This is the text of President Gerhard Casper's remarks
to the meeting of the Senate of the Academic Council
on May 9, 1996

On the Synthesis of Teachers and Students

     Since coming to Stanford less than four years ago, I have addressed the campus at large each spring about the general state of the university. Today, however, I should like to talk about a specific set of opportunities and challenges.

     My purpose is to raise with you two opportunities to strengthen both undergraduate and graduate education at Stanford, and thus secure the unique synthesis of teachers and students that marks the true university.

     The first of these concerns new programs for first- and second-year undergraduates. To undertake and maintain these, we will need to redistribute, and add to, our present teaching efforts. Thanks to a generous new gift, we are in a position to expand the faculty to provide greater teaching capacity, while simultaneously strengthening our research capabilities.

     The second initiative is intended to provide new support for graduate students - primarily, but not exclusively, in the sciences and engineering. It will enable us to compete effectively for the best graduate students and to maintain the strength of graduate programs even as we cope with the stresses caused by decreased research support from the federal government. As was said by the White House Panel on the Health of U.S. Universities that David Packard chaired 10 years ago: "It is the combination of new knowledge from basic research and of minds that can appreciate the practical applications that provide the most fertile source of innovation."

     Together, these two initiatives are intended to put us in position to sustain our strength in teaching and research for the coming decade. Because our future depends so importantly on our present foundation, it is worth pausing to describe the context in which we are able to plan.

     The provost will present to the Trustees this spring a balanced budget that completes our current three-year program to reduce expenses. Under the exemplary leadership of Provost Rice and the faculty and staff who advise her on budget issues (in particular, Professors Mahood, Simoni and Holloway), we have achieved some measure of budget stability - though, to be sure, any number of external events can threaten that stability. As we have balanced the budget, we also have maintained our commitments to keep faculty salaries competitive, to fund our financial aid programs fully, to attend to deferred maintenance and other infrastructure issues, and to slow the rate of increase in tuition.

     As important as achieving balance in the annual budget is, even more significant in the long run is that we have reformed the entire budgeting system. The budget is now "revenue-constrained," rather than "cost-driven," meaning simply that nowhere in the university can we allow costs to increase beyond our means. The discipline inherent in this system will force us at times to make difficult choices, as we did this year in closing one department and merging two others, but this is the only realistic way to operate in a world of limited resources.

     We are also in the midst of literally reconstructing our original campus from the inside out. When we finish at the end of the decade, the oldest buildings will have been strengthened against future earthquakes and will have been updated to meet current teaching and research needs. The arts will benefit from an enlarged and enhanced Museum. At the same time, we are developing the Science and Engineering Quad, thus realizing a Stanford dream that, in some way, dates back more than one hundred years to the planning for the new campus in 1888, that was first explicitly mentioned in 1928, and that was formally renewed in 1985.

     We are embarking on another, equally ambitious, project, the Center for Clinical Sciences Research, which will support many of the most important new research initiatives in the Medical School. By the turn of the century, I hope, Stanford will have a campus second to none not only in its beauty, but in its functionality.


     As indicated by the range of endeavors I have just mentioned, Stanford is many things to many people. It is a research institution, a graduate school, a mecca of professional education, and a provider of health care, to name just a few examples. In the future, it may well become a source of educational software and other new instructional and research tools. And to many Stanford is, first and foremost, an undergraduate institution. In many minds, our long-term vitality is judged as much by the quality of the undergraduate education we offer as by any other task we perform.

     The Commission on Undergraduate Education that I appointed during my first year as president described the many strengths of Stanford's undergraduate program. And where there are weaknesses, the Commission showed the way toward significant reforms. The university, the Faculty Senate included, has acted decisively to accept many of the Commission's recommendations, including:

     Even with these improvements, parts of the undergraduate program should receive further attention from the faculty. The first two years of college, in particular, are of concern. We know that courses taken predominantly by freshmen and sophomores are larger and less frequently taught by regular faculty members than are courses aimed at upper-level students. As a result, we miss important opportunities to bring students fully into the search for knowledge from the beginning of their university careers. Our graduates, even those who do not themselves become researchers, will depend more and more throughout their lives on their capacity to integrate and apply new knowledge and relate it to all parts of the world. Thus, the freshman year will be more important than ever in developing habits of "unceasing inquiry."

     In its December 1995 report to the Senate, the Policy and Planning Board, under the leadership of Professor Bienenstock, recommended that faculty members "commit themselves to enrich undergraduate education through the teaching of intellectually challenging courses designed for first- and second-year students." The board observed that some departments have neither large numbers of undergraduates, nor large numbers of graduate students, nor a large amount of sponsored research. Recent analyses of teaching patterns around the university suggest that teaching loads vary considerably, that actual teaching not infrequently falls short of expected teaching loads, and that many courses taught by faculty have exceedingly small enrollments. These practices are costly and, given the financial sacrifices our students make to come to Stanford, they are increasingly difficult to defend.

     In our continuous effort to do better, we have had for several years a program of Sophomore Seminars, Sophomore Dialogues, and - most recently - the Sophomore College, all of which are intended to provide close interaction between faculty members and students. Often, they introduce students to a prospective major and a prospective mentor. All indications are that these programs have been highly successful and much valued by participants, though they have not been available to all students. We should build on the success of these pilot programs, by continuing to expand the number and variety of programs for sophomores, and by extending similar opportunities to students in their first year.

     The provost and I have been talking with many individual faculty members and faculty groups about beginning a program of Freshman Seminars that would, within three years, provide to every entering student the opportunity to work with a faculty member in a small-class setting. These seminars could draw from a wide range of disciplines and topics, so long as the students gain an appreciation of the intensity, importance, and promise of scholarly work in the faculty member's field of study. Such a program would demonstrate to the best students in the country our unfaltering commitment to taking their college education seriously from its inception.

     The introduction of required Freshman Seminars should not mean an additional required course for first-year students. We can make room for this course by linking it to a current requirement - such as CIV, or Writing and Critical Thinking - or by allowing Freshman Seminars to meet an existing distribution requirement. I should like to contribute some thoughts of my own as to how a Freshman Seminar might complement our efforts through CIV and other undergraduate courses.

     The main reason to attend a university for college is to develop to the utmost and for a lifetime the ability to use reason to see the clearer. As my friend Edward Levi once said, universities "are the custodians not only of the many cultures of man, but of the rational process itself." This is the Western university's major contribution to civilization. Wilhelm von Humboldt opened his famous 1810 memorandum on university reform with the observation that the idea of disciplined intellectual activity, embodied in institutions, is the most valuable element of "moral culture." The commitment to, and practice of, reasoning clearly and thinking critically is what we must uphold. It also is why, in the modern university, education and research have gone together in the form of teaching by means of scholarship and science.

     Whatever we choose to study, the way in which that study is undertaken also describes a culture we share as members of the university. That culture rests on such ideas and values as respect for rational inquiry, evidence, and argumentation; respect for the autonomy, integrity, and contributions of the individual; freedom of thought and expression; respect for rules for action that encompass both rights and obligations. They are "university" ideals and as such are important to anyone who participates in the life of scholarship, debate, investigation, and learning.

     An early and rigorous introduction to some problem or field of study would be, in effect, a demonstration of the ideas and values of the university as a cultural institution. At the same time, it would ensure that every first-year student has the invaluable opportunity to participate in genuine intellectual exchange with a member of the faculty and fellow students in a small group setting.

     Students should be challenged and their minds stretched from their first year onward. The first year sets the tone. That is why I believe every freshman should have a seminar with a tenure-track member of the faculty where the very tools of thought and analysis are employed in nothing less than the rigorous, interactive search for truth. I have a physicist friend who once said to me: "The love of truth implies that one must search not just for evidence, but for the counter-evidence as well." That is the spirit that I hope we can convey.

     Our colleague and friend Brad Efron, in the Faculty Senate, recently expressed reservations about the recommendations of the Policy and Planning Board concerning undergraduate teaching. He said the important thing was to "define what education is, and have a discussion about what aspects of it we think important." I agree. And while I know that small classes are not the end-all and, like any other class, can be taught poorly, I believe it mandatory that we further increase our attractiveness as a space for people to interact personally and face-to-face in learning and research. This task has a special urgency as information technology challenges us to rethink the necessity and function of the university. The university will remain attractive as a physical space to the extent that we make personal and face-to-face learning and research more valuable.

     We should think of the Freshman Seminars and other related programs - such as the Science Core and CIV - as parts of a whole. We must make the requirements of the first two years sensible and compelling. I therefore suggest that we consider these initiatives, and the first two years of undergraduate programs in general, to be an integral program that I am calling "Stanford Introductory Studies."

     I have asked the provost to oversee a new three-year planning cycle in which the Stanford Introductory Studies will be a central theme. In full consultation with the deans, department chairs, and individual faculty members, schools and departments will be asked to review, among other things:


     The present faculty cannot fully absorb the additional effort required to sustain the Stanford Introductory Studies. We will need help. To that end, I have secured support from former trustee Peter Bing for up to 20 incremental billets for five years to allow us to undertake these initiatives. If the programs are successful, I have every confidence that we will obtain permanent support for the new faculty billets. We have not in recent memory been able to add so many new members to the faculty at once. Just as we are rebuilding and renewing our physical campus, we have an historic opportunity to renew and expand the faculty.

     This is not intended to create a "college faculty" in any way, shape, or form. Rather, the new faculty members will be appointed in accordance with the regular criteria. These billets will be allocated based upon the plans developed by the schools and departments. Departments that demonstrate a full and efficient use of existing billets in support of undergraduate programs will be eligible for one or more new billets. It will be incumbent upon departments to show, for example, how present teaching loads can be redistributed and, in some cases increased, to help meet the demands of Stanford Introductory Studies. Plans will be reviewed by a new advisory board, to be chaired by Vice-Provost for Undergraduate Education Ramon Saldivar. The provost will allocate incremental billets based upon the recommendations of this advisory board.

     While new faculty billets will be the most important form of assistance to departments as they plan for Stanford Introductory Studies, we will try to make other forms of assistance available where a need can be demonstrated. In some cases, for example, additional support for graduate students - either as teaching assistants or research assistants - may help faculty members use their time more effectively in service to undergraduate programs. The advisory board will be open to such proposals.

     The provost and I have consulted widely with faculty in developing this initiative. The broad outlines of the Stanford Introductory Studies plan have received positive reaction from the Committee on Undergraduate Studies, the Cabinet, undergraduate program directors from the three schools with undergraduate majors, the H&S curriculum committee, the Steering Committee of the Senate, and the Engineering Executive Committee. We are encouraged in seeking the broad base of support necessary for the initiative's success.


     As we work to improve undergraduate education we must not forget that one-half of our students are in graduate and professional programs, and that our combination of undergraduate studies, graduate studies, and research is one of our greatest strengths.

     In the best universities, teaching, learning, and research are all equally important elements of the all-embracing search to know. The students' search to know and the faculty's search to know are interdependent: It is the faculty's task to inform and challenge the students, and it is the students' task to question and challenge the faculty. This synthesis of teachers and students has been widely understood at least since the beginnings of the modern university, which in the United States are usually traced to Humboldt's model of 1810.

     "One unique feature of higher intellectual institutions," Humboldt wrote, "is that they conceive of science and scholarship as dealing with ultimately inexhaustible tasks; this means that they are engaged in an unceasing process of inquiry."

     It was in connection with his emphasis on the "unceasing process of inquiry" that Humboldt, rather unsentimentally, concluded that in higher education "the teacher does not exist for the sake of the student" but that "both teacher and student have their justification in the common pursuit of knowledge." I quote:

The teacher's performance depends on the students' presence and interest - without this science and scholarship could not grow. If the students who are to form his audience did not come before him of their own free will, he, in his quest for knowledge, would have to seek them out. The goals of science and scholarship are worked towards most effectively through the synthesis of the teacher's and the students' dispositions. The teacher's mind is more mature but it is also somewhat one-sided in its development and not quite as lively; the student's mind is less developed and less committed but it is nonetheless open and responsive to every possibility. The two together are a fruitful combination.

     The 1986 White House Panel chaired by David Packard that I referred to earlier emphasized in similar terms that from the outset of graduate education in the United States an intimate connection between education and research has been considered fundamental to the production of creative scientists and engineers. Its report deplored the change in the way the federal government viewed its involvement with universities and university-based research: "From an emphasis on long-term investment there has been a progressive shift to a procurement approach and philosophy." What was true 10 years ago is even more true today as we continue on the path of decreased investment in the country's future and in institutions that combine the rigorous search for truth with the excitement of frequently serendipitous discovery and the innovation that follows from the combination of new knowledge and fresh minds. Charles Vest, president of MIT, has pointed out that at present the United States spends only one quarter of one percent of all federal outlays on genuine research and development.

     Even this level of financial support, upon which many of our graduate students traditionally have relied, is threatened. We must find ways to continue to make graduate education attractive to the nation's most talented students, and to attract the very best of them to Stanford. This is particularly true in disciplines - especially science and engineering - in which many students have been supported almost entirely by sponsored research funds. In the humanities, most students receive support through teaching assistantships and fellowships paid for from general funds.

     After discussions with the provost and the Cabinet, and upon the recommendation of Charles Kruger, vice-provost and dean of research and graduate policy, and a faculty steering committee on Ph.D. fellowships, I have allocated $10 million to begin a national competition for up to 100 new three-year Stanford Graduate Fellowships in the sciences and engineering to be awarded each year. We immediately will begin raising funds to provide permanent support for this program, with the goal of raising at least $200 million in endowment. I am pleased to report that the first one percent of this amount has been contributed by the Lucille P. Markey Charitable Trust, which has donated a permanent endowment of $2 million to provide support for promising young men and women pursuing careers in biomedical science.

     The purpose of the Stanford Graduate Fellowships will be to attract the finest graduate students possible, and to give those students full freedom to pursue their work at Stanford without worrying about the vagaries of sponsored research or other traditional sources of support. Students will be freer to determine their own course of research rather than having to select a project based on available funding. Knowledge that such graduate-student funding is available also should prove attractive to young faculty we wish to recruit.

     It is reasonable to expect that events of the coming years will pose difficulties, perhaps serious difficulties, for the nation's teaching and research universities. Under these circumstances, however, it is important to remember that Stanford is in a very strong position. The Stanford Graduate Fellowships program is intended to build on this strength so that Stanford will be even better positioned for the future.

     When fully implemented, the proposed program will provide support, at a minimum, for 300 students per year, equal to roughly one-half of our current federal funding for research assistantships. For the first class of Stanford Fellows in 1997-98, each award will consist of a $12,000 tuition grant and a $16,000 stipend.

     The program will be organized as an internal competition, thus assuring that the fellowships go to provide support to the best graduate students, regardless of discipline. Nominations will be submitted by departments during the admissions season, with decisions and awards to be made each winter quarter. The allocation of fellowship nominations to departments will be based on the quality of the previous year's Stanford and NSF Fellows, the number of federally supported research assistantships and traineeships, and other relevant factors such as the department's Ph.D. graduation rate. Eligible departments will include those in which assistantships and traineeships currently come from federal sources: the sciences and engineering, mathematics, statistics, basic sciences in the School of Medicine, and several disciplines in the social sciences, including the School of Education.

     Dean Kruger has organized a steering committee of senior faculty to finalize the details of this program and advise the provost on the distribution of awards. The first Stanford Graduate Fellows will be recruited next year.

     We often think of the university as a static place, operating according to principles established centuries ago. Indeed, some principles were established centuries ago and I have invoked the most important today. Yet other "traditions" are, in fact, of fairly recent origin. The curriculum has never been fixed for more than a few years at a time. Faculty roles and obligations are not permanently defined. The mix of teaching, research, university service, and other service to the public has never been constant.

     The Faculty Senate has on several recent occasions discussed the faculty's commitment to undergraduate education. We are, and will remain, an institution committed to research and graduate education, as well as to undergraduate education. The combination of programs I have described here will, I believe, accomplish an appropriate balance and enhance undergraduate studies, graduate studies, and research all simultaneously. It will require a rededication of ourselves to these three fundamental purposes.

     As I said in my inaugural address, the work of the university cannot be done unless it is continuously reconsidered, and supported afresh and jointly by faculty, students, staff, alumni, and friends. Stanford is as well positioned as any university to reestablish its priorities and simultaneously preserve the central values that define the institution. I look forward with confidence in our ability to do so.