Faculty Senate talks U.S. universities, arts at Stanford

May 26, 2017, 1:57 a.m.

At Thursday’s Faculty Senate meeting, Columbia University professor and provost emeritus Jonathan Cole discussed governance in U.S. universities. Freeman-Thornton Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Harry Elam and others presented on the Stanford Arts Initiative, emphasizing the University’s push to increase the arts’ presence on campus in the future.

Cole’s address focused on celebrating American research universities as well as discussing issues with their institutional framework. For instance, Cole argued that American research universities are great not necessarily because of undergraduate education but rather because of how they generate new knowledge. Discussing the race for new discoveries, he said that U.S. universities seek to balance humility with being at the forefront of promising research.

He also suggested that faculty should become more involved in the undergraduate admissions process, because they frequently can better identify the students who will contribute to the University. Creating a culture of prestige and honor around the selection committees would entice more professors to be involved in the selection process, according to Cole.

In addition, Cole argued that diversity is paramount for schools and that the university experience “should be unsettling” in exposing students to new ideas. To achieve this, Cole emphasized there should be no curbs on free thought.

Following Cole’s address, Elam briefly reported on the accomplishments of Stanford Arts Initiative, launched in 2006, and gave a small glimpse into the program’s future endeavors. According to Elam, who serves as Stanford’s vice president for the arts, the most prominent accomplishments of the Arts Initiative have been the construction of three new arts buildings: Bing Concert Hall, Roble Arts Gym and the McMurtry Building.

Faculty Senate talks U.S. universities, arts at Stanford
At Thursday’s Faculty Senate meeting, Harry Elam presented on the Stanford Arts Initiative (Courtesy of Linda A. Cicero).

Elam also noted that more people have been visiting the Cantor Arts Center along with the Anderson Collection: Over 160,000 people have visited the Anderson Collection alone. The Arts Initiative has also created new opportunities for interdisciplinary teaching and research, facilitated through new faculty positions, fellowships and undergraduate programs, he said. In addition, Elam considered the Creative Expression (CE) WAYS requirement a success in introducing students to creative ways of thinking.

Regarding the future, Elam has ambitious goals.

“We [of the Stanford Arts Initiative] are looking to make Stanford an internationally renowned destination for the arts,” Elam said.

Stephen Sano, the Professor Harold C. Schmidt Director in Choral Studies and professor of music, gave a brief report on the music department in the context of the Stanford Arts Initiative. The music department comprises about 50 undergraduates and 50 graduate students, he said, but over 1,000 students are taking courses within the department.

Sano announced that the music department has also begun to recruit student musicians in a process similar to athletic recruitment. Few peer institutions have similar programs, he said.

Carl and Marilynn Thoma Provostial Professor of Arts and Humanities Alexander Nemerov shared his experience as a professor of the humanities. After coming to Stanford in the fall of 2012 from Yale University, where he taught courses with high student enrollment, Nemerov started teaching art history classes such as ARTHIST 1B with only 60 to 75 students. Now, the class has about 200 students.

Nemerov is proud of this growth but hopes to see even more interest in the humanities at Stanford.

“My hope is that … Stanford will become a place where an art history class has the highest enrollment,” Nemerov said.


Contact Christina Pan at capan “at” stanford.edu.

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