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Faculty Senate gives Academic Council membership to center fellows

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The Faculty Senate voted on Thursday to grant Stanford center fellows membership of the Academic Council, giving them the privileges of serving as a principal investigator — the lead researcher on a project — and serving as the principal advisor on Ph.D. dissertations. 

Some professors opposed the decision, citing concerns over granting center fellows additional privileges. Political science professor Judith Goldstein argued that center fellows might not have the proper interests or training to be principal thesis advisors. 

“Until we can figure out the guardrails between someone who was appointed one way and slips into the teaching world, I find it very difficult to support [the motion],” she said. 

Jeremy Weinstein, a political science professor and a senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute, addressed Goldstein’s reservations: “Our guidance tells us that the departments are in a position to make judgments about who can be a principal thesis advisor.”

“If that remains in the discretion of the department,” he continued, “there’s zero risk that we would find ourselves in a position where people are the principal thesis advisor for a thesis granted in the department without the approval of the department.”

Weinstein also said that granting these privileges to center fellows could help them attract better talent.

“Imagine putting yourself in the position of trying to recruit excellent people having gone through a whole process that goes up to the [advisory] board, but then denying them the ability to run grants, which are central to the research that they want to do as part of a policy-focused research institute, or to engage with students,” he said.

Goldstein later said that Academic Council membership is also “a tool that comes with a bundle of privileges.”

“Someone who is excellent at maybe doing some kind of physics, because they have Academic Council membership, can serve on any one of our Academic Council committees and make decisions that have huge implications to things very far out of their domain,” she said.

The motion was approved along with measures to create two additional titles: “Assistant Professor (Teaching)” and “Advanced Lecturer.” The Faculty Senate also voted to remove academic titles that are no longer in use and received two memorial resolutions honoring Donald Carpenter, professor emeritus in electrical engineering, and Luis Fajardo, professor emeritus in pathology.

Contact Michael Espinosa at mesp2021 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

Michael Espinosa '21 is majoring in international relations. He's the head of The Daily's social media team and also writes for the University beat. He's the biggest Taylor Swift fan at Stanford and the proudest New Yorker will ever meet. Contact him at mesp2021 'at' stanford.edu.