Faculty committee recommends student body growth delay

In developing Yale’s two new residential colleges, the University had planned to increase the size of the incoming freshman class by 200 students in the fall of 2016. But now, the ad hoc committee on Yale College expansion has recommended that the process be delayed by a year.

In a Thursday faculty meeting, roughly 75 faculty members gathered for what was meant to be a tying together of loose ends on two major debates: grading policy and the two new residential colleges. While the faculty members tabled the discussion of grading policy — which concerned only a minor point about independent study grades — they discussed the logistics of increasing the student body by 15 percent over four years, touching on the impact on discussion sections and housing.

The ad hoc committee on Yale College expansion presented its recommendation that 200 new students be added to the class of 2021 instead of the class of 2020 as was previously considered. The University initially planned to move some 200 incoming freshmen to Swing Space in the fall of 2016 and then have them move along with new freshmen in 2017 to the new residential college buildings. Yale College Dean Mary Miller said this plan ultimately proved logistically troublesome, as Swing Space is occupied by juniors and would not provide the incoming freshmen — who would belong to the two new residential college communities — with the traditional residential college experience.

“You can just imagine the complexity of not having a dining hall, not having a college,” said Miller. “You might have a master and dean, but all the great advantages lie waiting.”

The last major expansion of the college system was the addition of Morse and Stiles colleges in the 1960s, and University Provost Benjamin Polak noted that today’s University was enormously impacted by that change. Polak called the future addition of new students “transformative.”

The committee, co-chaired by Polak and Miller, presented “key areas of focus” to the faculty meeting. The planned agenda included the timing of the expansion, increased demand for gateway classes and the anticipated constraints on extracurricular resources.

Polak added that some details still need finalizing, including the possibility of extra shuttles up Prospect Street, the need for more rehearsal spaces and organizing sections of large classes like “Introductory Microeconomics.”

Miller said the University is still waiting on part of a subcommittee report on how to best restructure discussion sections in light of the expansion, since graduate students will be scarce for teaching fellow positions.

School of Engineering Dean Kyle Vanderlick presented a proposal for a joint body of deans, provosts and graduate and professional students to communicate quickly at the beginning of each semester as need for teaching fellows is negotiated.

Miller, who is stepping down this summer, said the next Yale College Dean will manage the transfer of upperclassmen to the new residential colleges.

“I don’t think it’s wise for a committee to be making those determinations now,” Miller said, noting that students should be part of the brainstorming process.

Committee member and music professor Gundula Kreuzer said Thursday’s meeting was the last open forum for faculty input on the issue, although suggestions via email would still be considered. She added that she anticipates the committee’s report to be ready by the end of the semester.

While Miller emphasized that financial aid will grow to accommodate the larger student body, she admitted that the funds will have to increasingly come out of annual alumni donations.

At the meeting, the faculty also voted to postpone a vote on changing grading for independent studies from letter grades to a written report.

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