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That's All He Wrote

USC is pulling the plug on its Master of Professional Writing Program, as Gene Maddaus reported last week (“The End of the Story,” Feb. 21). Readers responded angrily.

Work Avoidance Log writes, “It's outrageous that the dean has refused to meet with a group of students who ask only for more than the two words they've been given so far about the abrupt shutdown of a degree program that they are still working to complete. The students are not asking for a spot on the dean's calendar to shout at him about a political issue in the hope of embarrassing him or USC on CNN (generally, USC has proved quite able to embarrass itself on national TV). If USC doesn't feel obligated to explain itself to its students, who exactly is worthy of USC's self-accounting, in the university's view?

The particulars of the program's shutdown notwithstanding, USC has revealed (more) of what, increasingly, drives its policy, and the fact that students are not at the top of that list.

Julieeking writes, “Horrible situation for all involved, but it's a small slice of America right now — all about profits, no questions will be taken. I hope USC continues to get negative publicity on this.”

Talking Loopholes

We ran a few letters last week about Joseph Tsidulko's look at DWP attempts to keep its books hidden from the eyes of city auditors (“DWP Union Boss Taps a Loophole to Hide $40 Million,” Feb. 14). We made room for one more, from California State Treasurer Bill Lockyer. He writes, “The article contains false suggestions about a legal opinion the Attorney General's Office rendered in 2004, when I served as attorney general.

“The opinion was not a 'political favor' to the union that represents DWP employees. My office received a request for the opinion from the president pro tem of the State Senate. I assigned the task to the Opinion Unit. A staff attorney in that unit researched and wrote the opinion — with no interference or influence from me.

“The opinion did not, as the article states, exempt from California's open-meeting laws the governing board of a joint training institute formed pursuant to collective bargaining agreements between DWP management and workers. Attorney general opinions do not have that power. They're purely advisory. The opinion did conclude the institute's board was not required to hold its meetings in public. That conclusion was consistent with prior and subsequent attorney general opinions.

“Finally, the 2004 opinion related solely to the question of the training institute's duty to comply with open-meeting laws. It did not in any way address the extent to which the institute's books should be subject to public scrutiny.”

Correction

The aforementioned story about USC misspelled the name of program graduate James Ferrera. We regret the error.

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