Faculty Senate hears Med School, Emeriti Council reports

June 15, 2012, 8:30 p.m.

President John Hennessy returned to the Faculty Senate Thursday afternoon after completing his four-month sabbatical. During the body’s final meeting of the academic year, faculty members heard reports from both the School of Medicine and the Emeriti Council, as well as voted to express their concern about the professionalization of collegiate athletics.

The Senate opened the meeting by unanimously voting in favor of approving a list of candidates for baccalaureate and advanced degrees. Graduating students will receive their diplomas on Sunday.

Rosemary Knight Ph.D. ’85, professor of geophysics and Senate chair, subsequently congratulated the Senate on its work during an academic year that saw a comprehensive reform of undergraduate education.

After hearing a report about the methods and aims of a Stanford education in January, the Senate approved many of the document’s recommendations throughout the year, including voting to replace the current Introduction to the Humanities (IHUM) program and revise the number of breadth requirements.

Faculty Senate hears Med School, Emeriti Council reports
School of Medicine Dean Philip Pizzo delivered a report on the School's current status and future plans (Courtesy of Linda A. Cicero/Stanford News Service)

“This has been a great year at Stanford,” Knight said.

Hennessy later echoed Knight’s praise of the Senate’s work in reforming undergraduate education. He also complimented Provost John Etchemendy Ph.D. ’82 on his work as Acting President in Hennessy’s absence.

“As we’ve seen, the Provost could run the entire University,” Hennessy quipped. “I’m recommending that the position of President become honorary.”

The Senate then turned to the professionalization of college sports, an issue prompted by a statement by the Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics (COIA) – of which Stanford is a member – criticizing University of Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari’s announcement that his team would henceforth look to play non-conference off-campus game to increase revenues and provide better pre-professional training to players.

“That [comment] so blatantly demonstrates the problem [of maintaining academic integrity] that COIA was built to address,” said Tom Wasow, professor of linguistics.

The Senate voted unanimously in favor of expressing support for COIA’s statement, but did not discuss or pass any formal resolution.

Emeriti Council President David Abernethy, a professor emeritus of political science, then gave a report about the council’s work.

Abernethy noted that the community of University retirees – which grew at an unusually high rate during 2009-10 in response to more generous severance packages before stabilizing in recent years – remains a significant presence on campus, occupying around a third of non-student campus housing. He praised University administrators for their ongoing financial support.

Abernethy also highlighted an Emeriti Council initiative to place students from Foothill Community College in Stanford science and engineering laboratories.

“We’re playing a key role in enabling their shift from community college to full-time university,” Abernethy said.

School of Medicine Dean Philip Pizzo followed with a report on the School’s current status and future plans.

Looking back over his 11-year tenure as dean, Pizzo noted the improvements in the school’s finances, as well as an expansion in faculty numbers and areas of expertise during that time period.

“Our faculty, while small, are incredibly distinguished,” Pizzo said. “We have the highest amount of [National Institutes of Health] funding per faculty member in the country…It is a validation of the excellence of the faculty.”

Pizzo acknowledged the need for the School of Medicine to adapt and invest in order to address current and future challenges, a demand he said started with a significant planned expansion in the School’s facilities and greater dialogue between academic departments and schools.

“We’re thinking proactively about how to shape our future,” Pizzo said. “A true interdisciplinary environment is what makes Stanford a uniquely different place.”

As part of the renovation and expansion of on-campus facilities, Pizzo predicted that an increasing number of auxiliary functions would be outsourced to off-campus locations, such as a planned Redwood City development.

Responding to a question by Raymond Levitt M.S. ’73 Ph.D. ’75, professor of civil and environmental engineering, on the impact of the potential repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Pizzo acknowledged that – regardless of the Supreme Court’s ruling – School of Medicine revenues will likely constrict in upcoming years.

“The venues coming into medical centers [across the country] will go down,” Pizzo said, noting that Stanford’s unusual reliance on federal research funding and recent NIH cuts may exacerbate any decline. “It’ll probably be slower than many think, but it’s inevitable and we’re preparing for that.”

“Philip has been an absolutely fantastic Dean,” Etchemendy said. “He’s transformed the School of Medicine…We have a lot to thank him for.”

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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