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Stanford Report, January 26, 2000

Faculty Senate minutes


Report No. 6


At its meeting on Thursday, January 20, 2000, the Senate of the Academic Council heard reports and took the following action:

1. By voice vote, with one abstention, authorized the Graduate School of Business to nominate candidates for the degree of Master of Arts in Business Research, effective Winter Quarter 1999/2000, and without limit of time.

Susan W. Schofield

Academic Secretary to the University


Call to Order

Chair Mark Zoback called the Senate meeting to order at 3:18 p.m. in Room 180 of the Law School. There were 31 voting members, 11 ex-officio members, and numerous invited guests in attendance.

Approval of Minutes

The minutes of the December 2, 1999 Senate meeting (SenD#5021) were approved, with the Academic Secretary promising to correct one typographical error.

Action Calendar: Conferral of Degrees

The Senate, by unanimous voice vote, conferred bachelors degrees on the Autumn Quarter candidates listed in Senate Document #5028, as recommended by the Committee on Academic Appraisal and Achievement. The Senate, by unanimous voice vote, also conferred the various advanced degrees on the Autumn Quarter candidates listed in Senate Document #5029, as recommended by the Committee on Graduate Studies.

Report from the Senate Steering Committee

Chair Zoback highlighted future Senate agenda items. He said that a general discussion of "Stanford in the 21st Century" was planned for February 3rd, including topics suggested by Senators such as digital curriculum, distance learning, and on-line education. On February 17th there would be a general discussion of issues related to faculty development, as well as two items concerning the Senate's Planning and Policy Board. The March 3rd Senate meeting would be quite short, followed at 4:15 p.m. by the annual Academic Council Meeting and the President's "State of the University" address.

Reports from the President and the Provost

President Casper had no report. Provost Hennessy said that he had three report items. He announced that Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Bob Kinnally "has found an even higher calling and will be leaving Stanford to pursue a new career." He also announced that Professor Ed Mocarski, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, would be joining Charles Kruger's office as Associate Dean of Research, enabling Professor Pat Jones, Biological Sciences, to take up her new duties as Vice Provost for Faculty Development. Lastly, the Provost advised that he had nearly completed the membership of the search committee for a new Medical School dean [occasioned by the President's decision to separate the position of Vice President for Medical Affairs from Dean of the School of Medicine, and to appoint Professor Eugene Bauer, who had held both titles, to the former]. The faculty members on the search committee, he said, are: Steve Galli (Pathology), Co-chair with the Provost; Matthew Scott (Developmental Biology); Richard Tsien (Molecular and Cellular Physiology); Ann Arvin (Pediatrics); Charlotte Jacobs (Oncology); Paul Yock (Cardiovascular Medicine); Oscar Salvatierra (Surgery); and Tom Burdon (Cardiothoracic Surgery). Still to be appointed, he said, are a student member and a faculty member from outside the Medical School. There were no questions for the President or the Provost.

Report from the Committee on Committees

Ewart Thomas, Chair, reported that after being asked to recommend faculty members to serve on the Medical School dean search, CoC had sought and received assurances from the Provost that the search would be "expeditious but valid," which assurances had been confirmed in a letter from the Provost to the Chair of the Medical School Faculty Senate. Thomas advised that CoC had secured fruitful cooperation from the Medical School Faculty Senate through its chair, Lorry Frankel, and its executive Committee of Five, and that a representative list of thoughtful and respected faculty had been submitted to the Provost on January 14th.

Proposal for a New Master of Arts Degree in Business Research (SenD#5023)

Zoback welcomed Professor George Dekker, Chair of the Committee on Graduate Studies, and Graduate School of Business faculty members Porteus and Bendor. Dekker reported that C-GS members fully supported the proposal, which he viewed as "a slam dunk." The GSB had agreed to changes requested by the committee in the degree title and in the cohort of students to whom it would be available. Though students leaving the Ph.D. program for whatever reason can earn the degree, it will also be available to all students in the doctoral program. "These are all superior students, accepted into the GSB's highly competitive Ph.D. program," he added, and the courses are precisely those that students pursue in their first year of doctoral studies.

Professors Conley (Neurosurgery) and Simoni (Biological Sciences) questioned why all Ph.D. students were being allowed to earn the degree. Professor Bendor commented that the GSB did not really expect most Ph.D. students to request the degree, since it would not add any particular luster to their C.V. He said, however, that the faculty views the degree as a fair recognition of achievements for those students leaving the Ph.D. program. Dekker clarified that the Faculty Senate had some years earlier articulated the principle that there should be no "consolation" Master's degrees and that MA degrees should be open to all students in the relevant department or program.

The following motion, moved and seconded by the Committee on Graduate Studies, was approved by voice vote, with one abstention:

The Senate authorizes the Graduate School of Business to nominate candidates for the Master of Arts in Business Research, effective Winter Quarter 1999/2000, and without limit of time.

Discussion of Interdisciplinary Teaching Programs (SenD# 5030)

The Chair identified interdisciplinary teaching programs (IDPs) as the third in a series of general discussion topics suggested by Senators. Commenting that Stanford prides itself on the permeability of the boundaries between departments and disciplines, he noted that IDPs had been a long-standing feature of the university's educational landscape. There are currently 41 IDPs, the first established in 1947 and many in existence for more than 20 years. Referring to background data provided in Senate packets, Zoback emphasized the diversity among the IDPs -- some very small, some very large, some spanning different departments, some fitting in the small gaps between departments. The Chair reminded everyone that there was no Senate action or specific policy matter under consideration, and voiced the hope that the expression of faculty views and input on issues associated with IDPs at Stanford would be useful to the school deans. Zoback introduced the three faculty members who would speak briefly to frame the discussion: Russ Fernald, Chair of the Human Biology Program; Eric Knudsen, Chair of the Neurosci-ences Program; and Russell Berman, H&S Associate Dean. He noted that Berman is leading a review of IDPs and that Dean Beasley had established an H&S Advisory Committee chaired by Professor Richard Zare, on which Senators Rickford and Polhemus were serving.

Fernald began by defining undergraduate IDPs as programs created for the purpose of educating undergraduates, typically about topics that lie in the interface of two or more disciplines. These teaching programs are subject to regular review and reauthorization by the Committee on Undergraduate Studies and the Senate. Three programs had been terminated over the past 20 years, Fernald commented. He said that IDPs are normally staffed by faculty members whose billets are in regular departments and are often characterized by innovative curricular design. "Since IDPs are now responsible for something like 25 percent of all Stanford undergraduate degrees (and 35 percent of the AB degrees in H&S last year), how well are they doing in educating students?" he asked. It is somewhat difficult to compare IDPs to departmental majors, he said, since the latter do not undergo the same regular reviews of curricular coherence and teaching quality. Fernald pointed out, however, that in 1994 the Commission on Undergraduate Education (CUE) had carried out an extensive review of seven departmental majors and five IDPs. He encouraged those interested to read the CUE report and cited two conclusions from its section on The Major:

"...majors may vary as much in quality as they do in size and structure."

"Students whom we interviewed frequently praised these programs [IDPs] because of their interesting and challenging courses, opportunities for independent research, and faculty dedication. The best IDPs also seem to have a culture that encourages and supports good teaching and an active engagement with undergraduates."

Fernald said that he had posed a series of questions to all H&S IDP directors. In describing the role of their IDP relative to its cognate departments, directors most commonly cited jointly sponsoring electives, developing courses, assisting in recruiting faculty members, and a key role in the intellectual community. They identified difficulties in rewarding faculty members for their participation and staffing core courses. When asked how the department relates to their IDP and to their time as director, most responses reflected a certain amount of conflict, e.g., "no course relief." Time spent as director was described variously as "half advising, half on administrative tasks," "preparing proposals for meager funding opportunities," and "trying to get an office." Prompted by a Senator (perhaps a dean?), Fernald agreed that "haranguing the dean" was another favorite activity of IDP directors. The directors indicated that the most rewarding aspects of being a director included "interacting with really interesting, motivated students", "meeting new faculty and formalizing relations among faculty with diverse interests", "opportunity to innovate with curricular offerings", "building a program", and "a sense of doing something pedagogically valuable." The least rewarding aspects were "writing proposals for trivial amounts of money," "lack of control over courses," "sustaining a curriculum without a mechanism to support the faculty," and "it's hard work." Fernald said that answers to his last question, "Are the intellectual and pedagogical goals of your IDP understood and supported by your cognizant dean?" were mixed, with some indicating great support, one hoping for "benign neglect," and some commenting that they were always having to "educate new deans." Fernald mentioned two concerns frequently raised during IDP reviews: "since this IDP was formed the discipline has changed"; and "wouldn't it be 'better' for departments to get the IDP resources and provide the same curricular options for students?"

Based on his discussions with IDP directors, Fernald offered three conclusions:

* Stanford needs to develop a clear set of guidelines for the treatment of IDPs.

"Without a long-range plan for IDPs, there really can't be a basis for short-term decisions," he said.

* IDPs need a mechanism through which faculty participation can be encouraged, supported, and normalized.

CUE recognized this as a problem and offered one solution -- "placing fractional faculty billets in IDPs, either by reassigning existing faculty for a fixed period or by appointing some fraction of a new position to an IDP." Similar solutions seem to have been found in billets shared with interdisciplinary research centers, Fernald noted.

* IDPs need to receive funding adequate to their needs and not rely on competition for ad hoc grants.

CUE recommended that "successful IDPs be given adequate base funding for the entire period in which they have degree-granting authority." Readily endorsed by IDP directors, this doesn't seem to have happened, Fernald said. He displayed data on Human Biology enrollments, graduates, and budget for the period 1992 -- 1999, the first two rising steeply and the latter essentially flat. "What an increase in your productivity!" observed the President, to laughter.

In summary, Fernald stated, "There is a hardy band of IDPs. Not all are the same in any sense, nor should one broadly say that all IDPs need to be supported. But there is definitely a strong sense that IDPs are serving undergraduate education quite well, and that they are flourishing in what one would say is a rather tough environment."

H&S Associate Dean Berman spoke next, offering first a correction that, as called for by CUE, both H&S and Engineering had established a cycle of regular reviews of departmental majors. Berman began his remarks by observing that with the number of students majoring in IDPs both large and growing, IDPs are a topic of considerable interest. "Proponents of IDPs point to them as sites of particular innovation in contrast to certain departments, while presenting them as deeply under-funded. Critics of IDPs talk about their proliferation and worry about the drain on faculty resources. These are two sides of a familiar debate."

Berman advised that H&S had recently formed an Ad Hoc Advisory Committee (whose charge and roster were distributed to Senators) in order to examine the full range of issues and work toward a long-term strategy for IDPs. Looking forward to deep thinking in that committee, Berman shared some of his thoughts about IDPs. He expressed the caveat that "Interdisciplinarity is not the issue," citing examples of interdisciplinary inquiry within departmental boundaries. The issue, he said, is how the university should work with extra-departmental teaching units. He also reemphasized the heterogeneity of the IDPs, which as a group contain one of the largest undergraduate majors and many of the smallest. "The implicit argument about funding and its relationship to enrollment [from R. Fernald's overhead] would have a very, very different impact for many of the smaller IDPs," he observed.

Identifying some issues regarding IDPs, Berman posed the question, "Must the significant teaching achievement represented by the IDPs necessarily be lodged outside the departments?" Since the ultimate issue has to be the quality of undergraduate education, he stated, are there teaching strategies and agenda that departments could learn from the success of the IDPs? Does H&S have the appropriate incentive structures in place to encourage innovation in undergraduate education? Are there alternative organizational structures that could allow us to teach in these multidisciplinary areas without creating extra-departmental programs? It is the "outsourcing" of some areas of teaching by the departments that creates the funding quandaries identified earlier, he said. Posing a different concern, Berman asked: Do IDPs and departments appear in a different light as Stanford redefines undergraduate education to include a growing research component, since IDPs do not generally have a graduate and research component? "The real issue," he stated, "is the status of the IDP in the full universe of undergraduate education and how departments and IDPs can best provide undergraduate education to our students."

Professor Eric Knudsen, Director of the Neurosciences Program, was the final introductory speaker. He joked with the Academic Secretary that he had been an IDP director for just one year but seemed to be the only Medical School director who had not gone out of town. He began by observing that "In the Medical School, IDPs are the way of the future; almost half of our Ph.D. students are in IDPs, and that proportion is growing." This popularity reflects the fact that much of the most interesting biomedical research is going on at the boundaries between disciplines, he said, and graduate students are seeking this kind of interdisciplinary training. The IDPs also provide a focal point for the faculty to interact across intellectual and scientific disciplines. Describing his own Neurosciences program briefly, Knudsen said they have 58 graduate students and 54 contributing faculty members representing 13 different Medical School and H&S departments. From 174 applicants this year, they will admit 8 of the best students in the country, he said, students who could not be attracted by any of the individual departments.

Though the importance of the IDPs is recognized for both the educational and research missions of the Medical School, they are treated as second-class citizens with regard to the budgetary process. Because budgetary credits accrue to the departments for courses taught and students enrolled, not to the IDPs, the latter tend to have operating budgets inadequate to their needs, he stated. There are no funds for the admissions process, for programmatic enrichment, or for stipend augmentation, for example. Knudsen concluded with the observation that "IDPs are the way of the future. They have been and will continue to be a great success. But it's not clear that the environment that is being set up by Stanford is optimal for them. If it were, they could be even stronger than they are now."

Chair Zoback, commenting that there was a lot to digest, opened the floor for Senate discussion. Professor Heller (Biological Sciences) expressed concern that Berman, as the new H&S Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies, did not appear to share CUE's appreciation for the value that IDPs add to the undergraduate landscape. Offering three specific comments, Heller stated first that "I do think interdisciplinarity is the issue." Using the example of the Biological Sciences Department as compared to the Human Biology IDP, he agreed that there were interdisciplinary appointments and research within the department, but doubted that it could create the new combinations of disciplines that Human Biology had forged with the social sciences. Heller also disagreed with Berman's characterization of departments as "outsourcing"

teaching to IDPs. He said rather that he saw IDPs as created by the faculty to meet special needs, and existing in a healthy interaction, not in competition, with departments. Lastly, Heller observed that he believed undergraduates in IDPs were finding research opportunities in departments, noting that Human Biology has one of the highest percentages of its students doing research and graduating with honors. Berman responded that he recognized the enormous achievements of IDPs in undergraduate education, as had CUE, but was wondering what it was about departments that prevented them from similar curricular innovation. "If our departmental boundaries and cultures are too rigid, could we put other sorts of incentive structures in place to change that?" he asked, stressing that the Zare committee was being asked to look at both sides in the relationship between departments and IDPs.

Professor Efron (Statistics), advising that he had been an IDP director for about 20 years and might therefore display "a tinge of paranoia," said that he found the wording of the six questions posed in the charge to the H&S committee to be awfully negative. Efron and Fernald said they thought that the questions implied incorrectly that there were serious problems with IDPs and they recommended that the questions be recast. Professor Pratt (Spanish and Portuguese) agreed, suggesting that the advisory committee start from the CUE report and recommendations. H&S Dean Beasley explained the origins of the school's review effort. He said that, on becoming dean, he observed that "the noise level around IDPs had always been high" and the administrative mechanisms seemed "a bit irregular." He agreed with Fernald and others that the school was not doing the best job of allocating people and dollar resources now, but said that he did not want to start with a litany of complaints. He said he had determined to start by looking with a fresh eye at the larger questions, such as "What are we trying to achieve in undergraduate education?" Whether the six questions best embodied that or not, he said that was certainly what they wanted to do.

Professor Satz (Philosophy) echoed earlier remarks and voiced puzzlement as to why "everything about IDPs was being put on the table", unless everything about undergraduate education was on the table as well. She also commented that there are purely practical reasons why it is extremely difficult to get the faculty in two or three departments collaborating, "when it's hard enough to get your own faculty together for a faculty meeting." Using the example of Ethics in Society, which she directs, Satz said that it is often hard for an IDP to know which faculty members and departments might need to be involved in advance of particular students proposing particular projects.

Berman agreed with Satz that everything should be on the table, in a continuing attempt to assure that Stanford is doing its best in all units for undergraduate education. He said that he believes the questions put to the advisory committee are balanced, asking about both "advantages and disadvantages." He also said that he is aware of mechanisms at other universities for bringing faculty together without the establishment of a quasi-permanent IDP. Dean Joss (Graduate School of Business) volunteered that he was quite persuaded by Berman's observation that the success of IDPs might result from the rigidity of departments, and wondered why a question along these lines wasn't in the advisory committee's charge. "How you state the problem is going to have a lot to do with how you solve it," he stated.

Professor Gardner (Molecular Pharmacology) said that in her role as Senior Associate Dean for Education in the Medical School, she was extremely sympathetic to the IDPs, which feel they have little influence in the school's department-centric structure. She also identified faculty appointments and promotions as an area of IDP concern, as well as monitoring graduate student progress to degree. Gardner said that she supported finding new mechanisms for enhancing IDP infrastructure, and thought that this would be extremely important to the success of the large, tri-school Bio-X initiative. Professor Lipsick (Pathology) underscored that the interdisciplinary Ph.D. programs in the Medical School are large and inclusive; the small, "high walled" departmental Ph.D. programs are at odds with the way biomedical education is going, he asserted. Dean Bauer (School of Medicine) acknowledged that they had been falling behind their competitors, but said that was being corrected with the recent combined admissions program and a stronger focus on the interdisciplinary Ph.D. programs. He stressed, however, that the school's curriculum reform retreat a year earlier had resulted in a faculty commitment to look first at what structures and curriculum would be best for both medical students and graduate students. "That exercise has to be substantially completed," he said, "before we begin to talk about how resources are going to change."

Professor Markus (Psychology) expressed the view that, in the social sciences at least, the traditional disciplines have outlived their usefulness. The IDPs provide opportunities to look at old problems in new ways, "and that's where faculty excitement, student excitement, and involvement are going." She argued for expanding the committee's charge to look at departments as well as IDPs and stepping back to ask "Where do we want to be in ten years?" Meredyth Krych (ASSU Representative-at-Large) agreed that IDPs are flourishing because it is intellectually stimulating to approach topics from differing perspectives. If Stanford can find ways in the future to fund these kinds of programs and to integrate departments, both undergraduate and graduate education will be improved, she said.

Professor Rickford (Linguistics) spoke as one of the two non-decanal members of the H&S Advisory Committee present at Senate. He sought to reassure Senators that the somewhat adversarial tone of the Senate discussion had not been a feature of the committee's first meeting. He also pointed out that the committee includes both strong-minded IDP directors and former members of CUE and noted that they were already moving considerably beyond the six questions posed in the charge. Beasley concurred that the committee was not composed of "shrinking violets" and said he had great faith in their wisdom. Professor Simoni (Biological Sciences) recalled that the Planning and Policy Board had not succeeded in the past in addressing broad questions about IDPs. He also voiced the opinion that while each IDP was no doubt formed for compelling reasons, the Senate finds it difficult to do its job of terminating IDPs. He urged that a set of criteria be established by which all IDPs could be judged.

Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Bravman warned that IDPs should not be judged solely on the number of degrees awarded, since many of them run educational programs that benefit students beyond their own majors. He next cautioned that "a house built on multiple perspectives typically only stands if it has a foundation of disciplinary strength." While agreeing that Stanford's departments are not optimally set up any longer, he emphasized that the long-standing tradition of appointing and judging faculty within departments should not be dismissed lightly. Last, Bravman indicated that if IDPs are going to be examined broadly and honestly, "we need to be prepared for some fairly soiled linen in some cases." It is important, he said, to ask why the IDP was started, and why (or if) students and faculty members continue to support it. The reasons C-US, C-GS, and the Senate have a difficult time terminating IDPs are not always purely academic reasons, he noted.

Professor Saussy (Asian Languages) said that as a department chair he recognizes the "bookkeeping system" that makes IDPs seem like a drain on faculty resources. He observed, however, that the faculty members who participate freely in IDPs tend to be "the most active and engaged, curious about exploring their disciplines from new angles and participating in emergent research." He urged that "the gains as well as the drains" for the university at large be taken into account. President Casper pointed out that "Stanford has no real policy on IDPs." Faculty members get together with a great idea, he said, but budget resources will always be inadequate because "the departments remain the departments" and control the bulk of the finances. "Nobody ever pauses to ask what is the appropriate allocation of resources to new activities." Casper urged the committee to look at departments in relation to IDPs, noting that he had just chaired the reaccreditation committee for Yale University, which has similar problems of inadequate resource allocation for new activities.

Professor Polhemus (English) joked that as a member of the H&S advisory committee on IDPs, he did not want to be "a shrinking violet nourished by soiled linen." He agreed with Rickford's assessment that the committee is not at all adversarial, and will provide guidance to the dean on the status of the IDPs within the scholarly life of the school. He said the Senate discussion had been marvelous and would certainly inform the committee's work. The Senate Chair, on behalf of the Steering Committee, thanked the three presenters for setting forth the issues and the Senators for an excellent discussion. "I think it's clear that the record of this discussion will be of great use both to the H&S advisory committee and to others who are interested in IDPs," he concluded.

Zoback reminded Senate members to reconvene upstairs for the Informal Executive Session with the President and Provost. Accepting a motion and a second, the Chair declared the meeting adjourned at 4:45 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Susan W. Schofield

Academic Secretary to the University

Note: The background documents and reports distributed to Senate are available on the Academic Secretary's Office web site at, by clicking on the relevant Senate meeting date. SR