CJR: The Education of Herb And Marion Sandler

Jeff Horwitz, writing in the latest Columbia Journalism Review, examines the way The New York Times and CBS covered the mortgage lending practices of Golden West Financial Corporation in the years just before it was purchased by Wachovia. This is an important story to get right in all the details, in part because Mr. and Mrs. Sandler, who led Golden West for more than 40 years, have a foundation that is the principal financial backer of the investigative journalism web site ProPublica and other liberal causes.

CJR: The Education of Herb And Marion Sandler

Some rare good news from Califonia

The San Francisco Chronicle reports today on a $16 million gift to UC Berkeley from the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund.

The gift will fund five new endowed chairs and a variety of research and public service programs designed to enhance Cal’s historical commitment of openness to all. Haas Jr. Fund President Ira Hirschfield has posted a deeply thoughtful open letter that explains the motivation for and history behind the gift.

Hirschfield’s letter refers to Cal’s admissions process several times and he says the gift also “includes a challenge grant for endowed scholarships for low-income students….”

Oddly the Chronicle story includes these two seemingly contradictory paragraphs:

Although the newly announced program does not address student admissions, [Berkeley Chancellor] Birgenau said, it is designed to make UC Berkeley’s environment “more inclusive” and therefore make the university “progressively more attractive to people from diverse backgrounds.”

The funding also includes $1.5 million for scholarships for transferring community college students.’

Scholarships for low-income, community college students (largely overlapping sets) certainly have a huge impact on their ability to attend if admitted.

When I worked at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business (1985-1997), about half the students in the undergraduate business program were community college transfers. As I recall, juniors entering the program from Berkeley had to have a GPA of 3.6 or higher – and most of those coming from the junior colleges had 4.0’s. A brighter, harder working, more motivated group of students would be hard to find anywhere.

The ongoing dysfunction of California’s budget and politics has hit public higher education hard at every level. Tuition and fee increases have made it impossible for many qualified students to attend community colleges, state universities and UC System schools. It’s good to see private institutions working to maintain the promise of Clark Kerr’s inspirational master plan to make public higher ed in California affordable to all.

Total support for the initiative will rise to some $31 million with matching funds. The Hewlett Foundation is also on board.

Late update: UC Berkeley’s news release is here.

On giving to Haiti

On NPR’s Talk of the Nation today, Chronicle of Philanthropy editor Stacy Palmer made the key points about giving to Haitian relief charities: “The most important thing is to find out whether the charity has experience doing disaster work and working in Haiti… [T]hat’s the best way to guarantee that your dollars will go to the right thing.”

Stephanie Strom’s February 1 NYT story on pooling relief money to make it more effective began:

Before the earthquake, the American Red Cross had 15 people in Haiti working on projects like malaria prevention and measles vaccines. Partners in Health, a charity based in Boston, had more than 700 doctors and nurses among a staff of almost 5,000 operating a hospital and multiple clinics in the country.

Yet the Red Cross has raised nearly $200 million for its relief operations in Haiti, and Partners in Health about $40 million.

Disaster fund-raising rewards organizations for their marketing prowess and name recognition as much if not more than for the scope, relevance and quality of their emergency services.

Over at Economic Principals, David Warsh focuses his weekly column on Haiti’s uniquely dysfunctional history and culture and on the same organization, Partners in Health, which has been making a difference there for 23 years.

PIH is unusual among foreign-funded relief organizations in that almost all its employees in Haiti – including its leadership there – are Haitians. PIH’s Stand With Haiti campaign appears to be one place where Haiti donations are likely to be spent efficiently.