Faculty Senate discusses renaming buildings, diversity, digital security

Feb. 18, 2016, 11:55 p.m.

At yesterday’s Faculty Senate meeting, ASSU President John-Lancaster Finley ’16 and ASSU Vice President Brandon Hill ’16 presented three proposals intended to help Stanford better fulfill its commitment to diversity. Additionally, Vijay Pande, former chair of the Committee on Academic Computing and Information Systems (C-ACIS), reported on the C-ACIS’s work.

Finley and Hill proposed amendments to the Engaging Diversity (ED) Ways of Thinking/Ways of Doing (WAYs) requirement, creating a sexual assault and gender identity curriculum and better honoring Native American history by changing Stanford locations that are named after the founder of the California Mission System, Father Junipero Serra.

Pande focused on four main challenges on which the committee has focused. These challenges involve the University’s security, computing power designated for research, digital infrastructure and learning management systems.

In both addresses, the proposed changes aim to fulfill the original values of the University by providing better environments and resources as well as by cultivating future leaders.

“We, with updated information, can figure out ways to uphold this [founding mission of Stanford University] better,” Finley said.

ASSU’s presentation on better embodying diversity

The ASSU Executives first proposed to amend the ED WAYs, as prior data has suggested that students often lag in this requirement. According to Vice Provost of Undergraduate Education Harry Elam, at most 50 percent of students have fulfilled their ED requirement — a far lower percentage than other WAYs requirements.

Finley and Hill said they wanted to strengthen this requirement by including the topic of diversity as part of major requirements. They envisioned that recently-declared students would take this class soon after declaring and hoped that the class style would be similar to that of introductory seminars. Some examples of topics included “Women in Technology” and “Global Thinking in Management.” Finley and Hill believed that the course could go beyond the classroom and incorporate elements from Cardinal Service and the residential experience into its learning.

The executives also argued that gender identity should be integrated more into Stanford’s curriculum. They saw this as necessary to end sexual assault and violence on campus.

Specifically, the ASSU executives proposed a 1- to 2-unit requirement for freshmen on gender identity during fall quarter. They argued in favor of an extended New Student Orientation program geared to gender identity and involving a residential aspect. Finley also mentioned that the classes could build on existing services, such as the Stanford Peer Education Program, where “peers can educate each other.”

Finally, Finley and Hill proposed the removal of Father Junipero Serra’s name off of locations at Stanford to help better honor Native American history on campus. This resolution was passed by both the Undergraduate Senate and the Graduate Console. They said that although Father Junipero Serra founded the California Mission system, he also contributed to the decimation of the Native American population in California.

“There is no valuable relationship [between Serra and Stanford University],” Finley said.

The Executives proposed switching the name of Serra with the name of a Native American alumnus who has contributed to Stanford, such as John Milton Oskison, Stanford’s first Native American student who graduated in 1898. They also suggested renaming places using words central to the Stanford identity, like “freedom,” in Native American languages.

Faculty expressed excitement about the education opportunities within all three proposals. One professor plans to teach a course on Junipero Serra to open discussion about his legacy on campus. Some professors highlighted that others honored on campus have mixed legacies as well and that this deserves consideration.

Since the resolution to remove Serra’s name has been passed by both the Undergraduate Senate and the Graduate Console, the Faculty Senate will vote on the resolution during its next meeting to help determine how to best fulfill Stanford’s founding mission.

C-ACIS report on four major computing challenges

Former C-ACIS chair Pande articulated Stanford’s challenge to ensure digital security.

“Most significant institutions are under constant attack,” Pande said. “[Security] is becoming [a] very significant issue.”

Pande emphasized that data compromises do not only come from stealing data, but also deleting or adding. President John Hennessy added that blackmail is another effective form of compromising data, citing that hackers had shut down the Stanford Hospital briefly through this tactic.

Pande added that although ensuring that security is paramount, tension exists between security and academic freedom, such as the ability for a professor to tweak data collection systems to obtain better results. He ceded that the committees have been mindful of this tension but warned that issues with the implementation of policy may create unintended consequences.

According to Pande, computing for research is rapidly transforming from a computational scientist’s realm to a method used in practically every field. The main question is whether or not the University or individual research groups should fund this equipment.

Pande reported that the C-ACIS also grapples with issues of digital infrastructure, particularly in deciding whether these structures should be managed internally or not.

Finally, Pande talked about the challenge of learning management systems, which include massive open online courses (MOOCs) and other software focused on helping students learn. Pande argued that learning management systems are analogous to books, and therefore the question is how to improve software to help students learn optimally.


Contact Christina Pan at capan ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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