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‘Prepare for perhaps the worst’ on finances, provost says; Elam calls on Uni to do more for FLI students

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Provost Persis Drell updated the Faculty Senate on Thursday about preparing the University’s budget for the next fiscal year. Drell said Stanford is asking all University units to prepare for a scenario that involves “a 15% reduction in endowment payout and 10% reduction in general funds.” 

But the provost stressed that this is hypothetical and that budget outlooks remain uncertain.

“I just want to emphasize this is only a scenario, but given the uncertainties and the difficult situation that we’re all aware of, we need to prepare.” Drell said. “We need to prepare for perhaps the worst that might be coming. At the same time of course, we’ll hope for better times.”

Later at the meeting, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Harry Elam gave his final report to the Faculty Senate. Elam, who is leaving Stanford to become the 16th president of Occidental College, focused on four topics: diversity and equity, the first-year experience, engaging faculty and bridging the “techie-fuzzy” divide. 

He called on the University to strengthen its support for first-generation and/or low-income (FLI) students and equity, inclusion and diversity initiatives.

“One of the pieces of unfinished business that concerns me deeply as I leave, but one that I know others including our provost who continue to champion, is that we need to do more so that our first-gen, low-income students can thrive from the very beginning,” he said.

Elam highlighted initiatives that make him optimistic about the future of the undergraduate experience.

Frosh 101, a two-unit, discussion-based course meant to ease students’ transition to Stanford, “reflects our commitment to ensuring that all undergraduates received the support they required to thrive emotionally, socially and intellectually, to build a healthy and respectful student culture, and to create an inclusive community,” he said.

Elam also called for some form of a faculty college, where faculty can discuss pedagogy across different disciplines, as long-range planning initiatives around the undergraduate experience are implemented.

“When the new first-year curriculum is piloted and potentially implemented, it will need a platform to incubate ideas and discuss pedagogical assignments, in addition to content,” Elam said.

He also mentioned several strides he made during his tenure to integrate the arts into the Stanford experience, but he acknowledged that there still remains a divide between “techies and fuzzies.” He ended by appealing to students to reject this distinction.

“Despite our gains, there remains a cultural tradition of students referring to science and engineering majors as ‘techies,’ who do and make real and important things, and to humanities and arts and social science majors dismissively as ‘fuzzies,’ vague thinking and unconvincing in social significance.” Elam said. “I have hoped and still do that we could exorcise this pejorative and artificial hierarchy.”

The Faculty Senate also received a report from Vice Provost for Faculty Diversity and Engagement Matt Snipp on faculty gains and losses from the past 20 years. According to Snipp, report is confidential because it deals with personal data, such as the race and gender of faculty, but is available to departments on a need to know basis.

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 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.
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