The Graduate Student Council (GSC) called for expansions to graduate student meal plan options and heard updates from Residential and Dining Enterprises (R&DE) about Stanford’s purchase of nearby apartments on Sand Hill Road during its Tuesday meeting.
As part of the week’s R&DE updates, Director of Student Housing Assignments Justin Akers clarified the ramifications of Stanford’s purchase of Oak Creek Apartments, a 759-unit multifamily residential complex on Sand Hill Road. The University announced its purchase of Oak Creek in September 2020 with the intention of increasing housing accessibility and availability for Stanford affiliates, namely postdoctoral students.
Housing has been a contentious issue among the graduate student community as affordability concerns in the Bay Area have risen over the years. The GSC’s recently-passed Bill on Affordability addressed graduate housing concerns, with testimonials from students discussing rising costs of living on and off-campus but fixed stipends from Stanford. The Stanford Graduate Workers Union (SGWU), which launched its campaign for the unionization of graduate student workers earlier this month and has garnered more than 2,500 signed cards since its formal launch, has prioritized affordable housing as a key concern in its platform.
Akers said that, as R&DE leased certain properties within Oak Creek already, Stanford’s purchase would not affect the state of these leases in the near future. These properties would still be available as part of the housing lottery process for at least the next year. The graduate housing lottery application is currently open, and the deadline to apply is May 3. Results from the lottery will be announced on May 27.
Meal Plan options
GSC Co-Chair Emily Schell, a fifth-year Ph.D. student in developmental and psychological sciences, expressed concern about the impact of the current meal plan block options, which she argued disproportionately hurts students who live off campus. The meal plan option offered to grad students and their spouses is currently a block of 25 meals, which Schell argued causes off-campus students to have to pay for more meal swipes than they typically use.
Benefits and Affordability Chair Guillem Megias Homar, a second-year masters student in aerospace, aeronautical and astronautical/space engineering, echoed this concern, adding that meal plan blocks of 10 meals would be helpful to students living off campus, as the 25- and 50-meal plan blocks require a minimum commitment of $200. “These options do not represent the diversity of graduate students,” Homar said.
Assistant Vice Provost of Stanford Dining, Hospitality & Auxiliaries Eric Montell ‘89 said that the students’ feedback will be considered during the planning process for the next academic year. Montell said that the current meal plan block options exist in order for meal swipes to be charged to student bills, adding that small meal plan blocks would likely be costlier as R&DE would have to offset the infrequency of students’ dining with higher costs per meal. Referring to the current minimum meal plan block, Montell stated that 25 was by far the most popular meal plan block.
“With the way they’re purchased in blocks, it goes on the student bill. It’s cheaper than buying at the door with cash, and the grad student plan is also cheaper than the undergrad. The five- and 10-meal cost plans are higher,” Montell said.
The GSC concluded by discussing plans to document their achievements from this academic year and goals for the 2023-2024 school year. Homar and Schell said that the time commitments of roles, any possible issues the GSC faced, the cadence of their work and any outstanding work should be outlined to keep a record of the GSC’s work to expedite the transition process for students stepping into new roles and maintain a log for future meetings.
“The bureaucracy itself also needs to know what the GSC does and what the GSC is,” Schell said.