Size increase would alter department profiles

As students gathered Tuesday night for the third forum on the possible addition of two new residential colleges, they joked with deans about the need for a “Gourmet Heaven 3” to attract students to the proposed Prospect Street site.

Questions that followed focused on students’ concerns about how the proposed colleges’ location could change undergraduate social life. Administrators discussed the type of retail stores and recreational facilities that might be necessary to attract students to the area.

But less prominent during the forum were the ways two new residential colleges — and the resulting 12 percent increase in the student body — might change academic life.

Professors and students might not be talking about it at the residential college forums, but across the University, they are thinking.

“These are the kinds of things you just don’t do without forethought,” history professor Carlos Eire said.

New faces, new spaces

Graduate School Dean Jon Butler said large departments should not assume an increase in the Yale College student body will result in proportional increases in their enrollments. More students may in fact be attracted to smaller majors, he said, which may allay the fears of large departments wondering how best to expand and maintain the quality and quantity of attention to undergraduates.

In the English Department, an increase of just 20 students in an introductory course necessitates an additional professor or lecturer because of the department’s commitment to providing small, workshop-style beginning courses, Yale College Writing Center Director Alfred Guy said. Augmenting the undergraduate population with 600 students would thus create a need for several more introductory course sections.

But Guy said even if the English Department had to dip further into its applicant pool to find enough lecturers and professors to accommodate higher enrollment, teaching quality would remain high.

“We would still be choosing people that every college in the country would be jealous to get,” Guy said. “There are plenty of [professors] going now to Cornell and Dartmouth and Brown that would be happy to go to Yale.”

The English Department would look on the expansion as an opportunity to hire more specialists in areas such as contemporary, American and modern literature, Guy said.

Economics Department chairman Christopher Udry said he is also looking at the College’s potential expansion as an opportunity to improve both the undergraduate and graduate programs. Hiring enough faculty to keep student-to-teacher ratios manageable would not require new initiatives but rather simply an intensification of current efforts, Udry said.

The department’s real challenge would be finding enough classroom space to accommodate swelling introductory courses, he said.

“We need more classroom space now,” Dean of Undergraduate Education Joseph Gordon said. “At peak times we are maxed out.”

Gordon is chairing the committee charged with exploring the academic impacts of the two new colleges.

Biology Director of Undergraduate Studies Douglas Kankel said the need for additional laboratory space would become acute with a growth in the student body — a problem he said could be solved if new labs were built simultaneously with the new colleges.

“The greatest pressure is space for teaching laboratories,” he said. “It’s potentially the only place where we might see some stress.”

One student at the forum suggested that attracting students to the Prospect Street district would require “mixed” classroom use — offering language classes on Science Hill and biology sections in Old Campus’ Linsly-Chittenden Hall, for example.

But Gordon said this mixed use would only be possible if more classrooms are built on and around Science Hill.

“We’re going to have to build classrooms up there,” Gordon said. “We want to mix the campus more. We want to be able to move some science classes actually down to central campus.”

The need for more space extends to departments throughout the University, which will need not just new classrooms but new offices as well if more professors are hired.

“We’re already larger than this building,” Eire said, referring to the History Department’s home in the Hall of Graduate Studies. “Every department I know is larger than the physical space allotted to them for faculty.”

And some professors currently have their offices within residential colleges, Eire said, which suggests that space in the colleges may be used to relieve the overcrowding in departments that have outgrown their current quarters.

Guy said the Writing Center is managing with its space on Broadway Avenue, but the situation is not ideal.

“There are a few things I would do with the Writing Center if we had a little more access to space,” Guy said. “If there were 15 percent more students … our needs would be squeezed. I can only imagine that getting harder.”

Small departments, big

benefits

The departments that may see the most positive effects of an expansion are the smallest ones — those with no or few student majors. DUSes of such departments said an expansion of Yale College might give them a chance to fill out their rosters.

The Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies Department graduated four majors in 2007, according to the University’s Office of Institutional Research. Even though most WGSS courses are seminars, under-enrollment is common and Director of Undergraduate Studies Maria Trumpler said the department could easily accommodate more students.

“We’d love to see an increase in our majors,” Trumpler said. “Most classrooms are kind of too big for our classes.”

Colleen Manassa, Near Eastern Languages and Civilization DUS, said small departments could benefit from the enrollment of just one or two more students, who could help the departments reach a tipping point for greater visibility on campus — something with which students in small majors agree.

“I think it would give more meat to the programs,” NELC and religious studies double major Nora Jacobsen ’10 said.

A situation in which the expansion of Yale College is accompanied by a disproportionate expansion of small programs would be ideal, said Steven Fraade, DUS of the medium-sized religious studies major, which graduated 16 majors in 2007, according to the OIR.

“It would be nice if Yale College expanded, if the additional students did not all enroll in the courses and majors that are already oversubscribed and they’d look at smaller majors and departments where students aren’t waiting in line to get into seminars,” Fraade said.

WGSS major Adam Gardner ’09 said although he does not think students are attracted to certain majors simply because of their small size, the WGSS major could benefit from an expansion.

“The department seems to be attracting more and more students each year, so I think that the addition of two new colleges would help supplement that current growth,” Gardner said.

The two remaining forums will take place Thursday at 9 p.m. in the Morse College dining hall and Nov. 5 at 9 p.m. in the Silliman College master’s house.

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