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Faculty Senate hears about three-year degree, Webb Ranch, medical center
STANFORD -- A passing but "forthright" comment made in January during a meeting with a newspaper editorial board seems to have established President Gerhard Casper as one of the nation's leading advocates of a three-year degree undergraduate degree program.
"What has gotten me this unasked-for notoriety," Casper told the Faculty Senate on Thursday, March 4, "is that I supposedly favor the three-year college and I have a plan to implement it forthwith."
Alas, "I have no secret plan and I have no secret task force trying to bring about a three-year college at Stanford," Casper said.
He told the senate that his comment - made the centerpiece of a resulting story in the San Francisco Chronicle and other news and editorial columns - seems to have struck a responsive chord with a public concerned about the high cost of education.
But "my primary concern in this discussion has been the coherence and quality of undergraduate education," Casper said. "Its length has been a rather secondary concern."
Casper said he was "delighted" to have started the lively debate.
"It is also fair to say that I think it is naive that major universities can go on as they have done in the past without reexamination of their ways," he said.
The president said he hopes the issue will continue to be discussed at lunches, at Tresidder Union, in the "board rooms" of the Stanford Daily and at many dinner parties.
As for Casper, the community will next hear his thoughts on the subject during a "state of the university" address he will give at the annual meeting of the Academic Council on April 29. Staff and students are invited to attend the session. The time and location are yet to be announced.
Broaching the subject of living conditions at Webb Ranch, Casper announced that installation of eight used trailers formerly occupied by students in Manzanita Park, and donated to the ranch, had been delayed 30 to 90 days by San Mateo County regulations.
Casper said that San Mateo County's Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) and the West Bay Sanitary District were requiring a "negative impact declaration," which he surmised was similar to an environmental impact report showing the trailers would have no negative impact under county or state law.
The Webb family had been led to believe it did not need such a declaration, Casper said, but was informed otherwise on March 1. In the meantime, installation "got off to a good start in early February." Two weeks of rain then delayed the project before the government agencies stepped in, Casper said.
Professor Ronald Rebholz, chairman of English, asked Casper to intervene personally to try to improve ranch workers' wages, which he said range from $5 for general labor to $6.50 maximum for those who operate machinery at what Rebholz called the "very lucrative" Webb Stables. The wages are so low, he said, that workers do not qualify for health benefits.
"It's time to recognize that, as a Daily editorial put it, this is not a problem of law, but a problem of moral obligation," Rebholz said. He asked that the administration intervene to raise the minimum wage to $8, the minimum at which the workers, who are members of United Stanford Workers, would qualify for health benefits.
Casper told Rebholz that the university does not operate the ranch and has no legal leverage. "I do not see how we can take over determining the terms of employment of Webb workers," he said, but the community has brought pressure to bear on the Webbs.
The current lease does include a clause about living conditions, and "that is leverage we have used" to prod action on the trailers, Casper said.
Rebholz responded that Casper "could exercise very impressive moral leverage," such as staging a meeting with the Webbs in his office to discuss the issues.
Medical Center affairs
Expressing concern about the amount of time Casper devotes to medical affairs, electrical engineering Professor Anthony Siegman asked the president if it is reasonable to "expect one individual to cope simultaneously with both the leadership of a major university and the management of not just a medical school but a massive "medical mega-complex"?
At the last senate meeting, when announcing creation of the medical center task force, "you stated that no other issue had taken so much of your time and energy as the relationship between the Packard Hospital and the university's medical school," Siegman said.
His reaction, and that of others, Siegman said, is "what kind of academic issue is this? How does a peripheral issue like this take priority over what seems to be other and more serious problems at Stanford University?"
Casper responded that "I occasionally engage in hyperbole, but in reality it is even worse than you understand." He said the time he spends is not on the relationship of the Packard hospital to the medical school, but the relationship of the children's hospital to the main hospital, an issue former President Donald Kennedy "tried to settle before he left office, but wasn't able to do."
Casper said that when an institution has a medical faculty, it also needs a relationship with a hospital. "We have a hospital we own and an autonomous hospital," he said.
He reminded Siegman that the reason he appointed the task force was to develop a strategic plan for the entire medical center: the medical school, Stanford Hospital and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital.
Casper said he sees no way out of his role at the center of the three entities, but the task force may consider other possibilities.
Until 10 years ago, he said, the university had a vice president for medical affairs to whom both the dean and hospital answered. In the absence of that structure, "the president has to take responsibility. It is probably not an ideal arrangement," he said.
Casper speculated that other university presidents who oversee medical schools and hospitals probably "are in exactly the same situation."
In his report to the senate, Provost Gerald J. Lieberman announced creation of the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory (SSRL) faculty group at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC). This will give the SSRL faculty status similar to that of the SLAC faculty.
Lieberman also announced that the faculty committee considering housing policies headed by economics Professor Gavin Wright is proceeding with its work. He said the committee would look at new ideas, but complaints about existing arrangements would be deferred until after this committee completes its work.
In other news, senators voted to discharge with thanks the Senate Ad Hoc Committee on the Structure and Functions of Academic Council Committees (STANCOM), headed by electrical engineering Professor Joseph Goodman.
Established in fall 1990 to study the organization of committees, STANCOM's major achievement was proposing creation of the Planning and Policy Board. Last year's senate followed through on the suggestion.
Goodman said his ad hoc committee originally thought that the Committee on Libraries could be combined with the Committee on Academic Computing and Information Systems if a combined committee could limit itself to policy considerations.
In the end, STANCOM backed down from the suggestion, citing sensitivities about the administrative merger of the libraries and computing organizations, and the probability that faculty input will continue to extend beyond policy issues.
"It is a great irony," Goodman told the senate, "that a committee created to perhaps simplify processes has in fact added one committee and achieved little else."
He made a plea for the senate "to disband us and put us out of our misery."
His colleagues complied.
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