Long-range planning community discussion addresses sexual misconduct, housing affordability

March 7, 2018, 1:37 a.m.

In a Tuesday community discussion on long-range planning, President Marc Tessier-Lavigne and Provost Persis Drell addressed issues ranging from sexual misconduct to housing affordability.

At the event, which was held at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR), Tessier-Lavigne and Drell solicited questions from the attendees about the long-range planning process and the administration’s vision for Stanford’s future. Much of the discussion in the town hall drew on the white papers released on Feb. 2 by the four area steering groups (ASGs), which focus on education, research, community and the world beyond Stanford, that drive long-range planning.

“In five to 10 years, I would like that the community would talk about our impact in terms of how we have affected society and benefited society,” Drell said. “I would also like to them to think about our impact in terms of the model that we set as an institution that is truly inclusive and makes everyone in the institution feel valued.”

Drell said that the University “must do better” in its efforts to address misconduct on campus. She also discussed the first annual Title IX/Sexual Harassment report, which released information related to the 190 incidents of sexual misconduct reported between Sept. 1, 2016 and Aug. 31, 2017.

“The community needed to know what was going on.” she said, referring to the contents of the report. “I’m hoping that by putting data out that shows that we do take action, that that will help people have the confidence to report. This is not something that the administration can solve on its own. The entire community needs to help here.”

Drell said that by pursuing community input through various modes — including town halls, staff and faculty meetings, email communication and more — Stanford can draw on diverse perspectives to better develop the report for subsequent years.

Finding ways to more effectively channel Stanford’s research capacities to better facilitate positive social change is a priority in this iteration of long-range planning, according to Tessier-Lavigne.

“Through our research, people see the advanced new frontiers of knowledge. We should become leaders in applying that knowledge to tackle societal problems,” he said.

“I think that’s crucial,” said Rebecca Toseland, a town hall attendee and research scholar at SIEPR. “One of [SIEPR’s] priorities is connecting Stanford research to public policy.”

Some attendees brought up the new work spaces Stanford has for its staff in San Jose and will launch in Redwood City, and how staff there could be more connected to the more central Stanford community.  

There was also a question about housing affordability in general. In response, Drell emphasized that the Stanford community members with the least access to affordable housing are post-doctoral students. She said that through this process, Stanford is committed to giving them more institutional support regarding housing.

“There is no one-size solution,” Drell said. “It’s going to take imagination and time. We are going to have to learn new ways of working and interacting with each other.”

Tessier-Lavigne and Drell also answered questions focused on student health. One attendee asked about the lack of ideas addressing mental health in the white papers.

“This [students’ mental health] is an issue that we care deeply about, and we are aware of the levels of stress among our students,” Drell said. “It is an extremely stressful time for our community.”

Drell also said that Susie Brubaker-Cole, vice provost for student affairs, aims to address these issues directly, focusing on community wellness and support.

Michael Skreta ’21 said he was surprised that few students attended the town hall. Skreta estimated that undergraduates comprised fewer than 5 percent of the total attendees and stressed that more students should have been in attendance.

“[The town hall] is very relevant for undergraduates. They created this event to listen to student voices. If you don’t come, you’re not listened to,” Skreta said.

However, according to Drell, student engagement in the long-range planning process has exceeded the administration’s expectations. Drell said she originally estimated that the long-range planning team would receive 1,000 proposals from the community, but ultimately received over 2,800 to consider.

“That engagement is what’s going to transform this institution going forward,” she said.


Contact Adesuwa Agbonile at adesuwaa ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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