The Stanford Board of Trustees approved a new department within the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability, heard an update from the president and provost on the campus climate, received the university’s annual financial report, and moved forward with a building project, among other items, during their last meeting of 2023.

In an update to trustees, President Richard Saller discussed how the university is approaching and responding to campus tensions related to the Israel-Hamas war. This includes extra steps to support the safety and well-being on campus, meetings with impacted communities, and the creation of two new committees: the Antisemitism, Bias, and Communication Subcommittee within the existing Jewish Advisory Committee; and the Muslim, Arab, and Palestinian Communities Committee.

Saller also expressed gratitude for the substantial involvement of the Office for Religious and Spiritual Life and the Office of Student Affairs in providing support to campus groups.

Provost Jenny Martinez, who is also a legal scholar, detailed the complex legal review involved when the university receives complaints of antisemitic speech and Islamophobia to ensure compliance with higher education law and First Amendment protections.

Martinez also highlighted the substantive programming being held across campus as faculty share their expertise on the conflict. For example, the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies recently hosted the event “How Did We Get Here?” that discussed the history and enduring complexities of the Israel-Hamas war. Events like these elevate students’ knowledge base for constructive civil discourse on these matters, Martinez said.

Among other items, the board received the university’s annual financial report, which includes details of how the financials have supported Stanford’s continued advancement of its Long-Range Vision amid significant university leadership changes as well as economic, political, and global uncertainties.

Additionally, trustees approved the creation of the Department of Environmental Social Sciences following a presentation by Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability Dean Arun Majumdar to the Committee of Student, Alumni, and External Affairs. The new department elevates the critical role of the social sciences in sustainability scholarship and education. William Barnett, professor at the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability, will serve as the department’s inaugural chair, and Marshall Burke, associate professor at the school, will serve as associate chair.

The board also approved construction of a structural steel cover over the Arrillaga Tennis Center–Taube Pavilion. The weather-protected tennis courts will be used for competition and recreation, and can also provide a covered back-up venue for large university events. Construction is expected to be completed by next fall.

Barnett is also a senior fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment, and the Thomas M. Siebel Professor of Business Leadership, Strategy, and Organizations at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Burke is also a senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute, the Woods Institute for the Environment, and the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR).