Stanford Board of Trustees holds first meeting of 2023
Trustees heard a report on accreditation, received a campus update from leadership, advanced building projects, and set tuition for the 2023-24 academic year during their on-campus meeting Feb. 6 and 7.
The Board of Trustees received a campus update from leadership, heard a presentation on the university’s ongoing process for accreditation renewal, and moved several building projects forward, among other orders of business, during their first meeting of 2023.
Trustees also increased financial aid to provide expanded scholarship funding. Beginning in the 2023-24 academic year, undergraduate families with annual incomes below $100,000 will not have to pay tuition, room, or board – up from the current threshold of $75,000. For those paying tuition, undergraduate tuition will increase 7% in the coming academic year, reflecting inflationary cost increases. Read related story here.
Additionally, trustees learned more about ongoing discussions regarding academic freedom, and the Vice President for the Arts shared details about the office’s vision for the arts at Stanford with a board committee during the meeting held on campus Feb. 6 and 7.
During an update for trustees, President Marc Tessier-Lavigne highlighted the university’s Civil, Liberal, and Global Education (COLLEGE) first-year undergraduate requirement program. A group of university presidents recently visited Stanford to learn more about the program as a potential model for civic education, Tessier-Lavigne said.
“I think it’s one of the most important things we’ve done together as a community, but I’m especially excited to see other universities working in this space so we can go further together,” he said.
Tessier-Lavigne also discussed his recent experience in Singapore at the Stanford Asia Economic Forum, which explored how Asian countries and the U.S. can work together to create new ideas, sustainable practices, and policies to support global growth and economic development. Many attendees expressed deep gratitude for Stanford’s role in holding the event, he said, and there was discussion of the impact of geopolitical tensions between the U.S. and China.
Universities must be able to attract top scholars and students from around the world while attending to national security concerns, Tessier-Lavigne said. “It was an important reminder of the opportunity and responsibility to be engaged with the outside world, especially at a time when the world continues to change so rapidly.”
Additionally, Provost Persis Drell shared what she has heard from faculty regarding the emergence of ChatGPT. Many entities at Stanford – including the Stanford Accelerator for Learning and the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence – are involved in ongoing discussions of the quickly developing generative AI and its impact in education. The dean and some faculty in the Graduate School of Education are embracing the positives at what is a big inflection point in education, Drell said.
“We want to offer resources to our faculty and clarity on expectations to our students,” Drell said. “We’re asking hard, serious questions, and rethinking how we design the right assignment and right assessment. We need to be more explicit with our learning goals, and it’s important to focus forward.”
The president, provost, and several deans offered trustees greater insight into the importance and cultivation of academic freedom, a key issue being discussed at Stanford and other universities nationwide.
While debates over academic freedom have a long history dating back to Socrates, what is heightening the issue now is incredible polarization and a breakdown in trust within all parts of society, including at universities, said Debra Satz, dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences, in a panel discussion with Jenny Martinez, dean of the School of Law; and Lloyd Minor, dean of the School of Medicine.
During a recent Faculty Senate meeting, faculty expressed concerns about a perceived erosion of academic freedom prompted by a language initiative that went viral over winter break. At the meeting, Tessier-Lavigne reaffirmed the university’s commitment to academic freedom.
Freedom of inquiry, freedom of speech, and diversity and inclusion are all central to the university’s mission of the production and dissemination of knowledge, Satz continued: “You don’t get the production and dissemination of knowledge if you can’t entertain controversial ideas and include many voices. We have to do a good job of incorporating these values and understand that sometimes they come into tension.”
Minor agreed, citing the necessity for leadership to refrain from expressing opinions on faculty statements, as it could impede the free exchange of opposing ideas.
Minor is teaching in COLLEGE this quarter, and the panelists highlighted the program as an example of how the university can foster civic engagement.
The Law School’s ePluribus Project also attempts to promote productive discussions on challenging issues and reduce polarization. Having structured discussions in groups with diverse perspectives can help build the kind of trust needed for a robust exchange of ideas, Martinez said.
“The hard work of trying to figure out how to constructively have conversations is something that needs more attention,” Martinez added.
The world needs artists and art – in addition to science and technology – to fully address critical issues by reimagining societal systems and driving transformation, said Vice President for the Arts Deborah Cullinan in a presentation to the Committee on Student, Alumni, and External Affairs.
“There is growing evidence that art experiences improve health outcomes; build social cohesion; cultivate collective trust, safety, and civic participation; and shift culture. We also know that artists advance equity, health, and well-being,” Cullinan said. “As more people come to an understanding that we absolutely need art and creativity, this remarkable momentum is at a critical point awaiting a catalytic force. Stanford is poised to be that force.”
The Office of the Vice President for the Arts (VPA) is focused on unleashing the full potential of the arts on campus; cultivating student, faculty, and community engagement; providing more opportunities for interdisciplinary arts-driven research; and seeding experimentation and big ideas in the VPA units. All of this work is deeply rooted in a commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, Cullinan said.
While many understand art’s crucial role, few understand how to integrate art in meaningful and lasting ways, and Stanford can lead the way on how to do so, Cullinan said.
VPA supports students to imagine and pursue creative career pathways; provides resources such as student art grants and faculty creative project seed grants; and facilitates access through a creative equipment lending library, among other efforts.
Cullinan highlighted the Asian American Art Initiative at Cantor, which has helped position Stanford as a leading academic and curatorial center for the study of Asian American and Asian diaspora artists.
Cullinan also discussed the Stanford Arts Incubator which brings together teams of artists, faculty, researchers, students, and community leaders for collaborations that center art as essential to equity, health, and well-being; catalyzes research and experimentation; and shifts culture and policy. In academic year 2023-24, the Incubator will focus on the intersections of art, mental health, and well-being.
“The evidence underscores that art can have a transformational impact in people’s lives, and with that understanding, we have an obligation to assure that we also apply the power of the arts to the broader social good,” Cullinan said.
Trustees also advanced several building projects. The board approved design for the Stanford Health Care Redwood City Block E Medical Office Building, a nine-story medical office which will support a cohesive medical campus. Construction is expected to begin late next year and be completed in late 2027.
The board also provided concept and site approval for reconstruction of the Smith Family Stadium. The new three-level softball stadium will improve team spaces and fan experiences. Construction is expected to commence in June 2024.
Lastly, trustees approved the concept, site, and design for an underground expansion to Maples Pavilion to provide new and enhanced lockers, showers, and team meeting space. The expansion will help accommodate improvements in performance support, more technology available in sports analysis, and sports medicine and nutrition in team performance. Completion is expected by spring 2025.
Stanford has submitted its institutional report to the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC) for renewal of its accreditation, Stephanie Kalfayan, vice provost for academic affairs, told trustees in a presentation detailing the process and report. Kalfayan is the university’s accreditation liaison officer to the WSCUC.
The report, also known as a self-study, focuses on two themes: Advancing Undergraduate Education, which examines reforms to the undergraduate curriculum and major, and Supporting Our Community for Success, which examines emerging assessment data about the experiences of Stanford community members and how the IDEAL initiative addresses community needs, Kalfayan explained.
Next, an accreditation team will visit the Stanford campus March 15-17 to assess the extent to which Stanford meets the criteria for review and standards for accreditation; gain a deeper understanding of Stanford through conversations with university community members; explore any issues raised by the report; and finally, recommend a continuing accreditation status to the commission, Kalfayan told trustees. The commission will make a final determination in June 2023.