‘Pragmatism, not false hope’: GSC urges University to reconsider in-person spring plans

Feb. 10, 2021, 11:58 p.m.

The Graduate Student Council (GSC) will urge the University against allowing students to return to campus in the spring unless health conditions significantly improve, it determined at its Wednesday meeting. Councillors said they have little confidence undergraduates will abide by the Campus Compact or that Stanford will be able to enforce its rules.

“We would like to see pragmatism, not false hope,” said GSC co-chair and fifth-year theater and performance studies Ph.D. student Kari Barclay.

The concerns come amid continued reports that the limited on-campus community is consistently flaunting University policy and regional health guidelines by gathering in large groups. The behavior is not limited to undergrads: MBA students at the Graduate School of Business have demonstrated repeated disregard for University and local health guidelines throughout the fall and winter quarter.

Tomorrow, GSC leadership, along with representatives from the Undergraduate Senate and the student government executive team, will meet with President Marc Tessier-Lavigne, Provost Persis Drell and top Stanford administrators to air their views on the University’s plan. Their meeting will come less than a month before the week of March 1, when the University has committed to providing an update on its spring quarter plans. 

“We as the Graduate Student Council are worried about the social norms that have been in place since the start of COVID and how University protocol would not be followed by returning undergraduates of higher class levels due to the norms that have existed in previous years,” said council co-chair Will Paisley ’20 M.A. ’21. “Spring quarter is known as ‘Camp Stanford.’”

Though cases have remained relatively low on campus since mid-January, Barclay said students do not believe the University has the “infrastructure necessary to enforce the rules.” 

The concern is not unique to the GSC: residential assistants (RA) have repeatedly criticized what they perceive to be inadequate communication and insufficient directions from the University. And according to Barclay, little has improved over the past month.

“RAs have been struggling to enforce household policies,” Barclay said. “It’s just been really tough. I’m worried.”

In recent weeks, peer institutions have resorted to significantly more stringent measures to mitigate rule-breaking on campus. On Feb. 8, the University of California, Berkeley announced that it would implement “third-party security” outside of dorms to monitor activity and placed a ban on solitary outdoor exercise. Councillor Sanna Ali, a fourth year Ph.D. student in communication, said that she does not want to see Stanford reach that point.

Councillors said they believe that the pattern of rule breaking among the current on-campus population will only be compounded when the undergraduate population consists of primarily juniors and seniors.

“The students who are on campus right now don’t even know the campus very well,” Paisley said. “If it were juniors and seniors coming back, they have two to three years of experience of knowing how the campus operates. Therefore, they would be much more adept at finding ways to bend the rules to their favor.”

If the University ultimately decides to invite juniors and seniors to campus in the spring, the student government will work with administration to provide comprehensive instruction to students and residential staff about how to follow and enforce the rules, Barclay said.

The GSC also plans to expand initiatives to support graduate students living off campus. Councillor Grace Achepohl M.S. ’21 is working with the Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU) to implement a program in which ASSU will provide Instacart gift cards to approximately 250 food-insecure graduate students living off campus. Achepohl also will meet with administrators in the coming weeks to discuss ways to make programs like the Food Pantry Pop-Up more frequent and sustainable.

“Some universities have done better at supporting their students who are off campus, and we know that there are Stanford graduate students off campus who are food insecure,” Paisley said. “We would like to be able to offer some small token and provide some semblance of support to these students.”

Contact Tammer Bagdasarian at tbag ‘at’ stanford.edu. 

Tammer Bagdasarian '24 is an Executive Editor for The Daily, and is planning to major in Communication and Political Science. He previously served as a News Managing Editor. Contact him at tbagdasarian 'at' stanforddaily.com

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