Davenport College students had the chance to fire questions about online education, a student center and the future of the residential colleges at President-elect Peter Salovey at a Davenport Master’s Tea on Tuesday afternoon.
Salovey, a Davenport fellow, spoke in the college’s common room to roughly 30 students, faculty and staff affiliated with Davenport. He opened the floor for questions and comments on ways he could best improve the University following brief opening statements about his vision for a more open, innovative, accessible and excellent Yale — goals he has repeated since the Yale Corporation announced his presidency on Nov. 9.
“The idea is, in whatever you do, whether its psychology or engineering, pick ways in which Yale can do it more excellently,” Salovey said.
A number of questions focused on University finances, and Salovey addressed topics such as a potential student center, the two new residential colleges and ways in which alumni can donate money.
Salovey said he was open to student suggestions about building a student center, but that the idea had two potential problems — it could “suck the life out of the residential colleges” if students used it too much or residential college life could be so strong that no one would go there.
“It’s a little ironic,” Salovey added. “We’re in a time that people would love to see a student center, having just spent all that money on the residential college [renovations].”
Salovey proposed several other ways in which he could further unify the University, including integrating the two new residential colleges if the University raises the necessary funding for their construction.
He explained that the new Center for Engineering Innovation and Design was intentionally placed near the site of the two new colleges and he mentioned the possibility of opening a University theater in close proximity to the new colleges to further spread facilities across campus.
“There’s three towers on the new campus — two of them are almost as tall as Harkness tower — so you will be able to see the new colleges anywhere on campus,” Salovey added. “Psychologically, I think that’s important.”
Additionally, Salovey said problems concerning a divide between athletes and non-athletes on campus stem from a lack of contact between the two groups of students, adding that the division could be fixed by encouraging athletes to live in the residential colleges and urging non-athletes to support Yale teams.
Salovey also said he maintains a commitment to improving courses in the STEM departments by revamping the science programs’ introductory requirements, which are typically taught in large lecture formats.
“[Introductory science courses] are taught in big numbers, in crummy spaces, and are not always taught by the most gifted faculty,” Salovey said.
The solution involves smaller class sizes, more hands-on learning and cutting-edge technology, Salovey said. He also said administrators have created a committee to work on a report about academics in STEM field, leading to improvements in those areas. The biology and physics departments, he added, are separately working on ways to improve their introductory tracks.
Zaina Zayyad ’14, a neurobiology major who asked Salovey about STEM introductory classes, said she was happy to hear the University is making sciences a priority.
”I really hope we’ll be able to see the effects of Yale’s improvements in the sciences that President-elect Salovey mentioned we would,” she added.
Salovey will assume the presidency on June 30.