Briefly

Judge in fee lawsuit offers recusal

The San Francisco judge assigned to rule on the student class action lawsuit that calls for a repeal of recent University of California fee hikes has announced his intention to step down from the case. Citing personal conflict of interest, Superior Court Judge Curtis E.A. Karnow said he would disqualify himself unless both parties in the case agree to formally allow him to stay on.

Up until mid-March, Karnow was a partner at a San Francisco law firm that also represented the UC system, putting his impartiality in question.

“I am disqualified from hearing this case since that entity was a client of my former law firm,” Karnow stated in his order. “I do not recall representing the [UC Board of] Regents myself.”

Earlier this month, he was assigned to hear the motions in the class action by the presiding judge. The suit asks the courts to roll back most of the fees enacted by the university since 2002, calling them a violation of an implicit contract over student fees.

According to Andrew Freeman, one of the attorneys representing the students, a judge will probably decide the case.

“It is conceivable — it is not impossible — that there will be some question for the jury to decide,” he said.

Though the students’ attorneys have offered to hold settlement talks, the university “has not indicated that it was interested,” according to Freeman.

UC Office of the President spokeswoman Ravi Poorsina declined to speak on the possibility of a settlement.

“Any discussion of settlement is confidential, and the university will not comment,” she stated in an e-mail.

For more details on the lawsuit, see page 1.

Famous guests to speak at graduation

An actor from the ABC drama “Desperate Housewives,” a state senator and a former government official of Hong Kong have been named among the commencement speakers at the campus’ June graduations.

Actor Ricardo Chavira, who portrays “Carlos Solis” in the top-rated drama, will speak at the Earl Warren College graduation, which consists of this year’s largest graduating class. Chavira received his master’s degree from UCSD in 2000.

State Sen. John Vasconcellos (D-San Jose) has also been confirmed to speak at the Thurgood Marshall College commencement, and Anson Chan, who ran Hong Kong’s civil service before and after the territory’s handover to the People’s Republic of China, will address the UCSD International Relations/Pacific Studies graduate school’s ceremony.

Study: Valium works for amoeba, too

In a surprise finding, UCSD researchers have found evidence that the popular sedative drug Valium exhibits the same effects on a specific species of social amoeba as it does on humans.

Explaining their findings in a study published this week, the researchers conclude that Valium, along with a “natural Valium” protein found in human brains, causes the amoeba to enter a dormant or “sleep” phase. The findings, they said, might expand understanding about how cells in higher organisms communicate with each other.

MTV to launch issue-based initiative

Hoping to spin off what it saw as a successful turn-out-the-vote campaign targeting youth, MTV has announced plans to begin a new “think MTV” initiative to encourage students to become involved in policy debates over issues like education, the environment and discrimination.

“Since MTV’s inception, our audience has demanded information on the issues that matter most in their lives, from the onset of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s right through the tsunami relief efforts in January,” MTV President Van Toffler stated in the network’s press release. “The ‘think MTV’ initiative will be a new way to connect young people with the world around them in a variety of ways — from on-air programming to online resources to grassroots efforts in their own communities.”

Research targets fuel cell technology

In a new paper, researchers at UC Riverside have unveiled a method they say can help reduce the amount of platinum used to develop fuel cells, something that promises to make the zero-emission energy source more practical for commercial reproduction.

The work focuses on the use of carbon nanotubes — microscopic tubes that are about 10,000 times thinner than a single human hair — to replace the current need for much of the platinum in fuel cell production.

If adopted, the practice would make fuel cells far cheaper to produce.