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President Gerhard Casper discusses free speech, indirect costs
STANFORD -- In his first discussions with the Faculty Senate, ex-officio senator Gerhard Casper on Thursday, Oct. 8, tackled issues ranging from faculty free speech to the future of the libraries, and from teaching quality to faculty retirement.
The recently arrived law professor - and university president - said he was pleased that ex-officio senators sit with those elected by the faculty. This contrasts with the University of Chicago, where as provost he was "shunted away in a corner."
Casper expressed pleasure that former Provost Albert Hastorf recently introduced him to someone saying: "This is Professor Casper. He also serves as president of Stanford University."
Echoing a comment President Emeritus Donald Kennedy made in his farewell to the senate last June, Casper drew smiles when he said he was looking forward to hearing "all those things that I don't want to hear - all those things that are supposedly good for me."
Several senators obliged, using the question-and-answer period to request explanations about a statement attributed to Casper that some interpreted as an attempt to curb faculty free speech. Casper also was questioned about the reporting relationship for the future library director.
In his remarks, Casper made clear that negotiating a new indirect cost rate was one of his highest priorities.
"Literally the first thing I did at 8 a.m." on the first day on the job, Casper said, was send a letter to Adm. William Miller of the Office of Naval Research. Casper said he told Miller that he wanted to reestablish a good working relationship between the government and Stanford, and that Miller responded in kind.
Casper said he hoped a 1992-93 rate would be finalized by the end of October.
However, the issues involved go beyond simply the rate, Casper told the senate, citing the qui tam suit as an example.
"We are far from being out of the woods," he said.
Federal funding of research by private universities remains uncertain, Casper said, adding that he was not sure he liked the positions taken by any of the presidential candidates on research funding and indirect costs.
Desire for stability
Touching briefly on reorganization issues, Casper described consultations that led to changes he announced Sept. 9. He said changes in administrative and academic areas should be part of an ongoing examination process.
Many staff and faculty have expressed a desire for stability after the upheavals of recent years, Casper said.
"I can promise stability as little as I can promise no earthquakes," he said, adding in a serious vein that he and Provost Gerald J. Lieberman would try to "guide events and policy with as steady a hand as possible in the months to come."
Casper said that he unfortunately could not solve Stanford's budget problems. "I did not bring a money-printing machine from Chicago," he said, smiling. The fiscal pressures are the same throughout higher education, he said, and will remain that way for some time to come.
He said he intended to fully implement the $43 million budget-reduction plan developed last year. "It was arrived at after the most far-ranging discussion of fiscal matters I have ever encountered at any university," Casper said.
Faculty early retirement
On faculty retirement, Casper warned that federal regulations uncapping mandatory age-70 retirement in January 1994 is an "issue that involves no less than the survival of places like Stanford."
The university will get a jump on the federal regulations by uncapping faculty retirement beginning with the fall quarter in 1993, Casper said.
It is entirely possible, he said, that by the year 2000 at least 10 percent of the active faculty could be between the ages of 70 and 80. That not only will add "literally millions" in costs for Stanford but also make it more difficult to appoint young faculty. He said that an accepted rule of thumb is that every senior faculty member who declines to retire precludes the hiring of two assistant professors.
He said he would appoint a task force to study retirement incentives and related issues.
Teaching, conflict of interest
Casper also raised the issue of monitoring the quality of teaching. There is no reason to think departments and individuals are not maintaining a high level of quality, he said, but "we can also improve, and occasionally in some areas our performance may lag behind aspirations."
He announced that he had begun work in this area with education Professor Lee Shulman and the subcommittee on teaching evaluation of the Academic Council Committee on Academic Appraisal and Achievement.
He also expressed interest in the issue of faculty conflict of interest and conflict of commitment. The latter refers to a faculty member's commitment to the university, especially in relation to time. Although there is "no reason to believe Stanford is not being conscientious about these matters," the issues should be reexamined regularly, he said.
Conflict of interest "will dominate much of the agenda of national institutions" in the near future, he predicted.
"We must formulate our own ideas on this, just as government agencies will be formulating theirs," Casper said. "I cannot overemphasize the importance of these matters."
He plans to ask the Committee on Research to study the issues or recommend that another body do so.
Leading off the question period, English Professor Bliss Carnochan noted that "being quoted is an occupational hazard of your job." He then asked Casper to clarify a statement about politics attributed to him in the Oct. 7 Stanford Daily: "The minute I would take a position - and indeed, your professors take a position - they are ending the discussion by silencing those who disagree."
Casper responded that either the reporter misunderstood him or "I uttered nonsense." The latter was probable, he said, because the rest of the Daily story about his visit to Kimball dormitory was accurate.
He reminded senators of his Oct. 2 inauguration speech, in which he said that faculty have an obligation to be involved in the life of the polity and try to shape society.
"The point is that positions should be taken in our role as citizens rather than our role as faculty members," he said.
He said he took a dimmer view of the president, provost and deans taking strong political positions because many will not distinguish private positions from Stanford roles.
Referring to a New York Times advertisement signed by 700 members of the Stanford community following the Los Angeles riots several months ago, Casper said the "lines are blurred" in the eyes of the public, which may have perceived the ad as representing the entire faculty.
Saying he was one of the signatories, English Professor Albert Gelpi told Casper "we didn't presume to think we were signing for the university." Instead, faculty members wanted to make a statement that was "collective and public." That seems "fully consistent with free speech," he told the legal scholar.
Casper said he did not question the intention of those who signed. However, he said he would be more comfortable about public perceptions if such petitions included signatories not associated with Stanford.
Raising the subject of the University Libraries, art Professor Albert Elsen thanked Casper for reinstituting the search for a library director. But why, he asked, would that position answer to the vice provost for libraries and information resources rather than the provost or president directly?
Saying he probably should stop using Chicago examples, Casper responded that as provost there he had been struggling with the issue of libraries and electronic information systems. In that capacity, he had been "tremendously impressed" with Stanford's efforts to link the two.
"I'm not a very technical person," he said, "but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to predict that rather shortly more faculty and students will rely on electronic data retrieval and electronic data banks than books." Vice Provost Robert Street "can help us understand where we are heading," he said.
English Professor Ronald Rebholz followed up, asking why a technological person would be in charge of information resources instead of a "book person."
Casper responded that Street was in charge because of his grasp of the issues.
"We should not get hung up on reporting relationships," he said. "While Stanford is a large and complex place, I would expect everyone to talk to everyone regardless of reporting relationships."
Casper said that he would get insight on issues from anyone with responsibility for a discrete area.
Following the meeting, many senators took advantage of the opportunity to meet their new colleague at a reception in the Law School's Crocker Garden.
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