Faculty Senate pushes back 100-unit major cap by one year


Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Faculty Senate chose to delay the implementation of a mandate passed in May that all major programs not exceed 100 units. The changes were slated to go into effect for students entering Stanford during the 2021-22 school year, but will now go into effect in the following academic year.

Dean of the School of Engineering Jennifer Widom presented the motion to the Faculty Senate’s Steering Committee, saying departments across campus “are focused right now very intently on figuring out their course offerings for the coming year.”

“The idea that these departments would also need to work hard on adjusting their curriculum to meet the unit cap in the coming year is daunting,” she said. “They would like to look at the unit cap in a thoughtful manner.”

The 2020-21 academic year will consist of four quarters, including a summer quarter. Frosh and sophomores will be invited to campus for fall and summer quarters, while juniors and seniors will be allowed back for winter and spring. Most courses will be offered online, with some offering the option of in-person instruction. The University has indicated that there will be “some changes” to the quarter in which some courses are typically offered. 

The motion, which also delays the review period of this policy by one year, was unanimously approved during an administrative session of the Faculty Senate’s Steering Committee. These sessions are convened to handle “routine administrative matters, or time-sensitive COVID-19 related matters that would otherwise come before the full Senate,” according to Faculty Senate Chair Tim Stearns.

Widom said the goal of the one-year delay is not to reconsider the policy, and instead was requested because “departments are up in arms about having to do this while they’re working on other challenging things.”

Engineering faculty petitioned to reconsider the May Faculty Senate vote, claiming that capping majors at 100 units will “make majors less accessible by devaluing unit counts and deemphasizing introductory courses while also impacting students’ preparedness for the workplace.”

The petition gathered enough signatures to convene a meeting of the Academic Council, which includes all tenure-line faculty at Stanford. However, the council did not take action because the meeting did not reach quorum.

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.