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06/11/91

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Faculty initiates broad study of education

STANFORD -- More than 20 years after Stanford University redesigned itself with the landmark Study of Education at Stanford, its faculty is about to undertake another extensive self-study.

This time, however, it will be done in the context of severe budget constraints.

The Faculty Senate on Thursday, June 6, unanimously approved a proposal from five faculty members, endorsed by the Senate Steering Committee, for formation of an ad hoc Senate Committee on Education and Scholarship.

The committee, which is expected to be appointed in the next two weeks, will work through the summer setting up various study groups and organizing tasks that will be assigned in the fall.

The Committee on Education and Scholarship will work independently, but in close liaison with, the Cabinet Committee for Budget and Strategic Planning, appointed in April by Provost James N. Rosse to guide a new round of substantial budget cuts and reorganization at Stanford.

At the senate meeting, both Rosse and President Donald Kennedy expressed strong support for the autonomous faculty effort.

In their report to the senate, the five faculty organizers wrote that they wanted to assure that "academic considerations remain central to the process of budgetary restructuring."

The proposal was made by Profs. Gerald J. Lieberman, operations research and former vice provost and dean of graduate studies and research; Mark Mancall, history and former director of overseas studies; David Rosenhan, law and psychology; Marshall S. Smith, dean of education; and Jeffrey J. Wine, psychology.

Their report said the university is experiencing a diminished sense of community at a time when a "forum for public reflection" of various issues and development of a revised future agenda is needed.

Outside social and political factors are reducing resources, they said.

"Our capacity for innovation, both scientific and educational, is no longer supported by our financial condition, and the agenda of this new study must recognize that this may well be a secular trend rather than a momentary difficulty," they reported.

They proposed, subject to change, eight study groups:

  • Undergraduate education;
  • Graduate studies;
  • Structure and governance of the university;
  • Status and structures of interdisciplinary studies;
  • Relationship of research to teaching;
  • Diversity in the university's staff and curriculum;
  • The university's external relations; and
  • Relationship of the university to the varieties of institutions of contemporary and future scholarship and scientific investigation.

The senate asked that the committee incorporate a separate suggestion by Prof. Philip Hanawalt, biological sciences, for a faculty review of administration.

In a memorandum to his senate colleagues, Hanawalt, former chair of his department, wrote of the need "to deal with what appears to be a credibility problem between a large group of the faculty and the administration." Many faculty -- himself included -- believe budgetary resources "have been shifting from the areas of research and teaching toward administrative support services of various sorts," he wrote.

Faculty members question how well academic functions are serviced "by the very sizable administrative staff," Hanawalt wrote.

During discussion of the proposal, President Kennedy said that committee work during the summer was imperative because "economic exigencies, and the wishes and requirements of the Board of Trustees have given us a shorter runway than we'd all like."

University reserves will be drawn down by approximately $70 million during the next two years to cover budget shortfalls.

Prof. James Collman, chemistry, expressed concern that in discussion of budget cuts and restructuring no one was addressing the issue of quality education.

"If the university doesn't come out and forthrightly say that we're going to try to be very good and remain that way, we may find that we'll go down a spiral from which we cannot recover in a reasonable time," he said.

Endorsing Collman's view, Prof. John Ross, chemistry, announced that a group of faculty from biology, chemistry and chemical engineering had sent a letter about the importance of quality to university trustees, with copies to the president and provost.

Provost Rosse reiterated a statement made previously that faculty and others at Stanford are not prepared to accept second-rate status.

"We must find ways of sizing and keeping this institution so that it can be excellent at what it does within the resources available," he said.

The Committee on Education and Scholarship is charged with making an organizational report to the first meeting of the senate during fall quarter. An interim report on recommendations is to be completed no later than March 1992.

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