One week after Yale faculty members voted to implement major reforms to the undergraduate curriculum, University administrators and high school guidance counselors said they anticipate prospective undergraduates will welcome the “progressive” curricular changes.
Dean of Admissions Richard Shaw said the nation’s top high schools will view the reforms as examples of Yale’s commitment to updating its curriculum. Yale officials also said the new regulations, which will go into effect beginning with the class of 2009, may alter the ways in which secondary schools prepare students to apply to the University.
At a heated Nov. 6 vote, a majority of more than 200 professors endorsed the Committee on Yale College Education’s proposals to change the undergraduate distributional group and foreign language requirements. In the University’s first comprehensive undergraduate curricular review in more than 30 years, the 41-member faculty and student committee also recommended increasing the Yale College faculty by 10 percent, strengthening the University’s science programs, and improving the freshman advising system.
“The curricular changes, once understood, will be looked at as being very progressive,” Shaw said. “I think that it will be very attractive to future applicants.”
Phillips Academy Director of College Counseling John Anderson said the Andover, Mass., boarding school welcomed the approval of Yale’s curricular review.
“I think whenever there are curricular changes made, that creates a perception that the university or college is not mired in tradition and that they’re looking for innovative ways to improve the curriculum,” Anderson said. “And I think that’s attractive to students.”
Yale College Dean and committee chairman Richard Brodhead said Yale’s changes may influence academic programs at the high school level.
“I do think that the report will send a clearer message to high schools about things we regard as important in the prior training of students,” Brodhead said. “I think it will tell secondary schools what preparation is important, but I don’t think it will have any effect on telling what students want to come here.”
Associate Yale College Dean and committee member Penelope Laurans said she thinks high school administrators will notice Yale’s curricular changes and alter their own programs to better prepare students to come to Yale.
“It is still true that secondary schools look to institutions like Yale to see how to prepare their students,” Laurans said. “[In the 1970s] before institutions like Yale were interested in the sciences, secondary schools didn’t have big science buildings. When we change our language requirement, other high schools notice. People are watching what we do and often they adjust their curriculum towards ours.”
Hamden Hall Country Day School Director of College Counseling Frederick Richter said he did not think the changes would have a significant impact on Yale-bound students from the Hamden preparatory school.
Richter said the distributional group requirement changes will make Yale’s academic regulations appear closer to those at Columbia University, which has a stringent core curriculum, and further away from those at Brown University, which does not have any specific curricular requirements.
Brodhead said the level of rigidity in Yale’s reformed curriculum remains similar to that of the academic guidelines at Harvard, Princeton and Stanford Universities.
The undergraduate distributional group system will be altered to require students to take two courses each in the humanities and arts, social sciences and natural sciences. Students will also be required to take two courses focusing on writing skills and two on quantitative reasoning.
In what professors characterized as the most contentious curricular change, the foreign language requirement for students who do not meet foreign language proficiency will decrease from four to three semesters. Students entering Yale with language proficiency will be required to take at least one term of foreign language study.
Currently, proficient students are not required to take any language courses.
— Staff Reporter Steven Syverud contributed to this report.