Stanford cancels plans to bring half of undergrads back to campus, revokes student staff positions

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The University has cancelled nearly all in-person instruction for the upcoming fall quarter and is suspending its plans to provide on-campus housing to frosh, sophomores and incoming transfer students, according to a Thursday announcement by President Marc Tessier-Lavigne.

“The recent state guidance for higher education to curtail the spread of COVID-19 … prohibits most indoor classes while our county is still on the ‘watch list,’ and it includes other restrictions on activities that would make for a very limiting on-campus undergraduate experience this fall,” Provost Persis Drell wrote in an email to faculty.

The University will invite graduate and professional students back as planned, along with the approximately 800 undergraduates from across four class years whose petitions to return to campus have been granted. 

The new plan will allow frosh and sophomores to live on campus in winter quarter, and juniors and seniors in spring quarter, if conditions allow.

The University has revoked the positions for a majority of its 275 on-campus student staff except for those assigned to Escondido Village Graduate Residences A (EVGR-A) and Mirrielees, according to an email from Assistant Vice Provost for Residential Education Cheryl Brown. There may be RA opportunities for the limited number of students approved for on-campus housing. 

There will be no virtual student staffing roles due to “budgetary constraints and equity issues.”

Student staff “will be invited to serve in their on-campus student staff roles when the houses reopen,” she added. “We hope to honor RA, ETA, and ATA appointments for up to three quarters.” 

The decision to roll back the return-to-campus plan comes two days after the Pac-12 postponed fall sports due to concerns over COVID-19, and it also follows decisions by other institutions, most recently the University of Pennsylvania, to do the same.

Despite clear signaling from health professionals that the COVID-19 pandemic wouldn’t see an end in time for fall classes and after a series of delays in making a decision, Stanford was hopeful in inviting back half its undergraduate class each quarter while running a majority of its courses remotely. More delays and a shaky warning at the end of July all but pointed to the eventual decision to cancel on-site aspects of fall quarter.

For weeks prior, students had expressed concerns about the University’s decision to keep its housing plans in place, saying that it would endanger the health of students and workers and disproportionately affect low-income and housing insecure students who may not have the option of staying home. 

The University’s decisions in response to challenges presented by COVID-19 will continue to take its toll on workers. Two weeks ago, Stanford announced that it would permanently lay off 208 workers and furlough 30 more due to “budgetary challenges.” Tessier-Lavigne said in an Aug. 3 virtual meeting that if students were not invited back in the fall, further layoffs may  be necessary.

The first day of online classes is still scheduled for Sept. 14. The Faculty Senate recently passed a measure ensuring that all courses offered under a letter grading basis would also include optional credit/no credit (CR/NC) grading to accommodate uncertainty in the upcoming academic year.

Contact Elena Shao at eshao98 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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Elena Shao '21 is from Suwanee, Georgia. At The Daily, she is a Managing Editor for News. Outside, she's studying political science. She also enjoys learning foreign languages and is hoping to pursue a career as an investigative and data journalist. Contact her at eshao98 'at' stanford.edu.