News’ View: Toward a better University

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.

Comments

  • Hieronymus

    *Sigh*

    I was on track with you–impressed with this reasonable, balanced view–until, just as I let my guard down, you hit me with this:

    “Finally, there is an appalling lack of racial diversity in the leadership ranks here.”

    I am reminded again of a youngish, black protester, standing on the steps of the New Haven courthouse, his sign and voice demanding “More Black Judges!” I agreed wholeheartedly, and asked whether he would be attending law school to help alleviate the supply problem. He was dumbfounded by the question.

    Is the lack of rainbow hue “appalling” in an objective sense? That is, statistically speaking, doesn’t Yale (whether in faculty hirings or, as noted here, officerships) suffer from a supply that decreases the higher up the achievement chain one searches? (Further, Corporation membership is by vote).

    Please understand: I am *not* saying that it wouldn’t be grand to have greater “diversity” (although diversity as an explicit goal is, in my view, condescending); however, I believe it important to understand the supply/demand issue (especially in, say, admissions) that underlies the apparent inequality of outcome.

  • Tanner

    Another Star Chamber arrives to tell the little people how to act because we obviously aren’t doing it right. Do you want diversity in technicolor or (fat chance) do you want diversity in Philosophy or business plans.

  • pc

    hwo abotu the fact that students, staff and visitors keep getting killed and smushed in traffic crashes on campus every few months?

    its nice to spend millions on beautiful new buildings but who cares if you cant get around to them cuz there’s no crosswalk and speeding cars on every main street through the place.

  • ROFLCOPTER

    As a black man, I find the racial condescension of my fellow classmates to be once again utterly intolerable.

    We don’t need racial diversity in leadership. We need competent leadership. If the ten most qualified individuals are white men, then those ten should get the job.

    Believe it or not, black students can ‘relate’ and ‘engage with’ white professors and administrators just as well as they can with a token black dude.

  • Agreed

    If I may add to #4′s view: as a white person, I’ve had black teachers, professors, etc. who I’ve felt far more close to and looked up to more than a number of white professors, etc. because they were better teachers, leaders, and mentors. Competence and excellence really matter a hell of a lot more than what people look like.

  • @4

    You would have to be foolish to believe that that the nine most competent people in the country to serve as officers of this university and the 14 most competent people to serve as deans of their respective schools are all white.

  • The Contrarian

    If competence and excellence are not as important as “diversity” surely there should be a cap on the number of Jews… or at the very least Liberal Jews.

    Are Sicilians just the same as Norwegians? Are all light-skinned Americans as privileged as Boston Brahmins? Why can’t the Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans love each other since they’re all Asians? And so on…

  • ROFLCOPTER

    I can believe that the nine most competent people to serve as officers of this university are all white. After all, 70% of the nation is white, and the numbers are even higher among the older and the highly-educated.

    So, yeah.

  • sara

    they are also all white people who drive in from the burbs. maybe that’s why the campus has horribly dangerous xwalks and no bike lanes?

  • hmd2010

    Why should Yale have to actively recruit for minority leaders? If these folks want to lead at Yale they should be knocking on Yale’s door for those positions. That is how the ones who lead now got there, regardless of race, gender, ethnic group, etc. The days when Yale was all white, male, and Protestant are long over. Yale is a true meritocracy these days, so if you want to lead at Yale, you have to shine.