Author: USC Admin

How Community Colleges Can Keep Sacramento Pols Off Their Backs

ALICIA DOWD, associate professor, Rossier School of Education, and co-director for Center for Urban Education, and ESTELA MARA BENSIMON, professor of education, Rossier, and co-director of CUE.

This op-ed originally appeared at the Huffington Post on April 30.

The recently released California community college system’s Student Success Scorecard has rightly drawn praise. The web-based scorecards contain comprehensive information on students’ performance at each of the state’s 112 community colleges, making details about student outcomes the most easily accessible in the nation. The Scorecard reveals how colleges are doing in retaining and graduating students, remedial education and job-training programs, with data broken down by gender, age, race and ethnicity. The added information about race and ethnicity, new to this accountability report, is crucial in a system in which latinos and other students of color form the majority.

While students can use the scorecard to pick a campus, its main purpose is to provide data to community college leaders that they can use to zero in on what is impeding students’ performance and design remedies. But as important as the Student Success Scorecard is as an accountability tool, it does not ensure meaningful change because neither rewards nor penalties are attached to using the data or to improving scores.

Our Internal Food-Traffic Regulator

KATHLEEN A. PAGE, assistant professor, Keck School of Medicine of USC, and ROBERT S. SHERWIN, professor of medicine, Yale University.

This op-ed originally appeared in the New York Times on April 28.

Imagine that, instead of this article, you were staring at a plate of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. The mere sight and smell of them would likely make your mouth water. The first bite would be enough to wake up brain areas that control reward, pleasure and emotion — and perhaps trigger memories of when you tasted cookies like these as a child.

That first bite would also stimulate hormones signaling your brain that fuel was available. The brain would integrate these diverse messages with information from your surroundings and make a decision as to what to do next: keep on chewing, gobble down the cookie and grab another, or walk away.

Studying the complex brain response to such sweet temptations has offered clues as to how we

So Much Tension, so Little Defense Spending

DAVID KANG, professor of international relations, Dornsife College.

This op-ed originally appeared at Foreign Policy.

Are tensions high in Asia? It certainly appears so. Over the last few months, North Korea has tested missiles and threatened the United States with nuclear war. China spars regularly with Japan over ownership of a group of disputed islands, and with several Southeast Asian countries over other sparsely inhabited rocks in the South China Sea. Meanwhile, the United States is in the midst of a well-publicized “pivot” to East Asia, and continues to beef up its military deployments to the region.

Yet as of 2012, military expenditures in East and Southeast Asia are at the lowest they’ve been in 25 years — and very likely the lowest they’ve been in 50 years (although data before 1988 is questionable). While it’s too early to factor in recent tensions, as China’s rise has reshaped the region over the past two decades, East and Southeast Asian states don’t seem to have reacted by building up their own militaries. If there’s an arms race in the region, it’s a contest with just one participant: China.

A Low Tax Burden — and Still Complaining

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

This op-ed originally appeared April 22 at CNN.

Tax day may be over, but many Americans are still suffering from tax hangovers.

If it’s any consolation, here’s our country’s best-kept fiscal secret: According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Americans in 2012 enjoyed the lowest tax burdens as a share of our national economy of any developed country in the world.

How can it be that we feel so much tax pain, but compared to other developed countries our tax burdens are so low?

There are three reasons.

Zuckerberg’s Tax Burden: $2 Billion and Done

EDWARD J. McCAFFERY, professor of law, Gould School of Law.

This op-ed originally appeared at CNN on April 9.

So, you think you have it bad this tax season. Have you heard that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg will pay between $1 billion and $2 billion in taxes? That sounds like a tough pill for anyone to swallow.

But it is premature to start a pity party for Zuckerberg. The twenty-something billionaire reaped large financial gains from exercising the stock options that triggered his tax bill, and he has benefited from favorable tax rules along the way. Even better, Zuckerberg will survive his encounter with the tax man in a position to never have to pay taxes again for the rest of his life.

The Heat Should Be On to Do Something About Climate Change

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, chairman of USC’s Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy.

This op-ed originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times on April 8.

I will always remember the day I woke to the news that more than 2,000 fires were burning in California. I thought I must not have heard correctly. Two thousand fires? How could that be?

In the end, the state’s brave firefighters, joined by contingents from out of state, won the battle. But not before 11 emergency declarations were issued and more than 400,000 acres burned. Countless lives and livelihoods were ruined.

North Korea: Separating Truth From Fiction

DAVID KANG, professor of international relations, Dornsife College, and VICTOR CHA, senior advisor for Asia and Korea chair at Center for Strategic and International Studies.

This op-ed originally appeared at Foreign Policy on March 25.

“North Korea’s not that dangerous.”

Wrong. There is no threat of war on the Korean peninsula because the United States and South Korea have deterred the regime for over six decades, or so the thinking goes. And the occasional provocation from Pyongyang — full of sound and fury — usually ends with it blowing up in its face, signifying nothing. So why worry? Two reasons. First, North Korea has a penchant for testing new South Korean presidents. A new one was just inaugurated in February, and since 1992, the North has welcomed these five new leaders by disturbing the peace. Whether in the form of missile launches, submarine incursions, or naval clashes, these North Korean provocations were met by each newly elected South Korean president with patience rather than pique.

The Fourth Science Domain

PAUL S. ROSENBLOOM, professor of computer science, Institute of Creative Technologies, Viterbi.

This op-ed originally appeared at the Huffington Post.

Introductory science courses, whether in physics, biology or psychology, typically span the discipline’s core ideas, along with glimpses of its past and future. Not so with computer science. Students either learn how to use basic applications — browsers, text editors, drawing programs — or acquire beginning programming skills. They may also be introduced to some key components of working computer systems, but the full scope and diversity of computing is not taught.

Unfortunately, what occurs in the classroom is just part and parcel of a larger problem: Computer science can’t seem to get any respect as a stand-alone science. To students, it’s simply programming. To scientists in other fields, it’s a tool that helps them in their research. To the public, it’s a source of productivity in the workplace and entertainment apps. Even many computing professionals see computer science as just a form of engineering.

Sheryl Sandberg’s Message for Politics

DAN SCHNUR, director of USC’s Unruh Institute of Politics, Dornsife College.

This op-ed originally appeared at Bloomberg on March 6.

Most first-time candidates for elective office learn quickly that political messaging is a lot like the old playground game of Red Rover.

Your opponents don’t bother to try to break through between the two strongest members of your team. Rather, they zero in on the smallest and weakest links in your chain and do everything they can to force the most vulnerable among you to divide.

Stand Clear and Let Iran Botch Its Nuclear Ambitions

JACQUES E. C. HYMANS, associate professor of international relations, Dornsife College.

This op-ed originally appeared at Foreign Affairs on Feb. 18.

At the end of January, Israeli intelligence officials quietly indicated that they have downgraded their assessments of Iran’s ability to build a nuclear bomb. This is surprising because less than six months ago, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned from the tribune of the United Nations that the Iranian nuclear D-Day might come as early as 2013. Now, Israel believes that Iran will not have its first nuclear device before 2015 or 2016.