Stanford University
Dean Stephan Graham

Dean's Desk

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

Photo by Steve Castillo

Go slow to go fast

ClockSeptember 23, 2020

Many of you have dealt with family illness, lost internships, child care issues or other disappointments and difficult experiences this summer, I am sure. Like many in the Bay Area, wildfire evacuation lines were just a short distance from my home. We had to evacuate a horse and donkey to the Cow Palace in Daly City, aptly named, as the animal holding center for the area. The donkey, named Trouble, became something of a celebrity there, and is now back home.

dean's donkey
During the recent wildfire threat, our horse and donkey were evacuated to the large animal refugee center at the Cow Palace. Above, our donkey, Trouble, in an Aug. 21 post on the Peninsula Humane Society and SPCA's evac center Facebook page.

My wife and I have retrieved our valuables from storage and are feeling safe. After ominous orange skies and choking smoke, COVID-19, and uncertainty about an in-person or online fall quarter, the skies are clear again and coronavirus infection rates are slowly declining – for the moment.  

I want to welcome all of you who are back on campus – faculty, graduate students, a few undergraduates, postdocs – as well as the many students and staff who are taking courses or working online from afar. You are all part of Stanford Earth! The health of the Stanford community appears to be stable for now. The university’s new COVID-19 testing dashboard reports a low 0.16 percent infection rate as of September 20, following 17,964 tests of Stanford on-campus graduate and undergraduate students since June 29. This is well below the county’s 3.22% rate and the state’s 5.96% rate. Similarly, testing of 3,220 staff (including medical staff), faculty and postdocs also yielded a positivity rate of 0.16 percent. That’s encouraging. But I must emphasize: We need to go slow to go fast. We need everyone to continue being vigilant and following protocols in order to keep us all safe. We are in this together. 

Faculty, students, postdocs, and staff who are approved to be on campus and who regularly work on campus 1 day per week), now have access to regular testing. Those approved individuals will receive direct communication from the university about scheduling time for tests. Should a COVID-19 exposure occur in one of our buildings, Environmental Health & Safety will lead an effort to disinfect areas exposed and to alert those impacted so they can self-quarantine.

As fall quarter and stage 2 reopening progress, I want to both reinforce our protocols and share limited new ways to engage on campus.  

This month, the university approved a pilot program allowing limited, necessary office access for faculty only, including nonlab-based faculty and instructors. Santa Clara County and university policy continues to be that all work that can be done remotely, must be done remotely. Initially, only a small number of faculty with the strongest need will be allowed back into offices for limited time periods. Reasons to return will generally fall into one of two categories: work that requires access to material or data located at Stanford that cannot be accessed remotely; or work that requires access to IT equipment (or infrastructure) that is present at Stanford, but not at the remote location.  

On Monday, we launched this pilot program for faculty in Braun, Green and Mitchell. For faculty in Y2E2, the pilot has not been extended to the SEQ, so please be patient. 

 For faculty:

  • To request approval submit an Office Access Request here. You can request approval for one-time or limited regular use.  
  • Once your request has been approved (by your department and by the Dean’s Office), you will receive an email notification.   
  • Before coming onto campus, schedule your time by filling out our Office Access CalendarThis is critical. We need this information for density monitoring and potential contact tracing. We want this pilot to be successful, so please abide by the rules.  
  • Our facilities team will then activate your key card access and drop off disinfectant so faculty can clean off all touch points: door knobs, light switches.  
  • Complete your HealthCheck every time you plan to be on campus before you come. 
  • Wear a face covering when you enter a building and whenever you are not in your office. Faculty may not meet with anyone in their office. Maintain social distance. 

If you have questions about this, Senior Associate Dean Amy Balsom, Director of Planning and Facilities Sandy Meyer and our department managers are ready to help you.  

 For classes on campus:

  • With rare exception, in-person classes may only be held outdoors for now. As a result, canopied areas in the university’s designated academic zone have been assigned to classes by the Registrar’s office.  However, the county has just loosened higher ed requirements and you will be hearing from the university next week about moving in-person classes indoors. This will only apply to existing in-person classes, not online classes.

For individual meetings - faculty, students, postdocs, or staff:

  • In general, gatherings are prohibited indoors and outdoors, according to county and university policyThis applies to gatherings of a social nature, including gatherings of student organizations.  
  • Individuals may arrange to meet outdoors in small groups of less than 15 for non-class academic purposes, such as office hours, mentoring or advising. Registration is not required but there must be a designated leader who records who is present in case contact tracing is needed later. The leader must ensure mask compliance, social distancing, as well as cleaning and disinfection of any outdoor furniture or space before and after the meeting. As with faculty office access, the policy remains that meetings that can happen virtually, should happen virtually.  
  • For staff, business meetings should continue to be held virtually except in rare instances pre-approved by Amy Balsom and Scott Fendorf.  

Your wellbeing

I know we can work around these difficult issues and that there is light at the end of the tunnel. If you need personal or mental health support, please reach out to a faculty mentor, student services staff member, graduate wellness liaison, department manager, or one of our available Stanford resources.  

Thank you all for your patience and best wishes for an enriching quarter.  



IconsList of icons used on the sitemaillinkedindouble carrot leftarrow leftdouble carrotplayerinstagramclosecarrotquotefacebooktwitterplusminussearchmenuarrowcloudclock