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Stanford’s Board of Trustees holds final meetings of the 2020-21 academic year

Trustees approve 2021-22 budget, discuss the university’s racial justice initiatives, hear a report on graduate and postdoctoral education and take action on other items.

Stanford’s Board of Trustees met on campus on June 9 and 10, masked and physically distanced, for their first in-person meetings since the beginning of the pandemic and their final meetings of the academic year. The trustees discussed racial justice initiatives, approved the 2021-22 budget, heard a report on graduate and postdoctoral education and approved actions on building projects and other items, among other orders of business.

Jeffrey Raikes (left), Charles Young (center) and Marc Jones provided updates to the Board of Trustees during their final meetings of the 2020-21 academic year. (Image credit: Andrew Brodhead)

Board Chair Jeffrey Raikes, who completes his term as chair on June 30, reflected on his four years in the role and provided information on topics addressed by the trustees.

Racial justice initiatives

Raikes described a panel discussion, moderated by President Marc Tessier-Lavigne, that provided updates on several of the university’s racial justice initiatives.

Trustees were briefed on the work of the Community Board on Public Safety, which has been meeting over the course of this year to review data and gather community input about public safety and policing on campus and has been charged with making recommendations for improvements. Raikes said that the Community Board will release its first report soon.

C. Matthew Snipp, vice provost for faculty development, diversity and engagement, gave an update on academic programs and faculty diversity efforts, citing several significant initiatives currently underway.

The IDEAL Provostial Fellows program is an effort to increase the university’s research and teaching related to race and ethnicity. The first cohort of five early-career scholars has been selected and will join the Stanford campus community for three years beginning this fall. Plans call for the program to scale up to 15 fellows in three cohorts.

The Race in America faculty cluster hire initiative, which involves a search for 10 faculty members who are leaders in the study of the impact of race in America, currently has offers out to a number of scholars. The Faculty Incentive Fund and the Faculty Development Initiative, two longstanding programs aimed at increasing faculty diversity, have continued to provide funds for recruitment.

“Overall, we were really impressed with how we are using these programs to attract a great amount of interest in joining Stanford, which will help us diversify the faculty,” said Raikes.

Two members of the Board of Trustees also gave presentations as part of this panel discussion.

Trustee Marc Jones, who has served as a member of Stanford Medicine’s Commission on Justice and Equity, provided an overview of the report that the commission recently issued. The full report provides extensive recommendations for Stanford Medicine to “dismantle structural racism; advance diversity, equity and inclusion; and address health disparities,” according to Raikes. The commission’s recommendations fall into the areas of leadership commitment and accountability, increased representation, a culture of belonging and health equity responsibility.

Trustee Charles Young is chair of the Black Community Council, a committee of faculty, staff, students and alumni that was created by President Tessier-Lavigne to oversee initiatives focused on supporting the university’s Black community.

Raikes said the council has been at work for about six months and has already done a great deal of work cataloging existing diversity and inclusion efforts that impact the Black community; convening conversations and listening sessions with members of the community; and developing an agenda for focusing the council’s activities.

“Charles told us that the members of the Council care very deeply about Stanford and are also working to provide honest feedback to Stanford leadership,” said Raikes.

Some of the themes the Council has heard voiced by members of the Black community thus far are isolation, feeling invisible, underappreciated or unwelcome; representation, the importance of effective recruitment and retention efforts; and skepticism that the initiatives the university has launched will be sustainable.

“These are important things for us to hear and to address directly. The Council is going to be working to develop recommendations that support the success of the Black community at Stanford, and that support the university’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts as a whole,” said Raikes.

Approval of budget for Fiscal Year 21-22

The trustees approved the university budget plan for fiscal year 21-22, which was presented by Provost Persis Drell. The consolidated budget is $7.4 billion, and $1.7 billion of that is the general funds budget.

“Overall, the pandemic had a greater impact on revenues and expenditures than we had initially anticipated, but the strength of the financial markets has provided investment growth that has allowed us to cover those shortfalls from reserves,” said Raikes.

Raikes said that in the fiscal year ahead, the university is returning to a more normal budget, which allows Stanford to make investments in key areas while preserving strong reserve levels to keep the university well-positioned financially for the future.

The guiding principles in developing the budget were research continuity, student education and access and supporting our community.

Some of the funding highlights in the budget include:

  • The restoration of a salary program
  • Student financial support, which includes funding for the increase – from $65,000 to $75,000 – in the family income threshold below which undergraduates are not required to pay tuition or room or board. Total financial support for undergraduates, graduate students and postdoctoral scholars will be increasing 7 percent in the new budget.
  • Funding for initiatives under the Long-Range Vision, and particularly initiatives to advance diversity, equity and inclusion.
  • Funding for essential needs in research support and compliance, and for teaching support through classroom upgrades.

“We’re also preserving healthy reserve levels in the budget, which is important given that the broader global financial picture can change at any time – just as the pandemic illustrated in particular in March of last year,” said Raikes. “Provost Drell and the budget team deserve a lot of credit for managing the university’s resources very well through a very difficult period and that was acknowledged by all the trustees.”

Update on graduate and postdoctoral education

On a related set of issues, Vice Provost Stacey Bent presented to the board on graduate and postdoctoral education at Stanford, with a focus on “driving equity and impact.”

Bent reported that Stanford consistently graduates more PhDs than any other nonprofit private university in the United States. Because of that, said Raikes, Stanford plays “a major role” in developing the faculty of the future nationally, and can have a major part in diversifying the national professoriate.

Over the last ten years, underrepresented groups have been the fastest growing in Stanford’s graduate student and postdoctoral scholars populations, according to Bent.

Bent also reviewed for the board several programs that Stanford is operating to further advance inclusion, diversity, equity and access at the graduate and postdoc levels.

  • The EDGE Doctoral Fellowship Program, which provides a support structure and mentoring for first and second year doctoral students
  • The DARE program, a two-year fellowship for advanced doctoral students who are exploring faculty careers and would diversify the professoriate
  • PRISM, the Postdoctoral Recruitment Initiative in Sciences and Medicine, which is enhancing the recruitment of postdoc candidates of all backgrounds
  • And the IDEAL Graduate Recruitment Portal, a new initiative that is providing tools to help departments and programs with recruitment

She also highlighted the RAISE (Research, Action and Impact for Strategic Engagement) Doctoral Fellowship Program, which is aligned with Stanford’s Long-Range Vision. This program provides a three-year, 25 percent fellowship for graduate students to apply their research to action on issues in the broader world.

Raikes commented, “This, collectively, is an important set of initiatives for our graduate students and postdocs of today, and for the faculty who are going to be in our higher education institutions tomorrow. It was a great presentation from Stacey, and we’re very pleased to hear of the progress there.”

Update on planning for Town Center

The board also heard from Matthew Tiews, associate vice president for campus engagement, on the Town Center initiative, which along with ResX are major efforts to build connection, inclusion and community on campus. Both of these initiatives emerged from the Long-Range Vision process.

“The work of discovery, learning and knowledge creation depends on a connected, engaged community supported by trust and belonging,” said Raikes. “The vision for the Town Center is to reimagine the White Plaza area of campus as the heartbeat of the university – a hub for intellectual vitality, social engagement and community building for the campus community.”

Tiews told the board that hundreds of comments and ideas have been collected to inform this project. Much of this planning has to do with programming – what kinds of activities can be co-created with the community and offered in the Town Center. In addition, the planning also entails determining how space in the Town Center area is utilized, and how the facilities infrastructure there can evolve over time as needed.

Raikes said that much of the planning had to be put on pause during the pandemic, but the planning process is re-engaging now, and it will include some prototypes to begin testing some of the concepts that have emerged from the process.

“The pandemic has reminded all of us of the importance of community and bringing back community as the campus reopens. The Town Center project is very much aligned with that, and there are some exciting possibilities for the future,” he said. “For us as trustees, being back on campus and realizing just how important that is for building our own community, we can just imagine the amplification of that community building for students and faculty.”

Building and other approvals

The board took action on some building and other approvals, including concept and site approval for a School of Medicine research building at 1215 Welch Road. This facility will provide research labs and collaboration spaces for Neurobiology, Microbiology and Immunology, Structural Biology and other departments. It will come back to the board for design and construction approval next year.

The board also provided concept and site approval for the Stanford Research Computing Center Module 2, to be located at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. This project is a planned expansion of the existing Stanford Research Computing Facility to meet research computing needs for the university and for SLAC. The facility will support high-performance and data-intensive research computing needs. It is expected to return to the board for design and construction approval later this year.

The board granted its approval for the creation of a Department of Health Policy in the School of Medicine. This new academic department, proposed by the School of Medicine, will provide a focal point for health policy at Stanford at a time when health policy has gained heightened importance in our world. The department will produce innovative and timely research, serve as an intellectual hub for health policy at Stanford and develop health policy leaders of the future.

Finally, trustees approved changing the Articles of Organization of the Academic Council to replace the term “Medical Center Line” faculty with “University Medical Line.” This was an action approved earlier by the Faculty Senate and Academic Council, and it needed the approval of the trustees. It was done to clarify the standing and role that individuals in this line have as faculty of Stanford University.

Departing trustees

Two trustees completed their terms and are departing soon from the board: Ronald B. Johnson and Victoria B. Rogers, both of whom have been members of the Board of Trustees for the last 10 years.

“Both Ron and Vicky have added tremendously to the discussions of the board, providing important insights and perspectives,” said Raikes. “They have been dedicated supporters of the university as a whole. Their volunteer work has gone well beyond their service on the Board of Trustees. So we welcomed the opportunity to thank them for their extraordinary contributions to Stanford.”

A chair’s reflections

Raikes took a few minutes to reflect on his time as board chair.

“It has been an immense honor to work with this board. The members of this board unfailingly demonstrate dedication, partnership, thoughtfulness and creativity, as we work together to support the university’s long-term strategy and direction,” said Raikes.

He mentioned some of the highlights and challenges faced by the board and the administration during his time as chair, including the pandemic and the recovery from the pandemic, the expansion of financial aid to make Stanford more affordable to low-income students, and upgrades to Stanford’s physical infrastructure to support the modern teaching, research, residential and community needs of the university.

When asked what he is most proud of in his time on the board, Raikes responded, “If you had to pin me down on one big highlight, it would be the Long-Range Vision. It is ambitious. It is bold.” He then gave examples of some of the elements of the vision: the IDEAL initiative, the Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence, Stanford Impact Labs, the Innovative Medicines Accelerator and the development of the new school for climate and sustainability.

“There will always be challenges. But Stanford is a fundamentally hopeful place, and I am deeply optimistic about its future. And I’m also grateful to have Jerry Yang as my successor as chair. His professional background, his knowledge of and commitment to Stanford and his insightful understanding of higher education make him a great choice for the next chair,” said Raikes.

“And finally, all of us on the board are fortunate to work with Marc and Persis, as president and provost. It has been a privilege to work alongside them. They’ve laid out a compelling vision for Stanford’s future, they have advanced it even amid the challenges of the pandemic, and it has really been incredible to see the pieces of the Long-Range Vision begin to fall into place,” he said.