Live Blogging the Legislative Meeting/Dialogue with President Hennessy

6:00 PM

Arrival. Much joy at learning that Ike’s sandwiches would be served to all attendees.

6:05 PM

State of the Association begins. ASSU President Angelina Cardona highlighted the changes occurring on campus (ROTC, new deans for Sexual Violence and First Generation Students, etc.). Undergraduate Senate Chair Madeleine Hawes focused on the coordination of the Senate this year and its ability to reach out to undergraduate. Graduate Student Council Chair Justin Brown kept his remarks brief, but highlighted the role of the GSC in improving graduate student life and the addition of a new dean for Graduate Student Life. SSE CEO Raj Bhandari highlighted a few new SSE initiatives and its ongoing success. Ernestine Fu, director of the ASSU Students Services Division, launched into a slightly longer talk about the meaning of service to her on campus, but also highlighted some gains, perhaps most notably (at least from the perspective of the Review), that the airport shuttle broke even this year. Finally, Cardona discussed the specific gains made by the Executive – advocacy, outreach, and cross-campus coordination, such as dialogues with the administrators, a conference for PAC-12 student body presidents, and specific programs for more helmets and better dining.

What did the administrators have to say?

6:30 PM

Dialogue with President John Hennessy and Dean Julie Lythcott-Haims begins. President Hennessy complimented Cardona’s summary of trends on campus. He also cited two initiatives to develop better studio spaces and science labs on campus. On student health, he looked at bike helmets and acute binge drinking – there may be a consortium of universities that attempt to figure out best practices. SUES and the ongoing accreditation process are also expected to inform campus programming and academics, especially around overseas programs and PWR.

Dean Julie then acknowledged the leadership shown by the ASSU this year, especially around the rapid succession after Kelsei Wharton’s unfortunate mid-quarter injury. Dean Julie cited the key to community as being about partnerships – developing diversity initiatives and better advising and major selection (“department selection” – finding a home) in coordination with ASSU Senators and members. She also expressed interest in helping to provide an ongoing “Stanford 101” to develop workshops or other activities to continue learning about Stanford beyond NSO. She also returned to the idea of pre-major advising in her role at Undergraduate Advising and Research. Then she turned to the concern that Stanford students regard getting advice as showing weakness, even if the most successful students do connect with resources.

Q&A then began.

  1. What has the university done in the past to stay ahead of the curve and what is it doing today?

The independence of the faculty allows for lots of entrepreneurial efforts to new technology or research areas. He also said that Stanford is thinking about the role of technology in large lecture classes or the role of technology in allowing students to schedule their learning better. Experimentation will be key to finding the best approach – can we use technology to improve human learning?

Bio-engineering will be a new major at Stanford. Interdisciplinary majors, such as neuroscience (psychology, medical school, biology, law school, etc.) will also be a major factor as well.

  1. Depression is a major problem on campus. There are some initiatives to deal with it, but they are oversubscribed (e.g. long wait times for CAPS). What can be done to tackle this issue?

Hennessy opened by saying that depression is not higher than it has been in previous years or at college than elsewhere. Instead, awareness is higher (which is a good thing). He said that adding staff would probably be a good idea, however. Dean Julie then turned to the problem not of depression per-se, but rather of a more subtle undercurrent of anxiety. We should acknowledge our human frailty – by acknowledging those issues, we can make this campus a lighter place. Students need to see other students being vulnerable in order to open up.

  1. What are your thoughts on ROTC, given that excludes transgender and intersex students?

President Hennessy remarked that student activists who are opposed to ROTC have been heard. He deferred to the ROTC ad hoc committee and commented on the need to balance between student desires – those who want to have ROTC on campus (because they are members) versus those who are opposed to it.

  1. (Follow-up.) Student presents argument that ROTC students can still join, if off campus.

Hennessy presents issues that other protected groups are also excluded from ROTC (e.g. disabled students).

  1. Will the university consider expanding Stanford as the endowment rises again?

The budget took at $50 million hit in financial aid in 2009. We are still patching that hole and that will take about 5 years. President Hennessy admitted that demand continues to outstrip supply. There are other issues that need to be dealt with, such as imbalances across majors (large majors already feel burdened, while others have capacity). There would also need to be immediate capital expenditures on residences, but a number of donors would likely be very interested.

  1. (Follow-up.) What about alternative housing options, such as a green dorm (Lotus One)?

Since room and board does not cover housing costs, cap ex needs to be raised in advance (usually about 50 percent), but for a specific dorm like Lotus One it would be an even higher figure. Lotus One is close to having the final financing, but hasn’t made much progress since the financial crisis.

  1. What is being done for international graduate students who do not necessarily receive funding beyond a one-year time horizon?

Engineering has a larger student body – faculty members need to find funding to support their students. Students need to find a faculty sponsor.

  1. One argument about the military is that it promotes a singular focus on the chain of command. That is antithetical to the open education model of a university.

President Hennessy stated that that argument is “narrow-minded” and completely false. (epic smack down.)

  1. (Follow-up.) What about the fact that ROTC cadets are not allowed to look at WikiLeaks materials?

It’s a complicated question, related to particular legal statutes. Hennessy offered the example of confidential information at a firm also being protected.

  1. What about community centers and the return of summer community center employees?

Hennessy said that funds will return to student affairs soon. As those funds return, we will have to determine whether those cuts should be restored. All options will be on the table, rather than restoring cuts immediately.

  1. (Follow-up.) What about a Muslim student center?

Hennessy hasn’t heard much since the financial crisis.

  1. What about a comprehensive overview of women at Stanford, including female faculty pay?

Hennessy said that faculty pay equality had long ago been dealt with. Dean Julie also said that there are many events related to women right now, so that should offer a good overview of the campus.

  1. What about a mandatory CAPS session for all freshmen?

Hennessy: would that clog up CAPS too much? Dean Julie said that it might be good to have a self-assessment, but not require CAPS involvement.

  1. What about the continued bad experiences with pre-major advisors?

A show of hands revealed that most freshmen have not had particularly good relationships with their PMAs. Dean Julie: it’s an area where there’s room for more improvement. The advisor should help question the student to direct them towards their true interests. President Hennessy: a shared academic experience is the key to a good advisor.

  1. (Follow-up.) What about requiring well-trained peer advisors for advising freshmen in each department?

Dean Julie: Professional advising superseded this program several years ago. As it continues to develop, peer advising will reenter the mix.

  1. What’s the plan to reduce the alcohol problem?

We continue to attempt to figure out what works. What interventions and education actually matter? There have been many failures, but new techniques might work.

  1. (Follow-up.) We need to be reminded that alcohol poisoning can be deadly or cause serious brain damage.

Truth. We need to maintain our supportive culture to ensure that we continue to call for help when needed. Dean Julie: we’re also focused on sexual violence as relates to alcohol.

  1. What about the high burden of proof for Fundamental Standard and Honor Code violations?

There are two options. One is to totally reduce the burden of proof to a new level. Another way is to reduce the burden of proof for all penalties short of expulsion. The administration is interested in one option or another.

Open forum and legislative stuff then began. I have ceased to live-blog.

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