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Long-range planning community discussion addresses affordability, curriculum

JULIA INGRAM/The Stanford Daily

At a long-range planning town hall on Wednesday, President Tessier-Lavigne and Provost Persis Drell addressed community concerns surrounding affordability for staff and graduate students and the redesign of undergraduate majors, among others.

The event was the latest in a series of open forums held at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR) to allow faculty, staff and students to submit questions about the planning process, for which Drell and Tessier-Lavigne recently released a big-picture vision  — created from white papers compiled by steering groups: Education, Research, Community and Engagement Beyond Our University.

Both Tessier-Lavigne and Drell emphasized the importance of community input in the long-range planning process.

“The thing so exciting to me is how our community has come together to think about how we can be the best university possible,” Tessier-Lavigne said.

Audience members submitted a number of questions addressing the cost of living on campus and in the Bay area more generally. Tessier-Lavigne called attention to the Affordability Task force outlined in the white papers, a group that aims to examine housing, transportation, benefits and healthcare.

Drell emphasized the importance of making Stanford financially accessible to people who serve in a variety of positions on campus.

“We will want to have stakeholder groups that are made of the people that are struggling right now,” she said. “[This includes] individuals who are able to represent communities and have a good track record of reaching out to those communities.”

However, Drell said that there was a limit to monetary equity on Stanford’s campus.

“I don’t think we will ever aspire to equity where all aspects of community have the same benefits and same pay scale,” she said, emphasizing Stanford’s goal of hiring “the best in the world.”

“[Faculty] go through an incredible process to get tenure, and they are in many ways a lifeblood of this university, and the rest of us have to understand that,” Drell continued. “To get the best person to Stanford requires a different structure, including housing, that is simply not available to everyone.”

Regardless, Drell acknowledged affordability as a priority in order to recruit and maintain such faculty.

“If we cannot hire and retain outstanding staff at this institution, we will not remain an outstanding institution,” she said.

Other issues audience members raised concerned the undergraduate curriculum, especially with regard to the 21st-century major program, which aims to refocus majors and pedagogical approaches toward modern learning.

“Jobs are going to change. We need to prepare [students] for change and the ability to adapt to a constantly changing world,” Tessier-Lavigne said.

Tessier-Lavigne also touched on what he has observed as students’ duel interest in both technical fields and the humanities and social sciences.

“We don’t necessarily make it easy for students to do those pairings in a meaningful way,” he said.

He mentioned the Faculty Senate’s ongoing review of the WAYS distribution requirements as current efforts to mitigate the issue. Drell said that University will seek more student input on the curriculum revisions, citing the CS + X program as an example of an underutilized program that was created with little student input.

Other questions submitted concerned equity of facilities between men and women on tenure tracks.

Forest Peterson B.S. ’07 Ph.D. ’18, who submitted the question, however, feels this stems in part from challenges that come with having children at Stanford as a student.

“This is difficult for me but career-ending for women,” he noted after the meeting.

Drell spoke to mitigating racial and gender inequities by “diversifying the entire pipeline.”

“We have not made anywhere near respectable progress for underrepresented minorities … but it is something we are absolutely committed to looking at,” she said. ‘

The next community conversation will take place next Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. in the Pacific Ocean conference room at 3160 Porter Drive.

 

Contact Julia Ingram at jmingram ‘at’ stanford.edu.

 

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