By Esha Dhawan
A revised Campus Compact “incorporating student feedback” will be available on Wednesday, following graduate student advocacy demanding changes, including a Campus Compact Coalition, a petition and open letters to administration.
Vice Provosts Susie Brubaker-Cole and Stacey Bent and Associate Vice Provost and Dean of Students Mona Hicks announced the revised compact in an email sent to graduate students on Sept. 3, writing that it will include an appeals process, an outline of violations with respective administration actions, and clarification regarding travel, events and gatherings. The deadline for signing the compact, which all students living on campus are required to sign before enrolling in classes, has moved from Sept. 1 to Sept. 14.
The revised compact comes after weeks of pushback from students and faculty. A Campus Compact Coalition Google document, organized by graduate students in various departments, encourages students to avoid signing or to “un-sign” the petition, email faculty members and administrators and attend an upcoming Reverse Town Hall.
The coalition led a protest last Monday followed by an email campaign the next day. They have encouraged graduate students to request a Graduate Cash Advance, which is available to students “facing financial difficulties because of an enrollment delay.” Students may request a total of $6,000, with additional assistance available through the Student Services Center. Late enrollment fees and penalties have been eliminated, along with penalties for canceling an R&DE housing contract for reasons related to COVID-19.
“We welcome ongoing student input as we continue to navigate the complex and evolving public health requirements to protect our campus community,” University spokesperson Dee Mostofi wrote in a statement to The Daily. Mostofi encouraged students to express concerns using a form sent to graduate students and referred to the Campus Compact website and frequently asked questions (FAQ) page for more information.
Criticism of the compact
Several students felt the compact should be completely rewritten. Second-year law student K.C. Shah said the winter quarter compact should “start from scratch” with graduate students providing the terms. Shah serves as the co-president of the Stanford Law Association and co-social chair of the GSC.
Kari Barclay, GSC co-chair and fifth-year theater and performance studies Ph.D. student, told The Daily in an email that GSC representatives are “fighting for a new compact for winter quarter drafted with student participation.”
David Palumbo-Liu, professor and director of comparative literature, told The Daily in an email that he was not aware of the compact before its release and was moved to sign a petition demanding changes because “every single graduate student I speak to is angry, dismayed, upset about the Compact” and “many feel it is unfair, opaque, and unthoughtful of the very different sorts of situations graduate students face.”
Palumbo-Liu wrote that he thought requiring all faculty and staff to sign the compact is an “excellent idea,” as “these are extraordinary times and we must commit to both sacrificing what we can and supporting each other across the board.”
The FAQ page cites public health guidance, and states that faculty and staff have protocols “handled by Stanford Environment Health & Safety, Human Resources, and the schools and academic programs” in response to whether the compact applies to their positions.
“I have so much genuine love for all the administrators I interact with — they care about students. They want to do the right thing,” Shah said, citing the decentralization of the University as a component of the problem. “This is a system problem — it’s not an individual.”
“A real focus on punishment”
Sanna Ali, a fourth-year communication Ph.D. student who serves as GSC social sciences representative and co-social chair, said “a real focus on punishment” is the most problematic aspect of the current compact. After meeting with administrators from the Office of the Vice Provost for Student Affairs (VPSA), she said that outlining violations and their respective administrative actions still seemed to be the priority.
The University “should be helping resolve interpersonal conflicts and reminding people of the importance of these rules and giving people a resource, rather than saying, ‘What can we punish you for? How do we punish you?’” she said.
The School of Engineering (SoE) Dean’s Graduate Student Advisory Council has also released a letter detailing concerns and questions about the compact. Brubaker-Cole, Hicks and Bent responded to these concerns in an email to the council which was provided to The Daily, writing, “Violations of the Compact create potential public health risks and appropriate actions, not punishment, will be taken to address these risky behaviors.”
While the FAQ page states that the panel will only take action on “serious violations” with the hope that “reminders about safe behaviors throughout campus” will be handled through “thoughtful conversations” among community members, the students interviewed by The Daily opposed the threat of punishments such as eviction.
According to the FAQ page, examples of behaviors that could “result in a student being removed from a campus housing assignment” include “attending a large social gathering that doesn’t adhere to public health guidance and/or Stanford policy,” or “consistently or deliberately” violating expectations that indicate a lack of appreciation for the “collective responsibility of keeping yourself and others safe.”
“I think [the administration was] like, maybe people are just freaking out about eviction — maybe if we outline those different levels of punishment more, that would help … when we’re saying, ‘No, no eviction, not at all,’” Ali said. “I think that’s why there’s so much concern about this Compact Review Panel … that’s meant to intimidate us and punish and enforce rather than just tell us, ‘Hey, these are the rules — please abide by them and keep in mind community health.’”
Jani Adcock, a third-year Ph.D. student in computational and mathematical engineering, wrote that no violation warrants eviction given that “eviction is a public health risk right now.”
And Shah questioned whether the University adequately considered alternatives to eviction: “I don’t think that anyone is going to get evicted, but the problem is that I just don’t know and I don’t trust the University.”
“I think being more of a resource for how to socialize safely is more important than figuring out how to police and punish these things,” Ali said.
In response to questions in the SoE letter surrounding whether eviction will be completely removed as a “punishment,” Brubaker-Cole, Hicks and Bent wrote, “Removal from campus housing for egregious violations that put community members at risk is a last resort administrative action and will remain the most serious consequence that the Panel could choose to impose, and is already part of the student housing policy.”
Students “have lost a lot of trust”
Barclay wrote that GSC representatives “are in conversation with the writers of the compact and with University administration.” Brubaker-Cole, Hicks and Bent wrote in the Sept. 3 email their “understanding of students’ sincere commitment” to keep one another safe has been “resoundingly affirmed” through these conversations with students.
In addition to proposing a new winter quarter compact, Barclay said the GSC is working for student representation on the Compact Review Panels, guidelines to avoid over-policing of vulnerable communities, alternative accountability mechanisms to eviction, changes to the guest policy and data on whom the University takes disciplinary action against.
Brubaker-Cole, Hicks and Bent wrote in response to the SoE letter, that Compact Review Panels “will consist of three members, at least one of whom will be a student.” They added that implicit bias training would be required for members of the panel.
Still, Adcock said that meetings with the University administration have been “frustrating,” and that there haven’t been “any promises of action in the meetings besides the couple slight changes that were already announced.”
One of these changes includes appealing to the county for clarification on the guest policy, which Brubaker-Cole, Hicks and Bent wrote they hope to include in the revised compact on Wednesday, though Ali said students “have lost a lot of trust in how the administration is handling” the process.
“We will continue to seek input from key stakeholders, including students, public health experts and educators, when the need for major updates is indicated,” Brubaker-Cole, Hicks and Bent wrote in response to whether student input will be included in a future compact in the SoE letter.
Barclay, Shah and Ali said that administration did not meet with GSC before the release of the compact. Shah said the compact “was supposed to start with grad students.”
Co-director of ASSU COVID-19 Response Adonis Rubio ’21 told The Daily that the ASSU Executive Cabinet was not involved in the creation of the compact — the team was onboarded after the compact had been created — but they are using their positions to center the concerns of graduate students and communicate with the VPSA office to relay student concerns and feedback.
According to Rubio, the team is putting together a COVID-19 Graduate Student Advisory Committee intended to provide feedback to administrators about COVID-19 policies affecting graduate students; the committee would include approximately 14 graduate student representatives from ASSU, GSC and others graduate student organizations.
Students have also proposed using the Office of Community Standards (OCS) to address COVID-19-related violations rather than the Compact Review Panel.
“The panel is administrative, not a judicial committee, so no actions of the panel will appear on a student’s record,” Brubaker-Cole, Hicks and Bent wrote in response to the SoE letter, adding that violations that rise to the level of violating the Fundamental Standard will be directed to OCS.
“The broader lesson that I hope the administration takes away is that democracy matters. Stipulations imposed from above by the University as our landlord, employer and visa sponsor hurt students,” Barclay wrote. “A system from above will result in evasion and dishonesty, while a system created of, by and for our community will result in true, mutual accountability.”
Contact Esha Dhawan at edhawan ‘at’ stanford.edu.