CONTACT: Marisa Cigarroa, News Service (650) 725-9750;
Students air their concerns at open forum
Despite the cold weather and the dark clouds looming overhead, nearly 40 people congregated outside the Old Union Clubhouse on Feb. 11 for "Cookies and Tea," an open forum designed to help students communicate their concerns to administrators.
The forum, which was originally scheduled to be located inside the clubhouse, was moved outside at the last minute to make it accessible to the disabled community. Several administrators, including representatives from the provost's office, financial aid, admissions, residential education and student affairs, sat in the audience to listen to the students' concerns.
About 10 students spoke out on a range of issues, from African and Afro-American studies to workers' rights on campus, tenure reform and the graduate student housing crunch.
Senior Ryan Michelle Bathe described what she perceived as a lack of commitment by the university administration to African and Afro-American studies. "There is an incredible vacuum of black professors here," she said.
Responsible business practices was another topic that came up during the forum. Jill Shenker, coordinator of Students for Environmental Action at Stanford and a member of the Coalition for Human Rights and the Coalition for Labor, Dignity and Justice, talked about labor issues on campus and abroad.
The university, she argued, needs to be supportive of unions located on campus and must take steps to make sure that every worker gets paid a decent wage. Shenker then questioned Stanford's investments in Texaco, Freeport McMoRan and Unocal, and she spoke against Nike's sponsorship of Stanford athletic teams.
"Stanford supposedly is playing a role in improving the prospects of people's futures. I know it is playing that role in my life," she said. "But that's not the case for many of the people whom we rely on to make this university run, whether they are workers on campus or workers who work for the companies that we invest in."
Aly Remtulla, a senior representing the Committee to Tenure Karen Sawislak, focused his comments on tenure reform. Stanford, he claimed, can oftentimes be a hostile environment for women and minority faculty.
"If Stanford wants to be the cutting-edge research institution that it claims to be, it needs to really support a lot of different kinds of scholarship," said Remtulla, who pointed out that many women and minority scholars research topics that are outside of the mainstream.
Furthermore, he continued, the university needs to clarify what is expected of junior faculty to attain tenure. The role of teaching and mentoring, he added, should be given more weight in the review process.
Jesse Adams, a graduate student living in Crothers Memorial Hall, made a plea to administrators to improve the housing situation for graduate students living on campus. "I'd like to encourage everybody to push for excellence in housing," said Adams, who is a member of a group of students and administrators who are currently looking for a short-term solution to the rise in demand for graduate student housing.
"I find it disheartening that we have to have a short-term solution because we are looking at ways to put more people in the same space," he said. Adams proposed that Stanford take an aggressive step and build more graduate housing like the Rains and Lyman complexes
Several students said the administration is not responsive to their complaints. James Montoya, vice provost for student affairs, responded by saying he will be chairing a task force to look at the quality of service that the university provides to its students.
"I think it will lead to some very important discussions about how you wish to be treated and how you perceive you are being treated by the university," Montoya said.
By Marisa Cigarroa