Leadership discusses bias reporting, litigation, more at Faculty Senate
University leadership discussed the Protected Identity Harm Reporting process, IDEAL progress, recent legal proceedings related to campus faculty home property taxes, and other issues during the Thursday meeting, most of which was held in executive session.
The president and provost provided updates and answered questions on a variety of issues, including Stanford’s Protected Identity Harm Reporting (PIHR) process, litigation regarding property taxes on campus faculty homes, and concerns about the Office of Accessible Education during the Faculty Senate meeting on Thursday.
The meeting was the last one of the winter quarter, and leadership discussed the matters before the meeting went into executive session.
The PIHR process has three purposes: data collection to monitor trends over time; to provide support to the reporting party if requested; and transparency on events that could have an impact on the broader community, said Provost Persis Drell. She emphasized that it has safeguards to prevent the chilling of speech. Reports to the PIHR website referencing faculty comments in the classroom will be suspended pending further evaluation and guidance from the newly created ad hoc committee on university speech, Drell added.
“I believe the process as executed has provided value to our students,” Drell said. “I think the system has worked well given the guardrails in place, but I also fully support the additional guardrails we have implemented, and I am committed to modifying the process as needed to give the community confidence that it does not chill speech or academic freedom.”
Juan Santiago, the Charles Lee Powell Foundation Professor and professor of mechanical engineering, said some faculty are concerned about chilling of speech and mixed messages about the PIHR process, and asked how students or faculty can find out if they’ve been reported.
In her response, Drell emphasized that no administrator has contacted a student as part of PIHR, and that students and faculty can contact Susie Brubaker-Cole, the vice provost of student affairs, to ask if they have been named in a report.
Drell also reported that the IDEAL dashboards have been updated to include data for the 2022-23 academic year. Of note, the percentage of underrepresented minorities within the professoriate faculty rose to 9%, versus 7% pre-pandemic. Drell said this shows that recruitment programs such as the IDEAL Provostial Fellows Program are helping to move the needle.
In his remarks, David Palumbo-Liu, the Louise Hewlett Nixon Professor and professor of comparative literature, drew a connection between IDEAL progress and the PIHR process. He said that while he is heartened to see IDEAL’s faculty recruitment success, a lot of junior faculty hired under these kinds of programs bear the weight of counseling students facing the kinds of incidents that might result in a PIHR report, and he asked that this unofficial role they play be recognized.
Richard Taylor, the Barbara Kimball Browning Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences, asked for data on requests for academic accommodations granted by the Office of Accessible Education (OAE). Taylor questioned whether OAE is striking an appropriate balance between accommodating a disability and giving some students unfair advantages, and he asked what mechanisms are in place for faculty oversight. Drell provided data on the 4,492 students registered with OAE in academic year 2021-22, explaining that accommodations are determined through a process with a disability advisor who evaluates factors such as medical documentation, student interviews, and legal frameworks and guidance.
Rapid growth and changes in disability accommodations are a complex issue facing higher education nationwide, Drell added. “OAE’s professional and legal responsibility is to work toward equal access so a student can succeed or fail on their own merit,” Drell said. “It is not, and has never been, to ensure academic success.”
Drell directed senators to the recent report of recommendations by the Students with Disabilities Task Force, which includes faculty, students, and staff.
Drell also highlighted the recent news that Kathryn A. “Kam” Moler will return to research and teaching at the end of her term as vice provost and dean of research later this year. She praised Moler for her “steady hand” during the pandemic and for institutionalizing changes made during her tenure that will benefit the university in the future. Drell will chair a search committee for Moler’s replacement formed in consultation with the Faculty Senate.
In addressing the senate, President Marc Tessier-Lavigne discussed the university’s recently filed lawsuit regarding a property tax issue affecting faculty homes on campus.
Historically, the property taxes for faculty homes on campus have been based on the property purchase price, he explained, but in recent years, the county assessor has increased the assessed value of some newly purchased faculty homes well above the purchase price, creating unexpected and substantial financial difficulty for faculty homeowners.
The university is committed to working with faculty and the county on many issues of shared interests as it seeks clarity from the court on this legal issue, having exhausted all remedies at the administrative level, Tessier-Lavigne said.
“We respect the assessor’s viewpoint and his legal right to reconsider the long-established practice of assessing on-campus homes based on the purchase price, but we also firmly believe that the established practice is fully supported by the law,” Tessier-Lavigne said.
“Faculty members living in community on our campus is a crucial component of our residential life,” Tessier-Lavigne continued. “It strengthens the academic fabric of the university and it supports faculty members in forging connections and in creating opportunities for collaboration.”
Senators heard a memorial resolution for Makoto Ueda, professor emeritus of Japanese in the School of Humanities and Sciences, who died Aug. 19, 2020. He was 89.