Category Archives: Schools

Fructose damages brain genes, impairs memory

High fructose corn syrup, the stuff that’s replaced table sugar in everything from soft drinks to catsup, has been definitively linked to  damage to the brain’s genetic structure.

So your mom was right: Drinking all that Coke and Pepi really does cause brain damage.

We’ve long been concerned about fructose here at esnl, given that it’s been linked to impairments in brain healing, accelerated aging, rapid growth of pancreatic cancer cells, and much more, but the latest research, in a rational world, would at the very least lead to a ban on the sale of products containing the stuff in public school cafeterias, lunch rooms, and hospitals.

From the University of California, Los Angeles:

A range of diseases — from diabetes to cardiovascular disease, and from Alzheimer’s disease to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder — are linked to changes to genes in the brain. A new study by UCLA life scientists has found that hundreds of those genes can be damaged by fructose, a sugar that’s common in the Western diet, in a way that could lead to those diseases.

However, the researchers discovered good news as well: An omega-3 fatty acid known as docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, seems to reverse the harmful changes produced by fructose.

“DHA changes not just one or two genes; it seems to push the entire gene pattern back to normal, which is remarkable,” said Xia Yang, a senior author of the study and a UCLA assistant professor of integrative biology and physiology. “And we can see why it has such a powerful effect.”

DHA occurs naturally in the membranes of our brain cells, but not in a large enough quantity to help fight diseases.

“The brain and the body are deficient in the machinery to make DHA; it has to come through our diet,” said Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, a UCLA professor of neurosurgery and of integrative biology and physiology, and co-senior author of the paper.

Fructose impairs memory

DHA strengthens synapses in the brain and enhances learning and memory. It is abundant in wild salmon (but not in farmed salmon) and, to a lesser extent, in other fish and fish oil, as well as walnuts, flaxseed, and fruits and vegetables, said Gomez-Pinilla, who also is a member of UCLA’s Brain Injury Research Center.

Americans get most of their fructose in foods that are sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup, an inexpensive liquid sweetener made from corn starch, and from sweetened drinks, syrups, honey and desserts. The Department of Agriculture estimates that Americans consumed an average of about 27 pounds of high-fructose corn syrup in 2014. Fructose is also found is in most baby food and in fruit, although the fiber in fruit substantially slows the body’s absorption of the sugar — and fruit contains other healthy components that protect the brain and body, Yang said.

To test the effects of fructose and DHA, the researchers trained rats to escape from a maze, and then randomly divided the animals into three groups. For the next six weeks, one group of rats drank water with an amount of fructose that would be roughly equivalent to a person drinking a liter of soda per day. The second group was given fructose water and a diet rich in DHA. The third received water without fructose and no DHA.

After the six weeks, the rats were put through the maze again. The animals that had been given only the fructose navigated the maze about half as fast than the rats that drank only water — indicating that the fructose diet had impaired their memory. The rats that had been given fructose and DHA, however, showed very similar results to those that only drank water — which strongly suggests that the DHA eliminated fructose’s harmful effects.

There’s much more, after the jump. . . Continue reading

Global Corporate University hits stormy seas

The University of California, starved of funds by a succession of austerian state governments, has turned to onerous tuition increases and academic prostitution as a means of keeping afloat.

Corporate funds increasingly direct the focus of research, and corporate officials and university faculty and administrators spin through the revolving door, reap hefty rewards with each spin.

But increasingly, officials and faculty draw simultaneous paychecks from taxpayers and corporations.

Nobody embodies the Global Corporate University than Linda Kathi, chancellor of the University of California, Davis, who approaches the issue of branding with more zeal than a cowboy at roundup time.

A Greco-American, Katehi came to Davis from her post as Provost and Vice Chancellor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the campus which served as the University of California’s partner in the biggest-ever corporate partnership in American university history, the Energy Biosciences Institute, funded with $500 million in cash from BP — a story we covered extensively during our time at the Berkeley Daily Planet.

One of Katehi’s Davis branding efforts has run afoul, however.

From The Young Turks:

University Spent A Lot Of Money So You Wouldn’t See This

Program notes:

UC Davis made headlines in 2011, when a campus police officer pepper sprayed a line of peaceful protesters, during a sit in. They have since spent a great deal of money trying to erase that incident from the internet, and using taxpayer dollars to do it. John Iadarola, Kim Horcher (Nerd Alert), and Cara Santa Maria, hosts of The Young Turks discuss.

The University of California, Davis spent at least $175,000 to improve its reputation on the internet after images of campus police pepper-spraying protestors went viral in 2011, according to documents obtained by The Sacramento Bee. The money went to public relations firms that promised to clean up the university’s search results.

One company outlined a plan for “eradication of references to the pepper spray incident,” according to the documents, and was eventually paid nearly $93,000, including expenses, for a six-month campaign in 2013. After that, the Bee reports, the university paid $82,500 to another PR firm to create and follow through on a “search engine results management strategy.” The latter firm was later given thousands more in other contracts to build a university social media program, and to vet its communications department.”

The Sacramento Bee’s editorial cartoonist took an interesting take on Katehi, combining the latest campus controversy with Thursday’s ouster of the coach of the city’s losing NBA team:

Jack Ohman: Coach Katehi

BLOG Ohman

And Katehi may need a new job if a growing chorus of state legislators have their way, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Three California state lawmakers called on the chancellor of the University of California at Davis, Linda P.B. Katehi, to resign on Thursday, The Sacramento Bee reports, citing Ms. Katehi’s effort to remove unflattering Internet posts about campus police pepper-spraying student protesters five years ago.

Ms. Katehi came under fire after a report surfaced on Wednesday that the institution spent at least $175,000 on public-relations consultants to scratch online references to the pepper-spraying incident and improve the college’s image.

The Democratic assemblymen Mike Gatto, Freddie Rodriguez, and Mark Stone all said they wanted Ms. Katehi to step down. Mr. Gatto told The Sacramento Bee that this was the second strike against Ms. Katehi, citing her acceptance of a seat on the for-profit DeVry Education Group’s Board of Directors. Ms. Katehi resigned the seat after critics protested, saying her position could harm the university’s image.

“Spend millions on PR while student costs soar? It is time for Katehi to resign,” Mr. Gatto added on Twitter.

The Sacramento Bee posted the web-scrubbing contracts and associated documents. Here’s one:

BLOG branding

More from the Sacramento CBS affiliate:

“Having the chancellor on a board of a for-profit textbook company when our students are the ones purchasing those text books, that was bad enough,” Gatto said. “But then to hear the university spent hundreds of thousands on a P.R. firm – money that could be spent in the classroom – that was the last straw.”

While no one from UC Davis would talk to on camera, they sent us a statement Thursday saying their PR strategy to clean up their online image was an effort to preserve the great work of the university.

As for UC President Janet Napolitano, she remains silent on both the calls for Katehi’s resignation and the recent bad press.

Also on Friday the university released an official statement upholding their media-scrubbing efforts. Here’s the money quotes:

Communicating the value of UC Davis is an essential element of our campus’s education, research, and larger public service mission. Increased investment in social media and communications strategy has heightened the profile of the university to good effect.

As part of this overall communications strategy, it is important that the excellent work underway at UC Davis with respect to educating the next generation of students, pursuing groundbreaking research, and providing important services to the State is not lost during a campus crisis, including the crisis that ensued following the extremely regrettable incident when police pepper-sprayed student protesters in 2011. Communication efforts during this time were part of the campus’s strategic communication strategy. In fact, one of the main objectives during this time was to train staff on how to effectively use digital media to improve engagement with our stakeholders.

Communicating the value of UC Davis is among the many reasons why our campus was able to increase its endowment to $1 billion last year, garner more than $700 million in research grants, and attract the highest caliber of students and faculty from around the country, with a record number of student applications this year.

Most of the growth in the communications budget is tied to raising the visibility of our College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and the School of Veterinary Medicine, both rated the best in the nation.

In a 2014 Chronicle of Higher Education Report titled, “Higher Ed Marketing Comes of Age,” the mean amount that universities spend on marketing was reported as $3.7 million, with the highest at $25 million. We believe UC Davis compares favorably with other institutions of higher learning. Communications spending represents a small fraction of the $4.3 billion operating budget of UC Davis.

Meanwhile, an ongoing protest against the chancellor ended as a result of the web-scrubbing uproar, reports the local CBS affiliate:

The students who staged a sit-in outside UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi’s office have ended their protest.

After five weeks camping out, the student protesters say they achieved their goal of bringing local and national attention to what they say is Katehi’s unethical behavior.

The students vacated the building around noon and walked in silence, with tape covering their mouths, around campus.

As CBS13 in Sacramento reported in March, her eagerness to pad her payroll drew some legislative umbrage:

The chancellor of UC Davis is being asked to step down by a Sacramento Assemblyman who says her service on two for-profit boards is a conflict of interest in her leadership role.

Chancellors are allowed to serve on for-profit boards, and it’s encouraged and can be beneficial. But those board seats must be approved, and many call Chancellor Linda Katehi’s choice of companies questionable.

“These positions help her financially, but I have no idea how it benefits the people of California and the students at UC Davis,” said Assemblyman Kevin McCarty.

The Sacramento Democrat and former city councilman says Katehi made poor choices in accepting paid board seats with DeVry Education Group and John Wiley and Sons, a college textbook publisher.

“Serving on boards that have very questionable benefits to the taxpayer and sometimes negative benefits, DeVry is being sued by the federal government for being a diploma mill,” he said.

On 18 March 18 Kathei responded to the outrage over her dubious corporate profiteering:

My acceptance of the position on the DeVry Education Group board of directors did not comply with UC policy. I made an error in accepting it. I take full responsibility for that error, and I have resigned from the board. I accepted the position because I believed I could help DeVry better evaluate its procedures for delivering a sound curriculum and for measuring students’ performance and progress post-graduation. Nevertheless, I apologize for my mistake and the distraction this has caused for our university community.

My service on the board of John Wiley and Sons from 2011-2014 complied with UC policy. My goal in accepting that position was to help Wiley improve the quality of its educational materials, while making them more accessible and affordable for students. While I recognize and appreciate the concerns raised by many in our community about my service on the Wiley board, my work on the board had no impact on UC textbook purchases.

I served on an unpaid advisory panel of King Abdulaziz University from 2012-2013, which included the former president of Ohio State University; however, I did not participate in any meetings. My appointment complied with University of California policies. My goal was to increase student diversity. To further our work together on behalf of California students, here is my commitment to our UC Davis community: I will establish a $200,000 scholarship fund for California undergraduate students at UC Davis from my Wiley stock proceeds.

Service on private and public boards is widely recognized as a responsibility of academic leaders. As a woman and a STEM scholar, my service has helped to correct the chronic lack of diversity on a number of boards. My pledge to the UC Davis community is to more carefully vet such invitations and to meticulously follow UC approval procedures in the future.

Kathei inspired another editorial cartoon on 20 March, this one posted on the Fire Kathei Facebook page:

BLOG Kathei anon

We leave the last word to legendary columnist Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Daily News:

Somehow, Katehi kept her job after the pepper spraying — a mistake that was compounded by this caper lifted straight from the pages of George Orwell, inventor of “the memory hole.” True, $175,000 isn’t a lot in the multi-million sinkhole that is today’s American university, but hey, maybe two or three lower income kids could have gotten their sheepskin, instead. Just my crazy idea.

Of course, UC Davis being a public university and all, Katahi’s Orwellian crusade came out in the media. That meant the launching of 1,000 new articles and blog posts like this one, not to mention a slew of negative commentary about the school on social media. So that now, kids thinking about applying for admission to UC Davis for 2017 will learn that, as in the headline of this SEO-optimized blog post, that UC Davis is the place for all your pepper spraying needs.

I rarely ask for things, and God knows I don’t get paid by the pageview (because I’d be broke if I was) but please do your part to make this post — or articles like this — go viral. Not just for the initial crime, but now for the cover-up, Linda Katehi has got to go as chancellor of this warped institution. For one more spurt of nostalgia, here’s the video of an amazing protest that the kids at UC Davis conducted in 2011…leading to Katehi’s infamous “walk of shame.”

UC Davis Chancellor Katehi walks to her car

Teacher bias curbs chances of young black males

While we’re not surprised at the findings, new research from Johns Hopkins University’s Krieger School of Arts and Sciences confirms that low expectations of young African males has a direct and devastating impact on their later academic development.

From the John Hopkins University newsroom:

When evaluating the same black student, white teachers expect significantly less academic success than black teachers, a new study concludes. This is especially true for black boys.

When a black teacher and a white teacher evaluate the same black student, the white teacher is about 30 percent less likely to predict the student will complete a four-year college degree, the study found. White teachers are also almost 40 percent less likely to expect their black students will graduate high school.

The study, forthcoming in the journal Economics of Education Review and now available online, [behind a $19.95 paywall  — esnl] suggests that the more modest expectations of some teachers could become self-fulfilling prophecies. These low expectations could affect the performance of students, particularly disadvantaged ones who lack access to role models who could counteract a teacher’s low expectations, says study co-author Nicholas Papageorge, an economist in the Johns Hopkins University’s Krieger School of Arts and Sciences.

“What we find is that white teachers and black teachers systematically disagree about the exact same student,” Papageorge says. “One of them has to be wrong.

“If I’m a teacher and decide that a student isn’t any good, I may be communicating that to the student,” he adds. “A teacher telling a student they’re not smart will weigh heavily on how that student feels about their future and perhaps the effort they put into doing well in school.”

The findings also likely apply beyond the education system, the researchers say, leading to racial biases in the workplace, the service industry, and the criminal justice system.

There’s lots more, after the jump. . .

Continue reading

College sexual assaults linked to narcissism

That narcissism is a causal factor in sex abuse on America’s college campuses should come as no surprise.

We’ve seen that here in Berkeley, where three men in positions of power have left their posts after revelations of improper actions towards women, and allegations of rapes at fraternities and botched investigations of rape complaints by students have plagued the university.

But what is sobering is one American college man in five has been a perpetrator of sexual misconduct, and one out of 25 college men is a rapist.

From the University of Georgia:

Almost 20 percent of college men have committed some kind of sexual assault, and 4 percent have committed rape, according to a study published by University of Georgia researchers who were examining the link between different kinds of narcissism and the perpetration of sexual assaults.

The study found a strong connection between pathological narcissism and sexual assault perpetration through a survey of 234 male university students, mostly in their first and second years of college. Its findings related to perpetration rates were mostly consistent with previous studies, said the study’s lead author Emily Mouilso, a clinical assistant professor in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences’ psychology department.

People who demonstrate characteristics of pathological narcissism have difficulties when it comes to relating to others, Mouilso explained.

Non-pathological narcissism, on the other hand, can be somewhat beneficial because it manifests in high self-esteem and makes it easier for people to shake off failures, study co-author Karen Calhoun said, explaining that it’s what some researchers call the “healthy” form of narcissism.

“As we predicted, the aspects of narcissism that we thought would be related were (related)—the lack of empathy, the entitlement aspects of narcissism,” Mouilso said.

What surprised them was the link between vulnerable narcissism and rape perpetration.

Vulnerable narcissists express high levels of self-esteem but are actually very insecure, Mouilso said.

The study found that men with vulnerable narcissistic traits were more likely to use alcohol or other date-rape drugs to incapacitate their victims, a finding that is especially concerning on a college campus, Mouilso said.

“I think people don’t realize how prevalent drinking is” in colleges, said Calhoun, a professor emerita in the psychology department. “It’s not so much how much they drink total for women that makes them vulnerable; it’s how much they drink at a time, the binge drinking, the getting drunk and just not being alert and aware of their surroundings or the risks involved. That really puts women at risk.”

Mouilso and Calhoun explained their results in the context of the theory that there are two general pathways that frequently lead to perpetration.

There’s more, after the jump. . . Continue reading

Charts of the day: Costs & benefits in the UC

Three charts from The University of California: Its Admissions and Financial Decisions Have Disadvantaged California Resident Students [PDF], a report from the California State Auditor looking at how the University of California has been seeking high tuition out-of-state and foreign students to augment its austerity depleted budgets.

First, a look at how declining state funds have offloaded the cost burdens onto the backs of students, a move that drives them to the indetured servitude of student loans:

Second, a look at the university’s campuses and how they have benefited from the policy — and note that UC Berkeley and UCLA are the biggest beneficiaries:

Finally, a look at the ethnicities of those California students denied admission to the campuses of their choice, with those already underrepresented in campus enrollments suffering the most:

Trump, Mexicans, and California’s own history

Donald Trump’s virulent denigration of Mexicans has a long historical resonance in California, where they were long trumpeted by the editors of the state’s leading newspapers and by its politicians, and within living memory.

As we have noted previously, California was a hotbed of the eugenics movement and its ultimately futile drive to put racism on a scientific footing.

In our featured video of the day, Natalia Molina, University of California, San Diego, Professor of History, Urban Studies, Latina/o Studies, Immigration, Gender, and Public Health examines the history of anti-Latino racism in the Golden State and its enablement by the state’s legal, medical, and media communities.

From University of California Television:

How Scientific Racialization Shapes Mexican Immigration Policies 1848-Present

Program notes:

Natalia Molina, professor of history and urban studies at UC San Diego, traces the ways US public health and immigration policies intersected and influenced the country’s response to Mexican immigration

Map of the day: A dramatic public school shift

From the Southern Education Foundation [PDF]:

In 1989, less than 32 percent of the nation’s public school students were low-income. By 2000, the national rate as compiled and calculated by NCES had increased to over 38 percent. By 2006, the national rate was 42 percent and, after the Great Recession, the rate climbed in 2011 to 48 percent. NCES data shows that in 2012 the rate of low income students was barely below one-half –49.6 percent. In 2013, the rate crossed the threshold of one half so that in 2013 low income students became a new majority in the nation’s public schools. While found in large proportions throughout the United States, the numbers of low income students attending public schools in the South and in the West are extraordinarily high. Thirteen of the 21 states with a majority of low income students in 2013 were located in the South, and six of the other 21 states were in the West.

In 1989, less than 32 percent of the nation’s public school students were low-income. By 2000, the national rate as compiled and calculated by NCES had increased to over 38 percent. By 2006, the national rate was 42 percent and, after the Great Recession, the rate climbed in 2011 to 48 percent. NCES data shows that in 2012 the rate of low income students was barely below one-half –49.6 percent. In 2013, the rate crossed the threshold of one half so that in 2013 low income students became a new majority in the nation’s public schools. While found in large proportions throughout the United States, the numbers of low income students attending public schools in the South and in the West are extraordinarily high. Thirteen of the 21 states with a majority of low income students in 2013 were located in the South, and six of the other 21 states were in the West.