Yale College’s Committee on Majors is mulling a proposal to establish an academic minor program that would give students official University recognition for significant work in a field that falls short of fulfilling major requirements, and a Yale College Council poll shows it has the support of Yale undergraduates.
The YCC will now compile a report on the subject to present to administrators including the Dean of Yale College and the members of the Committee on Majors, YCC President Rich Tao ’10 said. In interviews over the weekend, directors of undergraduate studies expressed an open-mindedness to the idea, but some also voiced skepticism.
“It’s important for people to know that we are coming at this from two different perspectives,” Tao said. “We are aiming to be entirely systematic in our proceedings while staying extremely loyal to the student body.”
In September, the committee — which usually reviews existing majors as well as proposals for new majors — began formally considering an academic minor program independent of the YCC’s efforts, said committee chair Mark Mooseker, professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology.
Mooseker said it is unclear to what extent the YCC’s survey will factor into committee discussions of a minors program.
“We will discuss how and if to weigh student input,” Mooseker said. “[But] faculty must decide if this instituting of minors is in the best interests of the Yale curriculum.”
According to the YCC’s survey, conducted between Nov. 6 and Nov. 12, 86 percent of respondents said they would be interested in pursuing a minor if the option was available.
“I would have done a minor in econ had that been an option,” said Alex Cadicamo ’10, who is double majoring in economics and political science. “Double majoring is just a lot of time. It restricts you in terms of taking fun classes.”
The Committee sent e-mail messages to all directors of undergraduate studies asking them to gauge departmental opinion on academic minors. Of six directors of undergraduate studies interviewed over the weekend, three said their departments were planning to meet with faculty in the coming weeks to discuss the subject.
In its 2003-2004 report, the Committee on Yale College Education recommended a secondary concentration in the sciences as part of a push to strengthen the University’s science programs. According to the report, the CYCE hoped to encourage interest in the sciences among non-majors.
At least one department has already come out in favor of the proposal. Faculty in the molecular biophysics and biochemistry department met in response to Mooseker’s e-mail and generally favored the proposal, said the department’s director of undergraduate studies, Michael Koelle.
A major factor in their opinion, he said, was the fact that Yale has many pre-med students who are not science majors. Even though these students still take many core science classes, Koelle said, they receive no recognition for their efforts on their diplomas.
“A minor would potentially allow them to have something on their diploma and formalize their relationship with a science department,” he said, though he acknowledged that a student pursuing a science minor would face more course requirements than the average pre-med student.
Economics DUS Benjamin Polak said he was mildly skeptical of an academic minor in his department. Polak said he thinks there are good reasons to institute minors, but is concerned that undergraduates may feel pressured to add on a minor in economics in order to get a job in business or finance. An academic minor program, he said, could lead to “credential inflation,” as he put it.
“Students are going to start thinking that they have to take certain types of classes to get a job or go to graduate school,” Polak said. “People should take things outside their major out of intellectual interest.”
The idea of minors has backers among language faculty, including K. David Jackson, the director of undergraduate studies for Portuguese. Jackson said he favors minors because they would allow students to officially declare proficiency in a language. Jackson added that a minor program would encourage more students to enroll in Portuguese classes, allowing the department to better structure its course progressions.
Tao said the YCC does not have a timeline for submitting an official recommendation to administrators. Acting Dean of Yale College Joseph Gordon said the Committee on Majors will likely present a final report on the issue of minors to the University faculty by the middle of the spring semester.