California’s High-Speed Rail Needs a New Mandate

LISA SCHWEITZER, associate professor, USC Price.

This op-ed originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times on Sept. 11.

Over the last few weeks, the California High-Speed Rail Authority both lost and won fairly significant battles. It lost when a Sacramento County Superior Court judge ruled that its proposed funding plan violated the voter-approved law, Proposition 1A, that created the agency. The judge has set a hearing to give the state a chance to show that it can comply with the law and environmental reviews.

The Illusion of Willpower

WENDY WOOD, professor psychology and business, Marshall School of Business, and DAVID NEIL.

This op-ed originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times on Aug. 9

On a recent doctor’s visit, a compelling health video was looping in the reception room. It incorporated many of the accepted rules for achieving a healthy weight. The motivational video, tailored to the doctor’s clientele, illustrated simple ways to eat more fruits and vegetables and get exercise. It was striking, however, that many of the nursing staff, who must have heard this video a thousand times, didn’t seem to have taken it to heart. Nurses, as a national study revealed, are just as likely to overeat as the rest of the population.

Pope Francis’ Woman Problem

DIANE WINSTON, Knight Chair in Media & Religion, USC Annenberg

This op-ed originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times on Aug. 4.

Last week, Pope Francis loosed a media tsunami by dropping a pebble of sanity into an ocean of religious angst. “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has goodwill, who am I to judge?” he told reporters on the flight back to Rome after his trip to Brazil.

What did it mean? Was he changing church teaching? And how might it affect 1.2 billion Roman Catholics worldwide?

The Communication Field Lives in an Ivory Tower

ERNEST J. WILSON III, dean of USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

This op-ed originally appeared in Inside Higher Education on July 29.

It has become conventional academic wisdom that the modern world is leaving the industrial age and entering a post-industrial age driven by networks of digital communications. Yet despite the unprecedented shift of technology-enhanced communication to the center of our modern lives, the academic field of communication has failed to live up to its potential as a central scholarly field for our time and remains, relatively speaking, on the sidelines. Communication scholars have failed to seize this moment’s unprecedented opportunities, and the field remains too much at the periphery of scholarship and public engagement.

Property Owners Get a New Legal Weapon

ROBERT BRIDGES, clinical professor of finance and business economics, USC’s Marshall School of Business

This op-ed originally appeared at Forbes on July 2.

Nearly unnoticed among the marquee decisions by this year’s Supreme Court session is Koontz v. St. John’s Water Management District. The decision granted the plaintiff the right to sue a governmental agency that required a payment – or ‘exaction’ – for public facilities miles away from his property as a contingency for approval of a building permit.

The headlines the morning after the decision heralded the ‘bolstering of property rights,’ but it’s doubly ironic that the integrity of rights in real property have been so badly eroded that it would take an act by the highest court of the land to simply grant the right of an individual to challenge a clearly confiscatory act, and that other forms of exactions – unforced, implied, or provided voluntarily – are an unfortunate but normal part of today’s real estate development process.

Monarchy and Banking Don’t Mix

JACOB SOLL, professor of history, USC Dornsife.

This op-ed originally appeared in the Boston Globe on June 8.

As Pope Francis sets the course for his young papacy, one of his first challenges has nothing to do with theology or the behavior of the far-flung priests and bishops he supervises: It is to reform the troubled Vatican Bank. A private and highly secretive institution estimated to control more than $7 billion in capital and more than 33,000 secret accounts, the Institute for the Works of Religion (its official name) has long been dogged by scandals and questions.

Founded in 1942 to “safeguard and administer” the funds of church members, it has become a modern symbol of the hazards of secrecy in finance. It was accused of holding Croatian Nazi funds during World War II and more recently has faced continued suspicions of money laundering for the mafia.