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2020 August 9

Videos for Fall done!

Filed under: Circuits course — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 09:35
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I think that I finished the videos for BME 51B last night—53 days before classes start.  There are 49 videos totalling 11 hours and 49 minutes (averaging 14 minutes, 28 seconds).

So far, only one of them has had the captions edited (, but the student doing the caption editing is beginning to get the hang of it and I expect the caption editing for subsequent videos to be done more rapidly.  The process is somewhat simpler than I expected, as we don’t need to do anything with time stamps.

  1.  Download the auto-generated transcript of the video using, which can provide the transcript in a simple text format without time stamps.  For some reason, YouTube does not provide an easy way to get this with their native interface—only providing a file in VTT format, which has lots of duplication of words in order to simulate scrolling.  The VTT format is much richer than the simple text format, but very hard to edit to correct bad line breaks and incorrect punctuation.  (I saved the VTT files, in case I need to restore the autocaptioning, but I don’t expect to use them.)There is a way to get the transcript on the native YouTube interface, but it involves screen-scraping and doing a cut-and-paste to a new file.  The download just needs the YouTube URL and keeps the title of the video as part of the file name, making a much more usable interface.
  2. Edit the text file, keeping all lines to 45 characters or fewer.  The point of the editing is to correct mistranscribed words (there were two or three in a 20-minute video, and for one of them even the student couldn’t figure out from my mumbling), to eliminate verbal glitches, to correct punctuation, and to put the line breaks at semantically meaningful places (where possible) to make reading the captions easier. Music at the beginning and end should be labeled as “[Music]”.
  3. Upload the edited transcript, as described in and  One step seems to be missing there—the upload silently failed the first time I did it, with YouTube still showing the auto-generated captions the next day.  I tried again, deleting the autocaptions when uploading the edited transcript file, and that seems to have worked.

The student hired by the university does steps 1 and 2.  I do one more editing pass over the transcript, correcting any places where the student was unsure of the transcription and looking for punctuation errors (mainly comma splices and hyphenation errors).  The comma splices are a natural result of spoken speech not being obviously broken into sentences—run-on sentences are a common speech pattern.  Judicious punctuation makes the captions easier to read correctly without changing the words of the utterances.  On the first video, I fixed half a dozen punctuation and capitalization errors, corrected one word that the student was unsure of, and corrected another phrase that YouTube had mistranscribed and the student had not caught.  It took me much less time and pain to do that final editing pass than it would have to do all the editing, so it was definitely worthwhile having the student do the initial editing.

I have not yet estimated how many videos I’ll need for BME 51A for the Winter, but I think that there will be closer to 20 hours of video than the 12 hours for BME 51B, so I don’t think I’m halfway yet through the whole course. I’ll probably not quite have finished them by October 1, when Fall classes start, but I might be able to get them done before the grading load for BME 51B crushes me.

I’ll also need to do some videos that won’t go up publicly on YouTube: 10 quiz solutions each for BME 51A and BME 51B.  I’ll probably also do an intro video for each course, calling student attention to important parts of the syllabus—the intro videos may go up on YouTube, but not be part of the playlist.

I’m probably going to rename the Applied Analog Electronics playlist to Applied Analog Electronics Part B, and create a new playlist Applied Analog Electronics Part A.  That will make it easier for students to find the videos they need, and it will make it easier for me keep the videos in order—it is much easier to add a new video at the end of a playlist than to add it somewhere near the beginning.

2020 August 1

UC is implementing anti-Asian policies

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 22:58
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Two decisions made by the Regents of the University of California this year initially made no sense to me.

Eliminating SAT/ACT.

In January 2019, at the request of the President of the University of California, the Standardized Testing Task Force started studying whether the known disparities in outcome for SAT tests was hurting low-income students, first-in-family students, or students form underrepresented minorities (Hispanic, Black, or Native American) from gaining acceptance to UC.

Their report came out in January 2020 and is available at

The report looked at the data very carefully and came to some surprising conclusions:

It is true that the racial mix of students admitted into the freshman class at UC is quite different from the racial mix of high school seniors from the same year. Consider the groups that UC collectively refers to as Underrepresented Minorities (URM): Latino, African-American students and Native American students. In 2017-18, these groups constituted 59.1% of high school seniors in California, but only 37.0%of UC admits among California residents.

The second question is whether this 22.1 percentage point gap arises due to UC admissions decisions. The Task Force considered this in detail. Figure 3C-7 shows that about one-quarter of the gap is due to the admissions decisions of the UC campuses, but the remaining three-quarters of the gap relates to outcomes that occur before UC admissions officers read files. The single biggest factor is that relatively few of the students in the three underrepresented racial/ethnic groups complete the A-G coursework that both UC and CSU require for students to become eligible to apply. The other key factors include differences in the rates of graduation from high school and in applying to UC.

The fact that admission decisions explain only about one-quarter of the disparity in racial mix of high school seniors and admitted UC freshmen is important, but a reasonable person could wonder whether this contribution, although relatively small, might indeed indicate bias of some sort against applicants from some groups relative to others in admissions itself. We will look into this in responses to some of the questions below.

So there is some imbalance in who gets admitted, but only about a quarter of that is due to the UC admissions decisions—and even less is due to the standardized tests:

To re-state this more simply, large inter-group differences in SAT scores do not translate into major differences across student groups in admission rates at UC. This is probably the most important finding the Task Force has made in its data analyses.

Relying more on high-school GPA after eliminating SAT scores is likely to hurt minority students, rather than help them:

Given the Task Force’s findings that the SAT scores are evaluated in a way that effectively renormalizes scores to take disadvantage into account, SAT scores do not appear to play a big role in differences in admission rates between disadvantaged and advantaged groups. Other admission factors play a role in reducing the share of disadvantaged groups that are selected in the admissions process (as well as in reducing the share of disadvantaged groups in the admissions pool). A prime example is high school GPA. The report shows that variations in GPA matter more than variations in SAT in explaining admission rates.

Of course, the Office of the President then proceeded to ignore the data and the report and push for eliminating the SAT, even knowing that doing so would hurt minority applicants.  They convinced the Regents to go along with this.  Why would they do this?  Were they so convinced of their prior beliefs that they ignored every evidence that contradicted them, or were the never interested in helping minority students in the first place, but just using them as an excuse for a policy that had an entirely different motive?

If it is not to assist the admission of under-represented minorities, then perhaps the point is to reduce the admissions of the group that has the highest average SAT scores—the Asian-Americans.

Asking to repeal Prop. 209

UCOP also persuaded the Regents to call for a repeal of Prop. 209, which had added the following text to the California constitution:

SEC. 31. (a) The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.
(b) This section shall apply only to action taken after the section’s effective date.
(c) Nothing in this section shall be interpreted as prohibiting bona fide qualifications based on sex which are reasonably necessary to the normal operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.
(d) Nothing in this section shall be interpreted as invalidating any court order or consent decree which is in force as of the effective date of this section.
(e) Nothing in this section shall be interpreted as prohibiting action which must be taken to establish or maintain eligibility for any federal program, where ineligibility would result in a loss of federal funds to the state.
(f) For the purposes of this section, ”state” shall include, but not necessarily be limited to, the state itself, any city, county, city and county, public university system, including the University of California, community college district, school district, special district, or any other political subdivision or governmental instrumentality of or within the state.
(g) The remedies available for violations of this section shall be the same, regardless of the injured party’s race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin, as are otherwise available for violations of then-existing California antidiscrimination law.
(h) This section shall be self-executing. If any part or parts of this section are found to be in conflict with federal law or the United States Constitution, the section shall be implemented to the maximum extent that federal law and the United States Constitution permit. Any provision held invalid shall be severable from the remaining portions of this section.

The reason was so that the University could re-institute racial preferences (which they refer to as Affirmative Action).  How badly are racial preferences needed to rebalance the student body?

According to in Fall 2019, the undergraduate enrollment across all the UC campuses was

category ugrads@UC percentage of non-international
International 29754
Unknown 5855 2.98%
White 48433 24.66%
Asian/Pacific Islander 75676 38.54%
Hispanic/Latinx 55971 28.50%
Black 9371 4.77%
Native American 1065 0.54%

How does this compare with California population?  According to, the California population consists of

category percentage UC%/population%
Unknown or multiple races 4% 0.75
White 36.5% 0.68
Asian/Pacific Islander 16% 2.41
Hispanic/Latinx 39.4% 0.72
Black 6.5% 0.73
Native American 1.6% 0.34

So all groups except Asian/Pacific Islander are underrepresented, and whites are more underrepresented than Blacks or Hispanics.  (The Native Americans are the most underrepresented—they have always been treated the worst by the American educational system.)

So the push for racial preferences clearly has a single target—reducing the representation of Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Update 2020 Aug 4:  John W pointed me to statistics on the ethnic distribution of California high-school graduates from 2014 (, a somewhat better baseline to compare with because of the rapidly changing demographics of California.

category HS number HS % UC%/HS%
Unknown or multiple races 10,314 2.45% 1.22
White 120,855 28.66% 0.86
Asian/Pacific Islander 57,687 13.68% 2.82
Hispanic/Latinx 203,894 48.36% 0.59
Black 26,056 6.18% 0.77
Native American 2,830 0.67% 0.80

The adjusted numbers show underrepresentation of Hispanics, more overrepresentation of Asian-Americans, but whites and Native Americans are no longer showing strong underrepresentation.  The overall conclusion—that the target of racial preferences is predominantly Asian-Americans—is not really changed.

The whole point of both admissions policies being pushed this year is anti-Asian sentiment.  It is not to help the under-represented minorities, but to discriminate against Asian-Americans.

This interpretation makes perfect sense of both decisions.  UCOP and the Regents knew that they couldn’t get away with saying that they wanted to reduce the admission of Asian-Americans, nor that the group they wanted to help was the white students, so they had to pretend that they were helping the under-represented minorities.

They didn’t care what the conclusion of the STTF report was—they already knew that SAT scores helped Asian-Americans, and they did not care what happened to the under-represented minorities.  They were hoping for a fig leaf to cover their naked anti-Asian attitudes and were no doubt disappointed that the data did not provide them one.

The whole mess looks a lot like the biased admissions of the 1950’s, when various non-academic criteria were added by many elite universities, in order to exclude the Jewish students who were performing the best on all the academic criteria.  We are seeing the same game being played out today, with Asian-American students in the role of the Jewish students.


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