San Diego is one of the most expensive places in America to buy a house. But thanks to funds provided by state taxpayers, academics at the University of California are able to dip into a $6.8 billion pool of cash to finance their home purchases on terms more favorable than those available to the average Joe. Since the year 2000, according to county records, nearly a hundred professors at UCSD have taken advantage of the program, which a spokeswoman says currently offers a variable interest rate of 3.8 percent on a 30-year mortgage.
Prices of the houses purchased in the San Diego area with the taxpayer-sponsored mortgages have ranged from a high of $1,930,000 for economist Roger Gordon's La Jolla manse (purchased in November 2000 and financed by a $1,095,000 U.C. loan) to a lowly $155,000 condo in Clairemont bought in May 2000 by assistant philosophy professor Rick Grush with a $141,050 mortgage provided by the state. (Grush subsequently purchased a slightly less humble house, also with a UC loan.) In between are such abodes as the Encinitas home purchased last September for $567,500 by noted physics professor Leonid V. Butov -- financed by a $513,350 loan from the university -- and the $372,000 stylish Uptown condo a block from Balboa Park bought last July by sociologist Amy Binder with a $334,800 U.C. mortgage.
Since January 2000, according to county records, the University of California has lent a total of $40 million to 96 buyers who purchased property worth a total of $52 million. The average sale price of each home was $545,900. The average mortgage was $417,489. "These mortgages are not subsidized," says UC's Ruth Assily. "They are made from our short-term investment pool. It's a cash investment fund that is primarily invested in short-term instruments, money market fixed-income instruments, and things like that." She hastens to explain that the 30-year mortgages represent only a small portion of the pool's investments. "Mortgages can only be 30 percent of the fund's unrestricted investments," she says. "They have never exceeded 13 percent."
The rest of the pool money, Assily explains, is placed in various short-term investment instruments. Much of the money put into the investment pool by the university, she says, consists of funds derived from tuition fees, bond proceeds, and other funds that the university will be using soon.
According to Assily, the largest mortgage currently obtainable by university faculty members is $1 million. For loan amounts up to $827,500, she says, the required minimum down payment is 10 percent of the home's purchase price. For loans greater than $827,500, at least a 15 percent down payment is necessary. Records show that some professors have not borrowed the maximum. Assily notes that since market-rate mortgage rates available to the public have dipped so low in recent years, demand for the UC-sponsored loans is not currently as great as it has been in years past. That could change if rates rise in the future, she notes. Loan approval is issued by the university's Office of Loan Programs, Assily says.
Economics professor Roger Gordon, who bought the most expensive of the homes on the list of those purchased by academics using university-sponsored financing, says he's since obtained private refinancing and no longer has a U.C. loan, which originally was in the amount of $1,095,000. "The UC mortgage program provides a minor subsidy, which helps a bit to attract people here," Gordon says. "But it is a small program compared with many other competing schools. Coming from a distance, as I did, the university [financing] made it easier to get a loan. It basically facilitates the paperwork and qualification.
"My understanding is that the amount of the loan is negotiated between the university and the faculty member. I saw one side of the negotiations. The point was that if the amount was too small, then I wouldn't be capable of taking advantage of it. So it had to be large enough to serve as an incentive for me to accept." Gordon purchased the La Jolla house with his wife, Michelle White, who also is a professor in UCSD's Economics Department. "The university did some financial screening," he says. "They knew our joint income and joint assets. Also, they had our salaries as security."
Further down the list of university-financed homebuyers at number 67, sociologist Amy Binder says the experience of obtaining a loan from the university was "not all that pleasant, but the outcome was good for me. I wanted to be in the city, and I was able to get into a studio condo in Hillcrest. I couldn't have afforded it otherwise. In fact, it would have been impossible." Records show that the sale price of Binder's unit was $372,000, financed by a $334,800 loan from the university. She adds that "most professors don't get paid that much, considering their level of education and training."
Below is a list of the top UCSD home buyers since January 2000 ranked by residence price, the top ten first, and followed by a sampling of the remainder. Descriptions of the faculty members and their work were obtained from their respective websites.
Roger H. Gordon
Professor of Economics
Purchase Price: $1,930,000
U.C. Mortgage: $1,095,000
"Roger Gordon graduated from Harvard College in 1972 and received a Ph.D. in Economics from MIT in 1976. He was an Assistant Professor at Princeton from 197680. He then moved to Bell Labs, where he was a Member of the Technical Staff. In 1984, he moved to the University of Michigan, first as an Associate Professor, then Professor, and later as the Reuben Kempf Professor of Economics. Since 2001, he has been a Professor of Economics at UCSD. Over the years, he has also been a visiting professor at a wide variety of universities and institutions throughout the world.
"In addition to his teaching positions, he is currently an Editor of the Journal of Public Economics, a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research and the Centre for Economic Policy Research, and a Fellow of the Econometric Society. His research has focused on diverse topics in Public Finance and the Economics of Transition."
Professor of Economics
"Ph.D. in Economics, Princeton University, 1973. M.Sc.(Econ.), London School of Economics, 1968. A.B., Harvard University, 1967. Fields of Specialization: Law and Economics, Public Finance, Urban Economics."
Peter F. Cowhey
Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies
Purchase Price: $1,547,500
U.C. Mortgage: $710,000
"Cowhey is a leading expert in the fields of international communications and information industries. While at the FCC, from 199497, Cowhey made and directed policy for international telecommunications, Internet, and satellite services. He was also the intellectual godfather of the landmark World Trade Organization agreement on basic telecommunications services and a key member of the U.S. negotiating team. Cowhey has been a professor at IR/PS since 1987 and had directed IGCC since 1999.
" 'Peter Cowhey has proven himself in many settings both here at the university and in Washington D.C.,' said UCSD Chancellor Robert C. Dynes. 'His experience and talents, as well as his long affiliation with the School make him the ideal candidate to lead IR/PS into the 21st Century. His appointment to this position will benefit all university constituents -- not only locally, but also nationally and internationally.'"
Larry Lee Smarr
California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology
Purchase Price: $1,425,000
U.C. Mortgage: $1,000,000
"Dr. Smarr is a pioneer in prototyping a national information infrastructure to support academic research, governmental functions, and industrial competitiveness. In 1985, Dr. Smarr became the founding Director of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). In 1997, he became in addition the founding Director of the National Computational Science Alliance, comprised of over fifty universities, government labs, and corporations linked with NCSA in a national-scale virtual enterprise to prototype the information infrastructure of the 21st Century. Most recently, Dr. Smarr became the founding Director of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology, which spans the Universities of California at San Diego and Irvine. Dr. Smarr received his Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin and conducted observational, theoretical, and computational based astrophysical sciences research for fifteen years before becoming Director of NCSA."
Stanley J. Opella
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Purchase price: $1,350,000
U.C. Mortgage: $1,000,000
"B.S., University of Kentucky, 1969; Ph.D., Stanford University, 1974; Postdoctoral Fellow, M.I.T., 19751976; Professor of Chemistry, University of Pennsylvania, 19762000. Appointed to faculty, 2000. The overall goal of the research program is to develop protein expression systems, instrumentation, and experimental methods so that NMR spectroscopy can be used to study all of the proteins encoded in a genome. Substantial progress has been made through the development of high-resolution solid-state NMR methods, and it is now possible to obtain completely resolved and assigned spectra of proteins in membrane bilayers and virus particles."
Endowed Chair, Professor, Electrical & Computer
Purchase Price: $1,340,000
U.C. Mortgage: $550,000
"Bang-Sup Song, the Charles Lee Powell Chair in Wireless Communication, came to UCSD in 1999, after 13 years on the faculty at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he directed the Coordinated Science Laboratory. He was on the technical staff at AT&T Bell Laboratories, Murray Hill, receiving a Distinguished Technical Staff Award from AT&T Bell Laboratories in 1986, a Career Development Professor Award from Analog Devices in 1987, and a Xerox Senior Faculty Research Award from the University of Illinois in 1995."
Jack E. Dixon
Professor of Pharmacology, Cellular & Molecular Medicine and Chemistry & Biochemistry
Dean for Scientific Affairs
Purchase price: $1,250,000
U.C. Mortgage: $850,000
"Cells are highly responsive to signals from their environment. These signals include growth factors, neuronal firing, or even the presence of a bacteria or pathogen that has invaded the body. The sensing and processing of these signals are carried out by molecular circuits within the cell which detect, amplify and integrate these signals into a specific response. One of the most widely utilized cellular responses to environmental signals is to change the phosphorylation strategy of specific proteins. The level of protein phosphorylation is controlled by two families of enzymes known as protein kinases and phosphatases. My laboratory is interested in deciphering the role of the phosphatases in various cellular paradigms, as phosphatases play key roles in the ontogeny of cancer as well as the processes of axonal pathfinding and bacterial pathogenesis."
Iwama Professor of Materials Science
Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
Purchase Price: $1,150,000
UC Mortgage: $400,000
"Contributed to the advancement of science and technology with world-class, trend-setting research in the fields of electronic, magnetic, optical, superconducting, electronic packaging, biomaterials, nanomaterials and MEMS materials and devices. The pioneering and leadership nature of the contributions is evident by a large number of Science Citation Index (~5000), US Patents (>180 issued or pending), publications (~220), and invited talks (~90). In response to the worldwide cobalt supply crisis in early 1980s, Dr. Jin developed a series of cobalt-free, square-loop semi-hard magnet materials including Fe-20Ni-4Mo and Fe-8Mn alloys. They are now widely used in billions/year of anti-theft security tags for electronic surveillance in various retail stores."
Michael L. Norman
Professor of Physics
Purchase Price: $1,100,000
UC Mortgage: $495,000
"Computational astrophysics and cosmology; numerical algorithm and code development, especially for problems in astrophysical fluid dynamics (gas dynamics, MHD, radiation hydrodynamics, etc.); supercomputing. Application interests include star formation (present day and primordial), ISM, astrophysical jets, supernova remnants, and the hydrodynamics of cosmological structure formation. I direct the Laboratory for Computational Astrophysics at UCSD."
Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science
Purchase price: $975,000
U.C. Mortgage: $555,000
"A scholar of racial and ethnic politics, urban politics, direct democracy, and political behavior, Hajnal has published in the American Political Science Review, the Journal of Politics, Social Science Quarterly, and other journals and edited volumes. His published work has focused on minority representation, racial segregation, interest group politics, and neighborhood poverty. Hajnal is currently working on a book manuscript that examines the impact of black mayoral leadership on white racial attitudes and voting behavior. He is also currently working on a project examining the multiple dimensions of Independent party choice. Hajnal is a former research fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California and a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at Brandeis University."
Professor, Bioorganic Chemistry, Molecular Self-Assembly,
Purchase price: $870,000
U.C. Mortgage: $500,000
"My lab is interested in using organic chemistry as a tool to study problems in biology and materials science. Emerging fields such as chemical biology and nanotechnology afford unique opportunities for chemists to explore the characteristic details of natural and artificial systems at the molecular scale. The foundation of my interdisciplinary program lies in organic synthesis which allows for designing structures with tailored chemical function. In addition to synthetic techniques, students will be trained in a broad range of analytical and physical methods to probe the molecular details of their systems. From these studies, we will address critical problems in chemistry, biology, and materials science."
Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry
Purchase Price: $691,000
"The research in my group is broadly concerned with many-body phenomena in biology, chemistry, and physics. A major theme is understanding systems where a large diversity of long lived states is involved, necessitating the use of a statistical characterization of an energy or attractor landscape. The most notable examples are glasses, liquids, biomolecules, and biomolecular regulatory networks."
Assistant Professor, Department of
Purchase Price: $630,000
U.C. Mortgage: $567,000
"Goldfarb is a digital media artist, curator, and educator. His research and visual media production focuses on media studies and contemporary visual and digital culture. His book, Visual Pedagogy: Media Cultures in and Beyond the Classroom (Duke University Press, 2002), considers how media technologies were used in the second half of the 20th Century to advance a model of pedagogy across the arts, education, and postcolonial politics in the United States and globally. Goldfarb's digital art projects have been exhibited nationally, internationally, and on the Web. 'Ocular Convergence,' an interactive, fictional, and critical examination of digital prosthetics for enhancing vision, has traveled to museums throughout the U.S. and to Mexico City, Calgary, Paris, and Johannesburg. Goldfarb was curator of education at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in NYC from 199497 where he organized 'alt.youth.media' (Fall 1996), an exhibition of computer art, video, and popular print media (zines) by and for youth."
Ana Celia Zentella
Professor, Ethnic Studies
Purchase Price: $575,000
U.C. Mortgage: $500,000
"Professor Ana Celia Zentella, who identifies herself as an anthropolitical linguist, is a central figure in the study of U.S. Latino varieties of Spanish and English, bilingualism, Spanglish, and English-only laws. Her book, Growing up Bilingual: Puerto Rican Children in New York (Blackwell, 1997) won the 1998 Book Prize of the British Association of Applied Linguistics and the 1999 Book Award of the Association of Latina and Latino Anthropologists of the American Anthropology Association. Manhattan's Borough President Ruth Messinger declared October 30, 1997, "Doctor Ana Celia Zentella Day" for "her leading role in building appreciation for language diversity and respect for language rights."
Purchase price: $535,000
U.C. Mortgage: $481,000
"My research concerns the nature of mind and cognition and its physical implementation in the brain. This involves me in an embarrassingly large number of areas, including philosophy of representation, semantics (of natural language), theoretical neuroscience, and metaphysics. It may come as some surprise that these are all intimately inter-related in my work."
Professor, Comparative Literature
Purchase Price: $425,000
U.C. Mortgage: $382,500
"Yingjin Zhang received his M.A. from the University of Iowa in 1987 and Ph.D. in comparative literature from Stanford University in 1992. Before joining the UCSD faculty in 2001 as Professor of Chinese Literature and Film, Comparative Literature, and Cultural Studies, he taught at Indiana University in Bloomington, where he was honored with an Outstanding Junior Faculty Award in 1996. He served as President of the American Association of Chinese Comparative Literature in 199394 and received, among others, a Postdoctoral Fellowship from the University of Michigan in 199596 and a Summer Faculty Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1999. His teaching interests include Chinese and comparative literature, Chinese cinema (including Hong Kong and Taiwan), Asian and Asian American cinema, media industry, visual culture, urban studies, transnational cultural politics, and cultural history. He has published five books and a dozen essays in English with academic presses such as Curzon, Duke, Hawaii, Indiana, Michigan, Routledge, and Stanford."
Amy J. Binder
Purchase Price: $372,000
U.C. Mortgage: $334,800
"Although seemingly disparate in focus, my work consistently centers on the meaning-making processes enacted in my research settings. Whether it is in studying media practices involved in framing popular culture (American Sociological Review 1993), employers' expectations of their young workers' academic skill levels (Sociology of Education 1997), Afrocentrists' identity construction vis à vis multiculturalists (chapter in Russell Sage Foundation/University of Chicago Press edited volume 1999), public schools' responses to Afrocentric and creationist challenges in the 1980s and 1990s (Princeton University Press 2002), or organizations' mediation between the welfare state and individual poor people's lives (current project on transitional housing), my work concentrates on the effects that cultural beliefs have on human action, and how these beliefs contribute to the stratification of society."
Assistant Professor of Music
Purchase Price: $333,000
U.C. Mortgage: $299,600
"Borgo is a jazz composer and improviser on saxophone and various woodwinds with performance experience throughout the United States, Europe, Asia, and South America. He won first prize at the 1994 John Coltrane Festival and has compact disc recordings as both leader and collaborator on the Resurgent Music, Positone, and Acoustic Levitation labels. His most recent double-disc recording, titled With and Against, features 11 original compositions for jazz quartet recorded in Los Angeles and while on tour in Hong Kong and Macau. Borgo's research has explored the transcultural practice of contemporary improvised music from a multidisciplinary perspective, incorporating insight from sociological, mathematical, philosophical, linguistic, and literary paradigms. In particular, he has investigated the contemporary scientific understandings of order and disorder in complex nonlinear dynamical systems emerging in biology and cognitive science, chaos and complexity studies and self-organized criticality."
Assistant Professor, Department of
Purchase Price: $305,000
U.C. Mortgage: $276,450
"Giovanna Chesler is a filmmaker, writer, and cinematographer. She is dedicated to producing films about women and female characters that reveal unique and diverse female perspectives and experiences. Giovanna's background in Anthropology, Archaeology, and Women's Studies at the University of Virginia, informs her films which address issues of perspective, gender, and culture. Sound practice and theory figure prominently in Giovanna's film work and critical research. Her most recent film, hand-some (16mm, 12 min, © 2003), is an experimental documentary. This film, which attempts to address issues of sexuality and beauty through a significant moment in a lesbian relationship, turns inside out when that relationship falls apart in front of the camera. The failure of the relationship and the obsession of the filmmaker for the topic reveal the inherent dangers of documentary filmmaking and the negative effect capturing reality has on reality."
Associate Professor, Visual Arts
Purchase Price: $290,000
U.C. Mortgage: $246,500
"Adriene Jenik is a telecommunications media artist who has been working for over 15 years as an artist, teacher, curator, administrator, and engineer. She received her BA in English from Douglass College, Rutgers University and her MFA in Electronic Arts from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Prior to joining the UCSD faculty, Jenik was employed as an engineer in the Blast Jr. development team for Disney Online's Daily Blast. Over the past 10 years she has taught a broad range of electronic media classes at California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), UC Irvine, University of Southern California (USC), and UCLA's New Media Lab.
"From her early productions with Paper Tiger TV and Deep Dish TV (19851990), performances with the band Snakes & Ladders, and publications with the 'zine collective SCREAMBOX (with Pam Gregg and Bryn Austin), Jenik's artistic projects have continued to straddle and trouble the borders between art and popular culture."
Professor, Visual Arts
Purchase price: $281,500
U.C. Mortgage: $255,100
"Lesley Stern is the author of The Scorsese Connection (The British Film Institute and Indiana University Press, 1995) and The Smoking Book (The University of Chicago Press, 1999) and co-editor of Falling For You: Essays on Cinema and Performance. Her work moves between a number of disciplinary locations, and spans both theory and production. Although her reputation was established in the fields of film theory and history, she is also known for her fiction writing and her video productions.
"Lesley was born and raised in Zimbabwe, and spent many years in Australia before moving to UCSD in 2000. She has an Honors degree from London University (in English Language and Literature) and a Ph.D. from Sydney University (in film). She has taught in a number of countries, including Zimbabwe (at the University of Zimbabwe), the United Kingdom (Glasgow University), Australia (La Trobe and Murdoch Universities and the University of New South Wales) and the United States (U.C. Irvine)."
Professor of Fiction Writing, Poetry Writing, Short Fiction, Poet's Novel, Writing between Genres, The Libretto, and Pathetic Literature, Department of Literature
Purchase price: $268,000
U.C. Mortgage: $242,400
"Eileen Myles has written thousands of poems since she gave her first reading at CBGB's in 1974. She is currently writing a novel called The Inferno about the hell of being a female poet. And she's collaborating with LA composer Michael Webster on an opera called Hell. In a recent profile, the New York Times described Myles as "a cult figure to a generation of post-punk females forming their own literary avant garde." She was the artistic director of St. Mark's Poetry Project in the '80s, conducted an open female write-in campaign for President of the United States in 1992, and has read and performed her work all over the U.S. and in Russia, Iceland, Ireland, and Germany. In 1997 and '98 Eileen Myles toured with Sister Spit's Rambling Road Show."
Lecturer, Visual Arts
Purchase price: $249,500
U.C. Mortgage: $226,150
"A serial collaborator, he was a co-founder of the Electronic Disturbance Theater in 1998, for which he co-developed software called FloodNet, which has been used on behalf of the Zapatista movement against the websites of the Presidents of Mexico and the United States, as well as the Pentagon. As Forbes Magazine put it, 'Perhaps the first electronic attack against a target on American soil was the result of an art project.' For EDT, this was all learned behavior taught by the example of the Zapatistas.
"Current projects revolve around landscape experimentation and theory, both in collaboration with C5 (www.c5corp.com) and with the painter Paula Poole. In 1997 he participated in Landscape Painting as Counter-Surveillance of Area 51, a site-specific performance at the border of the well-known secret air base. As part of that performance, he instigated an investigation of his activities by the Department of Defense and the FBI after he spammed a large number of unpublished email addresses at Nellis Air Force Base.
"Paula and Brett spend as much time as possible in the Great Basin, performing their vocational pursuits as artists, as well at their avocational interests in archeology, geography, geology, natural history, and low-impact, minimalist camping. The Great Basin provides the immense scale, subjective context, and open access to remote space that combines the above interests into a multiplicity of possible outcomes. The goal is to conceptually explore in the spaces between disciplines of interest to us -- for example, between database and painting."