The first presentation was Justin Brown, co-Chair of the Graduate Student Council, who began by detailing the demographics of the graduate student body, 57% of whom live on campus and 37% of whom are international. He explained that in addition to these distinctions, graduate students, financially speaking, are generally divided into two groups: those with dependents, such as children, and those without. Brown made a request that the University pursues the course of increasing the stipend of graduate students by 3-3.5%, in keeping with inflation and cost-of-living increases. He also made a request on behalf of the graduate student body asking for additional childcare aid to those graduate students who do have children. In addition to these, Brown encourages the creation of a Graduate Life Office Dean to directly oversee graduate student life and affairs.
The second presentation, by Undergraduate Senator Deepa Kannappan ’13, focused on two main areas of interest: academic advising and the possible expansion of the Bing Overseas Studies Program.
Gathering data from surveys conducted in the past few months, Kannappan pointed out that students feel that academic advising is for the most part “average”, with more respondents answering that it is below average than above. She went on to say that, based on surveys, students find their best advising resources to be their friends, followed by online resources, and then residential staff. However, due to the new policy mandating current freshmen to meet with pre-major advisors, freshmen this year have given significantly more positive responses regarding the value of pre-major advising in comparison with freshmen of past years.
University Provost John Etchemendy remarked that, of all aspects of academics, students are least satisfied with advising at just about every university, though he, too, echoed the notion that improvements should be made to the advising system to help aid students in their academic careers.
Kannappan proposed a number of solutions, some she considered more viable than others. Of the more viable options, she suggested making advising resources more convenient to students. One way this could be accomplished would be to make advisors more accessible online, via instant chat or other forms of online communication. Another way to improve advising, Kannappan noted, is to make RAs and other residential staff more knowledgeable of advising resources, so that students who approach them for advice can either be given solid, knowledgeable advice or can be pointed in the direction of someone who can give that advice.
Additionally, Kannappan touched on the prospect of expanding the Bing Overseas Studies Program to other areas of the world. A whopping 66% of survey respondents expressed interest in overseas studies in the Middle East, with 35% interested in studying in Dubai, 52% in Israel, 53% in Jordan, and 34% in Egypt. Vice Provost of Undergraduate Education Harry Elam noted that Bob Sinclair, director of the Bing Overseas Studies Program, has also expressed an interest in expanding the program.
The third and final presentation came from ASSU president Angelina Cardona ’11, who focused her presentation on Student Wellness and Inclusion. She stated at the beginning of the presentation that the job of the ASSU Executive is to “get a pulse on the entire campus.” This year, they’re narrowing the lens on student wellness.
In the presentation, Cardona notes that 50% of students in HumBio 129, Critical Issues in International Women’s Health, reported that they knew someone who had experienced sexual or domestic violence. Between 2000 and 2009, there were 157 reports of domestic violence and 168 reports of sexual violence at Stanford, but those statistics are amplified when one takes into account that the vast majority of sexual and domestic violence cases are not reported.
Cardona outlined a number of initiatives to curb relationship abuse and improve student wellness: utilizing information from the Partnership to End Violence against Women Survey, which has over 4,000 responses, lowering the Judicial Affairs’ Standard of Proof in domestic and sexual violence cases, and promoting knowledge of these issues throughout departments across campus.