News in Brief 5/23/17

Erin Gruwell Receives Golden Gavel Award

UC Irvine alumna Erin Gruwell received the Toastmasters International 2017 Golden Gavel award last Wednesday, May 17.

Toastmasters International is a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to the improvement of communication, public speaking and leadership skills. The Golden Gavel is awarded annually to an individual who demonstrates excellence in these fields.

Gruwell is best known for her book, “The Freedom Writers Diary: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them,” which detailed how she used literature and diary writing to inspire her Woodrow Wilson High School sophomore class in 1995 when gang violence and racial discrimination were prevalent. The book was made into a 2007 movie titled “Freedom Writers,” starring Hilary Swank as Gruwell. Gruwell went on to form the Freedom Writers Foundation to spread her teaching method to others.

“I wanted them to put down their fists, put down that spray can and put down that gun and pick up a pen and that’s exactly what they did,” said Gruwell of her aspirations for her students.

“I can accept this award on behalf of all the teachers out there who everyday go into a classroom and give themselves so that their students can learn to use wings to fly.”

Gruwell will be presented with the award at the 2017 Toastmasters International Convention in Vancouver, Canada on Aug. 23-26.

 

Dean Chemerinsky Resigns

Founding dean of UC Irvine’s School of Law Erwin Chemerinsky is leaving UC Irvine for UC Berkeley after this school year culminates on June 30. UC Berkeley announced the news on Wednesday, May 17.

Chemerinsky has been at UC Irvine for nine years and taught a range of classes from federal courts to free speech. He will earn $432,600 a year at Berkeley for his five-year term, 3 percent more than his current salary.

UCI law professor L. Song Richardson will take over as interim dean until a permanent replacement is found. Chemerinsky will start at UC Berkeley School of Law on July 1.

An extended feature on Dean Chemerinsky’s resignation will be published online at newuniversity.org.

 

EPA Recognizes UC for Renewable Energy Efforts

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency designated the University of California as a national leader in clean, renewable energy on Friday, May 19.

The UC is a participant in the EPA’s Green Power Partnership, launched in 2001 to increase the use of renewable electricity. The UC ranks sixth among participants in generation of renewable energy and ninth in the top 30 universities. According to the EPA, green power is “electricity produced from solar, wind, geothermal, biogas, eligible biomass, and low-impact small hydroelectric sources.”

The UC’s Carbon Neutrality Initiative was announced in 2013 by UC President Janet Napolitano, committing the UC to emitting net zero greenhouse gases from its buildings and vehicle fleet by 2025. So far, the UC has saved around $28 million in 2016 due to its energy efficiency efforts. UC campuses and medical centers installed 36.3 megawatts of solar photovoltaic technology. The university set a goal to reach 10 megawatts of onsite solar by 2014, which was surpassed two years early. That amount has now tripled.

 “Our 10 campuses are leading the way on sustainable operations and it’s wonderful to see that recognized by the EPA,” said UC’s chief operating officer Rachael Nava in a press statement released that same day. “We believe that UC can be a model for other universities by showing that you can responsibly supply energy to reduce your carbon footprint. The sustainable choice is the smart choice.”

 

Professor Gains $1.25 Million Dollar Research Grant

PharmaResearch Products Co. Ltd. donated $1.25 million to Young Jil Kwonk, UCI Professor of Pharmaceutical sciences.

Kwon’s BioTherapeautics Engineering Group has been researching methods for the efficient and safe delivery of therapeutic molecules like drugs, proteins and nucleic acid.

“By applying the technologies developed in my laboratory to salmon-derived DNA from PharmaResearch Products, I am confident we will move closer to helping our society live longer, healthier lives,” Kwon said.

 

Administration  Reviewing Actions of Pro-Palestinian Group After Protest

UC Irvine administration is reviewing an incident that occurred on May 10 where 40 pro-Palestinian protesters interrupted an event sponsored by another campus organization.

The Pro-Palestinian students held a protest in the student center in response to a group of Israeli Defense Force reservists who spoke at a Q&A panel sponsored by Students Supporting Israel. The panel occurred in the middle of Anti-Zionism week and the wider Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign against Israel by several student groups.

Assistant Vice Chancellor Edgar Dormitorio, who helped moderate the discussion, contacted the UCI Police Department. Officers escorted the panelists to the parking lot after the event, according to the statement. No arrests were made.

Protesters interrupted the panel, chanting “Israel, Israel, you can’t hide. We charge you with genocide” and “Hey hey, ho ho, these colonizers have got to go.”

Students Supporting Israel were particularly upset by the interruption in light of a similar incident which happend in May 2016, where Students for Justice in Palestine interrupted a film screening hosted by Students Supporting Israel at UCI.

After that incident, UCI administration took three months to review the incident and issued a written warning to the SJP, which expired in March 2017.

Students Supporting Israel National came out with a list of demands for UCI administration in response to the protest.

“We demand SJP be held accountable and receive more than just a written warning for their consistent despicable (and illegal) actions. We demand SJP be held accountable for not abiding by the terms of their warning” said SSI. “We demand SJP be held accountable for not hosting an educational program about tolerance as was required or not inviting SSI to a dialogue about the topic. We demand SJP be held accountable for their illegal, and disgusting bullying of our SSI students at Irvine. We demand SJP be suspended as we can not tolerate an organization that spreads hate and violence and terrorizes the academic community.”

The organization also encouraged students and others to call and email Vice Chancellor Parham to encourage him to do something to discipline the SJP.