“The first step is to remind our students and colleagues that those who hold views contrary to one’s own are rarely evil or stupid, and may know or understand things that we do not. It is only when we start with this assumption that rational discourse can begin, and that the winds of freedom can blow." – Former Stanford Provost John Etchemendy
From Our Latest Newsletter
September 29, 2023
Alumni Groups Urge U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Case Regarding Campus Policies for Reporting Allegedly Biased Statements or Actions of Others
The Alumni Free Speech Alliance (AFSA) and other college and university groups around the country have submitted an amicus curiae brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a case regarding the policies and procedures at Virginia Tech by which students and others can report another student, often anonymously, for something the targeted student allegedly said or did. The targeted student is then called in by administrators for counseling and other possible actions. We have previously posted an article here about Stanford's own policies and procedures for reporting allegedly biased speech and actions of others.
“…the use of bias reporting systems has become pervasive across American college and university campuses and these systems create a climate of fear and intimidation that causes many students to self-censor and discourages constitutionally protected speech. These bias reporting systems have no place at a university whose defining purpose as a place of learning and human fulfillment can only be achieved through a steadfast commitment to free speech."
(Press release at Princetonians for Free Speech; list of AFSA members and links to their websites here; and excerpts and a link to Judge Harvie Wilkinson's dissenting opinion in the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decision is included with our prior article More About Campus Bias Response Teams and Programs)
From The College Fix: At Stanford, Administrators Nearly Outnumber the Undergrads
Editor's note: The following article about the high number of full-time administrators at Stanford was published last week in The College Fix. Other similar articles with similar numbers have been published by national news entities for over a year now. In that regard, we note the discrepancy between what some articles say is nearly 17,000 non-teaching personnel at Stanford (a number Stanford itself shows in its Facts 2023 book) and this article's number of over 7,100 full-time administrators, and where all of the numbers come from numbers Stanford itself has reported to federal data bases.
We believe a key reason for the differences is that some commenters count only staff who are purely administrative (over 7,100) whereas other commenters count the total number of non-teaching personnel (nearly 17,000) the latter of which apparently includes staff at the various special-purpose centers and similar non-teaching entities. In prior Newsletters, we have questioned why these centers and other entities are located on the campus if they are primarily engaged in advocacy and implementation activities versus cutting-edge and truly independent research that is initiated and supervised by the faculty themselves. We also have said that if these entities are primarily engaged in advocacy and implementation activities, they should be relocated to something comparable to the original Stanford Research Institute and/or facilities located in the Stanford Research Park, should stop using the Stanford name in their own names, and should stop running grants and allegedly tax-deducible donations through Stanford. There also needs to be confirmation that these entities and their personnel are complying with Stanford's rules for ownership of intellectual property, conflicts of interest and the like.
An explanation that has been provided by some Stanford administrators is that Stanford does internally what other schools outsource. But we have seen compilations that go back 15 to 20 years -- during which time we believe there was no substantial change in what was done internally versus outsourced -- and where the number of faculty rises slightly (to 2,304 of which 1,703 are members of the Academic Council), the number of secretaries and similar support personnel actually goes down by nearly 1,000, but the number of managerial and professional staff shoots up in steep hockey stick fashion (in one compilation, an increase of over 9,000 during the same 15- to 20-year period).
Another explanation provided by some administrators is that the high numbers include non-teaching staff at the Medical Center, but the instructions for the federal data bases are explicit NOT to include such staff in the numbers, plus Stanford's two hospitals and numerous medical clinics are in totally separate entities and not part of the university for these purposes.
One way to clear up these questions, as proposed by a reader's letter long posted on our home page, would be for Stanford to publish a master organizational chart showing the density of administrators and other staff in all specific areas of responsibility and an explanation of what these non-faculty people do.
“Stanford University employs nearly the same number of administrators as undergrads enrolled at the school — even as the number of educators per student has decreased over the last decade, an analysis conducted by The College Fix found.
"During the 2021-22 school year, which are the most recent data available, Stanford had 7,121 full-time administrators and support staff on its payroll, according to information the university filed with the federal Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System.
"In contrast, its reported undergraduate student enrollment came in at 7,645. In other words, there are about 931 full-time administrators per 1,000 undergrads at Stanford.
"This is a nearly 22 percent increase from the 2013-14 school year, when there were only 764 administrators per 1,000 students, IPEDS data show....
“Asked to weigh in on the findings, a Stanford University professor told The College Fix the problem with administrative bloat is ‘not so much how much they cost, but what they do all day, which is to gum up the works and make trouble for everyone.’
“’If they were accomplishing anything important it would be hard to object,’ the professor said, but he added that most of the negative press Stanford has received in recent years involves ‘busy body administrative staff making work for themselves.’”
Respectful Provocation: The University Skill for Our Times?
“The UK university campus is not a happy place…. But the discontent we witness now is quite distinct, driven more by identity politics than party politics, directed at ideologies rather than governments, often more factional than unifying. Students are not bound together in pursuit of a common cause but engaged in a multitude of campaigns that appear to provoke perennial anxiety rather than the exuberant optimism of a new generation....
“Challenging students about their assumptions and values is strongly associated with their development of positive attitudes towards those who are different from themselves. It makes them more likely to reflect critically on their own assumptions, more open to learning from others and so better equipped to engage with the challenges of living in a diverse society. This process is, however, compromised when students perceive such diversity to be handled insensitively, underlining how provocative encounters need to be framed within a respectful approach to difference. It is respectful provocation that will capture the potential of this generation of students....
“We live in a very different context from that of 10 or even five years ago – new challenges demand new solutions. Many of these challenges are generated or complicated by social media and AI, and these require particular consideration. Fostering in students and staff a more critical awareness of how 21st century technologies both empower and marginalize will help us exercise more caution in our dependence on them – and more intelligence in their application.
“Get this right and not only will campus relations improve, but we might also be able to start speaking about degree outcomes in a broader sense than simple earning potential. Earning power is important, of course, but let’s not lose sight of the ways in which universities promote a more complex social good, one of undeniable value within the fractious society in which we live.”
(Full article at Times Higher Education/Inside Higher Ed)
CNN Podcast: The Free Speech Wars on Campus
CNN's Podcast Description:
“Between student protests, controversial speakers, and debates over 'safe spaces,' complaints about free speech on campus are louder than ever. How do school leaders respond to these gripes? And how do they balance freedom of expression – and the idea that speech can be violence?
“We have two college presidents from the front lines of this debate: Roslyn Clark Artis of Benedict College and Michael Roth of Wesleyan University. Both schools are part of the so-called ‘Campus Call for Free Expression.’”
(Listen to podcast here. Skip to 33-second mark to avoid ad.)
Other Articles of Interest
Who Should Shape What Colleges Teach? Not the government, most Americans say. (Full article at the Chronicle of Higher Education)
Gen Z Can't Work Alongside People of Different Views Because 'They Haven't Got the Skills to Disagree' Says a British TV Boss (Full article at Yahoo! Finance)
The Value of an Education That Never Ends op-ed by the president of Wesleyan University (Full article at NY Times)
"...we at Stanford insist that all faculty, students, and staff have the right to think and speak freely and that they have the right to offer analysis, opinion, and argument in a manner that is both free and responsible. These twin commitments -- to freedom and responsibility -- are the lifeblood of a university." -- Former Stanford President Gerhard Casper
Comments and Questions from Our Readers
See more reader comments on our Reader Comments webpage.
Wow! 17K Stanford administrators [and staff] is absurd. Does a master organizational chart exist to show the density of administrators in all specific areas of responsibility? Would love to see it, if it exists. Unfortunately, all the "accountability" being requested will be insufficient to fix such a bloated bureaucracy because most of the responsibilities and accountabilities must be
to other components of the bureaucracy, not to Stanford's core missions. Since administrators will protect themselves and their own, only a mandate from the Board of Trustees to a new President and senior leadership team can tame this beast.
Hoping for Balanced Speech at Stanford
I am so in support of the opinions expressed here and hope Stanford will adopt a more balanced approach to free speech. I can only hope.
Teaching Young People and Others How to Disagree Civilly
While I believe that supporting free speech is very important in and of itself, I also believe that there is a related component that is often ignored. That component is teaching people, especially young people, how to disagree civilly/how to constructively respond to free speech they might not agree with.
Stanford Internet Observatory
If your leadership team has not looked into the Stanford Internet Observatory, and its link to the Election Integrity Project, funded through the Obama/Biden Department of Homeland Security, please take a look. This is a powerful online censorship weapon. The university has no business participating in the policing of election related free speech in our country.
Question About Ties to the Alumni Association
Q. I notice that the SAA website contains no links to the Stanford Alumni for Free Speech and Critical Thinking website. Why is that?
A. Our website is not linked at the SAA website since we intentionally did not seek to become an affiliate of SAA. Among other things, we wanted to maintain independence, including since SAA became a subsidiary of the
university in the mid-1990’s. That said, there are a number of current and former Stanford administrators and trustees who receive our Newsletters and read the materials that are posted at the website.
Member, Alumni Free Speech Alliance
Stanford Alumni for Free Speech and Critical Thinking is an independent, diverse, and nonpartisan group of Stanford alumni committed to promoting and safeguarding freedom of thought and expression, intellectual diversity and inclusion, and academic freedom at Stanford.
We believe innovation and positive change for the common good is achieved through free and active discourse from varying viewpoints, the freedom to question both popular and unpopular opinions, and the freedom to seek truth without fear of reprisal from those who disagree, within the confines of humanity and mutual respect.
Our goal is to support students, faculty, administrators, and staff in efforts that assure the Stanford community is truly inclusive as to what can be said in and outside the classroom, the kinds of speakers that can be invited, and what should always be the core principles of a great university like Stanford. We also advocate that Stanford incorporates the Chicago Trifecta, the gold standard for freedom of speech and expression at college and university campuses, and that Stanford abides by these principles in both its policies and its actions.