Faculty Senate talks long-term planning, ‘Diversity in the Field’ initiative

Oct. 30, 2017, 12:32 a.m.

In its first meeting of the academic year, Faculty Senate received updates on long-range planning, a recap of President Marc Tessier-Lavigne’s first year and a debrief from executive leaders of the Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU) on the issues of diversity and student support in academics.

Tessier-Lavigne recognized the work of Stanford faculty, students, staff, alumni, friends and trustees, saying all Stanford affiliates should be thinking about how to improve humanity while leading innovation with humility. He also commented on the breadth of the University’s strengths, noting as an example its combining of tech with the humanities to provide a more complete understanding of the world.

“We have the capacity, the opportunity and the responsibility to change the world,” Tessier-Lavigne said. “Our biggest danger is to be too incremental, not ambitious enough.”

In the past year, Stanford had stable research funding for work ranging from post-recession economic growth and methods of stopping brain cancer growth. There were 136 new faculty appointments and 180 faculty awards and honors during that time period.

Tessier-Lavigne also updated the Senate on long-range planning, a process launched last school year to chart Stanford’s future. He said that four steering groups focused on different areas of the planning are finishing reading over 2,800 ideas and proposals that were submitted by community members. The groups will update Senate on their progress in November as the Executive Cabinet begins to synthesize proposals.

This year, Tessier-Lavigne hopes to improve faculty diversity, on-campus affordability, support services for students and student service opportunities as well as renovate facilities.

Tessier-Lavigne also said he and Provost Persis Drell would continue to increase communication with the campus community, especially regarding challenges facing the nation and University such as immigration policy changes, overall student health, sexual violence prevention, free speech and cultural and political divisions.

ASSU President Justice Tention-Palmer ’18 and Vice President Vicki Niu ’18 reported on academics and diversity through teaching, mentorship and co-curriculars.

Niu spoke on the importance of “active inclusivity” to help students who may have difficulty adjusting to college life. The ASSU is developing accessibility and cultural sensitivity training for faculty and teaching assistants to combat this issue.

According to Niu, issues of inclusivity come from a 2015 campus climate survey that showed students who identify as a minority, low-income, first-generation or disabled felt less connected to faculty or more overwhelmed by their academic load.

Tention-Palmer mentioned increasing demand for the Diversity in the Field curricular initiative — an idea built off of the Diversity in the Major initiative, which an ASSU Executive team began pushing for in the 2014-15 academic year. The Diversity in the Major initiative, which would require students take a class on issues of diversity within their academic area, has not been adopted.

ASSU leaders said that, although Diversity in the Field and other related initiatives will take longer to develop, there are mentorship, internships and research opportunities that can be offered in the short range to start fixing issues now.

“If we want the leaders of Stanford tomorrow to encompass a wide range of backgrounds and experiences, we need to cultivate that knowledge and excitement about learning now,” Niu said.


Contact Gillian Brassil at gbrassil ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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