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Faculty Senate reviews $100 million budget cuts, questions University relationship with Hoover Institution

Drell tells Senate there has been “better than expected endowment performance”

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The Faculty Senate reviewed updates to the University budget and amended the unit cap from the Future of the Major proposal during its Thursday afternoon meeting. Senators also expressed concern over the Hoover Institution and its relationship to Stanford. 

Provost Persis Drell introduced the University budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year, announcing approximately $100 million in budget cuts to applicable general funds. Drell explained that there have been surprises: according to her, the endowment performed “better than expected,” and the University was not able to invite as many students as it planned to campus for fall quarter. 

“We still have much uncertainty ahead of us,” Drell said. “Another source of uncertainty has been both the economy and the damage done to the economy by the pandemic.”  

Drell added that “some very difficult decisions” were made but expressed optimism. 

“I believe that we are protected as best we can be at this point against the continued volatility and uncertainty,” she said. 

The Senate unanimously passed an amendment that set procedures for departments seeking external accreditation to receive an exception to the Future of the Major 100-unit cap on majors. The amendment also extends the accreditation exemption to include other agencies, in addition to the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) accreditation. With this new amendment, any department with accreditation concerns can pursue increased units. 

“I do think [the amendment is] addressing some difficulties that were embedded in the earlier proposal while keeping the goal that we share of liberal arts education,” said School of Humanities and Sciences Dean Debra Satz.

Engineering professors petitioned against the cap over the summer, saying that it could impact students’ preparedness for the workplace and endanger departments’ ability to meet accreditation standards. 

Several senators raised concerns over recent events involving the Hoover Institution. Professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences David Spiegel expressed frustration about the actions of Hoover fellow and senior White House Advisor Scott Atlas and his statements on coronavirus health precautions.

“Thus, there is clear evidence that Atlas has violated Stanford’s code of conduct, as well as that of the AMA [American Medical Association],” Spiegel said. 

“I can say the following: members of our community hold many different views, some of them controversial and, as you know, they are entitled to express those views,” University President Marc Tessier-Lavigne said in response. 

Civil and environmental engineering professor Stephen Monismith also asked if the University would take action in response to reports that the Hoover Institution’s Board of Overseers received private briefings from the Trump administration, warning that COVID-19 could significantly impact the economy. 

“It is absolutely true that in the somewhat distant past Hoover has been very disjointed from the rest of Stanford,” Drell said. “But over the past decade, Hoover has become much more integrated into Stanford … In a very real sense, and I think this is important to keep in mind, they are, in fact, us.”

Contact Kirsten Mettler at kmettler ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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Kirsten Mettler '23 writes satire and opinions for the Daily. She is interested in political science, law and justice, and occasionally dabbles in theater.