Academic review drafts proposals

After nearly a year of meetings, members of the academic review committee are beginning to draft proposals for possible changes to undergraduate education, said Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead, who is chairing the review.

Possible proposals include reconfiguring the distributional groups, creating a major in health education and changing ways students can fulfill the foreign language requirement, committee members said.

The 41-member Committee on Yale College Education began meeting after Yale President Richard Levin announced the review of Yale College education at last fall’s Tercentennial Convocation. The committee, which is composed of students, alumni and faculty members, is divided into four subcommittees: biomedical education, physical sciences and engineering, social and international studies, and the humanities and arts.

Astronomy professor Charles Bailyn, chairman of the working group on the physical sciences and engineering, said regrouping classes is being considered seriously.

“There will be some discussion of changes of the distributional groups,” Bailyn said.

Bailyn said his working group sent surveys to about 500 seniors who took the fewest number of science courses.

“We felt that we really needed a sampling of opinion,” Bailyn said. “We need to know what are the serious problems and what are the inconveniences.”

Psychology chairman Peter Salovey, who leads the biomedical education subcommittee, said his subcommittee has proposed a new program on a major in health education to the steering committee. He said the subcommittee is also considering directed research experiences and enhancing curriculum choices for pre-medicine and pre-health care students.

“This is the beginning of the end if the end is a report with lots of interesting recommendations,” Salovey said.

Patrick Casey Pitts ’03, a member of the subcommittee on the humanities and the arts, said that his working group is finishing information-gathering and starting to write recommendations for strengthening the relationship between Yale College and the Law, Divinity, Drama, Architecture and Art Schools.

Political Science chairman Ian Shapiro, who heads the social and international studies subcommittee, said his subcommittee submitted a proposal on study abroad to the steering committee. He said there has also been discussion of reconfiguring the foreign language requirement.

“We’re pretty close to the report-writing stage,” Shapiro said. “There’s a lot of activity and energy and enthusiasm — I hope we get the bulk of the work done before the end of the semester.”

The steering committee began meeting every week, as opposed to every other week, about three weeks ago, Brodhead said. He said the steering committee acts as a first audience for the working groups.

“We have heard bits and pieces from each of the committees,” Brodhead said. “It’s no longer unreasonable to ask questions like what is this whole report going to look like.”

Some of the working groups have split into smaller groups or combined with other working groups in addressing certain problems, Brodhead said.

“It’s like a complicated symphonic work in which the score has not been written yet,” Brodhead said. “We’re addressing a wide array of subjects, but we haven’t addressed every issue under the sun — There’s a lot we are assuming is in good working order.”

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