After Nemerov, Yale must restore ‘Intro Art History’
Just a year ago, on a cold January day, over 500 Yalies crammed into a single auditorium to shop the first lecture of HSAR 115, an introductory art history course taught by Alexander Nemerov GRD ’92, the chair of the department. The course, which covered works from the Renaissance to the present, was the definition of a classic Yale course. Nemerov inspired — carrying on the legacy of a class made famous by legendary Yale professor Vincent J. Scully ’40 GRD ’49. Under the guidance of these professors, generations of Yalies from every field of study gathered twice weekly to study Vermeer and Van Gogh, Pollock and Poussin.
But last February, Nemerov announced that he would leave Yale for Stanford. This semester, Yale failed to offer HSAR 115.
Nemerov’s departure is no excuse for the University to forgo the spirit and the substance that guided his introductory course: to make art history accessible for students from a broad swath of the University community; to expose students to a potential major; to help Yalies contextualize the iconic images they grew up glancing at in textbooks and postcards; and to teach students, as his syllabus wrote, “the power of looking at art.”
Next year, we hope to see Yale offer a new introductory history of art course that provides the same broad survey of knowledge as Nemerov’s did, with a professor who can equal the former chair’s charisma and experience. Without Nemerov at the helm, it may not be as popular, but we have no doubt it can be as powerful.
For common-sense computer science
Yale has fallen behind its peers in relevant introductory computer science education.
Stanford, located in a hub of technological innovation, is known worldwide for its programs; at Harvard, an introductory computer science course provides students with programming knowledge that is also based in real-world applications.
But at Yale, a focus on the theoretical has left non-computer science majors without a practical, modern and creative programming course. Classes that might give students a foundation to produce smartphone apps or websites are simply not offered.
And while Yale’s extracurricular computer science opportunities — most notably, HackYale — are popular, they simply aren’t enough. These offerings aren’t just a testament to the growing entrepreneurial spirit of Yalies. They’re signs that the administration isn’t doing enough on its own.
Perhaps there is a concern that such a course would stray from Yale’s commitment to the liberal arts, but we believe these skills are essential to any graduating Yale student — regardless of his or her field of interest.
The Computer Science Department must step out of the past by creating an intellectually rigorous yet accessible introductory class that teaches Yalies from all majors the practical skills needed to succeed in a society that so often pairs intellectual growth with technological tools.
Yale administrators cannot sit passively by while students are forced to create the academic offerings they hope to see. We hope to see a course that reflects an active embrace of common-sense computer science.