Faculty Senate declines to take stance on ASSU resolution to unhouse Greek life

Feb. 25, 2021, 11:52 p.m.

Despite calls from students to abolish Greek life at Stanford, the Faculty Senate declined to take a stance on an Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU) resolution that urged the University to permanently unhouse Greek organizations. The Senate also heard reports on academic continuity and the adverse effects of the pandemic on the Stanford faculty at its Thursday meeting. 

Senate rules required faculty members to consider the resolution after it was passed in November by both the Undergraduate Senate and the Graduate Student Council. Though the Faculty Senate was informed of the resolution, it ultimately declined to take any action as it lacked jurisdiction, according to English professor and Vice Chair Blakey Vermeule.

While the Steering Committee had declined a request from Abolish Stanford Greek to address the Senate, a statement from the group was read by a student representative. Recent reports cited by the statement indicate that fraternity houses are disproportionate sites of sexual violence and members of Greek houses engage in riskier alcohol and drug related behavior compared to other students.

“Learning does not stop when we leave the classroom. Faculty have a responsibility to provide undergraduates with a liberal education, and that includes a residential education,” the statement read. “Exclusive, historically white Greek housing fails that mission.”

Vice Provost for Student Affairs Susie Brubaker-Cole responded by clarifying that administrators, and not the Senate, have jurisdiction over undergraduate residential life and highlighted the importance of seeking student input on the matter. But she expressed doubt as to whether unhousing Greek organizations would address the concerns raised by the resolution. 

“Greek life is not monolithic,” she said, noting that African American and multicultural fraternities and sororities on campus “have a right to be housed.”

Abolish Stanford Greek spokesperson Callum Tresnan ’22 told The Daily that the organization appreciated the Senate’s discussion and looks forward to engaging with faculty in the future. But Tresnan pushed back on assertions made by Brubaker-Cole.

“Our resolution focuses specifically on unhousing IFC/ISC Greek organizations,” Tresnan wrote. “Further, there are currently no African American Fraternal and Sororal Association or MGC organizations with houses on campus,” adding that the group is concerned that despite outreach, administrators are not “fully aware of the current status of Greek life on Stanford campus or the content of the proposal as it stands.”

“We are not where we need to be in equity and inclusion in the Greek system and we’re not where we need to be in other parts of campus as well,” Brubaker-Cole said, explaining that in order to increase gender equity, the University is housing five sororities instead of three.

The University announced earlier this month that it would be adopting a neighborhood model for undergraduate residential life starting next academic year. Under the ResX task force initiative, Greek housing will be considered “University Themed Housing.” Ten Greek organizations will retain residences on campus.

Faculty quality of life during the pandemic

The Faculty Senate was briefed on the results of a survey on faculty quality of life during the pandemic. The survey, conducted by the Faculty Women’s Forum in October, sought to assess the effects of COVID-19 on accessibility to childcare, research, teaching and mentoring responsibilities. 

A majority of faculty respondents reported that they were more stressed because of the pandemic, and a third of faculty members and nearly half of pre-tenure faculty said they disapproved of Stanford’s pandemic response. 

The survey results illustrate the burden placed on faculty members who face increased childcare responsibilities as a result of stay-at-home orders and remote learning. Around three-quarters of survey respondents with children reported spending an additional two hours each day as the primary caregiver for children while half of faculty members reported an additional four hours. 

But the data shows that faculty members who identify as women are spending significantly more time on childcare with half of women faculty spending at least four more hours a day on their children in contrast to only one third of male faculty members. The pandemic has also restricted faculty members’ ability to conduct research as they spend more time carrying out their teaching and mentoring responsibilities, in addition to external factors.

The presentation by law professor Anne O’Connell and professor of medicine Sara Singer comes two weeks after Provost Persis Drell announced several steps to support untenured faculty, including extending the tenure clock, creating a post-pandemic research quarter and additional sabbatical credits. The University previously reduced rent for campus properties and provided financial support for childcare centers.

Several Faculty Senate members urged administrators to consider the long-term impact of the pandemic and its inequities. Management science and engineering professor Ramesh Johari said that while some faculty members will come out of the pandemic unscathed, others will have to deal with severe and lingering effects.

“We’re going to come out of this pandemic and I want to emphasize that in all likelihood we’re going to have to still have this kind of emergency management mentality for a decently long period of time,” Johari said.

Comparative literature professor Adrian Daub echoed Johari and added that the pandemic could impact efforts to diversify the faculty. Daub cited the negative impacts of the 2008 financial crisis on the recruitment and retention of a diverse faculty. 

President Marc Tessier-Lavigne acknowledged that the pandemic has exacerbated disparities and committed to efforts to support vulnerable faculty members.

“We will make sure that we attend to those long-term sequelae and impacts, not just in the coming weeks and months but in the coming years,” Tessier-Lavigne said. “It’s very important for us to remember some people will be affected in very serious ways for a very long time, and we will not forget that and it will remain a focus for the administration in the years to come.”

Academic continuity and spring quarter

The Academic Continuity team, led by Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Sarah Church, was formed at the start of the pandemic to develop plans in the event classes needed to be held virtually. As the pandemic prolonged, the team’s scope expanded to reimagining all aspects of Stanford education in a remote environment. 

In a presentation to the Faculty Senate, Church reported on several of the team’s findings related to the revised academic calendar and enrollment, as well as equity concerns. While enrollment was “robust” during the fall and winter quarters, Stanford is expecting lower enrollment in the summer. 

Church urged departments to identify more courses that can be offered during the summer. “I think there’s a bit of a mismatch sometimes between faculty perceptions that students aren’t going to want to take courses in the summer and students who are saying ‘well we do, but we are waiting to see what’s offered,’” she said.

Tessier-Lavigne also shared information on Stanford’s plans to bring juniors and seniors back to campus during the spring quarter. 

The president said that the criteria used by the University to make the decision was based on the public health situation and hospital capacity at Stanford and in Santa Clara County, having systems and staffing in place to host students and the potential for an in-person, meaningful student experience. 

“Our goal has always been to offer undergraduates the opportunity to resume on campus living and activities, provided it can be done safely and within public health guidelines,” he said.

Tessier-Lavigne added that returning students have a responsibility to do their part to maintain the health of the campus community.

Cameron Ehsan is a junior at Stanford studying neurobiology. He served as a news editor and newsroom development director for Vol. 261 and was the Vol. 260 winter managing editor.

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