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Back to Basics at Stanford

We believe there are two basic actions Stanford’s faculty, 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. 

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Back to Basics at Stanford [12/18/23] 

 

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.  All students must be notified in writing at least annually of their FERPA rights to inspect all files created or        maintained at Stanford about them and a website must be available explaining the policies and                        procedures for students to inspect these files, including a single office to process the student requests.            [New]

  i.   Whether or not a student exercises her or his rights under FERPA, above, 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 targeted student did not then have recourse to correct what the targeted                student believes were incorrect and even false statements.

  j.   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.

  k.  The neighborhood system for undergraduate housing shall be disbanded.

 

3.    Stanford’s Administrative Bureaucracy 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.

4.   Greater Control Must Be Exercised Over the Centers, Accelerators, Incubators and Similar Entities and Activities at Stanford [New]​ 

 

  a.   All centers, accelerators, incubators and similar entities and activities must be supervised by tenured                 members of the faculty. Staff may be employed to help manage these activities but the tenured                       members of the faculty must be the ones responsible for all activities conducted at these entities and               must file a written certification at least annually of their personal supervision of the activities of the                   entities and the compliance by these entities with all university policies and procedures.

  b.   Any activities that are not directly related to front-line research and/or teaching must cease using the               Stanford name. 

  c.   Any activities that are not directly related to front-line research and/or teaching should be moved off the         core campus as soon as reasonably possible. If appropriate, Stanford may create one or more nonprofit             entities to house these activities much as Stanford Research Institute and Stanford Research Park once             were used for these purposes, and Stanford by contract may provide support services to the host                     entities. 

  d.   Under no circumstances may any of these entities, whether on or off the core campus, be engaged in               censorship activities, either directly or in coordination with government entities, and especially regarding         members of Stanford’s own faculty.

  e.   Stanford’s policies and procedures regarding ownership of intellectual property and regarding conflicts of         interest must be scrupulously followed by these centers, accelerators, incubators and similar entities, and         compliance should be expected not only by faculty and staff but also by students, fellows, post docs,               trustees and others who may be affiliated with Stanford.

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

at Stanford

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