The opening of Benjamin Franklin and Pauli Murray colleges has generated excitement across Yale, as students explore the Prospect Street facilities, marveling at the newest dorm rooms and dining halls on campus.
Yet in the Faculty of Arts and Science Senate, concerns and uncertainties about the college expansion persist. Members of the FAS Senate committee that published a 2016 report detailing the academic impact of the expansion say the administration has not communicated enough with faculty about logistics or the broader educational issues raised by the opening of the two colleges.
The Senate report argued that the expansion, which increased the size of the first-year class to 1,600 students, threatens to strain the faculty and reduce the quality of Yale’s undergraduate education. The report made several specific recommendations, including an increase in faculty hiring and adjustments to teaching fellow policies.
But the report’s message extended beyond logistical details, calling for improved communication between faculty and administrators about the growth of the undergraduate population, as well as a wider-ranging discussion focused on the nature of education at Yale.
“Perhaps the greatest overriding concern is the current tendency to view the college expansion primarily as a budgetary and logistical issue,” the report stated.
Although it remains too early to tell whether the college expansion will create logistical obstacles, Yale has begun to address some of the recommendations in the Senate report by hiring new faculty and expanding the number of introductory courses in some departments based on enrollment projections. But so far, the authors of the report say, the University has not released enough information about its expansion planning or taken the opportunity to conduct a broader discussion.
“I was not particularly satisfied with the amount and substance of the communication,” said chemistry professor Charles Schmuttenmaer, one of the authors. “The administration was very slow to announce their plans, and I do not think they really listened to the faculty.”
Yale responded to the Senate report last September with a memorandum sent to faculty by University President Peter Salovey. The document detailed the University’s preparation for the college expansion and promised improved communication between faculty and administrators. The memo also noted that the faculty-led Committee on Teaching for the 21st Century would address big-picture questions raised by the college expansion and other changes to the educational landscape.
“We have to remember that there were several planning committees that included faculty that met over several years to try to anticipate any issues that having 200 more students in each cohort could raise,” Salovey said in an interview with the News this week. “So there has been a lot of planning and thinking about all this.”
Salovey added that he meets with the FAS each fall at the invitation of the Senate, and plans to provide new information on faculty hiring to the FAS in the coming weeks.
The faculty who crafted the report said they hoped their recommendations would prompt a long-running exchange with the University’s administration. The report was designed to initiate a broad conversation about the goals of undergraduate education at Yale, said Ruth Koizim, a French professor who served on the committee that produced the report.
And so far, she said, there have not been “any far-reaching discussions.”
Koizim said the administration’s initial response to the report was overdue. And although Yale has a website with information about the new colleges, she said, it does not address the faculty’s logistical questions or big-picture concerns.
“I don’t think there’s been a deliberate hiding of information,” Koizim said. “I think people are just scrambling.”
Still, Yale has taken steps over the last year to respond to the Senate’s recommendations.
One of the report’s central suggestions was for Yale to increase the size of the FAS to accommodate the growing student body.
In an interview with the News this week, Gendler said the net size of the tenured and tenure-track faculty has grown by 17 people since the fall of 2016, expanding the FAS to 668 members. Anticipating the 15 percent increase in the size of the first-year class, Yale also added 17 nonladder — now called “instructional” — positions to the FAS.
Thirty-four FAS ladder faculty members who taught in fall 2016 are no longer on the faculty, “exactly the normal number of departures,” Gendler said. Thus, she said, 51 FAS ladder faculty are now teaching who were not at Yale last fall. Three additional science faculty will join the FAS in January.
“This [net growth] is significantly higher than normal,” Gendler said. “In a typical year, we bring in 35 faculty.”
Still, faculty say the administration should do more to encourage a broad-ranging discussion about the ideals of undergraduate education at Yale.
“There are pedagogical issues at stake as well as logistical issues,” said Beverly Gage, a history professor who chaired the committee that wrote the college expansion report. “We had hoped that those would be places where the faculty could really have a robust discussion about the future of the Yale College system, but so far faculty have not been especially involved in those conversations.”
The inability of the report to prompt that discussion may highlight the inherent limitations of the Senate, an advisory body established two years ago to give faculty a greater voice in administrative decisions.
Over the coming months, the Senate plans to discuss strategies to ensure its reports are addressed by relevant administrators, according to Koizim.
“We knew from the beginning that we were to be an advisory body,” Schmuttenmaer said. “It is better to have an advisory body than nothing at all.”
Yale has no formal mechanism for deciding who responds to each Senate report. Typically, Gendler said, responses are split between her, Yale College Dean Marvin Chun and Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Lynn Cooley.
Last year, Gendler, Cooley and former Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway worked together to respond to the new colleges report, Gendler said.
“Where the primary concern is with the FAS faculty or departments, I or one of the FAS associate or divisional deans works with the Senate to address the issues,” she said. “Where the primary concern is with the graduate program or the undergraduate curriculum, Dean Chun or Dean Cooley might also be involved.”
Still, despite gaps in communication, Koizim, Schmuttenmaer and Gage said they support the opening of the new colleges and are optimistic about the future, especially now that Yale is able to welcome more students each year.
“This is not a sort of ‘this never should have happened,’” Gage said. “The new colleges look beautiful, I think they’re wonderful. I support the expansion of the undergraduate colleges.”
The establishment of Benjamin Franklin and Murray marks the first additions to the residential college system since 1961.
Rachel Treisman | firstname.lastname@example.org | @rachel_treisman
David Yaffe-Bellany | email@example.com | @yaffebellany
Correction, Sept. 2: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that 35 FAS ladder faculty members who taught in fall 2016 are no longer on the faculty, when in fact it was 34.