Renaissance studies no longer a major

Starting next year, Renaissance studies will no longer be a standalone major, following a unanimous vote in favor of the proposal by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences on Thursday afternoon.

The major will now be offered as a special divisional major, and all courses in the program — which were cross-listed in other departments — will remain available. Faculty in the interdisciplinary program initiated the proposal, citing a lack of students enrolled in the major over the last several years. The decision marks the first time since the 2000 inception of the Committee on Majors — which presented the idea to the faculty — that a major has been removed as a standalone program of study.

“A major that exists in name only but does not have students actively enrolled in it is not robust,” Yale College Dean Mary Miller said. “The intellectual energy behind interdisciplinary and interdepartmental majors comes and goes and I think we should try to capture that in as many different places as we can with special divisional majors.”

Following a recommendation by Miller, Renaissance studies faculty voted on Feb. 23 to convert the major. The program had not enrolled a single major for five years, though two current students have shown interest, and faculty said they felt it was misrepresentative to list such a small major as a standalone program.

The subsequent proposal to the University faculty was largely a formality, said Mark Mooseker, chair of the Committee on Majors and professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology.

Special divisional majors, which are interdisciplinary in nature, require an application and generally require students to take initiative in structuring their program of study. Other former majors that are now special divisional majors include medieval studies and British studies.

Mooseker said he does not know if other departments are interested in a similar shift in classification.

Listing the major as a special divisional major may reduce administrative costs, Carlos Eire, director of undergraduate studies for Renaissance Studies, said. The reorganization will save processing time and will eliminate the need for a separate DUS, Dean of Undergraduate Education Joseph Gordon said.

“It’s not losing anything,” Eire said of the program. “It’s gaining administrative efficiency. Anyone who has an interest in Renaissance studies will still be able to major in it.”

But the description of special divisional majors in the Yale College Programs of Study states that students who choose to pursue one will not have their field of concentration listed on their transcript. Instead, it will carry the notation “special divisional major.”

One sophomore, Allison Collins ’11, has already declared her intent to major in Renaissance studies, and another freshman has expressed interest, Eire said.

Collins said despite the faculty’s decision, she will continue with Renaissance studies, though she expressed frustration with the lack of clarity from the program about how the decision would impact her studies.

The credits she has already earned toward the major will remain intact, she said. Both Collins and Eire said they are still not sure how the logistics of the change will be handled.

“I came to Yale knowing that this was what I wanted to major in,” Collins said. “I just hope I don’t have to lose some of the focus [in the major] that is really appealing to me.”

The program originated in the 1970s, Eire said, and has never had high enrollment. Still, he said Renaissance studies has a robust graduate program, with around twenty students.

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