Undergraduates support inviting juniors and seniors to campus in spring, Senate survey shows

Feb. 18, 2021, 10:36 p.m.

According to a new survey sent out by the Undergraduate Senate, 60% of responding undergraduates “strongly agree” with allowing juniors and seniors to return to campus if medical experts deemed the risk acceptable, and only 8% of responding students “strongly disagree.” The survey is still open to results and updating live. As of 10:00 PM on Thursday, the survey had 1298 responses, with 1039 responses from undergraduates, including 363 juniors and 373 seniors. 

The Senate sent out a survey evaluating student opinions on the return of juniors and seniors to campus on Tuesday, after ASSU executives sent a memo to Vice Provost Susie Brubaker-Cole last Friday advising against inviting upperclassmen to campus in the spring. ASSU President Vianna Vo ’21 instead encouraged the administration to prioritize current residents, including graduate students and students with special circumstances.

Senator Jonathan Lipman ’21 drafted the survey with the help of Senator Michaela Phan ’23 and his aide Emily Park ’24 to collect student input before the University releases an update on spring reopening plans during the week of Feb. 22. 

Lipman said they broadly reached out to the ASSU committees for input and the Senate also collectively went through all the questions during Tuesday evening’s Undergraduate Senate meeting before releasing the survey. 

The survey asked a range of questions, from the participant’s happiness with their current home situation to opinions on the return of juniors and seniors to campus, and left space for additional comment. 

When asked for the reasoning behind their response to whether or not “Stanford should allow Juniors and Seniors to return to campus if medical experts deem the risk acceptable,” the two most common reasons selected by undergraduates were in favor of bringing students back. 

66% of undergraduates selected “Seniors should get a chance to be on campus before graduating” and “It’ll improve the mental health of many students.” 

Some respondents expressed concerns over bias in the survey design in the “other” and “additional comments section.” In regards to the question asking students to explain their reasoning behind their opinion of whether or not to bring students back to campus, some respondents claimed that there were more options skewed towards not bringing students back.

Lipman acknowledged the criticisms and said “we recognized that we didn’t have time to put out something that was perfect, but we felt like something was better than nothing.”

Senator Danny Vinh Nguyen ’22 contributed to the ASSU memo released on Friday and said that there had been several conversations in recent days about defining community. Nguyen said the survey was motivated in part by response to the memo and a desire to include “a broader representation of students in the decision making process for spring.” 

He acknowledged that several students felt excluded from the ASSU Executives’ priorities.  “The goal of these concerns is not to exclude students but to bring in voices that are missing from our understanding of what community is,” Nguyen said. 

He said it was important to him to include frontline healthcare and service workers when considering community. 

“I help represent the student population, but as to my own personal values,” Nguyen said. “I respect the lives of everybody who’s impacted by Stanford’s presence.”

ASSU Vice President and third-year law student Christopher Middleton ’16 said ASSU executives “support the survey and hope admin take the data into consideration.” 

Senators and students expressed mixed opinions about the memo at Tuesday evening’s Undergraduate Senate meeting, with some supporting the memo for prioritizing community safety and others criticizing it for not representing student perspectives. Lipman acknowledged the divergent viewpoints among students and within the ASSU. 

“I hope we can all disagree amicably and with respect for one another and realize that people have only good intentions here and people are working really hard to try and make things better,” he said.

Park added that “we hope that this survey helps the University make decisions that enable flexibility in student plans and clear communication of expectations about life on campus,” pursuant to the advice of medical experts.

Contact The Daily’s News section at news ‘at’ stanforddaily.com.

Victoria Hsieh '24 is a Desk Editor for the Business and Technology Desk looking to major in Computer Science and minor in Political Science. She is from Seattle and thereby a caffeine and hiking fanatic. Contact The Daily’s News section at news ‘at’ stanforddaily.com.Kaushikee Nayudu '24 is The Daily's Editor in Chief. Contact her at knayudu ‘at’ stanforddaily.com.

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