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GSC considers vote of no confidence after winter cancellation

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In response to the University’s decision not to bring frosh and sophomores back to campus for the winter quarter, the Graduate Student Council (GSC) contemplated issuing a vote of “no confidence” against the University and proposed a plan to reach out to the Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU) executive team to request a meeting with administrators. 

In September, the University of Michigan’s Faculty Senate issued a vote of no confidence on President Mark Schlissel, indicating the senate had lost confidence in his ability to execute his role and accusing him of ignoring scientific evidence associated with the University’s re-opening plan. Councilor K.C. Shah J.D. ’22 said that a similar vote may be warranted at Stanford. Such a vote would be largely symbolic and not affect employment status. 

“I don’t have any confidence in administrators to do the right thing,” Shah said, adding that the actions of administrators were “unconscionable.” While he thought that undergraduate students should not have been invited back on campus in the first place, he said that the lack of transparency and constant reassurance — before the cancellation — that the winter plans would indeed proceed was “awful to hear.” 

GSC co-chair and fifth-year theater and performance studies Ph.D. student Kari Barclay added that some councilors in the fall explored bringing a vote of no confidence against the administration. At the time, he said, he doubted the effectiveness of such a vote and whether it would affect the GSC’s ability to negotiate with administrators, but now it is something he thinks they could do.

“The decision is exploitative of undergraduate students’ tuition dollars to hold out hope to get people to enroll,” he said.

Councilor Sanna Ali, a fourth-year communications Ph.D. student, said that Saturday’s announcement was clearly a “tuition grab,” adding that the decision did not seem like a last-minute decision but something that the administration considered ahead of time but delayed announcement to entice more students to enroll. 

Ali added that students had to request an extension of the leave of absence deadline. Initially, Stanford announced the deadline of Jan. 11 at 5 p.m. to file a leave of absence request with a full refund, two days after the announcement, had not changed. The University later reversed course, extending it to Jan. 19 at 5 p.m.

“This seems like they’re not listening to anyone because they have their own priorities and agenda that is not about the students,” Ali added. 

Councilman Brooks Bernard, a fourth-year cancer biology Ph.D. candidate, agreed with Shah and added that faculty were also upset with the administration. He said he believed faculty would support a no confidence vote because, in their absence, Stanford has been implementing decisions on the “down-low” without consulting faculty members. 

“I think it’s totally unacceptable and whether it’s a vote of no confidence, whether it’s some sort of public shaming or something that draws attention to it is very warranted,” he said.

Councilor Adam Keppler ’22 cautioned against jumping into a vote of no confidence, calling it “a more dramatic measure.” He instead suggested sending a request for a meeting to the Office of the Provost or Vice Provost and said that the Council should get input from the Faculty Senate before issuing a statement. 

Shah agreed, but cautioned that it takes three or four weeks to set up a meeting with administration: After a decision would presumably be made about bringing students back to campus for spring quarter it would be too late, according to Shah. He added that before the start of fall quarter the GSC tried to provide input, but was “stonewalled at every juncture.”

GSC co-chair Will Paisley said that the Council does “want to take the lead from the undergraduate side of things right now.” Barclay said that the chairs would reach out to the ASSU executives to set up a time to talk to administrators, and coordinate with the Undergraduate Senate and the Faculty Senate to gauge interest in a no confidence vote. 

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