August 16, 2020
Dear President Tessier-Lavigne, Provost Drell, Vice Provost Brubaker-Cole, Vice Provost Bent, Dean Minor, and other leaders and advocates,
We are writing to you in response to the Campus Compact that was released yesterday. We appreciate all efforts to keep Stanford students safe. Our foremost concern is to preserve students’ physical health and safety while also respecting that the ongoing crisis threatens our mental health and emotional well being. To defeat the pandemic, it is critical that we foster an environment of empathy and collaboration at Stanford. Unfortunately, the Campus Compact as written encourages exactly the opposite.
Consent to the stipulations of the Compact in its totality is required before registering for Fall quarter classes. PhD students must enroll in courses to receive their quarterly stipend. Master’s and MD students must enroll in courses to be eligible for federally subsidized student loans. International students must accept the Compact or risk endangering their visa status. Thus, many students will be forced to sign the Compact without complaint if they face urgent needs such as buying food, paying rent checks, or obtaining vital medications.
Many of the demands in the Compact are reasonable and responsible. Others are vague, unrealistic, or both. Regardless, breaking any of the policies leaves the student at the mercy of a “Compact Review Panel” whose decisions cannot be challenged and who may evict students from campus housing. It remains unspecified what guidelines, if any, exist to define an eviction-worthy offense. However, one thing that is perfectly clear is that students who violate the Compact’s authority - even in the case of an emergency - must be prepared to “vacate University housing.”
As School of Medicine students, we are required to attend in-person events on campus, making this Compact particularly galling. Preclinical medical students are required to have in-person classes and in-person exams, while clinical students are putting themselves at risk daily during clerkships at Stanford hospital. Many graduate students must go in-person to their laboratories and face pressure to keep experiments running and maintain progress towards their degrees. It is unclear if we will be able to engage in these required activities - which increase our baseline risk of contracting COVID-19 - without threat of eviction or punishment. This risk is further exacerbated by the lack of adequate access to COVID-19 testing. While Harvard students are tested for SARS-CoV-2 weekly, incoming Stanford students have not been able to access even preliminary testing before being required to move in.
Overall, these policies - along with the ambiguous threat of unilateral, unappealable punishment - promote a culture of fear on campus. If a positive COVID-19 test could result in eviction from one's home, or other undefined penalties, many students will simply choose not to seek testing or report symptoms. The ever-present fear of losing our housing in the midst of a pandemic will only impede the community buy-in necessary to halt the virus’ progress.
If a Compact between Stanford and its students is to be successful, it must have broad community support. To this effect, we have gathered the concerns of students in the School of Medicine regarding the Compact and its implementation. We also want to note that although we are writing this letter from the perspective of School of Medicine students, in conversations with leaders throughout the University it has become clear that these concerns are shared by the graduate and professional student body at large. In the coming days, we will collaborate with other student organizations throughout the University to present specific action points for Stanford to implement, but given the timeliness of this problem, we wanted to give you an opportunity to hear student voices for yourselves.
Responses to the question “What concerns do you have about the Stanford Campus Compact?” are pasted below our signature. They are also attached in pdf format to this email, and can be found in the living document here. We look forward to discussing real solutions for student wellness and safety at Stanford with you.
Jason Rodencal and Candace Liu, Stanford Bioscience Student Association Co-Presidents
Preksha Bhagchandani, Stanford Medical Student Association President
With gratitude and acknowledgement of the contributions of Lauren Pope, Logan Leak, and Sandra Schachat