Stanford’s student judicial process is “overly punitive” and “not educational,” according to an interim report of the Committee of 10 that was presented to the Faculty Senate on Thursday.

Marcia Stefanick (top left), chair of the Committee of 10, presented the group’s interim report on the student judicial process with Mark DiPerna (top right), director of the Office of Community Standards, and Nate Boswell, special assistant to the vice provost for student affairs. (Image credit: Andrew Brodhead)

In addition, committee members, who have spent more than a year reviewing the Student Judicial Charter, believe that the process of resolving cases at Stanford takes too long – in some cases, months – even for minor violations.

The committee made its presentation in an effort to elicit suggestions to solve these and other Student Judicial Charter challenges.

During the meeting, the Faculty Senate also approved a new exception to principal investigator status and heard reports from President Marc Tessier-Lavigne and Provost Persis Drell.

In his report, Tessier-Lavigne noted the “special pain and added burden carried by members of our Black community” as a result of this week’s results in the trial of Derek Chauvin.

“While accountability for the killing of George Floyd is important, it does not erase this burden,” Tessier-Lavigne said. “It is just a small step on the necessary journey of advancing racial justice.”

The president reiterated Stanford’s commitment to advancing racial justice through ongoing initiatives, including the Community Board on Public Safety, the Black Community Council and IDEAL.

Committee of 10

Chair of the Committee of 10 Marcia Stefanick, professor (research) of medicine and of obstetrics and gynecology, presented the group’s interim report with Mark DiPerna, director of the Office of Community Standards. She replaced the original chair, the late law Professor Deborah Rhode, just six weeks ago. Membership in the committee includes four students, four faculty members and two staff.

Stefanick said members believe a key problem in Stanford’s current judicial process is that it relies on a “one-size-fits-all” approach. That approach, which committee members called “overly punitive” in their report, fails to build character and instead focuses on punishment. The system should, they believe, focus on education.

Among the possible solutions, the committee suggests, is a three-tiered system based on the severity of violations, with differing sanctions, evidence requirements and durations of time on a student’s record.

To cut down on the amount of time it takes to resolve violations, committee members suggest a process for quickly clearing “low-level” violations. To more quickly resolve “high-level” violations, they suggest possibly reducing the number of hearing panelists and creating a standing committee rather than relying on a panelist pool. They also recommend limiting the period of time a concern about student behavior can be submitted.

The committee is inviting faculty members to a town hall on Wednesday, April 28, at 6 p.m. to further discuss the Student Judicial Charter. An online feedback form has been created at

Committee charge

The formal review of the Student Judicial Charter, which is the governing document for the university’s individual student conduct proceedings and processes, began in 2019.

The review, a partnership among the Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU), the Faculty Senate and the university administration, was created to determine whether the charter needs to be updated to create a more efficient process that focuses on student learning and fairness.

Among other goals, committee members were asked to consider whether the current judicial process is fair to students, if sanctions are overly punitive and how to better focus the process on student learning.

The committee charge involves examining whether the current Student Judicial Charter, which dates to 1997, and related policies create a system of student accountability that aligns with the values and needs of today’s campus community. The committee also was charged with examining whether the Fundamental Standard, drafted in 1896, requires updating. Members are also working to consider whether the university should continue to operate under the Honor Code, created in 1921, as written for matters of academic integrity.

According to the charge, if changes are required, the committee will create a Student Judicial Charter of 2020 and related policies to be implemented in the next academic year, with approval from the ASSU, the Faculty Senate and the university president.

Committee members plan to submit and review recommendations throughout April and May. They hope to have their recommendations approved for a pilot process during summer quarter.

Support for proctoring

The committee’s interim report drew support from members of the Faculty Senate, who were asked their opinions on a tiered system, on overcoming reluctance among students and faculty to report violations and on whether the Fundamental Standard, written by the university’s first president, David Starr Jordan, ought to be changed.

The committee heard consistent support for a change in the Honor Code that would allow faculty members the option of proctoring exams. The Honor Code currently calls on faculty to refrain from proctoring as a sign of confidence in their students.

However, faculty members said the Honor Code as written results in faculty members sitting outside an exam room in hallways to be available to students during exams, many of whom may be asking the same question over and over again.

Among those expressing support for the option of proctoring was Juan Santiago, the Charles Lee Powell Foundation Professor in the School of Engineering.

“I really think the option for a professor or teaching assistant of proctoring the exam is a real advantage,” he said. “Even in engineering, I have written many tests that I thought were completely unambiguous and foolproof. No way the question could be misinterpreted. And I still get lots of questions.”

He described the current system as “a farce” that forces faculty to “sit in a chair in the hallway, 50 feet away, and then having people come and ask the same question.”

Echoing his comments was Judith Goldstein, chair of the Faculty Senate and the Janet M. Peck Professor of International Communication. Goldstein called the current system “a charade.”

She argued that giving faculty the option of proctoring an exam would lower the tension that students feel because it would relieve them of responsibility for the behavior of other students.

“They would feel there is more equity in the room,” she said. “It’s not that it makes more tension. I think it actually makes less tension.”

Committee on Research

In other action, the Faculty Senate approved a recommendation from the Committee on Research for a five-year PI (principal investigator) Exception Pilot Program.

Under the proposal, presented by committee chair Jennifer Dionne, senior associate vice provost for research platforms/shared facilities and associate professor of materials science and engineering, the principal investigator exception will now cover staff engaging in specific projects within a shared facility that provides critical research infrastructure and support to the broader Stanford community.

Currently, eligibility to act as a principal investigator is limited to members of the Academic Council or Medical Center Line Faculty, with a few exceptions. The limitation has existed, according to the research policy handbook, because “PIs are responsible for determining the intellectual direction of the research and scholarship, and for the training of graduate students.”

Noting that shared facilities are “integral to Stanford’s research, education and translation ecosystem,” committee members recommended that the PI designation also be extended to MD or PhD-level research and staff who are not necessarily members of the Academic Council.

Doing so, they argued, would likely result in increased funding opportunities, enhanced recruitment and retention of shared-facilities staff and less pressure on faculty members in overseeing grants not necessarily in their area of expertise.

Peer institutions, Dionne noted, often extend more opportunities for staff to act as principal investigators than Stanford does, giving those institutions a recruitment advantage when hiring.

Dionne called this a “historic opportunity for Stanford to empower shared facilities and to invest in shared facilities.”

She said, “If we look to the national and global landscape, we are facing so many challenges, and I think it is critical that Stanford invest in our innovation ecosystem. Researchers are mad to follow some of the world’s biggest challenges in the life sciences, in health, sustainability and policy. We need a team approach to enable some of the most innovative solutions on an accelerated timeline. Facilities enhancements will accelerate research and discovery across all Stanford schools.”

Stanford needs to leverage the expertise of shared-facilities staff, she said, to enable tomorrow’s innovations.

IDEAL updates

In her remarks, Drell shared news of continuing progress in the IDEAL initiative, including the appointment of the university’s first cohort of IDEAL postdoctoral fellows. The five scholars, whose expertise range from epidemiology to classics, were selected from more than 600 applicants.

Drell said the schools are also working on recruitment. She expects that, in September, the university will welcome many new faculty members who reflect a more diverse group than seen before.

“While we are still in the midst of our hiring season, early numbers look terrific,” she said. “Across our schools, I count about 25 faculty members in varying stages of recruitment who will add diversity to the faculty ranks. This is very gratifying that we are able to move forward in this way.”

Drell also praised individual schools for using the focus on diversity to re-purpose or modify existing hiring opportunities.

The provost said the university plans to launch in May a campuswide survey on diversity and inclusion.

Administrative session

In an administrative session held before the full Faculty Senate meeting, the Steering Committee approved recommendations made primarily by the Committee on Graduate Studies.

The approved recommendations include:

  • That the Biomedical Informatics MS, PhD Interdisciplinary Program be removed from the review cycle and become a new departmental degree under the Department of Biomedical Data Science.
  • That the Master of Arts in Earth Systems with a subplan in Environmental Communication be renewed for a five-year period, effective Sept. 1, 2022, through Aug. 31, 2027.
  • That the Master of Science in Earth Systems be renewed for a five-year period, effective Sept. 1, 2022, though Aug. 31, 2027.
  • A five-year renewal of the Master of Arts/Science in Sustainability Science and Practice Interdisciplinary Program, in the School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences, effective Sept. 1, 2022, through Aug. 31, 2027. An interim progress report is required in the spring quarter of the third year to the Committee on Graduate Studies.
  • That the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources be granted the renewal of the degree-granting authority to nominate candidates for the MS and PhD degrees for a five-year period, from Sept. 1, 2022, through Aug. 31, 2027. An interim progress report is required in the spring quarter of the third year to the Committee on Graduate Studies.
  • The clarification to the Coterm Quarters Back and Coterm Billing Switches policy.