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Stanford Report, February 23, 2000

Academic Council minutes


October 29, 1998

President Casper called to order the annual meeting of the Academic Council at 4:15 p.m. in Kresge Auditorium on October 29, 1998. There were approximately 300 faculty and staff members in attendance. Having received no corrections, he declared the minutes of the November 16, 1997 annual Academic Council meeting to be approved as submitted.

Report of the Senate of the Academic Council

Senate XXX Chair Conley reported that the Senate had held 14 regular meetings and two Administrative Sessions during the 1997/98 academic year to discharge its duties on behalf of the Academic Council. The Senate conducted its regular business of: conferring degrees, accepting annual reports from the seven standing committees of the Academic Council, hearing memorial resolutions in honor of deceased colleagues, and renewing degree-nominating and honors certification authority for 13 graduate and undergraduate interdisciplinary programs (an unusually large number of IDP reviews, she noted).

The Senate took action on several academic policy matters, Conley indicated, including adoption of a new policy on Access to and Retention of Research Data, revisions to policies on Student Evaluation of Teaching and Minimum Units for an Undergraduate Degree. The Senate also approved a recommendation to the Provost for the establishment of an Oversight Committee on Teaching Assistant Training, and a resolution on the Status of Women Faculty. Over the course of several meetings the Senate adopted revisions to faculty and academic staff grievance procedures, she said. Conley mentioned a number of reports to the Senate on academic policy issues, as well as reports from senior University officers on topics of interest to the faculty such as the Museum, the Libraries, Athletics, and Stanford Introductory Seminars. The Senate also heard reports from the Deans of Earth Sciences, Education, and Religious Life.

Conley concluded that communication between the Senate and the administration continued productively through the mechanism of reports from and questions to the President and the Provost at each Senate meeting. She urged members of the Academic Council to communicate their ideas or concerns through their elected colleagues serving on the Senate or directly to her successor, Senate XXXI Chair Professor Brad Efron.

President Casper's State of the University Address

[Note: The full text of the President's address was published in the November 4, 1998 issue of Stanford Report. For this reason, the minutes that follow are significantly abbreviated.]

President Casper began by mentioning several notable events in Stanford's history that had occurred in the previous year:

* The fruition of Stanford Introductory Studies, an unparalleled allocation of resources to undergraduate education by a research-intensive institution

* The highest number of undergraduate applications ever -- 18,888

* The first class of Stanford Graduate Fellows -- more than 120 fellows in 32 fields

* The first openings of new buildings in the Science and Engineering Quad, as well as completion of the last restoration and seismic strengthening work in the Inner Quad, and the restoration and expansion of the 1893 Leland Stanford Junior Museum

* The charter year of UCSF-Stanford Health Care

* Integration of the Stanford Alumni Association into Stanford University

* The first time in almost a century that Stanford went to the ballot -- for a vote in Palo Alto on the Sand Hill Road projects

* A men's basketball team to the Final Four -- somehow provoking more off campus comments, he mused, than extending the University's streak of Nobel Prizes in Physics or Sears Cup awards for the best collegiate athletics program in the nation

* Another record level of gifts to the University -- $319,000,000

The President cited Stanford's success in raising unrestricted funds as the major factor enabling him to announce a five-year pilot program of Presidential Research Grants for junior faculty members in the schools of Earth Sciences, Engineering, and Humanities & Sciences. Under the terms of the program, each assistant professor will receive a $5,000 unrestricted research grant at the time of initial appointment, followed by another $5,000 at the time of reappointment, and an additional $10,000 if a candidate is awarded tenure.

Turning from these positive "historic" events, President Casper noted the troubling increase in litigiousness at the University and devoted his main remarks to issues of faculty cohesion, faculty grievances, and faculty discipline. That universities such as Stanford possess a community spirit at all should be gratifying, he said, given the tensions that come from the heterogeneity of the institution, generational differences, and evolving community standards. Quoting Edward Shils, a sociologist and critic of higher education who defined the university as "a general pattern of attitudes and activities that molds the activities of the individual members," Casper said that that pattern shows fragility throughout. He expressed the opinion that the "legalism in American universities" does not seem to improve outcomes but does divert significant resources, both time and money, away from core academic purposes. Noting that there seems to be "little we can do about an excessive and overreaching legal system," the President said that he believes strongly "that it is in the best interests of the institution to reduce complexity in the faculty discipline and faculty grievance procedures."

President Casper announced that he was appointing a task force to make recommendations for Senate and Board of Trustees action concerning amendments to the present procedures. That task force was to be comprised of the current and three most recent past chairs of the Advisory Board, an additional faculty member, the President, and the Provost. "The university can be debilitatingly distracted from its core missions by the excessive intrusions of a legal system that seems bent on turning all human disagreements into legal conflicts," Casper stated. "Our obligation to sustain Stanford includes being cognizant of this aspect of our life as an institution. And it includes each of us doing all we can -- as individuals and as university citizens -- to prevent such damaging distractions from our core missions of teaching, learning, and research," he concluded.

Following his address, several members of the audience posed questions to, and received answers from, the President concerning lack of civility, "lessons learned" from his time spent on university legal matters, strengthening the humanities, and graduate student housing problems.

There was no new business and the President adjourned the annual meeting of the Academic Council at approximately 5:30 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Susan W. Schofield

Academic Secretary to the University