Grad School braces for cuts

In response to Wednesday’s announcement that, to save money, Yale will reduce the number of new doctoral students admitted to the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, department chairs across the University said Thursday that Yale’s intellectual community and scholarly research may suffer.

University President Richard Levin and Provost Peter Salovey said in an interview Wednesday that the total reduction in enrollment for the incoming class will be between 10 and 15 percent, though the number of students each department admits for the 2010-’11 academic year will vary depending on how many students each department has enrolled recently.

Administrators informed department chairs in September that they would need to reduce enrollment, though a specific figure was not determined until December. In a series of meetings over the past month, department chairs calculated the maximum number of students they will be able accept for the next school year. But because departments make admissions offers from December until the end of February, the ultimate size of the incoming Graduate School class is not yet known, Graduate School Dean Jon Butler said.

Levin said the reduction in the incoming class enrollment will cause the Graduate School to lose only 2 to 3 percent of its overall current size — very little, he said, compared to a 25 percent reduction in the school’s size in the early 1990s.

“It didn’t create great problems then,” Levin said. “I don’t think the educational experience has been compromised for the students in any graduate or professional school.”

Master’s degree students will not be affected because they, unlike doctoral candidates, pay tuition. With each doctoral student that comes to Yale, the University must spend $65,000 to $70,000 per year on stipends and fellowships to support the student’s research, Levin said.

Administrators determined each department’s quota based on its enrollment history, Butler said. Doctoral programs that enrolled a larger-than-usual class last year will almost certainly accept fewer students this year, while programs that enrolled fewer students than usual last year may see a smaller reduction or even accept the same number as before, department chairs said. Butler added that each program will lose one or two incoming doctoral students on average.

“We tailor the reduction to the history of the program,” he said.

But in interviews Wednesday and Thursday some department heads and graduate students questioned the decision to shrink the Graduate School, arguing that the reduction will take away from intellectual life and research efforts. Each department’s intellectual community benefits from a variety of viewpoints, which can only exist with a substantial number of graduate students, Italian Department chair Millicent Marcus said.

“This is a loss for us,” she said. “It’s good to have a critical mass of students in our classes so that discussion can be more wide-ranging.”

While Dudley Andrew, chair of the Comparative Literature Department and co-chair of the Film Studies Program, said he thinks graduate classes are better with more students in them, the number of Ph.D. students in academia far exceeds the number of academic jobs available for them once they earn their degrees; it may be better not to flood the market with graduates who cannot find work, he said.

Compared to the woes of other universities, such as the University of Iowa, which is considering eliminating its cinema and comparative literature program altogether, Andrew’s departments are lucky, he said. He said that because the comparative literature department enrolled an unusually large class this year, it will see reductions, while admission to the Film Studies Program will stay flat.

But heads of science departments have urged Salovey and Butler not to cut graduate students, two department chairs said. Not only should Yale educate as many future scientists and engineers as possible, they said, but science departments need graduate students to complete federally funded research projects.

“Reducing the number of graduate students in the sciences is unfortunate and short-sighted,” Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department Chair Richard Prum said, adding that E&EB has seen a surge in grants from the federal stimulus package, which could pay for graduate student research. “Even though the income of our grants has gone up, the number of graduate students we’re able to accept has gone down.”

Many science professors are searching for students to conduct research projects endowed by outside grantors, added Cynthia Chang GRD ’11, an E&EB doctoral candidate. The enrollment cuts would be “a huge detriment to our department and to any department,” she said.

Professors in the Computer Science Department are conducting federally funded research projects — research that must be conducted with the help of graduate students, Computer Science chair Avi Silberschatz said. If these projects are not delivered, he said, it may be difficult to win future grants.

“Forget about the fact that we need to generate more scientists and engineers for the good of this country,” he added.

Butler and Levin said the number of new admits in some science departments might stay constant to address these issues.

Meanwhile, graduate students praised the decision to raise graduate student stipends by 2 percent, another provision in the budget memo Levin and Salovey released Wednesday.

“I think that cutting down on admissions as opposed to cutting down on stipends is probably the right way to go,” said Mark Klee GRD ’11, an economics student.

Administrators cautioned that the move to downsize doctoral programs is not unprecedented: Columbia and Emory universities have also reduced the numbers of their incoming graduate students to save money, Butler said. And even with these cuts, the Graduate School will still be larger than it was a decade ago, Levin and Salovey said in the memo.


  • Robert Schneider

    Dudley Andrew has it right. “. . . the number of Ph.D. students in academia far exceeds the number of academic jobs available for them once they earn their degrees; it may be better not to flood the market with graduates who cannot find work, he said.”

    Thank you Mr. Dudley. Going back to the very late 60s, when Clark Kerr wrote his then famous article, “The Coming Ph.D. Glut,” graduate programs have refused to face facts. Going into the 70s, programs across all disciplines needed to shrink. Unfortunately, far too many programs grew. Enrolling in graduate school became something like signing a minor league baseball contract. Many get signed, but few make it to the big leagues. The motive for this lies in perverse financial incentives. Enroll more grad students, use more grad students as cheap teaching labor, draw more funds out of the administration. That makes things better for the faculty, but devil take the poor grad student once he has that diploma in hand. Yale is hardly the prime malefactor in this story, but that Yale is shrinking programs, I think redounds to their reputation.

  • super

    “With each doctoral student that comes to Yale, the University must spend $65,000 to $70,000 per year on stipends and fellowships to support the student’s research, Levin said.”

    Well, the stipend accounts for almost $30,000, but most of the rest of that number is the tuition waiver granted to EVERY SINGLE GRAD STUDENT WITHOUT EXCEPTION. So there is no tuition and there hasn’t been for 15 years. I’m guessing that some tax scheme is behind the decision to charged all of us tuition and then give all of us a “fellowship” to cover it. I always found this to be sketchy.

  • to #1

    This is only half right. There are a number of fields with plenty of jobs for PhDs, including some of the sciences, political science, statistics, economics, engineering.

    A big part of the problem at Yale is refusal to make hard choices across fields. A new PhD in German has almost no hope of a real job. If we cut the number of grad students in those areas, it would make a lot of sense. But Yale refuses to do that, so every department ends up with the same cut, whether there are jobs or not.

  • anonymous

    How can Professor Andrew take pride in the shape and state of Yale’s Comparative Literature Department and Film Studies Program when similar programs are shutting down at his former school in Iowa. This situation will affect the job market, since fewer positions will be available due to elimination of Comp. Lit. departments all over the nation. Comp. Lit. is not a program I would recommend to students for graduate pursuits.

  • basics

    Levin said the reduction in the incoming class enrollment will cause the Graduate School to lose only 2 to 3 percent of its overall current size — very little, he said, compared to a 25 percent reduction in the school’s size in the early 1990s. “It didn’t create great problems then,” Levin said.

    Let us go further back in history. Once upon time, schools had only teachers and students. It worked very well. So get rid of Yale Cooperation and all its greedy CEO’s.

  • abc

    Does this mean more sections will be taught by professors in a few years’ time?

  • Shakespeare & Co.

    Let’s face it. Degrees in the Foreign Languages or Comparative Literature are academically not on par with History, Political Science or English (the only credible Literature program). In the Foreign Languages, grad students don’t even know the languages well by the time they are finished and in Comparative Literature they don’t ever reach the depth of knowing a national literature but simply skim across various fields superficially. It’s time to give these bogus fields the ax.

  • Rick

    There are plenty of jobs for students with PhDs in Econ, Engineering, and Tech. fields. Let’s be honest, PhD’s in the Humanities should be cut because there are too many of them (really do we need another dissertation on Emerson?) and the sciences are more valuable. Time for Rick to make some not so hard choices.

  • To abc

    Hey professors actually teaching….thats impressive!

  • two cents

    With this job market, Levin should expand Yale graduate (science & Engineering) /medical and give first priority to admit Yale college graduates. This move will increase the college applicant rate and alumina donation

    One of Columbia University’s Mater Program admits 300 students and is expanding.

    There are so many foreign trained doctors practicing here because our medical schools do not admit enough medical students. The foreign trained doctors have never gone through the rigorous selection process and grueling schedule as our doctors have. It is not right!

    I thought Levin was an economic professor…

  • @By Shakespeare & Co.

    I find your lack of understanding of what Comparative Literature is quite impressive. Most people with degrees in Comp Lit also have a joint (often primary)appointment in national literature departments…In other words, Yale and other major universities have no problems appointing people with Complit PhDs to their English faculties, so I guess that says something about the breadth of their knowledge of English literature. From my experience people in CompLit usually have a greater depth of knowledge than people who just do English, not to mention the frightening number of languages most CompLit PhD students know.
    Finally, although CompLit is an infinitely smaller field than English, a disproportionally high number of scholars who shaped and still shape literary studies (English included)are comparatists. So, think about facts a little bit before you start talking about “bogus disciplines”.

  • @11

    Fact: Humanities are not important in the modern world.
    Fact: The sciences are important.
    @11: Just deal. You’re being downsized.

  • @10

    What are you an FMG? Umm, if they pass step 1,2,and 3 they are qualified to practice in the US. So how is the process less rigorous?

  • @11

    As someone in the sciences, can I ask what exactly you people in English and CompLit do? Seriously, most of you don’t get jobs–do you teach, what, high school English?

  • science grad student

    Somehow, I think Yale will survive without more folks taking POST-COLONIAL-FEMINIST-STUDIES and other bogus disciplines

  • anonymous

    @13 “Sciences are important in the modern world, humanities are not”. There is a name for that kind of attitude. It’s called puberty.
    @14 The past year and this one are naturally particularly hard, because of the economic downturn, but it’s simply not true that most people in CompLit and English don’t get jobs, at least not Yale graduates.

  • reply to # 11shakespeare & co

    I don’t know who you are but I bet you don’t have an English Ph.D. and just got lucky with a joint appointment with your Language or Comp. Lit Ph.D. Anyone in the discipline knows that degrees in the Languages or Comp. Lit. cannot compare to the discipline of English and are often given to fairly weak graduate students. The era of bogus is over and real degrees count. Your remark simply reflects a defense of your own position but will not fool the administration during an era of necessary downsizing.

  • @ 17

    I don’t know what kind of frustration with complit you have (got rejected by a complit grad program?)… I also don’t know whether you attitude towards complit and to national literature departments other than English is nationalism, ignorance or both, but the fact is that the influence of French departments, for instance, has been enormous on the study of literature in this country. And if I were you I would look at how many important scholars in the English departments actually have Complit degrees. You will really need to face the facts. Yale Complit PhDs have got tenure-track in the following English departments over the last ten years or so: Harvard, Stanford, Brown, UC Irvine (just mentioning the top departments). Also they’ve got jobs in English at liberal arts colleges including: Amherst, Colgate, Pomona, Scripps, during the same period. And this is a department that usually has about three or four people in the job market in any given year.

  • @16

    Um, no, it’s called reality. The humanities were important before people discovered tangible stuff like atoms, cells, and modern science. With the advent of modern science, the humanities ceased to be important. Seriously, it is great to wax philosophic about the humoral imbalances of Greek medicine or the earth-centric conception of the solar system and its associated celestial spheres, but real hard science exposes those ideas for the shams they were and continues to drive reality forward. Have fun writing about the lint in your navel. I’m discovering a cure for cancer.

  • Grad

    I’m really rather taken aback by some of the comments on this page. Do these commentators truly feel that science is the lone legitimate academic discipline? How very, very sad for them–what a dull and shallow life we would have if we cut out history, literature, philosophy, and art.

    We are all here at Yale to work towards an understanding of ourselves and our world. After reading these opinions, I certainly wouldn’t want that understanding to be shaped solely by the scientists who have commented thus far.

  • comments

    I don’t feel the humanities are unimportant. But I do feel it is nuts for Yale to impose across-the-board cuts on graduate programs, which is what they always do.

    Every PhD student in chemistry or economics will get a job in his/her field. Not true in Italian. Yale cannot do anything about that fact. If it insists on treating chemistry like Italian, then it is just unnecessarily harming the chemistry department.

  • @13

    You are telling me there is no difference between doctors trained at Yale and doctors trained at Grenada.

  • @#19

    No, it’s still called puberty. The sheer lack of understanding of intellectual history which screams from every word of your comment proves it.

  • Richard

    Even in the chemistry department, a Yale PhD hardly means that there will be a job waiting. Moreover, the biggest challenge with cutting chemistry graduate students would not be performing research, but rather in teaching. Ever seen a full professor in the orgo lab?

  • @23

    No, the intellectual “rigor” of Comp Lit, English, Pomo, Poco, and whatever else you want to throw up there is questioned by events such as the Sokal hoax ( Plenty of scientists understand intellectual history,; we also think that science is infinitely more important to the world and objectively measurable. Furthermore, English professors are willing to admit as much. I’ve taken lit theory classes with Paul Fry and then went on to do my PhD in the sciences.

  • @22

    So a YSM student who fails his/her Step 1 or 2 is dumber than an FMG who passes his/her Step 1 or 2? It’s called licensing.

  • Yale ’08


    Wow, a real education truly missed you. Your childish and poorly thought out screed really scares me and other on this board who are able to appreciate the value of all disciplines.

    My favorite part about arrogant, science-centric thinkers like yourself is how willing you are to subscribe to a redneck-like mentality towards ‘learnin’. I hope you didn’t go to Yale, because your spot was a waste of space that could have been occupied by someone truly appreciative of the liberal arts and the amazing things it has to offer.

    It’s also ironic that some scientists today have forgotten the historical roots of enlightenment values; the arts, humanities and culture flourished alongside each other and this in part helped give greater prominence to the virtues of empiricism and rationalism that you hold so dear.

    Good luck with the cancer cure. Maybe if scientists hadn’t screwed up so badly during earlier phases of industrialization, we wouldn’t have such a high incidence of cancer to begin with.

  • Yale CC ’08

    No #19, It really is called puberty. Please, please don’t tell me you’re a graduate student. Your silly reductionist argument for the superiority of science is neither qualified or well thought out.

    You’re a perfect example of why no matter how scientifically advanced we become, the need for humanities will be just a acute ad infinitum years from now: you need a simple lesson in history, plain and simple.

  • Yale ’07

    “With the advent of modern science, the humanities ceased to be important. Seriously, it is great to wax philosophic about the humoral imbalances of Greek medicine or the earth-centric conception of the solar system and its associated celestial spheres, but real hard science exposes those ideas for the shams they were and continues to drive reality forward”

    Ummm… you might want to go back through this argument to acknowledge that humoral and earth-centric theories were actually brought to bear by the hard sciences of those times, NOT the humanities.

    Just a small factoid you failed to mention in your attempt to belittle every discipline that does not fit into your neat and small view of our universe. A real (liberal arts) education would help a person like yourself a lot. Unfortunately, your closed mind precludes any actual enlightenment that could transpire.

    Well, back to the lab for you!

  • ScienceUndergrad2010

    The “scientists” (if they are truly) on this comment thread have ranged from brutally honest to obnoxious to utterly ignorant. Yes, science grads have an easier time finding jobs. But if Yale exists for any rational purpose at all (does it?) then it should be to support those HUMAN endevours that are not otherwise supported by market forces. Philosophy, history, etc., do not exist to be useful (except in as far as they help promote a political position), but are rather expressions of the human desire to understand the world and one’s place in it.

    Humanities are really not that different than science. The only reason why scientists can find jobs (and have their grad programs paid for) is because the NIH, the NSF, etc., subsidize it (socialism! gasp!), both during grad school and once you have tenure. Why should the American taxpayer care about academic advances when his or her basic needs are not being met? Of course, the material outputs of science and medicine are also useful to commercial industry, but if this were the only reason for scientific investigation, we’d have a lot more electrical and chemical engineers, and a lot fewer evolutionary biologists, oceanographers, theoretical chemists, cosmologists, mathematicians, physicists, and even economists. “Pure science” as we know it would cease to exist.

    There are many things wrong with academica — that is beyond question. Graduate departments, especially those at bigger, less prestigious schools than Yale, need to be more honest about the dearth of employment opportunities. And in the absence of a secure spot waiting in academia (which has never been the case except immediately post-WWII), graduate schools needs to be much more open to unionization, since graduate school “students” are really casual, term-time employees.

    But none of this is being addressed by the obnoxious flame war going on above. Maybe we’d all be better off if academia ceased to exist as we know it, and literary and social criticism — along with the pure sciences — was democratized: left to everyone, in whatever walk of life, in their spare time, instead of priveledging the thoughts of a cloistered few. If the true atlas shrugged, academia would come crashing down.

  • more objecitivity

    I think we can all agree that the humanities and the sciences have to co-exist somehow in a liberal education. However, the hierarchies of importance of their fields as well as the prospects on the job market in each field have to be constantly re-evaluated. For example, theoretical physics is less important today than it once was. Same goes for foreign languages or the multiple programs that mushroomed from underneath the discipline of English during the heydays. Nobody is denying the relevance of these fields but they may need shrinking and re-assessment. Let departments produce enrollment figures and job placement figures from the last 3 years. These figures will be objective indicators for the relevance of the given fields. Also, compare the job placements statistically against the number of enrolled graduate students to get a better sense of the success rate. It is no use to boast with 2-3 high profile jobs when perhaps 70% of the remaining student body cannot secure jobs in a given field.

  • @25

    I was wondering when was the Sokal affair going to make an appearance. I actually find it quite amusing, and I share his skepticism of certain tendencies in American academia. However, my friend, for somebody who wants to speak in the name of ‘intellectual rigor’ you lack an awful lot of, well – intellectual rigor. Your readiness to dismiss the humanities as such because one person published one article in one academic journal is a pretty good example of facile thinking. If you had looked more carefully you would have seen that Sokal’s hoax was published in Social text, which was not even peer-reviewed at the time. It wasn’t published in a journal like English Literary History or Comparative Literature, and if he had tried to do it, it’s pretty obvious to me that he would have been rejected. So, actually the system works – you get to publish problematic stuff in highly ideologically charged journals on the margin of the profession, not in the center.
    I can only hope that you don’t make unfounded generalizations like this one in your research. It’s science, after all!

  • Yale 08

    If you think about it, there’s not much difference between a ponzi scheme and getting *some* kinds of PhD’s: after years of education and studying, your prospects are limited to teaching others who ultimately want to pursue a PhD in your field, repeat — no value is added as value is merely transfered (i.e., in the form of fellowships, stipends, and teaching jobs) to the operator of the scheme under the guise that a “return” will be generated. Furthermore, there is no argument of substance that these fields may add some body of knowledge to society down the road since the academic merits of several of these programs are nil to begin with (e.g., anthropology, sociology, and womens/gender studies). For those who protest, how about we roll up the very few parts of these subjects that matter into history and political science, assuming they are not already sufficiently represented?

  • real problem

    The real problem is Levin, the economist is cutting graduate students across the board science and humanity.

  • Godwin

    The last people to think that science didn’t need the humanities in order to help it along and guide its choices (you know, that little thing called ethics) were probably interested in eugenics. Science does a good job of explaining how, but it will never be able to address why.

  • cancerous

    Science graduates get jobs but most of them as technicians, as factory labor for technologist masters. Science is not the thriving intellectual field it used to be. These days it is mostly about making money by creating problems then taking steps to solve them that never actually get there. A cure for cancer? Don’t make me laugh!

  • grad12

    Wow, there are a lot of bitter graduate students procrastinating on today.

    Regardless of your field, and the wisdom of the administration in letting students into programs, you should be able to name a list of at least five different realistic (ie, not all tenure-track faculty) employment options that will enable you to have a roof over your head and pay back your student loans (if you have them). Look at that list, figure out the average starting salary, and start planning your budget and lifestyle decisions accordingly. If you’re doing this because you love it, you’ll be willing to do adapt to whatever to work in the field. If you don’t know what the options are for employment in your field, and you aren’t an heiress, go talk to graduate career services and make sure you’re setting yourself up to have lots of options after graduation. Start developing how to market yourself now, not after you turn in your dissertation.

    I don’t know how relevant comparisons to the state of disciplines in the past can possibly be – the well-rounded thinkers and scholars who put forth the foundations of this society were working in an very different economic and social system. They were either wealthy or enjoyed the patronage of the wealthy or the church. We don’t have the same percentage of our population farming or working in factories today that we did in the past. There are more people available to be knowledge workers.

    The development of the middle class has certainly enabled more people to go to college and develop these interests they want to pursue in graduate school, but we’re still struggling with what these newly minted PhDs will do to make ends meet, especially if they expect to enjoy the same level of modern creature comforts starting out that their parents were able to provide to them. Working from a lab in your home isn’t really an option available to new science PhDs, and reading, writing, and corresponding full-time from your home isn’t a good option for humanities PhDs. Sadly, we aren’t the landed gentry that once stood in our advanced study shoes, but we are the ones who have to figure out how to adapt to that.

  • student

    As a former humanities major who went in a different direction in grad school I totally agree that science >>>> humanities. It really is a waste of time and money and I think undergrad liberal arts education is a real scam and it is true that most of it is really a ponzi scheme.

  • Yale ’07


    First of all, the Ponzi scheme comment was directed at value-added problems with PhD’s in general, and was not directed at the liberal arts.

    Any society so obsessed with practicality and the material worth of an education is neither enlightened nor a society. I’m sorry you ‘wasted’ your time and money as a former humanities student. In my opinion, that is more your own failure than that of the discipline itself.

  • Yale alum ’08

    Can anyone explain how so-called rational and enlightened science grad students get away with such juvenile reductionism in their argumentation on this board?! Seriously, “science>>>humanities” or “real hard science exposes those ideas for the shams they were and continues to drive reality forward” or my favorite “Fact: Humanities are not important in the modern world.
    Fact: The sciences are important.” Wow, thank God for the ‘objectivity’ of modern science, lol.

  • @40

    Hate to say it, but the one with the biggest wallet wins.

  • science grad student

    It is not that my fellow biology grad students think that philosophy/literature/etc are easy or useless fields. In fact, I think that these can be much much harder and more valuable. HOWEVER, science always true and useful, while the humanities have the potential to be total b.s Marxist jargon, and most of the humanities work at Yale is just that. I feel really bad for those humanities phDs who are doing real thesis topics and not just the usual “critical theory of the presentation of the self in post-colonial feminist societies.”