The Stanford Board of Trustees received the university’s annual financial report, approved building projects, and heard updates on matters such as the recently released Title IX/Sexual Harassment Report, among other orders of business, during its virtual meeting Dec. 5 and 6.

Stanford’s Board of Trustees received the university’s annual financial report, advanced building projects, and heard a campus update, among other matters of business, during its final meeting of 2022. (Image credit: Andrew Brodhead)

The board’s regularly scheduled meeting occurred shortly after there were press reports concerning research accuracy in certain scientific articles in which President Marc Tessier-Lavigne is a listed author. Board Chair Jerry Yang has appointed a Special Committee of the Board to review the issues, engaging with outside experts. The board discussed the matter in executive session, and the latest communication on the matter can be found here.

In a campus update to trustees, Provost Persis Drell and Tessier-Lavigne shared that they have also been meeting with students on a diversity of issues during the busy end of the fall quarter.

Drell further detailed her experience co-teaching a course this past quarter in the first-year Civic, Liberal, and Global Education (COLLEGE) requirement with Caroline Winterer, the William Robertson Coe Professor in History and American Studies in the School of Humanities, professor of history, and, by courtesy, of classics and of education. COLLEGE was launched last year.

“It’s exposing students to a range of academic opportunities and a shared experience,” Drell told trustees. “It’s also a really important opportunity on how to learn to think critically, engage intellectually – not emotionally – and how to debate each other respectfully.”

Students participate in difficult conversations as part of the course, Drell said, and they have enthusiastically responded to the challenge, adding that she’s never had a class where so many of the students come early to office hours to discuss issues raised in class.

The skills that students are developing in this course and others will serve both their futures and the world for the long term, Tessier-Lavigne said.

Separately, the board received the university’s annual financial report, which includes details on how the financials have supported the university’s Long-Range Vision and the campus community as it emerges from the disruption of the pandemic.

“Despite the impact of external factors, such as inflation, rising interest rates, and geopolitics on our university’s finances this past year, the Stanford community has continued to work tirelessly to advance the aims of our Long-Range Vision, and the university has continued to support our community’s recovery from the pandemic,” said Tessier-Lavigne in the financial report’s overview.

The board also marked the final meeting for Trustee LaTonia “Tonia” G. Karr, ’92, as she has completed her term and will soon depart from the board.

Student affairs

According to findings from Stanford Institutional Research & Decision Support (IR&DS), students often face non-academic factors that can impact their mental health and well-being, including challenges related to being a First-Gen and/or Low-Income (FLI) undergraduate, and the lasting family and community impacts of the pandemic. The Student Affairs and External Affairs Committee reviewed the data as part of a follow-up on student mental health and well-being from the board’s October meeting. The committee further discussed concerns about affordability and academic advising relationships, which were raised by graduate students this fall and also impact the mental health of Stanford students.

Student Affairs is always looking for different ways to support a more diverse student body while ensuring access to the various opportunities at Stanford across a wide economic spectrum, said Susie Brubaker-Cole, vice provost for student affairs. For example, the division is currently hiring a new staff member who has a background in social work to help students address stressful issues occurring at home.

Also, this past spring, Stanford launched the Healthy Minds Survey, its most comprehensive student survey around mental health and well-being to date, and the results of the study will provide a helpful data set in continuing to address these issues, Brubaker-Cole said.

Building projects

The board provided concept and site approval for construction of the Matter in Extreme Conditions Upgrade (MEC-U) project at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. The major upgrade to the Matter in Extreme Conditions (MEC) instrument at the Linac Coherent Light Source will significantly increase the power and repetition rate of the high-intensity laser system and expand capabilities of the MEC instrument to support groundbreaking experiments.

When the MEC-U facility comes online, it will be an internationally preeminent facility for precision plasma science. Construction is expected to commence in 2024 and be completed in 2028.

Trustees also voted to approve the construction of the School of Medicine Lab Renovations at the Stanford Research Park, which will convert office space into research and lab space for new, existing, and growing programs. Renovations are projected to be completed in late 2023.