Illustration by Rachel Edelstein.

Alumni Awarded for Journalism

UC Santa Cruz alumni Dana Priest and Richard Harris were recently given awards for their work in investigative journalism. Long Island University awarded Priest, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, with her second George Polk Award for National Reporting. In Washington, D.C., the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) presented Harris, a Crown College alumnus, with a 2010 AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Award.

Harris, a National Public Radio science correspondent and UCSC graduate in biology, accepted his award on Feb. 19. His investigation of the BP oil spill prompted the formation of a federal panel to examine the Gulf of Mexico.

Senior editor Janet Raloff of Science News said Harris’ reporting on the Gulf oil spill is “important and ground-breaking.”

Kavli Science Journalism Award winners receive $3,000 and a plaque at the AAAS Annual Meeting.

Priest, a former Merrill student and City on a Hill Press alumna, received the award with fellow Washington Post reporter William M. Arkin for their story “Top Secret America.” The report uncovered the vast and growing network of national security and intelligence systems after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

2010 George Polk winners will receive their awards at a luncheon at The Roosevelt Hotel in Manhattan on April 7.

Priest and Arkin found counter-terrorism and homeland security involvement in over 10,000 locations across the United States, where some 854,000 people have top-secret security clearances to work on issues for 1,271 government organizations and almost 2,000 private companies.

Both Priest and Harris previously received UC Santa Cruz Alumni Achievement Awards. Priest received her UCSC AA award in 2008, Harris in 2010.

Priest said that formal experience is not essential to success as a professional journalism and offered advice to aspiring journalists.

“I still have never taken a class in journalism,” Priest said. “My advice would be to get out of the office or behind your desk or behind your computer and go immerse yourself in somebody’s world where you would ordinarily never be.”


$1 Million Donation to Baskin School of Engineering

Philanthropists Jack and Peggy Downes Baskin have donated $1 million to the School of Engineering at UC Santa Cruz to create a graduate student support fund, Chancellor George Blumenthal announced at the UCSC’s annual fundraising gala on Saturday.

“This new gift establishes the Jack Baskin and Peggy Downes Baskin Fellowships — the largest fund for graduate-student support in the history of the campus,” Blumenthal said at the benefit dinner.

The nearly 350 attendees raised an additional $160,000 plus to directly aid undergraduate student scholarships.

Jack Baskin has a long history of contributions to UCSC. He gave his first donation of $1 million to open a computer engineering program in 1983. Baskin’s support for the School of Engineering now amounts to more than $9 million.


Student Regent Responds to Sexual Battery Charge

UC student regent Jesse Cheng was arrested on Nov. 4 based on the accusation that he committed sexual battery. Charges were not filed, but his case was forwarded to the Orange County District Attorney for investigation. Cheng issued a statement on Feb. 21, detailing his point of view.

As reported by the Daily Cal, the Orange County D.A. rejected this case due to lack of “corroborating evidence.”

The UC Irvine student was accused by his ex-girlfriend, who claimed the act took place in October of last year. So far, her claims have not been substantiated by evidence, Cheng said.

“I think overall, about the case, it’s important — I’m innocent,” Cheng said. “The D.A. never filed any charges. I’m innocent.”

Cheng’s ex-girlfriend, whom Cheng dated for about a year, offered evidence to the police. However, none of that evidence proved him guilty, so he remains innocent, Cheng said.

The case does not affect Cheng’s standing as a UC student regent. And although UC Irvine lists dismissal from the university among the possible repercussions for committing sexual battery, Cheng will continue his studies there unless he is convicted.

Despite the ensuing threat toward Cheng’s good standing, he maintains his everyday duties as a student regent.

“Right now, I’m just continuing with my student regent work,” he said.

He said that the case is coming to an end, maintaining that he is not at fault.

“The case is over,” Cheng said. “The case is closed.”