Divestment discussed at Thursday’s faculty senate meeting

Feb. 20, 2015, 12:33 a.m.

At yesterday’s Faculty Senate meeting, members discussed divestment, changing the governing policies of coterminal degrees and adopting research policy at Stanford’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

President Hennessy made a statement regarding the ASSU Undergraduate Senate’s recent vote on divestment. Hennessy noted the hostile tone in some discussions of divestment.

“As a University, we must remain committed to civil and rational discussion, especially when the issues are highly controversial,” Hennessy said.

Hennessy added that any divestment request must “focus on individual companies,” and that the trustees were also allowed to not act on any measure that could have negative consequences for the University.

“Hopefully, we can continue this discussion in a rational and civil manner in the months ahead,” Hennessy said.

A resolution to change the policies governing coterminal degrees was proposed by Professor Steven Zipperstein of the history department, and Professor Sarah Church of the physics department.

“It was clear that there were some issues that needed to be dealt with,” Church said.

The coterminal program was initiated in 1968 in Engineering. Roughly 25 percent of Stanford students pursue a coterminal degree, but the Senate acknowledged that there hasn’t been a large overhaul in many years.

The first large change to the coterminal degree policy involves the academic standards to which the students will be held. The provision clarifies that, though coterminal students are simultaneously pursuing an undergraduate and graduate degree, they will be held under the undergraduate academic standards until they have completed 12 non-summer academic quarters or 180 units. After this time, coterminal-degree-seeking students will be held under the graduate academic standards.

The new policy also states that students may only apply to a coterminal degree program after the completion of six non-summer academic quarters, completion of 120 units and declaration of a major.

With this policy, the earliest a student could possibly apply to coterm would be Winter Quarter of their Junior year, unless they have a year’s worth of transfer credits.

The most debated, and eventually amended, facet of the new policy involves a new “quarters back rule,” which states that coursework will only be accepted toward a graduate degree if the class was taken no more than three quarters before application to the coterminal program, as opposed to two quarters under the current system.

Professor Osgood, the Associate Dean for Student Affairs in the School of Engineering, proposed an amendment that individual departments have the freedom to make the time limits on graduate coursework shorter or longer.

Many Faculty Senate members expressed that this policy would prevent students from planning their coterminal degree requirements too early and potentially sacrificing the exploratory nature of the liberal education at Stanford.

The amendment passed by divided vote, and the original motion passed unanimously.

The second piece of legislation governs research policy governing principal investigator (PI) policy at Stanford’s SLAC lab. The motion was to allow “senior and executive scholars” to attain Principal Investigatorship at SLAC through approval of the SLAC director instead of going through the traditional University Research Policy guidelines.

Senate members, including Persis Drell, Dean of Engineering, stressed that SLAC is a unique entity and therefore required special considerations in research policy.

“I have no intention of introducing this policy at the School of Engineering,” Drell said.

The resolution passed unanimously.


Contact Allegra McComb at amccomb ‘at’ stanford.edu

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