Graduate Student Council takes on affordability again, calls for food pantry, shuttle funding

Oct. 12, 2022, 10:39 p.m.

The Graduate Student Council (GSC) continued to raise concerns about the affordability of graduate life at Stanford and roll out the Bill on Affordability at its Tuesday meeting.

Kahlil Wells, a senior associate director for Residential & Dining Enterprises (R&DE), told the council that a record of 975 people registered for the food pantry pop-up. Although only about half the registrants showed up, the team of 10 volunteers struggled with coordinating the event, Wells said.

Councilors suggested shifting the event time and expanding efforts to get more volunteers involved with the initiative.

Executive Director for R&DE Eric Montell said the food pantry has never received funding from the University. The food pantry pop-up was a response to food insecurity concerns of graduate students on campus years ago and runs with the support of R&DE staff and volunteers, Montell said.

Councilors expressed gratitude for R&DE’s work on the pantry and pledged to raise the issue with administrators.

To further tackle affordability, councilors questioned the termination of the Marguerite shuttles to shopping centers containing Safeway, Walmart and Target, which councilors said can serve as affordable alternatives to grocery stores near and on campus.

“When it comes to accessibility to food, there’s a certain part of human agency that is you getting to go and pick up the food that you see, and that’s kind of been taken away from a lot of students here, where they are limited to what’s available at Munger or Trader Joe’s, if they are able to buy [them],” said Councilor Lawrence Berg, a fourth-year Ph.D. student in chemistry. “There’s something about, you know, being able to go to the grocery store and pick out which apple you’re going to eat every morning that week for breakfast.”

Berg said that the Marguerite service was rendered to students before the pandemic, and in 2019 alone, it had run over 90,000 trips, proving it is a valued service of the student community.

Councilors called for additional funding for the shuttles so that service to the shopping centers can resume.

Berg said, “They have the buses. They have the drivers. They just need, essentially, funds to actually pay those individuals and fuel the buses.”

“It’s just that it has not been made a financial priority from the University’s leadership,” he added.

The council’s effort to roll out the recently-passed Bill on Affordability has concentrated on targeted outreach to students and University leadership. The council will host three focus groups on Oct. 27, Nov. 3 and Nov. 10.

Sarah Izabel, a first-year Ph.D. student in neurosciences, communicated on behalf of the Stanford Biosciences that the departments received unanimous positive results from department directors who responded to her director’s outreach, but Izabel said more rallying of the general student population is needed to enact change.

Third-year Ph.D. student in immunology Sarah Sackey shared further that her principal investigator in the lab, along with other immunology professors, are currently in conversation with President Marc Tessier-Lavigne to alleviate affordability issues on campus.

The Daily has reached out to the University for comment.

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