Faculty Senate revises writing requirements

June 1, 2012, 3:04 a.m.

The Faculty Senate approved revised writing requirements for undergraduates and heard an annual budget report at its penultimate meeting of the academic year Thursday.

Acting President and Provost John Etchemendy Ph.D. ’82 opened the meeting by delivering a personal statement in memory of former University President Richard Lyman.

Lyman, who served as the University’s seventh president from September 1970 to August 1980, died Sunday night of congestive heart failure in Palo Alto. He was 88.

Etchemendy praised Lyman’s work at Stanford as both an administrator and faculty member, noting that his time in office spanned a period of sustained student protests and elevated tensions with administrators.

“It was a period unlike any other in Stanford’s history,” Etchemendy said. “Dick not only preserved Stanford during this turbulent period, [but] he left us stronger and better…We owe Dick Lyman a great debt for his guidance of our university during that time.”

The Senate observed a moment of silence in Lyman’s memory.

Committee on Undergraduate Standards and Policy (C-USP) Chair Judy Goldstein then delivered a report on minor revisions to undergraduate writing requirements.

Goldstein noted that C-USP’s recommendations on writing requirements would be “a little less contentious” than previous C-USP recommendations on subjects such as breadth requirements – which were debated over multiple Senate meetings.

Under the C-USP recommendation, the Program in Writing and Rhetoric (PWR) would be expanded to include “oral, visual and digital communication,” as recommended by the Study of Undergraduate Education at Stanford (SUES) report. The C-USP recommendation also added an explicit stipulation that classes fulfilling writing requirements be taught by tenure-line faculty or academic staff.

“We included that to assure the quality of the classes, when and if they’re offered by departments,” Goldstein said.

“There is the overarching goal of integrating the program more fully into the departmental life of the University,” added Associate Professor of English Nicholas Jenkins. “It’s very important that the program reflect the full academic spectrum of the University.”

Susan McConnell, professor of biology and co-chair of the SUES committee, framed the increased breadth in the writing requirement as a reflection of ongoing trends in communications.

“[In recent years] the means of communication have proliferated,” McConnell said. “What we hoped was that students wouldn’t be prevented from exploring the forms of communication that will be most helpful for them in their professional development.”

The amended requirements passed the Senate by unanimous voice vote, bringing to an end a series of reforms of Stanford’s undergraduate education originating with the SUES report.

“We’ve concluded the role of the Senate in putting in place a new vision for undergraduate education at Stanford,” said Rosemary Knight Ph.D. ’85, professor of geophysics and Senate chair, thanking SUES and C-USP committee members for their efforts. “The next few years are going to be really exciting.”

The Senate then heard the annual budget report, delivered by Vice Provost for Budget and Auxiliaries Management Tim Warner MBA ’77.

“Our financial position is very strong,” Warner said. “We’re running surpluses…Some of the moves we made a few years ago to cut budgets and reset the University financially are really starting to pay off.”

Warner emphasized the role of the strategic direction of the 2012-13 budget, which focuses on ensuring faculty salary competitiveness, strengthening budgetary support for undergraduate financial aid and otherwise responding to University spending priorities.

He acknowledged, however, that critical revenue sources – such as health care services, federal research funding and investment income – may come under pressure in the year ahead.

Warner predicted a total revenue sum of $4.4 billion during the upcoming academic year, up 4 percent from the 2011-12 fiscal year. The projected University surplus of approximately $220 million remains unchanged from this year.

According to Warner, student income will serve as a significant contributor to increased revenue, with the figure set to rise by 3.4 percent from this year even as the University continues to increase the amount of financial aid offered to both undergraduate and graduate students.

From 2007 to 2012, University expenditure on financial aid increased from $66 million to $127 million, with that figure projected to rise to $152 million by 2017.

Nevertheless, Warner said Stanford has seen a largely robust recovery from the recession, noting a 3.6 percent annual growth rate in total revenues from 2007 to 2012, despite falling levels of federal research and financial aid funding. University reserves have grown by 6.8 percent per year over the same period, while Stanford’s endowment has nearly returned to pre-recession levels.

“We’re not back to where we were before the recession, but we’re close,” Warner said. “We do need to turn attention to some of those revenue sources that may be under pressure.”

Warner also noted that the 2012-13 budget includes significant capital expenditure, with a projected outlay of $529.5 million contributing to a three-year Capital Plan that will require approximately $2.1 billion in total expenditures for completion.

The largest segment of capital expenditure, totaling $134.2 million, will be allocated to the Stanford Energy Systems Innovation (SESI), a renovation of Stanford’s central energy facility.

The Faculty Senate will hear reports on the Emeriti Council and the School of Medicine at its final meeting of the year on June 14.

Marshall Watkins is a senior staff writer at The Stanford Daily, having previously worked as the paper's executive editor and as the managing editor of news. Marshall is a junior from London majoring in Economics, and can be reached at mtwatkins "at" stanford "dot" edu.

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