By Caleb Smith
At its meeting Wednesday night, the Graduate Student Council (GSC) heard from administrators about steps the University is taking to solve the ongoing graduate student housing shortage. The GSC also approved a series of funding requests.
Representatives from Residential & Dining Enterprises (R&DE) and the Graduate Life Office (GLO) presented to the GSC about the work the Stanford administration is doing on the housing issue, which they said has caused 1,100 students or so to live in off-campus apartment sites. Michael VanFossen, the Director of Planning & Project Management for R&DE, said that the recent appeal of the Escondido Village construction plan by critics of the current plan would be held by a county commission. VanFossen believed that the appeal would most likely be heard on either Nov. 15 or Dec. 15. If that decision is appealed, the matter would proceed to the Santa Clara County Board for Supervisors for final hearing. Although some preliminary work can be accomplished before the appeals process is exhausted, delays in the project were anticipated as a result of the appeals.
The University representatives also pushed back on the notion that the new development project was forcing graduate students with families into off campus housing. These representatives said that the housing in Escondido Village South was actually capable of accommodating 88 families but is presently only serving 31.
The issue of parking came up during the meeting as well. VanFossen said that although the total amount of parking may be greater after the construction than before, there will be a temporary reduction in available parking during the construction. Stanford is considering additional programs to incentivize affected graduate students to not bring cars to campus, such as possibly providing Amazon Prime accounts or Uber credits.
Although the prices for the new apartments have not been determined, VanFossen said that he imagined that the rates would be similar to those in the Kennedy housing development. GSC member Isamar Rosa Ph.D. ’18 asked about the high cost per bed in the new development. VanFossen cited new amenities, shared common space, and the underground parking garage as factors that helped cause the per unit cost to be so high. VanFossen said that in the San Francisco Bay Area, an underground parking space can often cost $40,000 to $50,000 each. Ken Hsu, the Director of the Graduate Life Office, said that Stanford seeks to avoid unnecessary expenditures on construction projects.
VanFossen also said that due to the delayed construction timeline, people may receive an extension before they have to move their cars if they are presently parked in construction due to be demolished.
The GSC also held a brief discussion of changing how they handle funding requests, an item which may receive further consideration in next week’s meeting.
The GSC also funded the Rains Halloween Party and approved funding requests from oSTEM, the Stanford African Entrepreneurship Club, Stanford Youth Cultural Exchange Initiative, Stanford India Association and the Black Graduate Student Association.