Five months after recommending improvements in undergraduate education, ranging from an increase in the size of the faculty to changes in Yale’s distributional requirements, the Committee on Yale College Education is moving toward implementing its proposals at varying speeds.
Several of the recommendations, including changes to distributional requirements, need faculty approval, while some, like building a science center on central campus, require fund raising. Others, such as improving science classes for nonmajors, have already been implemented.
“It goes from this sort of high philosophical questions to the sort of grubby details of ‘how do we make this happen,’” said Astronomy chairman Charles Bailyn, a member of the committee.
Faculty members will vote on the recommendations to change the distributional and language requirements at a meeting in November. Under the proposals, students would be required to take two courses in the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences as well as two courses in writing skills and two in quantitative reasoning.
“I haven’t talked to many people who have opposed it,” said Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead, who convened the committee.
The committee proposed changing the language requirement to require all students to improve their language abilities, regardless of what their proficiency levels were when they came to Yale. The result of the change would be to intensify the language requirement for some students and reduce it for others, Brodhead said.
Other changes will require more funding, which Brodhead spent the summer trying to solicit from potential donors such as the Carnegie and Mellon foundations.
Among the most costly portions of the report is a 10 percent increase in the Yale College faculty size, which would create a pool of faculty slots to encourage hires focused on undergraduate teaching.
“That’s a matter of funds,” Brodhead said. “You wouldn’t start a pool mechanism with only one slot in the pool.”
Brodhead said he expects alumni contributions will be a major portion of the campaign.
In addition to fund raising, Brodhead is convening several new committees to examine sections of the report dealing with expository writing, science education and quantitative reasoning.
But other recommendations from the academic review have already taken effect. The freshmen orientation schedule was changed this year so freshmen could meet with their deans on the night they arrived to begin academic advising.
The committee suggested establishing writing and science education centers modeled after the Center for Language Study. To that end, Bailyn is leading a Faculty Council on Science Education, which plans to develop a broader science curriculum.
“The curriculum at Yale is designed departmentally,” Brodhead said. “There isn’t a group that can take a step back.”
But Justin Cohen ’04, a student member of the committee, said he regretted that another recommendation had not been adopted. The proposal would have moved classroom locations so science students would not be the only ones to walk up Science Hill.
“I would’ve liked to see ‘Cold War’ in the chemistry lab and chemistry in [Linsly-Chittenden Hall],” Cohen said.
But Brodhead said it did not make sense to move classes independent of other changes.
“We didn’t try that this fall because if you did it by itself it would seem a little gimmicky,” Brodhead said.