Review of curricular changes begins

In April, Yale successfully won another decade of accreditation from a regional consortium of colleges and universities after an 18-month review that engaged students, professors and staff. Now, administrators are preparing for another major review — but this one is entirely self-directed.

A 16-member steering committee assembled by Yale College Dean Mary Miller will oversee a review of the changes made in 2005 to distributional requirements and the curriculum, based on a 2003 report from the Committee on the Yale College Education. Work is already underway, as Miller met Tuesday afternoon with University President Richard Levin and the chairs of the steering committee and its subcommittees, who were nominated over the summer.

“We charged the committees with their work,” Miller said. “It is a preliminary charge.”

The CYCE review was mandated by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences when the body first voted to accept the CYCE, Miller said, and as such, she expects participation from “all corners” of the University. Though student representatives currently serve on most of the committees involved in the review, Miller said most students will not be affected by the study this year.

“The work of the subcommittees has to happen behind the scenes,” Miller said. “We don’t want to disrupt the life of the University to do this review.”

The subcommittees — extant committees in Yale College such as the Quantitative Reasoning and Science councils, the course of study committee and others — will be responsible for most of the work in creating a “progress report” on changes stemming from the CYCE. Suggestions made by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges Commission on Institutions of Higher Education in its final reaccreditation report on Yale this spring will also be taken into consideration, Miller said.

In an April 9 letter to Levin, Elsa M. Nuñez, the chair of the NEASC CIHE which sent the visiting team to Yale, commended the University for its “clear focused mission and well-articulated goals to achieve that mission,” as well as its excellence in dividing its resources and attention between graduate and undergraduate education.

The visiting team praised Yale for its continued progress toward goals set during its last accreditation, in 1999, but also noticed that some problems, such as “the proliferation of majors,” had still not been fully addressed. Though Yale has since established a Committee on Majors, which has the power to disband majors as it sees fit, Yale has eliminated only one major — Renaissance Studies — since the University’s founding in 1701.

“Given that Yale has 75 majors, some of which are very small, Yale College needs to act more aggressively in examining how cost-effective it is to maintain a large number of very small majors,” the committee said, adding that such small groups may not be conducive to student learning.

But Nuñez also noted the need for the University to use “quantitative as well as qualitative measures of student learning.”

The visiting committee complimented the philosophy behind Yale’s foreign language and quantitative reasoning requirements, which require even the most proficient students to pursue further study in both areas once they arrive at Yale. While the visiting committee said they were impressed by this idea, they described the University’s lack of a minimum standard of competency in quantitative reasoning as “surprising.”

“It would be expected that a Yale graduating student should have a specific level of QR competency that can be expressed in a way similar to what is done with language skills,” the committee said in its report.

This is precisely the kind of issue the CYCE review is designed to address, Miller said.

“[The progress report] is where questions posed in the NEASC report now receive their response,” Miller said. “It’s not necessarily, ‘Yeah, why didn’t we think of that?,’ but ‘Let’s ask this question for other areas of study.’ ”

Miller said the steering committee on the CYCE review will help to determine which questions the subcommittees should try to answer in their work, and combine the subcommittees’ specific data into a report to be presented to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at a meeting May 7. The steering committee will be most active in the spring, she said, while the subcommittees will begin collecting data immediately.

“They will be looking at transcripts and portfolios of work that have been submitted of the two classes that graduated with the new curriculum,” Miller said, referring to the distributional requirements introduced in 2005.

Though administrators had already planned to collect senior work, the visiting reaccreditation team also recommended that the University collect and read senior projects — a process Miller initiated last spring beginning with the class of 2010 — and conduct “systematic surveys of majors five years after graduation.”

Yale is required by the NEASC CIHE to produce an interim report on its progress in 2015.

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