The last year has been a turbulent time for Stanford University with broad implications for the future character and extent of the institution. This manifested itself most dramatically in the rise of Stanford as a favorite in the high-stakes competition to build a new technology campus in New York City (for which Stanford was prepared to spend $2.5 billion), and in Stanford’s subsequent withdrawal of its application. Closer to home, 2011 saw the beginning of work on the $5 billion expansion of the Stanford Medical Center, dubbed “Project: Renewal,” as well as the opening of a new campus for the Graduate School of Business; major progress in the construction of the Bing Concert Hall; the new Arrillaga Family Dining Commons; and other smaller projects.
While we regret that Stanford and New York were unable to find a mutually beneficial agreement, we respect the University’s decision to look after the interests of its community in the face of the supposedly rising demands placed upon it by Mayor Bloomberg and the city government. Though details of the negotiations remain vague and University staff members have responded amiably when asked for comment, the early enthusiasm on the part of Stanford University President John Hennessy for a New York campus suggests that something rather drastic likely happened to upend the situation. Nevertheless, the Stanford environment is set to continue to continue its improvement in 2012, though the changes will be intensive rather than extensive in nature.
One of the most encouraging recent developments is the new Campus Energy Systems Improvement project recently approved by the University Board of Trustees. As any student who has seen the vast cloud of hot steam that towers over the University on chilly mornings can attest, the current system can surely be improved upon. The $438 million dollar plan is set to significantly reduce Stanford’s water and energy use. While the benefits of this new infrastructure will be largely invisible, they will be quite real.
More saliently, Stanford’s short and medium term development looks to be dominated by two broad projects: the aforementioned expansion of the Medical Center and the creation of a new arts district centered on the existing Cantor Arts Center that will encompass the future Bing Concert Hall as well as a recently approved $85 million, 96,000 square-foot building that will host the University’s Art and Art History departments.
The simultaneous construction of a state-of-the-art hospital for both treatment and research and the arts district taking shape near Museum Way say a great deal about Stanford’s institutional identity. In an age of specialization, Stanford maintains a strong presence across many different disciplines and fields of human endeavor. If the drama and change of 2011 is any indication, 2012 promises to be another newsworthy chapter in the ongoing creation of a university that began in 1891.