Brodhead holds open forum on academic review

As the University considers the recommendations of its first academic review in 30 years, about 45 students met with Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead and academic review committee members Wednesday to discuss issues including cultural studies, theater courses and course requirements.

In an open forum arranged by the Yale College Council, Brodhead and three of the eight undergraduate members of the Committee on Yale College Education responded to student questions and concerns. Issues raised included the Credit/D/Fail system, changes to the laboratory credits, the dangers of creating a secondary concentration in the sciences, and the tenure system. Several sets of students focused on the resources needed in the arts and the possibility of a cultural studies requirement.

Aaisha Tracy ’03 suggested Yale develop cultural sensitivity classes in order to make students “culturally multilingual.” She compared the need for courses in cultural sensitivity to the need for language education.

In response, Brodhead said his office was exploring ways to increase cultural sensitivity awareness. But he said many of the forms of education at Yale are not in the classroom and that it is important not to try to structure the learning from interaction.

“All of us give education and all of us get education too,” Brodhead said.

Ameer Kim el-Mallawany ’05 said many universities have cultural studies requirements that could be a model for Yale.

“There are so many classes that do offer a broadening of people’s scope,” el-Mallawany said. “People don’t take them because they don’t see any practical reason for them — I feel like a lot of people of color take these classes because they feel an obligation to their roots.”

Another way to encourage cultural studies, Shelita Stewart ’04 said, would be to include them within existing requirements in majors. She cited the geographical requirements in history and the chronological requirements in English as examples.

“It seems that cultural studies are marginalized,” Stewart said.

But committee member Justin Cohen ’04 said students the committee wanted to avoid increasing requirements because existing requirements were a major source of student complaints.

“You attach a negative connotation to anything that has the word ‘requirement,'” Cohen said.

Joshua Picker ’04 said the University should offer more courses in the Theater Studies Program, particularly in the theory or practice of technical theater. Brodhead said technical training is not necessarily a part of the liberal arts education offered at Yale.

“In every area there’s a kind of class that Yale doesn’t have,” Brodhead said. “Yale doesn’t offer that many how-to classes.”

Patrick Casey Pitts ’03, who served on the subcommittee on the humanities and the arts, said arts programs may be able to receive more faculty resources under a faculty increase the committee proposed.

In response to Rachel Stanton’s ’05 question regarding the lack of discussion on dance in the report, Pitts said the committee was not ready to argue for a dance studies program but said he hoped the Yale College Pool resources could be used to increase offerings in that area.

Brodhead said Yale would start in a weak position in dance and said a university cannot do everything.

“We couldn’t solve every problem by treating it as the only problem at Yale,” Brodhead said.

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