Report identifies necessary changes

If the University decides to build two new residential colleges, it will need to open up its wallet first.

That was the conclusion of the two committees charged with examining the consequences of expanding Yale College, which released their long-awaited report regarding the proposed expansion Monday. The report outlines more than a dozen changes the University must take to ensure that adding two colleges and 600 students does not damage the College.

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Those recommendations range from improving the campus transportation system to adding increased police patrols on Science Hill to hiring scores of new faculty from all backgrounds and specialties.

“We will need to make a number of substantial investments beyond the construction and operation of the new residential colleges for the expansion of Yale College to be successful,” University President Richard Levin said Monday in a statement e-mailed to the Yale community.

The question now, it seems, is whether Yale can afford it all. The committees’ recommendations — upon which their members’ support for expansion hinged — may have been more wide-ranging than administrators expected and could cost more to implement than anticipated, according to committee members who spoke to the News about the report.

“I think what had not been appreciated were the facilitating costs, like scaling up the faculty, classrooms, performing arts — the things that aren’t directly related to the residential colleges,” said former Calhoun College Master William Sledge, chairman of the committee that examined student-life concerns.

Added Sledge: “I don’t know if [administrators] know yet if Yale can afford it.”

Levin has asked the Provost’s Office to figure out just how many hundreds of millions — or billions — of dollars Yale will have to part with to undergo the expansion. The office will develop a thorough estimate for both the capital and operating costs of the new colleges, Levin said in the statement, and the budget will be presented to the Corporation for final approval in June.

In his statement, Levin praised the work of the committees, saying the report “has helped us to see what we must do to ensure that the quality of the Yale College experience is maintained.”

“It has also identified a number of areas where the current conditions in Yale College could be improved if we undertake an expansion of the student population,” Levin wrote.

The committees — made up of 34 members, including six students selected by the Yale College Council last year — made 15 formal recommendations in the report, on topics ranging from student life to academics.

“We are confident that the challenges pointed out to us by faculty, administrators, and students are real and need attention,” the report concluded. “Indeed, many need attention whether or not new colleges are added.”

The most prominent section of the report addressed the issue of the new colleges’ location behind the Grove Street Cemetery along Prospect Street, which has drawn a barrage of criticism from students as being distant and isolated from central campus.

According to the report, 70 percent of respondents in a student poll conducted by the two committees said they were opposed to the designated location for the colleges. The imposing stone walls of the cemetery, the report noted, “pose significant aesthetic and psychological barriers” to integrating the site with the rest of campus.

“The skeptics are correct to view this move as a big and risky one,” the report reads.

But the student-life committee also found a number of redeeming qualities in the seemingly forlorn site, which administrators have long described as not up for negotiation. For one, the site is spacious enough to a house a much-discussed “third building,” a facility expected to house a large lecture hall, rehearsal and performance space, classrooms and office space for student organizations.

“There is a certain amount of confidence that the location, its isolation and relative inaccessibility, that these can be solved by enhancing a variety of physical pathways and having a transportation system that’s equally responsive and effective,” Sledge said.

Among the recommendations in the report are renovating the ground floor of the Becton Center on Prospect Street to include a fast-food eatery, rehearsal space and meeting space for student organizations to make the walk up Prospect Street less forbidding; improving the Farmington Canal Greenway as a corridor for foot and bike traffic; and working with cemetery management to alter its imposing wall along Prospect Street and replace it with a less imperious wrought-iron fence.

“There is a psychological barrier to that location that, if we make a lot of changes, might be helped, might be improved,” said Penelope Laurans, an associate dean of Yale College and the vice chair of both committees. “You have to re-imagine it.”

Aside from location, the report also called for a number of changes to the campus transportation system, which was frequently criticized as being antiquated and inefficient at a number of open forums for undergraduates held in residential colleges last fall.

The report suggests the implementation of 15-person vans to make a continuous loop from central campus to the new colleges, as well as an automated nighttime dispatch system for the minibus service.

“All agreed that unless members of the community find it easy to get up to and down from the proposed location, the new colleges will be isolated,” the document said.

One place students will not be isolated is Old Campus, where upperclassmen will no longer be annexed. The report recommended — and Levin embraced — expanding Yale College by at least 175 fewer spaces than the number of beds the new colleges will provide.

That would allow administrators to ease space constraints in the existing residential colleges and, ideally, eliminate the need to exile upperclassmen to spare rooms on Old Campus annually, said John Meeske, the dean of administrative affairs.

The report also suggests broad changes to Yale’s academic makeup. One recommendation would require administrators and departments to reconsider their needs on a wide range of levels, from advising to classroom space, in order to ensure the faculty is not overburdened by an expanded enrollment.

Students at the open forums and who responded to a questionnaire this fall expressed concerns about issues ranging from a lack of creative-writing, acting and studio-art classes to increasing competitiveness for admission to competitive majors like Ethics, Politics & Economics and International Studies and “desirable” advisers for a senior essay.

Another key issue the committees considered was advising, which Levin said he would ask Yale College Dean Peter Salovey to make a “high priority” as the expansion plans move forward. The University will also reassess its use of teaching assistants, which are already scarce in numbers, according to the report.

One particularly acute concern, said Joseph Gordon, dean of undergraduate education and the chairman of the committee that examined the impact of expansion on academic resources, was that, if stressed departments are pushed even further, they could be forced to dilute their own requirements — for instance, requiring one seminar to complete a major rather than two — as a means to cope.

“If you look at really large departments like Econ or Poli Sci, the [director of undergraduate studies] is under stress to manage that number of students already,” Gordon said. “If you had 10 percent more, it may be past a kind of point of manageability.”

Some departments, including those of many of the foreign languages, will need to hire faculty in significant numbers to teach introductory courses, according to the report. Other departments, like Political Science and Economics, will be in need of ladder faculty to teach junior- and senior-level seminars, which are already in high demand, the report said.

In the Chemistry Department, for instance, faculty are limited in teaching advanced seminars because of the need to teach hundreds of students in introductory courses. That demand would only increase with more students. And, as it now stands, the University would not have enough lab space to accommodate an increased enrollment.

“It’s not just more faculty — it’s also facilities,” said Kurt Zilm, a Chemistry professor who sat on the academic-resources committee. “It’s complex.”

In an effort to touch on all of the pertinent issues, the committees’ report — a year in the making — ran a grand total of 100 pages, coming in at 30,400 words in total.

“This has been a very educative process,” said Laurans, who coordinated the authorship of the lengthy report. “You find out what the real deal is in a place when you do this kind of one-year study — you find out what everybody’s issues are, what the needs are, what people need more of.”

After reviewing the report, the Corporation is expected to vote Friday on whether to proceed with planning for the expansion. The Corporation, the University’s highest governing body, is widely expected to weigh in favorably on the expansion plans — especially now that Levin has publicly backed it.

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