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Senate Steering Committee discusses minority graduate recruitment
STANFORD -- Frustration over the public perception that Stanford has a poor record of minority graduate student recruitment and retention bubbled over at a Faculty Senate Steering Committee meeting on Thursday, Jan. 12.
The discussion came in the relaxed atmosphere of the Steering Committee's first-ever administrative session, a procedure approved by the senate last October to streamline business and preserve time for discussion of major academic issues at regular senate meetings.
The Steering Committee used the administrative session to approve program extensions, award degrees and hear committee reports, including the news that Continuing Studies' Master of Liberal Arts degree may be in trouble. It also heard that the linear accelerator and synchrotron radiation laboratory are being pressured to allow proprietary research by private industry.
Free of the “muzzle” he said he wears during regular senate meetings, Senate Chair Robert Simoni, biological sciences, told his colleagues he was “enormously disappointed” about the way the report of the Provost's Committee on the Recruitment, Retention and Graduation of Targeted Minority Graduate Students was received last October.
The report said that while enrollment of targeted minority graduates had fallen short of ambitious goals set five years ago, it had increased more than 60 percent since 1988. This sparked a spirited discussion at the Oct. 27 senate meeting, with some members complaining that Stanford had not done enough.
“We sat in this room and moaned about why we were doing so poorly,” Simoni said, and this must have been disheartening for those in the departments, deans' offices and the provost's office who have worked hard on recruitment.
His remarks came during a discussion by George Dekker, associate dean for graduate policy, about whether Filipino Americans should be considered a targeted minority at the graduate student level.
Simoni's views were echoed by several faculty members.
Dekker, author of the report, said he felt its underlying message was that the “enormous investment” of time and money by faculty, administrators and graduate students themselves had paid off. Among peer institutions, Stanford is near the top in recruitment success, he said.
“We can do better,” but “I felt that this was essentially a report that was bringing good news,” Dekker said.
Steering Committee member Stephen Krasner, political science, said that discussions about minority recruitment are “exercises in hypocrisy.” Stanford is unfairly portrayed as a racist institution that would “find tons of minority graduate students” if it worked a little harder, he said.
John Bravman, associate dean of engineering, said private and public discussion of minority recruiting “are worlds apart.” Everyone knows about that dichotomy, “but we don't do anything about it,” he said.
Steering Committee member John Bender, English, seconded Bravman, and added that public rhetoric may have a negative impact on how some departments are regarded.
Senate member Elisabeth Paté-Cornell, industrial engineering, said that recruiting difficulties trace back to the “pipeline problem” - the small number of minority students interested in certain types of graduate study. Something should be done about the pipeline problem, but Stanford cannot solve it, she said.
Steering Committee member Brad Efron, statistics, said that if history is any guide, there will be more debate on the subject at the senate. He said he hoped the views being expressed would be repeated to the full senate.
On the subject of targeting Filipino Americans for graduate admission, Dekker said the issue had been raised by Asian American students and referred to him by last year's Steering Committee. He said that information is hard to come by, but it appears that because of changes in immigration policies, Filipinos who have come to the United States since 1960 have much higher educational and income levels than those who came earlier.
Krasner wondered why, under those circumstances, the university would consider targeting Filipino Americans. He said the Steering Committee had requested that Dekker and the Committee on Graduate Studies develop an overall set of principles about when to target or “de-target” a minority group. Simoni suggested that the present Steering Committee could amend those instructions or tell the graduate committee to abandon its efforts.
MLA degree; proprietary research
In discussing annual reports from several committees, the Steering Committee learned that the Committee on Graduate Studies is reviewing whether the Master of Liberal Arts degree in Continuing Studies should be continued.
Committee Chair Jack Rakove, history, said the committee has “reached an impasse” on the issue. On a divided vote, the senate in February 1991 approved the program for part-time adult students, effective that September. This program is set to expire in August 1996. The issue will be referred to the senate for further discussion by the Committee on Graduate Studies.
Another important issue under consideration - this one by the Committee on Research - is whether to allow outside companies to conduct proprietary research at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center and the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory, which are national laboratories run by Stanford for the Department of Energy.
Robert Byer, current chair of the research committee, said that some companies are interested in using the facilities to make measurements that are critical to their own research programs, and they “would like to keep the information either confidential or proprietary.” The committee is considering how that would square with Stanford's policy on secrecy in research.
“It's not a trivial matter and it's not simple,” Byer said. Virtually all other national laboratories allow such research.
Other issues facing the committee are confidentiality in drug research and review of research participation agreements with outside companies. In addition, the committee is charged with reviewing the secrecy in research policy this year, Byer said.
Previewing the work of this year's Committee on Academic Appraisal and Achievement, religious studies Professor Van Harvey, who chairs the committee, said his group is tackling the issue of whether credit should be given for activity courses.
The Commission on Undergraduate Education recommended abolishing such credit. The committee has heard opposing views from athletics, drama and music about the issue, which “is far more complicated than it appears on the surface,” Harvey said.
Program extensions approved
In other business, the Steering Committee approved one- year degree-granting extensions for the graduate program in International Policy Studies and undergraduate program in International Relations, the authorizations for which expire in September 1996. Humanities and Sciences Dean John Shoven told the Steering Committee that the programs are undergoing major changes.
The committee granted a one-year extension for the interdisciplinary program in Science, Technology and Society, which currently is lodged in the School of Engineering. The extension will allow Engineering and Humanities and Sciences time to investigate the possibility of reestablishing it as a joint program.
Bravman told the Steering Committee that the program has survived through the “dedication of a relatively small number of people,” many of whom are not tenure-line faculty.
Institutions such as MIT and Harvard have departments in this area, he said. Stanford has an opportunity to put together a unique and strong program, given its position as a major research university located at one end of Silicon Valley, Bravman said.
Shoven said he supported the concept. “Basically, we need the commitment of some key faculty to make it work,” he said.
The Steering Committee also endorsed a request to add several courses to the list of those that can be used to fulfill distribution requirements. It also granted degrees to students who completed graduation requirements fall quarter.
Six of the seven Steering Committee members attended the administrative session, along with 15 committee chairs, senate members and guests.
At the next regular senate meeting on Jan. 26, any group of five senators may appeal a vote of the Steering Committee taken in the administrative session.
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