Back to Basics at Stanford
We believe there are two basic actions Stanford’s faculty, students, trustees and administrators should take: (1) adopt the Chicago Trifecta regarding the freedom of expression, political and social matters, and academic appointments and which we have posted here, and (2) discuss and then implement, with whatever changes they think appropriate, the actions discussed in our Back to Basics paper, below, which is followed by a PDF version for readers who might want to download a copy.
Merely having a discussion of these issues may, in our view, go a long way toward addressing concerns about inappropriate restrictions that have arisen at Stanford in recent years regarding speech and academic freedom.
Back to Basics at Stanford (Updated 3/15/23)
1. Control of Academic Matters Must Be Restored to Stanford’s Faculty
a. What is taught in the classroom and covered in research must be determined by the individual faculty members who are responsible for the relevant teaching and research, NOT administrators.
b. General academic policies are within the purview of the Academic Council and Faculty Senate, and any policies with significant impact on teaching or research must be approved by at least one such body or a committee of one such body. Policies for specific schools or departments shall be subject to similar approval of the faculty in the relevant school or department.
c. The following shall be immediately removed from all electronic and other files: All notations and other information in any faculty member’s, lecturer’s or post doc’s files for concerns or complaints that were made and where the complaining party and the nature of the concern or complaint were never officially disclosed to the targeted faculty member, lecturer or post doc and where the targeted faculty member, lecturer or post doc did not then have recourse to correct what the targeted person believes were incorrect and even false statements.
2. Control of Student Life Must Be Restored to Stanford’s Students
a. Stanford has recruited some of the most capable students in the nation and even worldwide and thus should restore student life to the students themselves. In that regard, the primary rule at Stanford for proper student behavior shall be the Fundamental Standard and, for academic matters, the Honor Code. To give better meaning to these two foundational documents, and in lieu of the pages and pages of regulations adopted in recent years, the relevant student governance and administrative bodies shall publish a periodic set of hypotheticals regarding how a set of actions might be addressed under the Fundamental Standard or the Honor Code.
b. Student social interactions must be primarily the decision of each individual student and who shall be expected to take personal responsibility for any decisions they make and actions they take. This is based on the concept that a student’s rights include acceptance of responsibility when exercising those rights.
c. Social functions shall be within the primary purview of students affiliated with the relevant units sponsoring a social function, versus the administrative bureaucracies that attempt to micromanage every element of student life. Stanford has recruited highly intelligent and responsible students and it is time to reestablish systems that recognize their intelligence and their acceptance of responsibility.
d. Disciplinary matters must be within the primary purview of student-run disciplinary panels, NOT paid investigators and administrator-run proceedings.
e. All students facing potential disciplinary actions must be treated fairly, humanely and with a focus on protecting the individual’s constitutional and other rights. Students must also be offered emotional and other support from the outset of and throughout any disciplinary warnings, discussions and proceedings and thereafter.
f. Members of student disciplinary panels must be selected randomly from the relevant student cohort (that is, of undergraduate students for undergraduate respondents, graduate students for student respondents in graduate degree programs) much in the way potential jurors are randomly selected in the U.S.
g. ALTERNATIVE: Each undergraduate residence unit shall select a member who shall be in the pool of undergraduate students who may be randomly called upon to serve on a student disciplinary panel concerning an undergraduate respondent. A comparable system shall be developed for undergraduates living off campus. Graduate degree students in each of the eight schools shall select a designated number of students (the number to be based on the relative size of the graduate degree programs of each school) who shall be in the pool of graduate students who may be randomly called upon to serve on a student disciplinary panel concerning a graduate student respondent.
h. The following shall be immediately removed from all electronic and other files: All notations and other information in any undergraduate or graduate student’s files for concerns or complaints that were made and where the complaining party and the nature of the concern or complaint was never officially disclosed to the targeted student and where the targeted student did not then have recourse to correct what the targeted student believes were incorrect and even false statements.
i. The Protected Identity Harm Reporting system and all similar systems shall be ended, or alternatively any and all reports about a targeted student in these and similar systems shall be disclosed to the targeted students and they in turn shall have the right to file any contrary information and be advised if any future entries are made about them. See also the note at the end of this paper regarding electronic systems that are used to track student behavior.
j. The neighborhood system for undergraduate housing shall be disbanded.
3. Stanford’s Administrative Costs Must Be Brought Under Control
a. With the exception of the medical center and dining and housing services, within five years, the following reductions shall be achieved for control of Stanford’s administrative costs:
i. The ratio of the total costs for non-teaching personnel at Stanford, including personnel on contract, shall not exceed [55%] of the total costs for full and part-time faculty and post-docs primarily engaged in teaching and research. An annual report shall be made by the President or the Provost to the faculty and the community at large of this ratio and the administration’s efforts to control these costs.
ii. The ratio of non-teaching personnel to personnel primarily involved in teaching and research shall not exceed [3 to 1], that is, [three] non-teaching staff, including personnel on contract, for each faculty member or post doc who is primarily involved in teaching or research. An annual report shall be made by the President or the Provost to the faculty and the community at large of this ratio and the administration’s efforts to control the costs of non-teaching personnel.
iii. Stanford’s indirect cost rate for federally funded and similar organized research shall be reduced to no more than [54%] (for FY 2022, Stanford’s published indirect cost rate for organized research was 57.4%).
b. The costs of the undergraduate student affairs staffs (Community Standards, SHARE, DEI and related areas) shall be reduced so as not to exceed [$2,500] per undergraduate student per year (volunteer alumni have estimated that these costs currently range between $4,500 and $12,900 per Stanford undergraduate per year).
c. All savings from these reductions shall be redirected SOLELY to undergraduate scholarships, research grants and independent projects https://undergradresearch.stanford.edu/fund-your-project and graduate student fellowships https://vpge.stanford.edu/fellowships-funding.
d. The administration should publish monthly or quarterly a summary of the reductions that have been made and the amounts thus redirected solely to these undergraduate and graduate student programs.
Students, faculty and others might also take a look at these and similar student records systems as are linked below and that are now widely used by U.S. colleges and universities, including Stanford. These systems typically allow the filing and tracking of concerns and complaints submitted by other students, faculty, administrators and third parties - often anonymously - about a person’s statements or actions and even if not disclosed to the persons who are the subjects of the reports. These entries remain permanently on file and are often then used in subsequent disciplinary or other actions involving the people who were reported on. Some of the marketing materials even extol the virtue that the systems help schools “win” their cases against the students or others:
Back to Basics