Stanford administration and faculty are working with the 18th Undergraduate Senate to build stronger communication with the student body through administrative office hours.
The initiative started on Monday, Jan. 9, with office hours held by Director of Undergraduate Advising and Research Louis Newman.
The idea for the initiative came about at a quarterly dinner with the Undergraduate Senate held by Vice Provost for Student Affairs Greg Boardman. Boardman said that Senate expressed interest in making administrative decisions more transparent for students, and that administrators were happy to oblige.
“I had one student show up [to office hours] this week; it was the first day of classes,” Boardman said. “It was a great conversation.”
Boardman thanked Chair of the Undergraduate Senate Shanta Katipamula ’19 for organizing the initiative. Katipamula holds office hours from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Fridays, which she describes as open to other senators.
“Before I ran for Senate, I had no idea what it was,” Katipamula said. “A lot of people don’t know we have an Undergraduate Senate, and these office hours are an opportunity to bridge the barrier between the students and us.”
As the initiative improves, other senators will coordinate individual office hours. Office hours are meant to be one-on-one conversations with students, usually about 10 minutes each.
Katipamula encourages students to express their comments and concerns, specifically mentioning conversations on administrative changes such as the hard alcohol policy and the Band ban.
“I hope students take advantage of the opportunity,” she said. “Especially during the last six months, it has been difficult to be a Stanford student.”
Katipamula credits TG Sido ’18 for developing the idea. According to Sido, office hours build off of the importance of having face-to-face interactions to show investment in an idea or question.
“Even if it’s just one person, that’s one more voice, one more opinion the administrators can draw from,” Sido said.
Senior Associate Vice Provost of Institutional Equity and Access Lauren Schoenthaler was recently hired to her position and is a strong proponent of relying on the student body to identify University problems. She cited the Beyond Sex Ex program for freshmen as an example of a program developed by students.
“I think my understanding and students’ understanding are going to be different, and when students are willing to come in and share that with administrators, I think that’s valuable and that’s how we make a better Stanford,” Schoenthaler said.
Schoenthaler holds hours from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays.
Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Harry Elam added that administrators hold office hours to be transparent and build relationships with students. He encourages students to come and speak.
His office hours, which began last year with the development of OpenXChange, are held from 12 p.m. 1 p.m. on Wednesdays. Elam says that if he cannot make office hours, he will keep the same time and have the senior vice provost or the senior associate vice provost step in.
“Hopefully if a student has a question that is that burning, they take the opportunity to come and talk to one of us,” Elam said.
Contact Gillian Brassil at gbrassil ‘at’ stanford.edu.