The Board of Trustees met on Feb. 22 and 23 to receive a recommendation on fossil fuel divestment, as well as to approve tuition increases and two construction projects.
Fossil Fuel Divestment
According to Board Chair Steven Denning MBA ’78, the Board moved one step further in reviewing a student proposal that Stanford divest from 200 fossil fuel companies.
Trustees received a recommendation from the Advisory Panel on Investment Responsibility and Licensing (APIRL), which the Board’s Special Committee on Investment Responsibility (SCIR) is currently evaluating based on the six standards for divestment set forth in Stanford’s Statement on Investment Responsibility.
The committee will eventually make a recommendation to the entire Board of Trustees, after which the Board will make the final decision.
“We hope to have a response certainly by the end of the year but hopefully before then,” Denning said.
Denning declined to discuss the contents of the APIRL’s recommendation.
“I think it’s important to look at [divestment deliberations] in the context of what the ultimate decision is rather than an interim basis,” he said.
The Board also approved a 3.5 percent tuition increase for the 2016-2017 school year, repeating the 3.5 percent increase that they approved last year and the year before. Their decision brings the total cost of a Stanford education to $62,541, which includes $47,331 in tuition, $14,601 in room and board and $609 in mandatory health fees.
However, Denning emphasized that when one adjusts for inflation, the net price of attending Stanford — the average cost per student when financial aid and scholarships are factored in — has remained flat since Stanford significantly expanded its financial aid program in 2008.
According to University spokesperson Lisa Lapin, the net price for undergraduates to attend Stanford was $32,694 in the 2013-2014 school year, the most recent year for which she had data.
While affirming Stanford’s commitment to affordable education, Denning also stated that today 22 percent of Stanford students graduate with debt, compared to 45 percent 10 years ago. He also said that the average amount of debt for those 22 percent has remained relatively stable, at $16,000 per student.
Denning said that the latest tuition increases were necessary to cover salaries and other costs that are increasing in the Bay Area.
“A lot of it is just cost-of-living oriented,” he said.
The Board also approved a 3.9 percent increase in tuition for first-year MBA students at the Graduate School of Business. All other graduate programs’ tuitions will rise 3.5 percent.
Construction and other topics
The Board gave partial construction approval to the Bass Biology Research Building, which Denning said is set to be completed in late 2018. When it is finished, the $107 million building will house approximately half of the biology department’s students, faculty and staff, according to a Stanford Report article from 2014.
In addition, the Board gave design approval to a new building that will house both ChEM-H (Chemistry, Engineering & Medicine for Human Health) and the Stanford Neurosciences Institute. The 211,000 square-foot building is scheduled for completion in June of 2018.
“Juxtaposing [ChEM-H and the Stanford Neurosciences Institute] together where they can work collaboratively is viewed as something that’s extraordinarily positive,” Denning said.
The Board also heard from John Mitchell, the vice provost for teaching and learning, who presented on the Year of Learning initiative, new course evaluations and the state of online learning at Stanford and beyond.
According to Denning, Mitchell said that the new course evaluation system provides more flexibility in assessing individual courses and incorporating faculty input.
Mitchell discussed Stanford as a leader with regard to online education and emphasized a need to assess the effectiveness of online learning.
Finally, the Board’s two-day meeting included a Council of Trustees meeting, a gathering for former trustees that occurs once every two years.
Denning said that the meeting had “record turnout… probably more than we’ve had in the last decade plus.” He believes that many former trustees were eager to hear outgoing Stanford President John Hennessy’s speech at the event.
“I think that’s a real testament to [Hennessy’s] leadership,” Denning said. “What’s happened over the past 16 years, it’s just a remarkable story, and so I think a lot of people were coming back so they could hear that firsthand from John.”
As one illustration of Hennessy’s legacy, Denning pointed to the $5.5 billion of construction that has transformed Stanford’s campus over the past 16 years. In terms of dollars, building projects during Hennessy’s time as president amount to over half of the building value on campus, Denning said.
“I think you’ve got a much more functional campus,” he added. “You’ve got one that’s much more adherent to the original architecture plans that were established, you’ve created things where there were relative deficiencies like the arts district.”
After listening to Hennessy, attendees of the Council of Trustees meeting went to visit the newest addition to the rejuvenated arts district, the Anderson Collection.