Stanford University
Dean Stephan Graham

Dean's Desk

Posts for faculty, students, and staff from the desk of Steve Graham...

Photo by Steve Castillo

Another step forward

ClockJanuary 28, 2021

Welcome back everyone and here’s to a very promising 2021. Although the university had to ask undergraduates to stay home for one more quarter, there’s a feeling of turning the corner in the air.  A vaccine is on the way! People are beginning to sign up for vaccination appointments through health care providers. I am more than hopeful that as a country we will make the 100 million vaccinations in 100 days and begin the journey back to normalcy.

The new school

Here at Stanford, we are taking another step forward in the design of a new school focused on climate and sustainability. The bottom line is: We are on track to complete faculty, staff, and student feedback in the next two months with the aim that a proposal could be reviewed by the Board of Trustees in April, at earliest, or June.

But let me catch you up: In December, following their work in the fall, the faculty Blueprint Advisory Committee (BAC) submitted reports to Vice Provost Kam Moler and me describing options for the school’s academic structure, educational programs, cross-cutting themes, and engagement opportunities. In tandem with that, a Sustainability Task Force of alumni and external thought leaders has been engaged in how the school can have maximum impact in climate and sustainability education, scholarship, and solutions.

Broad faculty input

In conversation with the Coordinating Committee of the BAC and others, Vice Provost Moler and I spent Winter Break compiling the Blueprint Advisory Committee reports into a summary report.  We then turned to identifying a process whereby we could get input from a broader sample of university faculty. We wanted to facilitate an opportunity for deeper conversations that would evolve into highly informed opinions. As a result, we approached colleague James Fishkin, who is professor of communication and Director of the Center for Deliberative Democracy.

James Fishkin
A broad sample of faculty will deliver input and feedback in a deliberative polling process developed by Stanford's own James Fishkin, professor of communication.

Fishkin is best known for his process of Deliberative Polling, a practice of public consultation to explore how opinions would change if people were more informed. It has been used with citizens in some 30 countries, and he agreed to use the process with our own university faculty, which will be a first.

All Stanford faculty have been invited and we hope at least 200 will participate, including all of you in Stanford Earth. For this to work, participants must be representative – that means faculty from every school, whether or not they are in sustainability research or education. This new school, will after all, be a major part of Stanford’s overall focus and future.

The process will be a time commitment. Participants will read materials that detail the pros and cons of a set of decisions and answer online questions. These will include topics such as how faculty might join the new school, the process by which school structure will be determined, and what disciplines should be represented in the school. They will then meet in small groups to discuss each issue and draw up questions for a panel of faculty who can address different possible outcomes. Participants will meet for two three-hour sessions to be held this weekend on Jan. 30 and 31. For full details, read the recent Stanford Report story.

Broad staff and student input

We are already working with the ASSU and our own Stanford Earth GSAC to secure student input. I was pleased to see a detailed opinion piece on recommendations for environmental justice in the new school from a diverse group of students, staff, and faculty in this morning's Stanford DailyWe also plan to hold town halls for staff, including those interested from outside Stanford Earth, in February. Staff colleagues, watch for an email invitation coming soon. 

Once the deliberative polling process is interpreted and digested, Vice Provost Moler and I plan to present options to the president and provost by the end of March. From there we expect a proposal to go before the trustees in April, or June, if needed. And we will begin work on what is decided in fall, 2021.

As with the other things happening around us, I see progress and great possibilities ahead.



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