Faculty seek greater role at Grad School

University President Richard Levin received a proposal calling for a faculty committee to counsel Graduate School Dean Thomas Pollard, at right.
University President Richard Levin received a proposal calling for a faculty committee to counsel Graduate School Dean Thomas Pollard, at right. Photo by Antonia Woodford.

A group of professors has petitioned for a greater voice in decision-making at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in a proposal submitted to administrators during spring break.

The proposal, which was sent to University President Richard Levin and Provost Peter Salovey on March 6 with signatures from 15 professors, calls for a faculty advisory committee to counsel the Graduate School dean and his staff on a regular basis about potential policies and initiatives. Administrators have not yet met to discuss the proposal, but Graduate School Dean Thomas Pollard said he welcomed its suggestions, and Salovey said he looks forward to discussing ways to “ensure robust faculty input” into Graduate School policies.

Pollard said in a Sunday email that he formed an informal advisory committee two years ago, which includes three to four faculty members from each of the school’s three divisions: humanities, sciences and social sciences. The idea for the committee emerged when the search committee for a new dean, which Pollard chaired, “felt that the dean needed much better communications with the faculty,” Pollard said.

Pollard said he met with the informal advisory committee — which comprises former members of the search committee — most months for the first 14 months of his term as dean, leading up to his publication of an August 2011 report on graduate education at Yale.

He said the advice from the informal advisory committee “has been quite valuable” but that “now is a good time” to renew its membership. He said he would gladly meet with the professors who submitted the proposal for a new advisory committee, adding that he wished they had sought his opinion on the matter, as the proposal was not sent to him.

Katie Trumpener, director of graduate studies for comparative literature and one of the professors proposing the new committee, said members of the proposed group would be elected by the faculty rather than selected by the dean.

“There is a vast difference between administrators handpicking faculty to stand in for some diffuse ‘faculty opinion’ and the faculty as a whole getting to have a sustained and regular voice in policy making and in running the university,” Trumpener said in a Sunday email.

According to the proposal, the new committee could provide feedback on proposed changes to rules or procedures and on any reports on the Graduate School before they are published.

When Pollard issued nine recommendations for improving mentoring and a list of best practices in graduate programs in his August report, some humanities and social sciences professors claimed that the report applied to science disciplines more than their own fields. Pollard, who served as the chair of the Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology Department before becoming dean, said he has held more than 40 meetings with chairs and directors of graduate studies from individual departments about ways to strengthen their programs after the report was published. He added that he meets with directors of graduate studies as a group “about twice” per semester.

Most of the 15 faculty members who drafted the proposal are former or current department chairs or directors of graduate studies, Trumpener said. She added that the professors come from “a wide range of departments,” with most from the humanities but with some from the sciences and social sciences as well. These professors comprise a subgroup of the larger faculty working group that has raised concerns this semester about shared services and Yale’s planned liberal arts college in Singapore. In each of these instances, faculty members have criticized what they see as a centralization of decision-making power within the University and a failure to appropriately consult faculty.

David Post, director of graduate studies for the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department, said he had not seen the proposal but feels there are already opportunities for faculty to provide input on decision-making, citing the meetings Pollard has held with directors of graduate studies to discuss new initiatives.

Several other professors contacted said they had not heard about the proposal or did not wish to comment on it.

Because administrators were traveling during the break, they did not meet to discuss the proposal. Salovey said in a Sunday email that he has spoken to “a few faculty members” about the proposal and he will discuss it with Levin and Pollard when they all return to campus.

Comments

  • yalengineer

    Never were the fights so fierce for stakes so low.

  • attila

    Pollard’s “meetings” with students and faculty are just displays of his contempt for anyone outside his field.