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Senate establishes planning, policy board; discusses bookstore
STANFORD -- The Faculty Senate has given the green light to creation of a 10-member Planning and Policy Board, a standing committee of the senate that independently will consider important university issues.
The board is charged with articulating an academic vision and mission for the university, examining long-term trends in proposing academic policies for faculty consideration, and establishing ad hoc committees as needed to address specific issues.
Approval came Thursday, April 2, after a lengthy discussion of details, including whether the group should be a body of the senate or of the full 1,369-member Academic Council.
A planning and policy board would focus its thoughts on "the future, rather than the present," electrical engineering Prof. Joseph Goodman told the senate when he introduced the idea at the March 5 meeting. The goal, he said, would be to "come to grips with issues that will be important in the future before they arrive upon us in crisis stage."
Goodman is chair of the ad hoc Committee on the Structure and Functions of the Standing Committees of the Academic Council (known informally as StanCom), formed in 1990 to reexamine faculty committees in light of changes in the university's administrative structure. Goodman's committee initially suggested putting the new board under the Academic Council.
In the March 5 discussion, faculty members supported the general concept of a forward-looking, issue-oriented board, but some questioned how the group would get its power and to whom it would report.
In the end, senators decided to make the Planning and Policy Board a body of the senate.
The board will be made up of 10 voting members, including the current senate chair and immediate past two chairs. The seven other members will be elected for three-year terms by the senate from nominations by the Committee on Committees and additional nominations from the floor.
The board will consult with administrators as necessary, and will report to the senate at least once a quarter. Important issues will be referred to the senate, but the board also will be free to refer issues to other appropriate committees or to the president or provost.
The new board will be "proactive as well as reactive," according to the approved charge, functioning as a strategic planning group, an investigative committee and a review committee.
Goodman said the board might study issues such as academic strategic planning, the impact of intercollegiate athletics on undergraduates; implications of the internationalization of universities; balance between the arts, humanities, sciences and professional schools; and the desirability of continuing faculty involvement in setting budget priorities.
Establishment of the board may rank as the most significant governance change at Stanford since the Academic Council in 1968 created the 55-member Faculty Senate as its legislative body. Consideration of other StanCom proposals, which call for reorganization of the committee structure, will be delayed until next year.
In other action, the senators discussed whether to launch their own investigation into allegations of financial losses and inappropriate perquisites for managers of the Stanford Bookstore.
The store is being investigated by the California Attorney General's Office, as well as lawyers and accountants retained by the bookstore board, in the wake of reports in the Stanford Daily about the use of a vacation home and a fleet of cars owned or leased for top managers.
The newspaper also recently reported that the bookstore lost $1.8 million during fiscal 1989-90 when the several million dollars of reserves were invested in speculative stocks.
The bookstore, a nonprofit association that is independent of the university, is governed by a board of seven faculty, staff and students drawn from a larger group of about 30 association "members."
Terry Karl, political science, said she was raising the issue in response to three phone calls from faculty colleagues.
Craig Heller, biological sciences, said he was concerned that the bookstore's own investigation would focus on what is legal rather than what is moral.
"If there is money to buy cars, money to invest in bad stocks and so on, I question why I can get a book $20 cheaper for my students down at Kepler's Bookstore than I can at Stanford Bookstore," he said.
Law Prof. Robert Weisberg, who is spokesman for the bookstore board, assured his senate colleagues that the current investigation is thorough and comprehensive. He promised to share results with the senate.
Martin Perl, SLAC, questioned the independence of the board's investigators, saying that any self-perpetuating board was likely to select people sympathetic to them.
Weisberg responded that beyond the financial and legal investigation, consultants also were studying the possibility of drastic change in bookstore governance. They might recommend dissolving the charter and absorbing the bookstore into the university, he said.
Senate chair James Sheehan said the Steering Committee would find a productive way to bring the bookstore issue to the senate.
James Collman, chemistry, used the meeting to praise student journalists from the Stanford Daily for bringing the problems to community attention.
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