Committee plans for influx of students

Ground will finally be broken on the two new residential colleges, although several concerns persist as the expansion efforts move forward.
Ground will finally be broken on the two new residential colleges, although several concerns persist as the expansion efforts move forward. Photo by Henry Ehrenberg.

With Yale’s two new residential colleges slated for completion in 2017, faculty and administrators have begun planning for the first major increase in student enrollment in four decades.

A new faculty committee, formed this fall, will examine the expected impact of a 15 percent increase in Yale’s undergraduate population and recommend ways for the University to prepare for the expansion, according to Provost Benjamin Polak. Chaired by Polak and Yale College Dean Mary Miller, the committee will discuss how the University should adapt its educational offerings and resources for student life to support 800 additional students.

“[The] committee is going to focus on what exactly we need to do to teach the new students — how many additional sections of organic chemistry do we need?” said Polak. “It’s not very exciting, but it’s very important.”

To accommodate a 200-student increase in each class year, Yale will likely need to add more teaching fellows, Polak said. If the committee finds that freshman writing seminars need to be expanded, new English faculty members should be hired before the first larger class steps onto campus, he said.

Biology professor Douglas Kankel said while lecture-style classes are unlikely to see much change, Yale does not currently have enough laboratory space to accommodate a larger student body. Kankel said this problem will be fixed before the new residential colleges are opened: Sterling Chemistry Laboratory is currently undergoing a major renovation slated to finish by fall 2016 that includes laboratory expansions.

The last time Yale assessed the consequences of adding two new residential colleges to the school was in 2008, when two committees appointed by then-University President Richard Levin produced a 100-page report detailing recommendations that committee members felt should be carried out if the “proposed expansion goes forward.” Some of the recommendations included creating a security plan for the area surrounding the new residential colleges, adding transportation to help students travel between the colleges and central campus and creating more space for fitness and recreation resources in the Science Hill area.

Polak said in a Wednesday email that the new committee on residential colleges has yet to meet, but its membership will be announced to the Yale community later this week.

Though applications to Yale College have approximately quadrupled over the past four decades, the size of the undergraduate population has remained relatively steady until now. Adding two new residential colleges will allow Yale to admit more students and share its resources, Miller said.

Miller said many of Yale’s peer institutions have already expanded the size of their undergraduate populations: Harvard University swelled in size when the school combined with Radcliffe in the 1970s, and Princeton University’s student body has grown by about 18 percent since Miller graduated in 1975, she said. This summer, Stanford University pledged to increase its undergraduate population by approximately 100 students per year.

In addition to the committee examining the new residential colleges, a planning committee for the Yale Biology Building is also in the process of being formed. Ronald Breaker, chair of the Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology Department, said the committee will have to make sure that the seven-year-old design of the Yale Biology Building can still accommodate future research needs while balancing costs.

A third committee consisting of faculty and students from the Graduate School was formed last spring to address issues involving the renovation of the Hall of Graduate Studies, according to Thomas Pollard, Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

Several students interviewed said they were enthusiastic about the expansion of Yale College. Stuart Teal ’14 said he hopes the university will hire more professors as a result of the expansion, perhaps lowering the student-faculty ratio.

Polak announced target completion dates for the two residential colleges, the Yale Biology Building and the renovation of the Hall of Graduate Studies in a Monday email.

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