After wait, review offers mixed bag of changes

The Committee on Yale College Education released the results of its long-awaited academic review Thursday, recommending an increase in faculty, the creation of a science teaching center on central campus and changes in distributional requirements.

The committee’s 85-page report focused primarily on undergraduate teaching, distributional requirements, science education, international education and advising. While many of the potential changes will require faculty approval and sufficient resources, the committee recommended providing financial support for foreign language study abroad, altering the language requirement, increasing seminar offerings for underclassmen, changing the Credit/D/Fail option, and strengthening freshman advising.

Some of the major recommendations, such as the changes to the distributional requirements, will require faculty approval. Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead, who led the committee, said the process would start in a series of meetings next fall.

“Some of them are just good ideas that you could do tomorrow, but some of them will take more time and trouble,” Brodhead said.

The report comes a year and a half after Yale President Richard Levin called for the first comprehensive review of undergraduate education in over 30 years. The 41-member committee, composed of faculty, students and alumni, includes four primary working groups — biomedical education, physical sciences and engineering, social and international studies, and arts and humanities.

“The focus originally was ‘How can Yale College capture the benefits of University-wide investments in science, international programs and the arts?’” Levin said. “There are many excellent recommendations on these subjects as well as a novel and imaginative approach to the distribution requirements — We asked specific questions initially but also told the committee they were free to look at everything in the undergraduate curriculum, and they pretty much did.”

The review calls for the establishment of a “Yale College Pool” of faculty, which would lead to a 10 percent increase in the size of the faculty over the next five years. These new positions will go toward interdisciplinary needs and departments that apply for additional hires.

“When a YCP position is made available, the expectation should be that it will translate directly into new teaching of undergraduates that would not otherwise occur,” the report said.

The report also calls for changes in the distributional requirements, so students have to take two courses in the humanities and arts, two courses in the social sciences, and two courses in the natural sciences. In addition, the report calls for two courses in quantitative reasoning and analysis and two courses that develop writing skills.

Under the proposal, the language requirement would change from four required terms to three. Students could also satisfy the requirement by taking two terms and participating in approved summer study or an internship in a non-English-speaking country. In order to support study abroad, the committee recommends eventually funding students’ financial needs for approved opportunities abroad. In addition, students who pass out of the language requirement would be required to take one more course in a foreign language.

The report also expressed concern about the psychological and physical distance of Science Hill, and recommends establishing a science teaching center on central campus. A council of faculty fellows would help develop and approve courses to satisfy the science distributional requirement.

Barbara Wexelman ’03, a member of the physical sciences working group, said the current method of assigning distributional groups is based on the professor’s departmental affiliation, not the content of the course.

“There’s really no logic in how the distributional requirements work now,” Wexelman said.

Wexelman is a former Yale Daily News editor.

If the reccomendations are approved, students would not be able to use the Credit/D/Fail option for courses taken to fulfill distributional requirements. Students would be able to use the option four times for any other courses.

In addition, the report calls for the expansion of the Bass Writing Program and the establishment of a teaching center for quantitative reasoning. Both will be modeled on the Center for Language Study.

To improve advising, the committee recommends two extra days of freshman orientation, with academics given a higher priority. Freshmen advisers would come from a wider range of academic disciplines in Yale College so freshmen could have advisers who are more closely aligned with their academic interests.

The committee will accept comments on the report from students and faculty on its Web site for a month and will hold forums this term to gauge student opinion. In addition, the Yale Corporation will discuss the report in its April 11 meeting, while faculty members are scheduled to meet about the report on April 24, Brodhead said.

Jon Butler, History chairman and a member of the arts and humanities subcommittee, said the report does not call for a single comprehensive program. Instead, the recommendations reflect the interdisciplinary, decentralized nature of Yale, he said.

“It’s a very multifaceted report with many discrete, but complementary, recommendations,” Butler said.

Comments