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Parents and Students Converge on Campus for Admit Weekend"
STANFORD -- As prospective freshmen settled into their first night in the dorms, their parents dashed off to Kresge Auditorium for an evening with President Gerhard Casper.
About 450 parents gathered inside the auditorium Thursday night, April 20, for a welcoming address by President Casper followed by a question and answer session.
Those who arrived early compared notes about their children.
"My son is definitely seduced by the weather," John Parker of Houston, Texas, told a woman who was sitting next to him. "I said to Daniel, 'If you don't come here, I will.' "
Sherry Tate of Connecticut, who had been traveling the college circuit with her son for the past week, replied: "I'm just trying to keep my mouth shut..."
More than 1,200 students and about 600 parents were on campus for a three-day series of Admit Weekend events that included campus tours, financial aid seminars and drop-in advising seminars for both parents and students.Stanford has made offers of admission to about 2,900 students, who have until May 1 to make their decisions.
In his welcoming remarks to parents, Casper described college as a rite of passage from home to the future.
"College will challenge the familiar, will challenge prejudices and even values, will create uncertainty, will lead to new ways of relating to one another," Casper said.
Casper told parents that college not only will give their children access to vast amounts of knowledge but also will teach them how to analyze information critically.
" 'Garbage in, garbage out' may be the most important adage to remind ourselves of in the information age. To recognize garbage is one of the functions of an education," he said.
Stanford's faculty and student body, its setting on the Pacific Rim and the wide range of academic and extracurricular activities are unmatched, Casper stressed.
"Students who seize the initiative," he said, "can seek out the incredible range of opportunities that Stanford has to offer from the entire spectrum of a full-blown university and will be rewarded in ways that are not easily matched anywhere."
At the end of his speech, Casper invited parents to ask questions. "I am a law professor. I warn you, if no questions are forthcoming, I will call you," he gibed, drawing bellows of laughter from the audience.
But the parents didn't need any coaxing. In lightning speed, more hands went up than could be counted. The group of inquiring parents asked him a series of probing questions on issues ranging from grade inflation to what he thought about the theme houses, and ended up staying 30 minutes longer than scheduled to hear what he had to say.
The first parent to pose a question asked if some law school courses are open to undergraduates. He was pleased to hear the answer was yes.
"Now why," Casper quipped, "any undergraduate would want to go to the law school is a question that I find difficult to deal with."
The Berkeley dilemma
Another parent tried to stump Casper with her query.
"Do you have any suggestions for how two parents who are both UC-Berkeley graduates can gather the moral courage and accept the institutional wrath to send their child to Stanford?"
Casper, quick to respond, said he couldn't advise the couple one way or the other, but added that he had taught at Berkeley for two years "until I realized that Stanford across the bay was even better!"
Parental concerns, on the whole, centered on tuition and the impact that federal cuts could have on the university.
Casper said potential cuts in federal funding for research and student aid programs could have significant effects on the university.
"I think, and I will be very straightforward with you, that the next five years to 10 years will be very difficult years for the major Americans universities," Casper told the parents.
But, on a brighter note, he said any cuts in federal funding probably will not have a substantial effect on tuition costs while their children are undergraduates.
Students urged to explore, take risks
Earlier in the day, about 1,500 students and parents jammed Memorial Auditorium for a welcoming address by James Montoya, dean of undergraduate admission and financial aid, and keynote remarks by Nobel laureate Paul Berg, professor of biochemistry and director of the Beckman Center for Molecular and Genetic Medicine.
After introducing the admissions staff, Montoya told the students that his experiences as a Stanford undergraduate enabled him to "study anthropology in Mexico, architectural history in Barcelona and political theory in England."
He tried a number of subjects before settling on anthropology as a major, and advised students to be similarly adventurous.
"Don't worry if you have not yet decided on a major," Montoya said. "There are few better places in the world [than Stanford] to explore a wide variety of academic interests before settling in to a major -- your first year will be a wonderful period of exploration.
"We think you and Stanford are a terrific match," Montoya said. "Our hope is that as you visit with faculty and students over the next few days, and explore the campus and its resources, you will come to the same conclusion."
Berg told the prospective freshmen what they could expect as undergraduates at a leading research university.
"The ultimate mission of this university is teaching," Berg said. "Many of the most distinguished scholars and scientists teach introductory classes in their disciplines. The joys and fruits of discovery are being shared with an increasingly sophisticated body of undergraduates in a variety of settings."
Berg said former Stanford faculty member Nannerl Keohane, now president of Duke University, characterized the modern research university aptly when she called it "a company of scholars engaged in both discovering and sharing knowledge, [with] an explicit commitment to use that knowledge to improve the human condition."
"'Discovering' in this context," Berg said, implies more than the acquisition of knowledge, the term usually used to describe that activity. It connotes the searching, the trial and error that leads finally to that 'eureka' experience. The phrase 'sharing of knowledge' is more apt than the phrase 'transmission of knowledge.' Teaching is a shared experience.
"The interaction with students is the most precious, the most rewarding and the most important aspect of the creative act of doing science," Berg said.
In closing, Berg told the students to be true to themselves, both in their selection of a university and beyond.
"Each of you must find your own way," Berg said. "It is your abundant talent, your knowledge, your energy, your spirit, your courage, your commitment to humanity, to scholarship, to work and to a family, or to some combination of these, that will define your world and your achievements.
"You have more freedom to shape yourselves than young people anywhere or anytime in the history of our species," Berg said. "That freedom is a lonely and a difficult burden, but also a blessing beyond measure. The burden cannot be conquered nor the blessing realized by standing in anyone else's shadow."
He urged the students to select Stanford, promising that they would never regret the decision. "All you have to do is ask those who have made that decision before you," he said.
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