Undergraduate senators and Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU) executives reacted with a mix of caution and joy to Stanford’s confirmation of plans to bring juniors and seniors back to campus for the spring quarter.
“It was what I expected given the falling prevalence of COVID, a low prevalence on campus, and also loosening county restrictions coupled with projections that the spring is going to be better than what it is right now,” undergraduate senator Jonathan Lipman ’21 said.
While Stanford canceled plans to bring frosh and sophomores to campus for the past two quarters, Lipman said he would be “extremely surprised” if the University changed spring plans, though he “definitely could see them changing course” if new variants in Santa Clara County lead to a spike in cases.
ASSU executives apologized in an email on Friday “for not initially including the expectations and opinions of the student body” after they received backlash for a controversial memo cautioning the administration against inviting students back to campus. In an Undergraduate Senate survey released after the memo, 60% of undergraduates strongly agreed with allowing students to return to campus if medical experts deemed the risk acceptable.
In the email, executives outlined plans to relay student needs and expectations for spring quarter to Student Affairs. They aim to send out a survey to both undergraduate and graduate students and hold town halls during week 3 of the spring quarter. They will also hold a town hall during week 5 of spring quarter to gauge frosh expectations for summer and fall quarters.
ASSU Executive Chief of Staff Jianna So ’22 and Vice President Chris Middleton ’16 J.D. ’21 said in an interview with the Daily that they expected the University to err on the side of caution for student and service worker safety.
So, who staffed a dorm in fall quarter, voiced concerns that the influx of an estimated 1,300 undergraduates will overwhelm the on-site students or staff workers who “are already unprepared for the amount of students we have on campus.” According to So, her dorm used communal bathrooms that failed to meet the maintenance requirement established by the University, asserting that this reflects “the overwork and understaffing issue for service workers.”
Residential & Dining Enterprises (R&DE) spokesperson Jocelyn Breeland wrote in an email to The Daily that R&DE hired additional staff to address residential cleaning.
“The safety and well-being of our students is the highest priority for Residential & Dining Enterprises (R&DE). Twice daily enhanced cleaning and disinfecting of common areas in student residences, including restrooms, is one of the protocols we have implemented to minimize the spread of COVID-19,” Breeland wrote. “Given the cleaning schedule, which begins as early as 6:45 a.m. every day, students may not always observe the work as it is being done.”
So and Middleton said there is a need for clearer policies regarding service workers and Resident Assistants (RAs). So explained that the RA and resident relationship can become strained as RAs attempt to navigate “how to be there for the residents and establish trust while enforcing these really vague and sometimes confusing rules from Stanford,” adding that service workers have not been “properly cared for” regarding workload and COVID testing.
According to Breeland, R&DE has worked with Environmental Health & Safety to arrange test drop off sites for workers on campus.
“We have shared information about testing with [R&DE] staff in a variety of ways, including encouraging staff to sign up for Stanford Health Alerts, verbal reminders from managers, emailing notices to employees, posting hard copies of announcements near time clocks, mailing information directly to employees’ homes and engaging in regular discussions with union leadership and stewards,” Breeland wrote.
Middleton expressed a need for students to find ways to responsibly socialize and to protect the well-being of “not just fellow students, but also the people who work and support us on campus.” A Stanford undergraduate alum, Middleton recalls the energy of his last spring quarter and wants graduating seniors to have a similar experience.
“Despite the reservations that we have, I think that we want to acknowledge that folks are excited about coming back to campus, and I want people to have all the joy that they can,” Middleton said.
Both Lipman and Senate Chair Micheal Brown ’22 said that students coming to campus should have realistic expectations regarding socialization and emphasized a need for the university to enforce public health protocol.
“It matters like that people are thoughtful about whether they can actually follow through with the rules,” Brown said. “I think it’s important for the university to create an environment where the students who are on campus are held accountable for their decisions, but are also being treated realistically, in terms of what is necessary to function as a human.”
Brown has chosen not to return to campus, citing his broadened education experience from living outside the Stanford bubble and a preference to “see a vaccine in place” before returning to campus.
“I think it would be an incredible challenge to have the emotional experience that you want and the social experience that you want, given that we are still in a pandemic,” said Brown.
Stanford announced Monday that it will ease restrictions to permit outdoor gatherings between eight students from up to three households if reservations are made in advance. Frosh currently on campus, however, divulged large unreported gatherings.
“Only small gatherings will be allowed, with appropriate health measures; there will again be a period of restricted activity for undergraduates at the beginning of the quarter that could be lonely for some. The choice to come is also a choice to abide by university policies and public health measures,” wrote President Marc Tessier-Lavigne in the email announcement.
ASSU Executives and Senators Lipman and Brown shared hopes for seniors to act in good judgement while spending their last quarter on campus in-person.
“I think the individual Stanford student is a little more responsible than we give them credit for,” said Brown. “I feel like a lot of the seniors who are coming back, if they have their bubble of eight friends, are going to be incredibly appreciative of the opportunity to spend one last quarter with their friends.”