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Stanford Report, November 19, 1997

Faculty Senate Minutes Nov. 13 meeting: 11/97

Faculty Senate minutes

(continuation of minutes)

1996/97 Annual Report from the Committee on Graduate Studies (SenD#4733)

Professor Mocarski, Chair of the Committee on Graduate Studies, reported that the committee had had a relatively light load in the prior year since it only had one interdisciplinary program review. They had dealt with some issues concerning doctoral education initially raised by the Planning and Policy Board, he said, and had received responses from five schools to a memo on these matters. Drawing attention to data appended to the C-GS annual report, Mocarski indicated that there is quite a variation among departments in "time to degree," even when looking at the number of quarters which seems to be the most accurate measure. The committee will continue to discuss time to degree and employment options for Ph.D. students, he indicated. Mocarski reported that C-GS had also discussed the impact of Circular A-21 changes on the cost of graduate students, clarified the definition of full-time graduate study, and reconstituted a subcommittee to examine issues of recruitment and retention of minority graduate students and women in certain fields.

Professor Andersen (Chemistry) asked whether C-GS had discussed the problem of lack of affordable local housing as it affects Stanford's ability to recruit graduate students, postdocs, and residents. Mocarski said they had not done so specifically. Provost Rice commented that she had recently raised housing in general as a fiduciary issue with the Board of Trustees, and has asked a small group to look at ways to alleviate the graduate student housing problem, which had become much more serious in the past 18 months. She suggested that certain policy changes might help in the short term, such as reconfiguring and reassigning spaces in some dorms, and reexamining some 25-year old assignment priorities. Examples of the latter, Rice said, include the preference given to married over single students, and the fact that graduate students keep the same priority for housing no matter how long they stay at Stanford. Longer term solutions will probably include new housing for graduate students, either increasing the density in Escondido Village or building elsewhere on campus, she observed. Provost Rice encouraged deans and faculty to send her e-mail with any comments about housing problems. Professor Pate-Cornell (Industrial Engineering) asserted that first- and second-year students should have the highest priority for campus housing, and that "at the other end of the spectrum we have some citizens who should be given some incentives to move out and move on." Associate Dean for Graduate Policy Wasow clarified that incoming graduate students have a guarantee of campus housing in their first year.

Responding to a question from Professor Street (Civil and Environmental Engineering), the Provost said that buying and operating housing off campus really isn't an option in the current housing market, and that maximizing the housing stock on Stanford's own land is more feasible. Charles Kruger, Vice Provost and Dean of Research and Graduate Policy, recalled that a Dean of Graduate Studies six years earlier had promulgated "something between policy and encouragement" that Stanford should move toward a four-year doctoral program. "That ambition certainly hasn't been realized ­ has it been forgotten or declared unrealistic?" he queried. Mocarski responded that he believed it had neither been forgotten nor declared unrealistic, and that one way to promote attention to the issue was to collect the data on each program and to make it available. The basic science departments in the Medical School now have their time to degree statistics posted on the web, "and that's having an impact," he stated.

Professor Brauman (Chemistry) acknowledged that having students/departments find their own Ph.D. orals chairs seems to be working, but expressed regret that some cross-university faculty communication and understanding had been lost. "There are lots of us who would be willing to serve on orals in areas where we are not presumed to have expertise," he offered. Mocarski noted that faculty opinion varies widely on this matter. Chair Conley accepted the 1996/97 Annual Report of the Committee on Graduate Studies and thanked Mocarski and his committee for their work.

Dean's Report on the School of Earth Sciences

[A brief background paper on the School of Earth Sciences (SenD#4749) had been distributed in advance. Orr accompanied his presentation with slides.]

Lynn Orr, Professor of Petroleum Engineering and Dean of the School of Earth Sciences, taking his cue from Museum Director Tom Seligman at an earlier Senate meeting, began by asking, "Why does Stanford need a School of Earth Sciences?" A partial answer, he said, lies in the fact that "earth sciences were here at the very beginnings of Stanford University." Among other interesting historical facts, Orr described how Valentin Garfias was hired to start a petroleum engineering program after only a day and a half's negotiation with Branner, "from which I conclude that the faculty search and appointment process was a little more expeditious then," he joked. He also commented on the "nice irony" that geology field camp, which did not allow women students until 1964, had been run in recent years by Professor Elizabeth Miller. Orr acknowledged Professor and former Dean Konnie Krauskopf, in the audience, for his 58 years of contributions to the school, as well as for fathering and bringing up the Senate Chair, Frances Krauskopf Conley. Established in 1947 as the School of Mineral Sciences, Orr said that they are now celebrating their 50th anniversary.

Turning from the past to the present, Orr illustrated and described some of the ongoing research activities in the school. Their faculty pursue work on plate tectonics and earthquakes in many ways, he said, including drilling down into the San Andreas fault system, listening to the sound waves produced by earthquakes, and measuring continental motions using satellite and radar images. They also work at a smaller scale, Orr said, using a high resolution microprobe and NMRs to look at the properties and age of minerals. Orr noted that they also examine the earth structures first-hand, as part of understanding how rocks that contain oil, gas, and water behave. Other important research themes, he indicated, include predicting fluid flow in the subsurface and studying environmental contaminants. The hydrogeologists and faculty in the groundwater program in Civil and Environmental Engineering together have a very strong international program, Orr advised. Mentioning that "Earth Sciences has been primarily a dry land kind of outfit at Stanford in the past," Orr reported on the school's exciting new Ocean Margins initiative in the Monterey Bay area, "a remarkable laboratory for studying the continental shelf."

Dean Orr next described some of the school's teaching programs, including the interdisciplinary Earth Systems Program, a joint effort with faculty from Humanities and Sciences, Engineering, Law, and Business with about 100 undergraduate majors; and a track within the new Science, Math and Engineering Core, taught with biologists, called "Earth Resources and the Sustainability of Life." Seven of the school's 40 faculty also taught Sophomore Seminars or Sophomore College, Orr indicated. Commenting that they use classrooms and laboratories as much as anybody, he indicated that they also get to use "outdoor classrooms that happen to be in some of the most beautiful places in the world," including for example the Sierras, Mongolia, and Death Valley.

Orr said that John McPhee had described geologists as being like fleas who crawl around the wrinkled hide of the earth trying to understand what makes the creature move. "We're a happy group of fleas," he concluded, "determined to make Earth Sciences the absolutely number one program in its various disciplines." The Senate gave Orr a hearty round of applause.

Responding to a question about research and teaching linkages with other schools from Professor Pate-Cornell (Industrial Engineering), Orr reiterated linkages with Civil and Environmental Engineering, subsurface flow programs, and earthquake programs, noting that the latter should perhaps be increased. President Casper said he had read that oil companies are again begging for graduates, which Orr corroborated, advising that after a long dry spell the number of companies recruiting at the Earth Sciences job fair had increased from 12 to 40 in one year. Chair Conley thanked Dean Orr for a very interesting presentation, noting that Education Dean Shavelson would have a tough act to follow in Winter Quarter.