Some criticize review’s language changes



With the monthlong discussion period coming to a close, members of the Committee on Yale College Education said they have received an overall favorable reaction to the report, but that the language requirement has generated some criticisms.

The report, released April 3, contained recommendations to improve science teaching for non-science majors, increase the size of the faculty by 10 percent, increase the number of seminars offered to underclassmen, change freshman advising, and adjust the distributional requirements. Committee members said the recommendation to change the language requirement was the only one to generate substantial discussion from students and professors.

Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead, who led the committee, said during the discussion period he had discussed the report with the Yale Corporation, in a student open forum, and with the Yale Development Board. Brodhead said he met with faculty members in specific groups, such as language lecturers, science department chairmen, and directors of undergraduate studies.

Brodhead said after the comment period is over, he will touch base with the committee about changes, but said the committee felt the report represented the “fruits of its labor.”

Graduate School Dean Peter Salovey, a member of the committee, said he had gotten a largely positive reaction to recommendations like increasing the faculty size and changing the nature of Science Hill.

Salovey said he had heard criticisms of the changes to the language requirement. Some professors have said decreasing the requirement from four to three semesters for students entering without any previous language experience is too little instruction. In addition, some professors have raised concerns about evaluating overseas experiences that could be used to satisfy part of the language requirement.

“I think probably the one thing that is getting the most negative attention — is the restructuring of the foreign language requirement,” Salovey said.

Astronomy chairman Charles Bailyn said the reduction of requirements, when viewed from the point of view of a student’s entire education, would have advantages that he hoped would become evident.

While the recommendations about language requirements can be looked at individually, Brodhead said it was important to think of the distributional changes as a whole.

Some chairmen and directors of undergraduate studies in the sciences voiced concerns about the implementation of the recommendations, Bailyn said. Despite the concerns, however, Bailyn said most approved of the recommended direction in the sciences, particularly the development of rigorous courses for non-science majors.

“I think what’s crucial to making this happen is the addition of new resources,” Bailyn said.

History chairman Jon Butler, a member of the committee, said he had talked to faculty members who were intrigued by the idea of creating more seminars for underclassmen.

“In general I have found that the reaction has been very positive,” Butler said. “I would say the reaction has been very modest.”

Candace Feldman ’03, a committee member, said the foreign language requirement changes garnered the most discussion at the faculty meeting on April 24. She said the large turnout and discussion in the meeting were generally favorable to the report.

“The impression that I got from the faculty was that they were very enthusiastic,” Feldman said.

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