This weekend, 11 distinguished academics and administrators from universities across the country will arrive on campus to examine Yale’s most salient strengths and weaknesses.
They are coming under the aegis of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, which decides each decade whether or not to recertify Yale’s accreditation. This process, of course, is in some ways a nuisance since there is little doubt that Yale will pass their test.
But the opportunity to take a step back and reflect on the good and the bad at this University is always worthwhile. We hope the visiting team will pay particular attention to three pressing issues: insufficient advising of students, lackluster interactions between the different schools on campus and the shortage of minorities in leadership positions here.
Advising at Yale, and particularly advising in Yale College, has been a major topic of discussion since the Committee on Yale College Education released its findings in 2003.
But problems remain, most obviously in the inconsistency of advising on campus. Some students rave about their advisers and regularly spend time with them. Others see their advisers once each semester to have their schedule signed, and still others only communicate with their advisers by e-mail. To improve advising for all students, Yale should better educate its faculty and students about the ways in which they can benefit from each other and should do a better job of pairing freshmen with advisers who share their interests.
Yale should also place more emphasis on building connections between the college and the graduate and professional schools.
Some students are literally locked out of other schools; it seems a shame that students in the School of Architecture cannot walk inside the gates of the residential colleges. The loss of access to the Law School’s dining hall was not only a culinary tragedy but also served to further divide the campus. It is a shame that graduate students who serve as teaching fellows often do not get to know their students and tend to serve more as graders than as teachers.
After all, the beauty of this University is that it can act as a kind of archipelago, as the CYCE put it, allowing for interaction between students in the Divinity School and the School of Management, in the Law School and in the college. Yale could better facilitate relationships between students and professors in the schools by offering more joint-degree programs, more courses taught by professional school professors but open to all, and more campus events that bring together all students, faculty and staff.
Finally, there is an appalling lack of racial diversity in the leadership ranks here. All of the nine officers of the University are white, all of the 14 school deans are white and only three of the 19 fellows of the Yale Corporation are ethnic minorities.
The message this sends to the community is troubling and Yale should redouble its efforts to recruit diverse leaders. The University has done a good job of promoting women within the administration; there is no excuse for Yale to have so few ethnic minorities in top jobs.
To be sure, there remains more to improve at Yale. We hope you will share your thoughts by posting a comment at goydn.com/ideas.