Letter to the community: Sharing our community’s needs

Opinion by Natalie Francis
Oct. 29, 2020, 9:52 p.m.

Dear Stanford community, 

The Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU) is dedicated to advocating for the needs of all Stanford students. We recognize that our experiences only represent a fraction of many perspectives. To better inform our advocacy priorities for the 2020-21 school year, the Executive Cabinet solicited your input on some key issue areas. We want to thank everyone who drafted, beta-tested, took and/or publicized the survey during the last two months. This project was Herculean in scope and even amidst a tumultuous election and midterm season, we still engaged many of our peers. 

General Takeaways: 

The Fall 2020 ASSU Community Needs survey got 498 complete responses distributed among the class years as follows: 

1st Year2nd Year 3rd Year4th Year5th Year6th Year≥7th Year

Each year, the ASSU Executives designate key issue areas to be advocated for by the Executive Cabinet. The following sections are divided based on these priorities:

Executive Communications (N = 351): 

  • 38% of students said they keep up with the ASSU Executive Cabinet by all-campus emails, while 25% and 20% of students keep up with the ASSU Executive Cabinet via The Daily and email lists, respectively
  • 21% of students said they had heard of the Basic Needs Coalition while only 8% expressed awareness of @SVFreeStanford

Affordability (N = 346) / Basic Needs (N = 456): 

  • Approximately 10% of undergraduate and graduate students had days where they did not eat because they did not have enough money for food even before the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • 30% of undergraduate students, 47% of coterms/graduate students and 50% of post-docs responded that living and studying at Stanford is not affordable. 
Letter to the community: Sharing our community’s needs
Figure 1. A bar chart showing the percent of students by affiliation (undergraduate, coterm/graduate, postdoc, other) and their frequency of responses regarding the affordability to live and study at Stanford. 

Community Responsibility (N = 209): 

  • 43% of students agreed that there was sufficient public transportation
  • Only 8% of students agreed that they were familiar with avenues to support campus workers
  • Concerns students reported hearing from campus workers included campus safety, job security, and instability due to lack of income related to COVID-19

Covid-19 Response (N = 327): 

  • Students reported being comparatively less satisfied with the university’s Communications, Financial Aid / Financial Aid Communications and Community Building and Social Support
  • Students reported being comparatively more satisfied with the university’s Testing Policies and Procedure, Academic Policies and Internship and Work Opportunities
  • 47% of respondents (N = 120) indicated that they are moderately, very, or extremely concerned for their personal health and safety while living on campus.
  • 81% of respondents (N = 236) indicated that they would probably or definitely get a COVID-19 vaccine if it were made available to them at no cost.

Disability Advocacy (N = 117): 

  • 23% of students reported having a disability
  • 89% of students said that their disabilities are invisible
  • 81% of students with disabilities said that their disabilities affect their virtual lives a moderate amount

Environmental Justice & Sustainability (N = 246): 

  • Pushes for institutional changes that affect Stanford’s environmental and racial justice impacts (e.g. ethical investments) is the most important EJ&S issue area for 78.3% of students 
  • 88% of students reported feeling moderately or extremely prepared to make sustainable choices 
  • 57.1% of students are familiar with My Cardinal Green. 

International Student Advocacy (N = 168) 

  • Most respondents really think having an immigration lawyer is important. 
  • Although a huge percentage of teaching teams are accommodating to students across different time zones, some are not. Students may have to drop classes or take them at weird times. 
  • Students think Bechtel needs huge improvement to better serve students, especially on the office’s understaffing problems.
  • International students urgently need social and mental health support right now. 

Mental Health & Wellness (N = 339): 

  • 38% students reported academic anxiety as the biggest influence on Stanford students’ mental health, with internship/job/research stress a close second at 34% and 22% financial hardship. 
  • 50% of students indicated familiarity with CAPS and 23% with the Bridge while 18% expressed no familiarity with or distrust of on-campus providers 
  • 72% of students perceived the general student body’s mental health as highly functioning, but mentally ill while 43% said highly functioning, not mentally ill

Racial Justice (N = 281): 

  • 25% of students reported that their race factors into interactions with others at Stanford on less than a weekly or daily basis 
  • 68.1% of students think that race is not discussed or factored in enough at Stanford.
  • 44% of students feel that they understand the University’s Acts of Intolerance protocol moderately or very well  
  • 68.6% of students have not taken a course related to ethnic studies at Stanford.
  • 48.3% of students disagree with the statement “Stanford prioritizes Black studies” 

Sexual Violence Prevention (N = 187): 

  • 50% of students disagree with the statement “Stanford’s sexual violence prevention policy is clear and comprehensible” 
  • 73% of students reported distrust in Stanford’s sexual violence reporting offices
  • 44% expressed that COVID-19 has impacted how safe they feel in their place of residence
  • Students expressed desire for clear communication and policies and services from the Title IX and SHARE Offices and better funding for CST 

Honor Code & Integrity Reform (N = 356): 

  • 96% self-reported no Honor Code violations since April 2020
  • 30% of students reported being unaware that live or expert “homework assistance” programs (Chegg, Yahoo Answers, Stack Overflow, etc.), constitute Honor Code violations 
  • 37% said students should not at all be responsible for reporting Honor Code violations 
  • 17% reported witnessing or experiencing an FS violation since April 2020
  • 69% of students surveyed feel that Fundamental Standard violations in virtual spaces should be taken as seriously by the University as those in physical spaces

As always, your feedback and questions are welcome. The ASSU Executive Cabinet is here to support you and to advocate for the best possible policies across the key issue areas illuminated above. If you have any questions, or if you want to see more information, please refer to this link or/and reach out to me at [email protected]

Sincerely yours,

Natalie Francis, Director of Executive Communications

(on behalf the Executive Cabinet) 

Contact Natalie Francis at natfran ‘at’ assu.stanford.edu.

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