Arts, area studies need Yale’s attention

As Yale continues the public phase of its $3 billion Yale Tomorrow campaign, we are encouraged that the University has chosen to prioritize the needs of Yale College. The eight goals identified in the campaign’s Giving Catalog, including foreign languages and science and quantitative reasoning education, are all areas of the College that have seen great improvements recently with changed distribution requirements and the expansion of the freshman seminar program. We are glad that the University is seeking to expand those areas even further.

But while the priorities of the Giving Catalog are certainly laudable, there are a few programs and goals that we support most strongly. We would encourage the Development Office, and any alumni considering a gift to the College, to focus in particular on improving undergraduate access to University resources such as its global reach and its visual and performing arts programs, to name just two.

The Richard C. Light Fellowship, which provides funding to students pursuing language studies in East Asia, is arguably one of the University’s most effective tools at encouraging Yale students to immerse themselves in foreign cultures and become global citizens. The new Yale-in-Peking program, too, is successfully supporting Yale students interested in Chinese culture. But area studies outside of East Asia have not been given quite the same high level of support recently. President Richard Levin’s recent trip to Dubai and Abu Dhabi leaves some hopeful about the prospect of new partnership with the United Arab Emirates, and the donation last year to the MacMillan Center, formerly the Yale Center for International and Area Studies, was another promising step in Yale’s efforts to become a global university. But further work in that area — particularly in supporting undergraduates financially and academically, as the Light Fellowship currently does — would be welcome.

We also wholeheartedly support what Yale Tomorrow identifies as the need to expand arts opportunities for undergraduates. Competition is always fierce for the architecture and art majors, for admission to studio classes, and for theater space. While selectivity is in many ways an unavoidable part of Yale, such internal selectivity harms talented students who are stymied by course caps. Yale should enable undergraduates to take better advantage of resources already available through our graduate and professional schools and through the College itself. In a school where Sudler funding for putting on plays is so readily available, finding sufficient theater space should not be such a challenge.

Yale Tomorrow is clearly in its beginning phases, and based on the results of past fundraising accomplishments — such as the establishment of the Bass Writing Center and the plans to expand undergraduate science education — we are confident that it will succeed. We hope that, as Yale pursues its latest fundraising goals, it will continue to work toward improving the ability of undergraduates of all means to take better advantage of the University’s resources.

Comments