Reports on Stanford Athletics and emergency preparedness highlight Faculty Senate meeting

At its Jan. 25 meeting, the senate also heard campus updates from Provost Persis Drell.

Athletics panel, from left, Kevin Palma, coterm student; Melissa Schellberg, director of  academic advising services for student-athletes; Professor Pat Jones; and Bernard Muir, director of athletics. (Image credit: L.A. Cicero)

At the Faculty Senate meeting on Thursday, Director of Athletics Bernard Muir presented a snapshot of the university’s Department of Athletics, Physical Education & Recreation (DAPER) focusing on the academic performance and activities of Stanford’s student-athletes.

The senate also heard a report on Stanford’s emergency preparedness program that touched on the university’s response to a wide spectrum of potential emergency situations and threats.

In addition, Provost Persis Drell reported on suspension of a faculty teaching award, changes to the international student travel policy and the launch of Cardinal Conversations, a new discussion series.


Characterizing Stanford’s athletic community as an “Olympic village” because it comprises 12 percent of all undergraduates, Muir emphasized that at Stanford the goal is for student-athletes to be fully integrated into the overall student body.

“We want student-athletes to wake up every day and feel like they are a part of the Stanford student experience,” he said.

In his presentation on Stanford Athletics, Muir said that Stanford’s student-athletes perform at the highest levels both academically and athletically. He said he was most proud of the high graduation rate of Stanford’s student-athletes (94 percent). He compared this figure with the overall graduation rate of 67 percent at Division 1 institutions.

Stanford Athletics supports 36 varsity sports – 15 men’s teams, 20 women’s teams and one co-ed team – as well as campus-wide recreation, fitness and wellness programs. Muir focused his comments on the academic achievement and activities of the 837 Stanford student-athletes.

One of the efforts that Muir and his team are working to expand is participation in international programs, which can be difficult for student-athletes given the demands of their athletic programs. However, he called attention to the success of the ACE Program, a three-week international program that was developed with Duke University. Thirty-nine Stanford student-athletes have participated in summer programs in China, India, South Africa and Vietnam through ACE.

Muir said that in supporting student-athletes, the focus for Stanford Athletics is on developing the whole person. In addition to enhancing programs that are unique to high-level athletic pursuits, the athletics department works in close partnership with existing campus programs and services that are available to all students.

Biology Professor Pat Jones, until recently the faculty athletics representative, described the Faculty Athletic Fellows program, which was launched last year. The program enlists faculty members to serve as informal advisers and mentors for the student-athletes. She said 58 Stanford faculty members from across the university currently serve in these roles, and several other faculty members have agreed to be included as advising resources for student-athletes.

Emergency preparedness

Stanford’s Emergency Management Program has developed response plans for a wide variety of emergencies ranging from power outages and infectious disease outbreaks to cyberattacks, earthquakes and fires, according to Keith Perry, university emergency manager and training and communications manager for Environmental Health and Safety. He referred to this as an “all-hazards approach” to emergency situations.

In his presentation to the senate, Perry gave an overview of the emergency program with a particular focus on earthquake preparedness and response.

“Earthquakes are the No. 1 threat to the university and have the greatest potential impact,” said Perry, presenting U.S. Geological Survey data showing the high probability of a major earthquake (6.7+ magnitude) in the region in the next 30 years.

He gave some examples of how the university has prepared for an earthquake, including the development of seismic engineering guidelines for both new and existing buildings and a building inspection process following an earthquake that would engage 600 volunteers, along with seismic engineers who are on retainer to report to Stanford in the event of a major earthquake.

Perry said the goal in emergency management at Stanford is to enhance the university’s resiliency. This objective is being addressed through continuity planning, by conducting emergency exercises and by continuing to educate the Stanford community, Perry said.

Perry emphasized that the Stanford community should be prepared for emergencies at a personal level, referring senate members to the three-step process: Make a plan, build a kit and stay informed. He directed them to further resources on the Environmental Health and Safety website.

Report from the provost

Provost Persis Drell began her remarks by announcing that the university has suspended the Cox Medal for Faculty Excellence in Fostering Undergraduate Research.

“It was recently brought to our attention that former Dean Allan Cox, for whom the award was named, was facing serious charges of sexual misconduct at the time of his death in 1987,” Drell said. “We understand why the university at the time wanted to honor Cox’s memory as a person who was dedicated to teaching, had fostered undergraduate research and also contributed very significantly to his scientific field. However, we have determined that, in light of these recent revelations, we cannot continue to issue an award in his name.”

Drell also reported that the university has revised its undergraduate international travel guidelines to reflect new U.S. Department of State policies. The State Department has discontinued the issuance of travel warning notices and instead is categorizing countries by level of risk. Travel for Stanford undergraduate students is now prohibited to countries where the risk is at Level 3 or 4, said Drell. The new university policy does not apply to graduate students and faculty.

Drell concluded her remarks by voicing her enthusiasm for Cardinal Conversations, a new series of discussions that will feature well-known people whose opinions differ from one another on important topics. The series debuts Jan. 31 with a conversation on the topic of “Technology and Politics” between entrepreneurs and Stanford alumni Reid Hoffman and Peter Thiel.

“We hope that these discussions advance two commitments at the heart of Stanford’s research and education mission: our commitment to the free expression of ideas and our commitment to fostering an inclusive campus culture,” said Drell.

The full minutes of the Jan. 25 meeting, including the discussion that followed the presentations, will be posted on the Faculty Senate website.