Academic review underway

With an academic review process underway, Yale is beginning to evaluate the makeup of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

Following a recommendation included in a report on faculty resources released last spring, the University is evaluating a number of administrative issues pertaining to the faculty, including the ratio of tenured to non-tenured professors and the size of individual departments. A 14-person Academic Review Committee, chaired by economics professor Steven Berry, has met almost weekly since September and hopes to propose potential changes to the allocation of faculty positions across departments by the end of the 2012-’13 academic year, Berry said. He added that the committee is currently collecting data on faculty size and composition prior to making recommendations on the allocation of faculty resources.

“We’re still at the stage of learning and considering rather than making decisions,” Berry said.

Berry said the committee is working with the advisory committees in each of the four academic divisions — physical sciences and engineering, biological sciences, social sciences and humanities — to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of their academic departments. The directors of the divisions are members of the Academic Review Committee, and their divisional advisory committees will soon contact department chairs for additional input so that each division can present a “broad view” of the challenges it faces, Berry said.

Berry said the Academic Review will evaluate how Yale can allocate its resources to respond to emerging academic fields to remain a top educational and research institution.

“You would not want to have the departments of 1850 or 1950 now,” he said. “It’s a hard question of, ‘How does the University renew itself and look to new fields without losing the strengths it already has?’”

The committee has already begun to discuss the rising ratio of tenured to non-tenured professors, Berry said, which was a central concern of the report on faculty resources released by a separate committee last spring. The committee, chaired by economics professor William Nordhaus ’63, proposed that Yale set tenure ratio guidelines that would require departments with a percentage of tenured faculty exceeding the specified ratio to focus on searches at the junior faculty level. In June 2012, Provost Peter Salovey postponed a decision on the proposal until “further study” could be done.

Berry said the Academic Review Committee hopes to take a position on the tenure ratio issue — a “relatively separate question” from the other issues in the academic review — before the committee releases its full recommendations on the allocation of resources.

Though Berry said Salovey has told the committee that “this is not a budget exercise,” he added that it is important for the committee to develop an understanding of University finances before making any decisions.

“I’m an economist, and we live in the real world,” Berry said. “It wouldn’t do any good to make a recommendation that was infeasible from a budget perspective.”

Salovey said he wants the committee to base its budgetary decisions primarily on “intellectual concerns and academic values,” adding that he does not intend to rush the committee to finish its review. The committee could continue working past the end of the 2012-’13 academic year, Salovey said in a June memo to faculty.

Five other committee members declined to comment for this story.

Yale’s last academic review was held between 1990 and 1992 under then-University President Benno Schmidt.

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