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Stanford still plans for juniors and seniors to return in spring, but won’t seal the deal until March

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The University still plans to invite juniors and seniors to campus in the spring and will confirm the plans or announce adjustments the week of March 1, wrote Provost Persis Drell and Vice Provost for Student Affairs Susie Brubaker-Cole in a Tuesday email.

They added that they could not confirm that the planned deadline would be the final update to spring-quarter plans. How much water that deadline holds is unclear anyway in the wake of Stanford’s last-minute cancellation of its plans to bring frosh and sophomores to campus this quarter. The University previously had pledged to communicate any changes to its plans by Dec. 14 and reaffirmed on Dec. 7 that frosh and sophomores would be returning to campus come winter.

The key factors in making a decision will be the public health situation in Santa Clara County, the University’s capacity to bring students back safely and the in-person experience public-health guidelines allow, according to the email.

But the email did not give specific numbers or scenarios that would prevent students from coming back to campus. The email also did not address plans to invite frosh and sophomores back to campus for the summer quarter.

The outlook in California is a mixed bag: While cases are levelling off after a holiday surge, vaccine rollout has lagged behind other states. University spokesperson E.J. Miranda declined to comment on how those factors could affect spring quarter and declined to provide additional information beyond the email. 

The University further committed to engaging with the student government, the Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU), to integrate student perspectives in campus-wide decisions on an ongoing basis, following criticism of the last-minute cancellation of winter-quarter plans and a perception that student input was left out of the decision-making process.

“This has been a hard period for students, in many ways, and we regret that the timing of the winter decision added to the challenges,” Drell and Brubaker-Cole wrote. “We appreciate the grace and resolve with which you are meeting the circumstances before you.”

Students say they are skeptical about the March 1 deadline, especially given how both the fall- and winter-quarter cancellations played out. About a month before fall quarter, the University canceled plans to bring half the undergraduate population back to campus.  

“At the end of the day, students should just be able to trust their university to be making the choice that’s best for them,” said ASSU Executive Chief of Staff Jianna So ’22. “Even with all this transparency, I think it’s really disappointing that students still have to gauge how valid the University’s decision is to bring students back.”

Some students felt that their perspectives weren’t prioritized in the decision to cancel winter-quarter plans and wished there was more student input in that decision-making process. 

ASSU President Vianna Vo ’21 said the ASSU has been in communication with the University about student reactions to the cancellation, as well as mitigating the financial and emotional impact of the decision. She said the University was receptive to ASSU suggestions, and that she hoped student input could be more proactively integrated into spring-quarter decision-making. 

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Kaushikee Nayudu '24 is a staff writer for The Daily. Contact her at knayudu ‘at’ stanforddaily.com.
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Carolyn Stein is a contributing writer from Los Angeles, California. She is pursuing coursework in psychology, East Asian studies and comparative literature. On campus, you can find her making loud noises with the LSJUMB. Contact her at news 'at' stanforddaily.com.