The GSC called for the reinstatement of discontinued Marguerite lines and explored accommodations for academic calendar conflicts with religious holidays during its meeting on Tuesday. Members of the council also weighed options to reduce travel-associated greenhouse gas emissions and voted on two resolutions and annual grants.
Accommodations for religious holidays
Kavya Sreedhar, a fourth-year electrical engineering Ph.D. student, updated the GSC about her January meeting with the Committee on Graduate Studies (CGS). The CGS decided during the meeting that it would work to resolve conflicts between the first day of fall quarter and the Jewish holidays, as the start of the 2022 fall quarter coincided with Rosh Hashanah. Sreedhar noted that the Stanford Office for Religious and Spiritual Life (ORSL) is engaging in broader conversations about religious accommodation policies.
She said that other universities have policies that allow professors to accommodate students who want to celebrate a religious holiday. No such policies exist at Stanford, which the ORSL is working to change.
Sreedhar informed the GSC of an upcoming meeting with a joint Undergraduate Senate (UGS) and CGS committee focusing on other important religious and cultural holidays.
“There were some concerns from both the GSC as well as the undergrads about how it’s not just Jewish holidays that are overlapping with important school days,” Sreedhar said, “but also things like Lunar New Year and Diwali or during exam periods, and there’s no really uniform rule for accommodations.”
Cutting travel emissions
The GSC also discussed another topic from the January CGS meeting: travel-related greenhouse gas emissions.
Last August, Stanford made a commitment to reach at least net-zero emissions from its operations by 2050. Air travel is one of the biggest contributors to Stanford’s emissions, Sreedhar said, putting the conversation around reducing travel-related emissions front-and-center.
From 2019 to 2021, Stanford conducted yearly surveys on student travel patterns. Sreedhar said that the University proposed three options in order to reduce emissions, focusing primarily on policies during the period of time from Thanksgiving to winter break.
Focusing on that period “seems like a low-effort way to reduce” 12% to 16% of total emissions, according to University estimates, which Sreedhar called “a pretty non-trivial percentage.”
The three options are: first, shifting fall quarter to begin earlier so that Thanksgiving break and winter break are merged; second, moving weeks 9, 10 and finals week online; or, third, shortening Thanksgiving break to four days. According to Sreedhar, student opinion is largely split between the first two options, but the university has yet to make a final decision.
Members of the GSC said that expanding the Marguerite shuttle system could help reduce emissions.
Transportation and event funding
Emily Schell, GSC co-chair and fifth-year developmental and psychological sciences Ph.D. student, suggested a reinstatement of full transit options, including the discontinued N and O Marguerite lines and the Shopping Express. The N and O lines transport students to and from the Palo Alto CalTrain platform at night and on the weekends, while the Shopping Express transports students on weekdays to nearby stores like Target and Walmart.
Schell said that the Marguerite carries over 92,000 students a year on average and that reinstating lines like the Shopping Express will improve sustainability. A petition published in February by the Undergraduate Senate advocating for the reinstatement of the N and O Marguerite lines and the Shopping Express has since received more than 1,600 signatures.
GSC co-chair and third-year aeronautics and astronautics Ph.D. student Jason Anderson added that the people who utilize the Marguerite buses include students, postdocs, families and faculty.
The GSC passed two resolutions, one granting the Escondido Village Families status as a Voluntary Student Organization (VSO) eligible to receive annual grants and another providing funding to support a Community Love and Care event on Mar. 1 hosted by Queer Student Resources (QSR). The event coincides with a visit to campus from Matt Walsh, a right-wing political commentator who was invited by the Stanford College Republicans to talk about his recent film, “What is a Woman?” The UGS approved the funding for the SCR event back in December.
The GSC also reviewed and approved eight annual grant recommendations for various student organizations.