Next academic year could start in winter, provost says

Administrators also discuss University’s slumping finances, pay for contracted workers

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University leadership convened Thursday for the first Faculty Senate meeting of spring quarter, fielding questions about pay for subcontracted workers, describing the University’s slumping finances and discussing possible plans for fall quarter — including starting the next academic year in the winter. 

After intense activism, the University announced on Tuesday that it would work with contract firms so that they would “be supported” in maintaining income and benefits for workers through June 15, something Stanford committed to providing for its regular employees.

Comparative literature professor David Palumbo-Liu asked what the University was doing to ensure continuation pay for workers of contract firms, and whether additional sick leave was being provided for subcontracted workers, one of whom tested positive for COVID-19. Drell responded by saying she did not know individual company policies, but that they would assess support for contract firms, based on the relief each firm received from the CARES Act, the Federal Government’s coronavirus relief legislation.

“Each contractor or vendor has a different set of security policies,” Drell said. “I don’t know what each individual contractor or vendor is doing.”

Drell said that relief provided by Stanford to contracted firms would also go toward workers who were laid off before Tuesday’s announcement, and that the University would work with each firm individually to assist with providing healthcare for its employees.

ASSU Executive President Erica Scott ’20 asked the provost if she was willing to meet with the leaders of Stanford Students for Workers’ Rights. Drell responded, “I’ve always been willing to meet with ASSU leadership … as your leadership has wanted to meet with me.”

On the budget, the provost noted that, despite initial projections the University would finish the fiscal year with a $126 million surplus, the University suffered a “$200 million reversal in consolidated budget.”

She said that the losses came from a variety of sources, including lost room-and-board revenue for about 8,000 undergraduate students, canceled summer residential programs and lost rents at Stanford-owned properties like Stanford Research Park and the Stanford Shopping Center. Stanford hospital is also seeing a revenue shortfall because all discretionary procedures are canceled as doctors face the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Drell.

Aron Rodrigue and Stephanie Kalfayan, co-chairs of the Fall Planning Task Force, answered questions about what fall quarter would look like. While both co-chairs expressed that the timing on a decision is still unclear, Rodrigue said a recommendation about fall quarter would likely be presented to the president and provost next month.

“We have about five or six different scenarios about different ways of approaching this, with pluses and minuses being discussed all the time,” Rodrigue said. 

One of those scenarios might include the possibility of Stanford having the academic year start in winter quarter, and continue with quarters in the spring and summer. At the meeting, Drell confirmed that this was one of the options.

“That is something that is being contemplated,” Drell said. “It is not impossible; it is not crazy.”

Vice Provost for Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Affairs Stacey Bent answered questions about the University’s efforts to help Ph.D. students entering a struggling job market. Bent said the initial priority was moving activities, including research and dissertation defenses, to a remote format. Bent said that some departments have been proactive in supporting their graduate students by giving them “teaching fellows programs or pre-doc programs that typically would go to external recipients.”

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

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