuitous lengths to signal it. His famous example was silver flatware: handcrafted silver spoons, though no more “serviceable” than and hardly distinguishable from aluminum ones, conferred high social rank and signaled membership in what he called the “leisure class.”

A silver spoon is no longer a mark of elite status. Take the nation’s top 10 percent of households. The top 1 percent — those making more than $394,000 annually — are today’s version of Veblen’s leisure class in terms of wealth, but they are not the biggest buyers of silver flatware. Instead, households in the rest of this high-earning cohort — those making between $114,000 and just under $394,000 — take the silver prize.

Don’t Chuck Remedial Education Out the Window Just Yet

WILLIAM G. TIERNEY, professor of higher education, USC’s Pullias Center.

This op-ed originally appeared in Inside Higher Education on Nov. 8.

Remedial education in higher education has become a target for reformers. Lawmakers in Florida have made remedial classes in math, reading and English optional for students entering community colleges in fall 2014. The placement tests to assess these skills will be optional as well.

Meantime, Tennessee and Connecticut have passed legislation making it easier for students to bypass remediation and enroll directly in courses that lead to graduation and completion of a major. And California State University has lowered its math and English placement test cutoff scores, requiring fewer students to do remedial coursework.

Roughly 60 percent of the 6.5 million students who enter the nation’s 1,200 community colleges enroll in remedial classes. More than half of them quit before finishing.

Can Data Build a Better L.A. Government?

CHRISTOPHER WEARE, research associate professor, USC Price School of Public Policy, and JULIET ANN MUSSO, associate professor, USC Price.

This op-ed originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times on Oct. 21.

Last week, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti unveiled the first specifics of his plan to modernize the city’s sprawling bureaucracy, posting on his website some of the metrics by which he intends to hold city departments accountable for delivering services. They include such measurements as Fire Department response times and speed of graffiti removal and pothole repair.

The mayor’s attempt to improve performance is certainly timely. A recent USC Price/L.A. Times poll found that Angelenos want better services. For example, more than 60% of respondents were dissatisfied with the state of street repair in the city. But metrics and data collection alone won’t solve the city’s problems. Garcetti will also need to transform the culture of city government and convince city workers that the changes will stick.

The Huge Healthcare Subsidy Hiding in Plain Sight

EDWARD D. KLEINBARD, professor of law, USC Gould School of Law.

This op-ed originally appeared in the Washington Post on Oct. 15.

The political right has paralyzed government over the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, on the grounds that the ACA represents an unacceptable government intrusion into what today is the province of private markets. But the premise is fundamentally untrue.

Government’s hand has long shaped and subsidized health-care markets, for example, in Medicare and Medicaid (which dominate how medical care is organized and delivered in America, even for care that falls outside their reach), or the requirement that hospitals treat urgent care needs of indigents.

How to Reduce Greenhouse Gases, Not Kill the Economy

GEORGE A. OLAH, professor of chemistry, USC Dornsife, and Chris Cox, USC trustee.

This op-ed originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal on Oct. 10.

In the three weeks since the Obama administration issued its long-promised proposal to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, it has become clear the plan is far from perfect. By placing the burden of expensive new carbon capture and sequestration technology on the U.S. alone, and potentially requiring steep cuts in domestic energy to conform to carbon caps, the proposal could send the U.S. economy into shock without making a significant dent in global emissions.

There is a better approach that can reduce greenhouse-gas emissions while growing the economy and increasing U.S. energy independence.

How Los Angeles Can Become Water Independent

KEN MURRAY, clinical assistant professor of family medicine, Keck School of Medicine at USC.

This op-ed appeared in Time magazine on Oct. 11 2013.

As a nation, we dream of energy independence. But in Los Angeles, we wouldn’t dream of water independence. Our local groundwater resources, in this partial desert with Mediterranean weather, provide only 13 percent of what we need. State politics are now consumed with a proposal by the governor for another massive infrastructure project that will move more water, cost billions, and make us even more dependent.

But we may have to think of this problem differently. All three sources of L.A.’s water imports – the Delta in Northern California, the eastern Sierra, and the Colorado River – are maxed out and likely to decline with global warming. The risks of dependence are growing.

So how can we wean ourselves on distant water? Desalination gets attention, but the energy costs are prohibitive. Instead, we should be examining every bit of water that is already here in Southern California.

The Lake Wobegon Effect at Cal State

WILLIAM G. TIERNEY, professor of higher education, USC’s Pullias Center.

This op-ed originally appeared at the Huffington Post on Sept. 27.

Garrison Keillor has long told stories about Lake Wobegon, his mythical home out there on the edge of the prairie “where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.” California State University is inventing its own Lake Wobegon in dealing with entering freshmen who need to take remedial classes in math and English.

For years, Cal State University has had a significant remediation problem, spending about $30 million annually – or 2 percent of its instructional budget — on preparing entering freshmen for college-level work. In spring 2004, it rolled out the Early Assessment Program to reduce its remedial burden. Prospective students take a test before their high-school senior year that tells them if their English and math skills are college-level. If not, they are encouraged to take courses to correct their deficiencies before enrolling in the fall.

Shame on the Metropolitan Opera

KENNETH FOSTER, director of the Arts Leadership Program, USC Thornton School of Music and Price School of Public Policy.

So, I signed the online petition.

Which petition? The one organized by composer Andrew Rudin urging the Metropolitan Opera to dedicate its opening night, which was Sept. 23, to the LGBT people of Russia in protest of that country’s recently approved anti-gay laws.

I’ll confess I don’t usually sign these online petitions, thinking them largely a waste of time. And I had no real expectation that it would have any real impact on Russian President Vladimir Putin. Still, it seemed important to be part of a growing effort to call out Russia for its barbaric laws banning so-called “propaganda on nontraditional sexual relationships”?