As someone who keeps up pretty well with current events, I have a dreadful knowledge of Yale politics. Despite my best efforts, I cannot help but find my eyes glazing over articles or columns about the administration, apparent issues with transparency or some presidential hubbub.
For whatever merit, though, this not-so-informed state characterizes the average student’s perspective far more often than not. Despite the fact that we study, work, and live here, we really know next to nothing the details of actually running a University. Nonetheless, we still absolutely care about Yale’s future, and there are certain reforms — from the perspective of the casual, layman student — we can see that might be helpful under President Peter Salovey.
Three pretty good ideas:
First, make Distributional Requirements Credit/D/Fail. As a humanities-oriented student, I have often sought the academic Holy Grail that is a “gut” SC or QR. We all do this, repressing a small, deep-seated sense of guilt in exchange for a low-placed hurdle on the road to graduation. Yet, it doesn’t need to be this way. If we allowed distributional requirements to be taken Credit/D, we would immediately find a more adventurous academic culture, where students are willing to sincerely explore areas outside their comfort zone without fear of damaging their GPAs.
Second, allow inter-residential college housing. Without a doubt, the residential college system is an invaluable aspect of Yale’s culture. For every student, it immediately establishes a sense of community as well as a network of friendships perhaps otherwise never discovered. Nevertheless, for upperclassmen, this boon does come with diminishing marginal returns. As one gets older, looking only to a year or two left here, a question arises as one looks to their group of friends: Do you live off-campus or never live with certain friends at all? Allowing some flexibility in the on-campus housing process can rid us of this dichotomy.
Third, diversify the faculty. While much attention recently has been paid to issues of gender or racial diversity, intellectual diversity has been wholly looked over. We should take a page from the conservative bastions of Harvard Law School (under Elena Kagan) and the University of Colorado at Boulder, and make the effort to hire at least a few rebellious academics. With the majority of Yale’s right-leaning professors beginning to resemble the men they teach about, the next generation of tenured professors will likely determine whether or not any political diversity at all will exist on campus.
Two possibly good ideas:
Fourth, Mr. President, teach a class. Having President Salovey teach a lecture would not only be an intellectual benefit to campus in its own right, but also an important step in bridging the chasm between Woodbridge and the student body. President Levin accomplished a number of admirable goals while in office, but he was also a president largely absent from campus. For students to care about the administration, we need a face for the bureaucracy. And if Newt Gingrich could do it while speaker, then Peter Salovey definitely can as president.
Fifth, add a spring term Camp Yale. The academic calendar right now is a mess. The newly inserted October break was a valiant effort, but also a tremendous disaster that produced a remarkably difficult fall term reading week. The new break, coupled with a prolonged winter break, disrupts the rhythm of the academic year — leaving freshmen still unsettled. We should scrap the new break, restore a regular reading week and replace a few days off the winter break for a revamped Camp Yale. The extra days will importantly allow students to get back in a groove, be it with their Freshmen Counselors or Tommy at Box63.
One probably terrible idea:
Sixth, sell alcohol at Durfee’s. As Hobbes described life as “poor, nasty, brutish and short,” the existence of the collegiate drinker is “expensive, unsafe, unregulated and blurry.” There are litanies of problems that come from university drinking policies, but we can take at least one step forward by distributing and regulating the product itself. Offering a factory-price on-campus option for beers and wines would not only save Yale students immeasurable amounts of money, but it will allow us to both track student consumption, cut down on the currently prolific use of fake IDs (has anyone ever seen a fake Yale ID?) and keep students from traveling deep into the city for cheap booze. Durfee’s already sells plastic shot glasses, solo cups and a barrage of chasers — let’s just put the whole thing under one roof.
Harry Graver is a junior in Davenport College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .