YCC to recommend minors

The Yale College Council will formally ask the University to implement an undergraduate academic minors program in a report YCC President Rich Tao ’10 plans to submit Tuesday to the Committee on Majors and select University administrators.

The YCC’s report asserts that a minors program will reinforce Yale’s liberal arts tradition both by increasing the depth of study undertaken outside a student’s major and by encouraging those pursuing a double major to instead minor in one field and free up their schedule for a wider breadth of interests. But the issue raises concerns of resume-padding and over-subscription to certain programs that could attract substantial student interest.

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“We are recommending secondary concentrations not necessarily just because of high student demand,” Tao said, “but also because we’ve taken a systematic look at the state of the liberal arts education at Yale University and there are gaps in the current system.”

Yale’s current system fails to achieve the breadth and depth identified as goals in the 2003 report from the Committee on Yale College Education, the YCC’s report reads. In their report, the CYCE argued that a Yale education should balance a wide-ranging liberal arts education and a focused concentration.

“We believe that such a balance can be realized only with the creation of academic programs that grant students formalized recognition for work completed in various fields of study totaling to less credit hours than what is currently required to earn a major in those disciplines,” the report reads.

Tao claimed minors programs would allow students who now double major to gain academic breadth while leaving time for elective courses that facilitate intellectual growth.

Harvard University and Princeton University both offer some form of an academic minor. Princeton offers “certificates” that award accreditation in non-major fields such as “Global Health and Health Policy,” as well as in more traditional departments. In 2006, Harvard rolled out its “secondary concentrations” program, which the YCC report used as a model to combat certain arguments against implementing minors.

One oft-heard criticism is majors such as economics, already strained with hundreds of students, could be inundated with students seeking a minor in the field. Benjamin Polak, the director of undergraduate studies for economics, said in November — when the YCC began soliciting input on the proposal — that the idea could lead to what he called “credential inflation.”

Tao said such concerns could be addressed by making minors an option that individual departments could approve or reject, mimicking the model currently followed at Harvard.

The YCC publicly kicked off its investigation of academic minors with a student body survey last November. The survey — which did not ask students whether they desired a minors program at Yale, but only whether they would take advantage of such a program if it were offered — found 86 percent of students would pursue a minor if they had the chance.

“I actually transferred from Wellesley College where they have minors,” said Cassie Chambers ’10, who was planning to minor in Women’s Studies at Wellesley. “It is sort of naive to assume that people have one academic interest they want to focus on.”

Max Brown ’10 agreed that Yale should implement minors, saying that it was necessary to maintain a competitive edge over graduates of schools that offered them.

Tao said YCC will continue to work with administrators to implement the proposal.

“What we wanted to do with that report was not to make specific recommendations but to get our foot in the door to catalyze further discussions with faculty,” Tao said. “The bulk of the report is the philosophical discussion of why secondary concentrations are justified.”

Tao said the YCC will submit the report to University President Richard Levin, Dean of Yale College Mary Miller, Dean of Undergraduate Education Joseph Gordon and the seven-member Committee on Majors.


  • br '09

    they made their "progress report" public - is the ycc planning on making their minors public? given the importance of the issue, i sure hope so…

    regardless, my fingers are crossed on this one!

  • br '11

    YES. it's ridiculous we don't have them.

  • Nope

    No, I'm not in favor of Yale offering minors, and I think the way that poll is being used is disingenuous.

  • Resume padding

    Hey, look, it's a bird, it's a plane … No! it's Yalies desperately trying to get ahead of each other in the job rat race!

    If you have two interests, then major in something and take classes in the second interest.

    If you have three interests, then major in something and take classes in the second and third interest.

    If you have … figure it out.

    You are graduating from YALE. When you apply for a job, you will be able to send your transcript, you will likely have an interview in which to talk up your other interests and classes. Every iota of intellectual engagement does not have to be recognized by the university with a slip of paper.

    If anything, this penalizes the many intellectually excited students who actually want to take a bredth of classes, but don't feel like doing so in a regimented fashion prescribed by a department.

    Double majors are great — for some people. Let's leae it at that.

  • "intellectually exciting"

    and by "intellectually exciting," you mean the kids who live and die on the intro classes

  • y07

    I would've appreciated a minor. It would be a lot easier and quicker to point to my graphic design experience and background if I could say I majored in History but minored in Art, rather than what I can say now, which is I majored in History but took a lot of art classes.

  • y08

    @y07: Minors are useless. Departments -- all of them, not just ones that are already huge -- shouldn't have to endure the bureaucratic rigmarole required to set up minors just to save you two seconds of explaining your credentials. I might be going out on a limb here, but here's how I'd expect your conversation with potential employers to go:

    Scenario 1 -- Yale has no minors
    Applicant: I took a lot of art classes.
    Employer: Who cares? Show me your skills.

    Scenario 2 -- Yale has minors
    Applicant: I minored in art.
    Employer: Who cares? Show me your skills?

    I work in a field unrelated to my major and what would have been my "minor," and it is difficult to imagine any employer turning me down solely because I don't have the word "minor" on my resume. I can prove I have the mad skillz necessary for my job, and that's all that matters.

    Save everyone a lot of pointless trouble; leave the system the way it is. Surely the YCC can think of more fruitful issues to pursue. More soap dispensers, anyone?

  • hopeful

    I would love to see Yale implement academic minors. I definitely understand the concern that adding a minor program would just encourage more students to join the "rat race." But say I've taken 8 art history classes and am planning to apply to graduate school for art history, but am not an art history major, I still can't take the core course "Critical Approaches to Art History," which is only open to majors. I find that slightly unfair, as students can be profoundly committed to a given field of study, even if they are not majoring in the subject. If minors provided access to now restricted seminars, that would allow students to pursue advanced studies in multiple fields. I see this as an important component of a liberal arts education, and I would like to see students reap the benefits of having demonstrated considerable interest in a particular domain outside their major.