College seminars limited again next year

Residential college seminars will run in a limited capacity again next year.

Because the program is currently under review and could soon see structural changes, each residential college will offer just one seminar in both the fall and spring semesters, said George Levesque, assistant dean of academic affairs and acting director of the program. Twelve courses were offered this semester — down from 21 in the fall — in part because the former director of the program, Catherine Suttle, retired in December. The reduced number of seminars offered this spring were heavily oversubscribed — each received an average of over 100 applications for about 18 spots.

“The optimal future size of the program has not been determined,” Levesque said, “but in the meantime it has seemed wise to keep the program at a manageable level as we experiment with new selection processes and staffing for the program.”

Levesque said though the program will offer new seminars in the spring, all of next semester’s courses will have been taught before — a continuation of policy from this semester — because approving a new seminar for the first time requires a full semester of “lead time.”

Several existing members of the Dean’s Office could staff the program in the future, he said, and a student selection committee, which will pick next semester’s 12 seminars, will also determine the new selection process.

John Rogers, chair of the committee reviewing the program, said in an email that the committee would likely present recommendations to Yale College Dean Mary Miller in a few weeks.

Six of seven students interviewed said they wish more residential college seminars were being offered next year, since they are so selective. Students could apply to two seminars and enroll in only one this semester. Previously, students could apply to three and enroll in two.

Sahar Omrani ’11, who is currently enrolled in the “Understanding Politics and Politicians” seminar taught by politician Howard Dean ’71 and clinical professor of psychiatry David Berg ’71 GRD ’72, said the course has been one of the best she has taken at Yale. She added that she has applied to residential college seminars multiple times and was granted a spot for the first time this semester.

“I don’t understand why they can’t see there is a demand for residential college seminars and they’re not catering to that,” she said.

Yale has offered residential college seminars since 1969, and the program was last reviewed in 2001.

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