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.

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