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Faculty Senate approves early admission pilot for student-athletes

A more flexible enrollment process approved on a pilot basis by the Faculty Senate means that admission of potential athletes will be more in line with institutions with which Stanford competes for recruits.

Under a three-year pilot program approved by the Faculty Senate on Thursday, student-athletes will be able to enroll early at Stanford and begin studying during winter or spring quarter.

Delivering reports at Thursday’s Faculty Senate meeting were, clockwise from top left, Eric Bettinger, Iris Litt, Adam Banks and Corrie Potter. (Image credit: Andrew Brodhead)

At its meeting, the Faculty Senate also approved a calendar change that will make Election Day an academic holiday to encourage increased voting. The senate also heard reports about the university’s continuing recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and about the activities of the Emeriti/ae Council.

President Marc Tessier-Lavigne and Provost Persis Drell also used the meeting to address issues involving freedom of speech on campus.

Admission change

The admission change approved by the senate is likely to apply primarily to football players and will provide them with more flexibility in balancing their educational and professional aspirations. In the past, student-athletes have been admitted only as part of the regular first-year student cohort.

The flexible enrollment program means that Stanford’s admission process for potential athletes will be brought into line with those institutions with which the university generally competes for recruits, according to Eric Bettinger, professor of education and chair of the Committee on Undergraduate Admission and Financial Aid (C-UAFA).

Bettinger said that the proposal reflects a growing trend in college athletics. Talented high school students who aspire to professional careers will often choose to graduate early from high school with the intent to enter and finish college early.

“This is the norm in athletics right now,” Bettinger said. “These students, when they enter into their freshman year of high school, they are being counseled that this is an option that would advance their careers. The combination of AP courses, honors courses, the GPAs they have were impressive. This is their expectation, and they’ve been working their whole high school career toward graduating early.”

Without a flexible schedule that allows early admission, many football players are unable to graduate from college before needing to focus on the combines and pro days that determine draft status.

As an example of the change in football recruiting, Bettinger cited the University of Southern California and Notre Dame – two schools with which Stanford competes for students – where some 60 percent of football recruits began matriculating early.

During the past year, some 68 students were given football scholarship offers to study at Stanford. Sixteen of the students chose Stanford. Of the 52 who did not, 27 began their college careers in January at another school.

Although the proposal earned approval, a considerable number of senators expressed concern about the level of preparation of the athletes, issues of equity with non-athletes who also might be advantaged by early admission and whether early-admission athletes could ever be integrated into the first-year cohort.

Under the proposal approved by the senate, C-UAFA will conduct a review of students’ experiences during the summer after the second year to determine whether to renew or modify the policy.

The committee recommended that the pilot program be limited to 15 students per year. The students must be academically qualified for Stanford and have graduated from high school. Committee members recommend sufficient support be provided to help students reach their objectives.

Freedom of speech

During his remarks to the senate, the president spoke about what he called “tension between our commitment to free speech and our aspiration of fostering an inclusive campus culture.”

The president reiterated points made during the most recent Campus Conversation, in which he stressed that freedom of expression is at the core of the university’s mission.

However, he noted, “What is legally permissible to say is not necessarily the same as what we should aspire to as an intellectual community. We should seek a higher level of discourse than we sometimes see at Stanford.”

Tessier-Lavigne expressed concern about three types of threats to open exchange – all of which stymie conversation and suppress or silence others.

Among them is “doxing,” which involves amplification through external platforms of name calling and shaming that distorts and invades privacy. He also expressed concern about the silencing of those with particular views more locally, and specifically in dorms, classrooms or other campus settings. The third area involves university procedures and actions that may have the effect of suppressing speech.

Tessier-Lavigne deferred to Drell, who expanded on the recent case of a Law School student whose graduation was temporarily put on hold as the Office of Community Standards investigated a complaint by the student Federalist Society about a satirical piece the student had written.

“Let me just say that we, the university, were at fault in our handling of this situation,” Tessier-Lavigne said. “Many are understandably troubled by what occurred, which has the potential to chill speech, and I can assure you the provost and I take accountability for it. We are working to correct this.”

The provost summarized the timeline involved in the complaint, which was ultimately dismissed. She concluded that no procedural mistakes occurred in the way the investigation proceeded. However, she noted that lessons were learned that will be applied to future opportunities for reform of the judicial process.

Election Day teaching

The senate also approved a change in the academic calendar beginning in the fall that will designate Election Day – generally the Tuesday after the first Monday in November – as an academic holiday.

The proposal from the Committee on Undergraduate Standards and Policy (C-USP) means that classes will be precluded in order to encourage voting and civic engagement.

The proposal, championed by the Associated of Students of Stanford University Senate and the Graduate Student Council, originally came before the Faculty Senate last October. It was referred to C-USP and the Committee on Graduate Studies for review and recommendation.

In their proposal, presented by Adam Banks, professor of education, committee members argue that “designating Election Day as a time for civic service signals to the Stanford community that the university values student, staff and faculty voting and other participation in the electoral process, and creates an opportunity for valuable community learning, deliberation, reflection, engagement and cross-cultural exchange.”

Moving forward, the senate encouraged consideration of what type of programming might support the goals of the proposal.

COVID-19 recovery

A report from the university’s institutional analysts and researchers shows that the number of positive cases of COVID-19 among faculty, staff, students, postdocs and at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory continues to remain low, as does the number of students isolating or quarantining in Student Housing.

The report, delivered by Corrie Potter, associate vice provost and director of Institutional Research and Decision Support, reflects the university’s continuing recovery from the pandemic.

For instance, compliance by members of the campus community with Health Check, a system to clear people for onsite work, remains high, as does testing among undergraduate students. In fact, undergraduates who are notified that they have missed a test generally test the next day. Vaccination rates are high among Stanford employees and students. Nearly 80 percent of students report being vaccinated, while 84 percent of faculty, staff and postdoctoral scholars report at least partial vaccination.

As an example of how operations are returning to normal, Potter said the number of people who swipe an ID card to enter a nonresidential Stanford building shows that the daily count of onsite people has peaked at more than 5,000 per day.

In addition, 5,414 undergraduate students enrolled full time in spring quarter, with about half of those enrolled living on campus. Almost all graduate students planned to enroll for spring quarter, with about 65 percent planning to be on campus. Still, most courses were still being taught remotely. The Law School and Graduate School of Business reported the highest percentages of in-person classes.

In what she called one of the most “positive and exciting” indications that life is returning to campus, Potter reported that in-person arts events are resuming. The Cantor Arts Center reported some 1,200 to 1,300 guests per week, and the Anderson Collection 1,359 guests. Stanford Live reported selling more than 3,000 tickets to its Stanford Under the Stars outdoor movie series.

Equally encouraging is the university’s reduced consumption across all key sustainability areas during COVID. Energy use is down 9 percent, domestic water down 11 percent, waste down 41 percent and greenhouse gas emissions down 57 percent.

Nearly 10 percent of undergraduates will enroll in summer quarter.

Emeriti/ae Council report

The senate also heard a report from the Emeriti/ae Council, a group of 15 emeriti/ae faculty and staff members who reflect the interests of Stanford’s 761 faculty and 296 staff emeriti/ae.

The report was presented by Iris Litt, the Marron and Mary Elizabeth Kendrick Professor in Pediatrics, Emerita. Litt shared statistics that reflect the composition of the group:

  • 637 men and 124 women faculty emeriti/ae
  • 288 medical faculty; 218 science, technology and engineering faculty; 137 social sciences faculty; and 118 humanities faculty
  • 642 members live in California, with 188 on campus

Emeriti/ae faculty tend to remain busy with university activities after their formal retirement. Twenty percent remain active in mentoring, 16 percent have been recalled to active duty, 18 percent collaborate on research projects, 12 percent serve on dissertation committees and 10 percent teach undergraduate and graduate students.

Other senate action

Faculty Senate Chair Judith Goldstein, the Janet M. Peck Professor in International Communication and professor of political science, reported that Ruth O’Hara, director of Spectrum, senior associate dean of research, the Lowell W. and Josephine Q. Berry Professor and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, will be next year’s chair. Mark Horowitz, the Yahoo! Founders Professor in the School of Engineering and professor of computer science and of electrical engineering, will be vice chair.

The senate also heard memorial resolutions for William Dement, the Lowell W. and Josephine Q. Berry Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Emeritus; Christian Guilleminault, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences; and Robert Jaedicke, the Philip H. Knight Professor and Dean, Emeritus, of the Graduate School of Business.