Stanford will respond to NYC Request for Proposals

Aug. 4, 2011, 2:03 a.m.

The quest to build a Stanford hub on the East Coast continues as the University announced that it will respond to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Request for Proposals(RFP) for a new or expanded graduate engineering and applied sciences campus in the city.

“Our offer is straightforward,” Bloomberg said in a July 19 speech. “We will provide prime New York City real estate — at virtually no cost, plus up to $100 million in infrastructure upgrades — in exchange for a university’s commitment to build or expand a world-class science and engineering campus here in our city.”

Stanford will respond to NYC Request for Proposals
(CAROLINE MARKS/The Stanford Daily)

Mayor Bloomberg and the New York City Economic Development Corp (NYCEDC) launched the initiative, called Applied Sciences NYC, in December.

After discussing the idea in Faculty Senate meetings, President John Hennessy led Stanford in submitting a formal “expression of interest” in March. Applied Sciences NYC was the focus of April’s Academic Council meeting as well.

View from the Farm

University officials are optimistic about the opportunities NYC will provide and confident in Stanford’s ability to overcome potential challenges. William Dally, professor of computer science and electrical engineering, is leading a faculty advisory committee tasked with evaluating Applied Sciences NYC and advising the University.

“There’s a number of synergies available with various local industries ranging from the financial community to media to opportunities to get involved in sustainable urban studies that don’t exist here,” Dally said. “Everybody’s really excited about using this to prototype what the university of the future is really about. As the world becomes a more global place, it’s clear that universities can’t be so tied to one physical location.”

“The biggest challenge is likely to be making the faculty, students and staff located in NYC be fully part of the Stanford community,” School of Engineering Dean James Plummer wrote in an email to The Daily. “We do not want to create a separate entity. We want to create a place that is part of Stanford in every sense of that word.”

Neither Plummer nor Dally were concerned about the quality of faculty or students declining. Both noted their programs could grow in numbers without lowering standards — though they said hiring qualified faculty would take longer.

“We’re limited by the number of students we can handle, not by talent,” Dally said.

University spokesperson Lisa Lapin said departments around campus have been working on the final proposal, which she anticipates will be over 100 pages.

In the Big Apple

NYCEDC said it received 18 proposals from 27 institutions in March. Many proposals are from consortia.

According to the July 19 RFP, NYCEDC prefers that any institution based outside the United States partner with an institution inside the U.S. Seven of the 18 proposals were from non-U.S. institutions.

Additionally, institutions did not need to respond in March in order to reply to the RFP provided that they rank highly enough in academically relevant fields, have an endowment greater than $1 billion or comparable financial backing from a government and spend more than $75 million annually on research in the applicable fields.

Formal proposals are due Oct. 28. NYCEDC will lead a committee to select the winner based on criteria outlined in the RFP.

Forty percent of the decision is dependent on the proposal’s “economic impact and feasibility,” including the quality of the proposal and the estimated economic impact on New York City. Stanford’s March proposal, “Stanford University and New York City: Silicon Valley II,” appears to align closely with the city’s demands.

“A key goal for the NYC campus would be to have a program to mentor and assist faculty and students in forming new ventures,” the Stanford proposal reads. “To that end, Stanford proposes to have in residence on the NYC campus at least one faculty member who has been intimately involved — as a founder, early-stage advisor and board member, or investor — in the creation of a more than $500 million startup.”

An additional 40 percent will be based on “respondent’s qualifications and track record,” including institutional quality and track record in fundraising and on similar projects.
Lapin stated that no one has raised more money than Stanford in the past eight years.

“There’s nobody in the running that’s better than us,” she said. “On every measure, we’re out ahead there.”

The final 20 percent is “institutional connections to the city,” based on the proposal’s potential ties to the community, sustainability and hiring and workforce development.

“We have very active community partnerships here and would expect the same in New York,” Lapin wrote in an email to The Daily. “We already have numerous connections in NYC. And our preliminary designs call for an open campus and a park-like setting that would integrate the university with the community.”

The Competition

Several of the respondents have experience with multiple campuses.

New York City Deputy Mayor for Economics Robert Steel has cited Cornell University’s $630 million Manhattan medical school as a precedent for Applied Sciences NYC. The New York school has been one of the most aggressive respondents in lobbying for Bloomberg’s selection. They have reportedly hired a lobbyist and a public relations firm for their pitch, and university President David Skorton made his own sales pitch in a July 11 YouTube video.

New York University established a campus in Abu Dhabi which NYU Vice President for Public Affairs John Beckman called “enormously successful.” Beckman added that “our relevant experience is not limited to NYU Abu Dhabi” and that NYU and its consortium partners “have experience at how to get things done here.”

NYU is also in the process of establishing a new campus in Shanghai.

However, not all multiple-campus endeavors have been successful. Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) has a Silicon Valley campus which some at Stanford heed as a warning.

“One real danger is that Stanford will do something and it will be like the CMU effort in Silicon Valley, which I regard as a complete failure,” Dally said. “Maybe they make some money off of it, but it’s not a replication of the excellent computer science program CMU has in Pittsburgh. It’s a third-rate educational establishment, and it takes in people who couldn’t get into anywhere better. We don’t want that to happen.”

Despite Stanford’s lack of a degree-granting campus away from the Farm, the University believes its proposal does have credibility.

“What we would be doing in New York isn’t anywhere near the magnitude of the construction we’ve had,” Lapin said. “We’re just about to replace our hospital. We do big projects. And we do them well, and we can absolutely execute.”

Race to October

Many insiders have pegged Cornell and Stanford as the leaders for the selection.

Multiple references by Bloomberg and the media to Silicon Valley as the template for Applied Sciences NYC bode well for Stanford’s chances.

“During the 1980s and ‘90s, Silicon Valley — not New York — became the world capitol of technology start-ups,” Bloomberg said in his July 19 speech. “And that is still true today. But if I am right — and if we succeed in this mission — it won’t be true forever.”

Billy Gallagher is a senior staff writer at The Stanford Daily. He has previously worked at The Daily as editor in chief, a managing editor of news, news desk editor, sports desk editor and staff development editor. He is a junior from Villanova, PA majoring in Economics. He is also a writer for TechCrunch.

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