In her seventh and last budget plan presentation to the Faculty Senate on Thursday, Provost Persis Drell outlined continued support for the university community and mission.

Provost Persis Drell presents the 2023-24 budget plan to the Faculty Senate on Thursday, May 11, 2023.

Provost Persis Drell presents the 2023-24 budget plan to the Faculty Senate at its May 11 meeting. (Image credit: Andrew Brodhead)

Drell, the 13th provost of Stanford who has been the university’s chief academic officer and chief budget officer for the last six years, announced last week that she will step down in the fall quarter. Senators gave her a standing ovation at the top of the meeting, to which Drell responded that she was “speechless with gratitude.”

“She has really worked tirelessly to advance academic excellence at Stanford, and she has done this in deep partnership with the faculty, for whom she has been an important source of support,” said President Marc Tessier-Lavigne, who cited Drell’s work on the Long-Range Vision, the IDEAL Initiative, and her steady leadership throughout the pandemic. “I am glad she is not going very far and will remain an active member of the Stanford faculty.”

The Faculty Senate also voted to establish the Committee on the Stanford University Press as a new standing committee. A vote on the academic calendar was postponed, and a motion related to the Hoover Institution will return at a later date due to a lack of quorum.


The 2023-24 budget plan includes the $8.9 billion Consolidated Budget for Operations, which encapsulates all of the university’s operating revenues and expenses; the $1.9 billion General Funds Budget, which is part of the consolidated budget and used for core academic and support functions; and the $0.8 billion Capital Budget, set in the context of the $3.4 billion three-year Capital Plan.

In creating the budget plan, the university considered the continued historically high inflation, a minimal endowment payout increase, constrained available incremental general funds, and significant systems and capital infrastructure needs, Drell explained. Auxiliary units like Residential & Dining Enterprises, parking and transportation, and athletics continue to experience operational shortfalls. “Those models all were broken during the pandemic, and they have not recovered fully,” Drell said.

Guiding principles in the consolidated budget plan include prioritizing Stanford’s academic mission, maintaining a general funds surplus, support for the university community, and reducing faculty research costs, Drell said.

Total revenues and expenses are both projected to be up by 8%.

Some of those increased expenses are due to the continued growth in Stanford’s health care services. Drell explained that while Stanford’s hospitals are separate organizations, and thus not factored into the university budget, their clinical revenue flows to the School of Medicine, where doctors and clinician educators are hired.

In the last two years, the university has put more than $100 million into research support of various kinds with an emphasis on enhancing its shared research platforms, a priority that came out of the Long-Range Vision, Drell said. This includes modernizing equipment for the physical and life sciences, upgrading the computer infrastructure, doubling the capacity of the Stanford Research Computing Facility, and increasing central support for research assistant tuition offset from 40% to 55%.

In FY2023-24, total student support is $1.09 billion, up by 7%. Within undergraduate need-based financial aid of $257.4 million, 30%, or $73 million, will be funded by general funds. “Cost of attendance is always something on our mind,” Drell said. “We invest in our students.”

The university has expanded its financial aid program over the years, and in February, the board of trustees approved an increase in the zero parent contribution threshold. Beginning in FY2023-24, undergraduate families with annual incomes below $100,000 will not have to pay tuition, room, or board – up from $75,000.

For graduate students, the budget also includes recent commitments such as the Escondido Village Graduate Residences, off-campus graduate housing subsidies, guaranteed five-year funding for PhD students, and an increased health insurance subsidy.

Drell stated that the growth of the university’s staff, which prompted questions and public discussion earlier this year, has in fact been measured and is in keeping with the growth of research, educational, and clinical activities. Read more here.

Another major area of expense is the large and complex infrastructure that provides the Stanford community with essential services such as transportation, utilities, digital systems, and land management.

“This goes back to the fact that we’re a municipality and we have to keep that infrastructure up, and it’s expensive,” Drell said.

General funds account for about 25% of the budget. Within general funds, $12.7 million will go toward academic enterprise; $11.5 million will go toward administrative and facility allocations; and $2.5 million toward student services. Of note this year, energy costs went up significantly, faculty salary adjustments were made in certain areas, and there is a major effort to invest in classrooms, Drell said. Other allocations include student care and well-being, and administrative staff in schools.

Also, “we haven’t stopped building, though we’ve slowed down a bit,” Drell said. This fiscal year, the university is projected to spend about $756 million on capital projects such as the Graduate School of Education’s renovation and new building.

Judy Goldstein, the Janet M. Peck Professor in International Communication, professor of political science, and senior fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, reflected on the growth of the School of Medicine in the university’s budget and wondered what it means for the university’s future. “It’s just such a fundamental change for us,” Goldstein said.

Drell noted that when she started as the dean of engineering, she was stunned that a third of the engineering faculty were collaborating in some way with School of Medicine faculty. “The depth of integration of those faculties is really powerful, and I think it enhances every part of this university,” she said. “I think it’s important that people realize that, in fact, it is not that they’re swallowing us up, it’s that this is an incredible enhancement of what’s going on.”

Next, the budget plan will go before the Board of Trustees for approval in June, and following approval, a formal document will be made available online.

Stanford University Press

The Ad Hoc Committee on the Stanford University Press has contributed to recent successes of the press, which in turn strengthens Stanford and university presses as a whole, said Committee Chair Gabriella Safran in the committee’s annual report. Safran is senior associate dean of the humanities and arts, the Eva Chernov Lokey Professor in Jewish Studies, and professor of Slavic languages and literatures.

“We think that the press benefits from the advocacy, introductions, and expertise provided by faculty on this committee, and we believe a strong Stanford University Press strengthens Stanford,” Safran said.

The Faculty Senate unanimously approved a motion to create a new standing committee of the Academic Council, the Committee on the Stanford University Press – retaining its charge of facilitating press visibility while reducing its number of annual meetings.

The committee was established in 2020 after faculty became concerned about the diminution of an annual subsidy to the press. Among recommendations, the press has converted its funding structure to increase stability, shifted its reporting structure, and created a governance board.

The award-winning press is one of the best university publishers in the fields of history, anthropology, sociology, and law, said Ali Yaycioglu, committee member and associate professor of history, and it is likely the best university publisher in Middle East, South Asian, and Jewish studies.

In 2022, of 120 press books, 60 received 87 awards.

Scholars in book-centered fields such as the humanities and social sciences demonstrate their work through publication at a university press strong in their area, Yaycioglu explained. In a poll, the committee found many faculty outside of humanities also publish books with the press.

The committee facilitates interaction with the press, Safran said. For example, the committee introduced press editors to faculty working in sustainability, and now a new editor works on international relations, global issues, and sustainability. Also, sales are up 18.6%, due in part to committee support of the press shifting its focus in some fields and investing in marketing.

In response to a senator’s question about the financial picture of the press, Director Alan Harvey explained that scholarly publishing is very difficult to make profitable, and the only way to make a scholarly publisher sustainable in the long term is through an endowment that usually throws off about 25% of revenue.

“We have to remember that we’re a mission-driven organization, and our charter is to publish academic works,” he said. “If the university wishes to change that mission to make a profit center, then it would mean a radical rethinking of what we do.”

Ato Quayson, the Jean G. and Morris M. Doyle Professor in Interdisciplinary Studies and professor of English, asked about the press’s view on using an open access model.

Safran said that while it has been discussed and she expects further future discussion, she is not convinced that there is yet a model that will allow it to work at the press.


Joe Lipsick, professor of pathology and of genetics, and Branislav Jakovljevic, the Sara Hart Kimball Professor in the Humanities and professor of theater and performance studies, introduced a motion to terminate the association of Rebekah Mercer and Rupert Murdoch in all positions of responsibility or honor at Stanford “due to their promulgation of dangerous, racist, or antisemitic disinformation.” Mercer and Murdoch serve on the Hoover Institution Board of Overseers.

The motion states that the media outlets controlled by Mercer and Murdoch have promoted ideas that inspired mass murders nationwide and lies that played a major role instigating the Jan. 6 insurrection.

“The president of the university has made it very clear that the university will not tolerate racism, antisemitism, and the symbols thereof,” Lipsick said. “We expect persons in positions of responsibility and honor at Stanford to meet the very same standards. To do otherwise would send a message to our students, staff, faculty members, that although the university will not tolerate racism, antisemitism, and the symbols thereof, the university will tolerate the very same from sufficiently wealthy donors who serve in positions of responsibility and honor within the university.”

Tessier-Lavigne spoke against the motion, which he said in effect calls for the senate to act as an institutional body to censor two overseers. “Free expression of ideas is the lifeblood of the university and it’s essential to our research and teaching missions,” he said.

The proposed move would impose a new institutional orthodoxy and have a chilling effect on speech and willingness to serve on boards, Tessier-Lavigne continued.

Hoover Institution Director Condoleezza Rice clarified that the Board of Trustees approves who serves as a Hoover overseer, and described the motion’s claims as “bank shots” against Mercer and Murdoch. “I don’t like the implication of that somehow, because their outlets have said things with which I may even disagree, that they have caused people to be killed. That is quite a leap, and we need to be very careful about what we say in that regard.

“The university has been very clear that we are going to uphold not just academic freedom, but standards of freedom of speech,” Rice added. “And I would say that freedom of the press goes along with that.”

The issue drew lengthy and tense debate past the end time of the meeting. The chair said it would come back as an “unfinished business” item due to lack of quorum.

In memory

Senators also heard two memorial resolutions. Carl Gotsch, professor emeritus of agricultural economics and former associate director of Stanford’s Food Research Institute, died June 12, 2022, at age 89. Pan Yotopoulos, professor emeritus of economics, died Dec. 17, 2019. He was 86.