November 3rd, 2009 | Uncategorized

Grad students give accreditation committee an earful

Three members of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges Commission on Institutions of Higher Education visiting team got more than they bargained for at an open student forum this afternoon in Linsly-Chittenden Hall.

Fewer than 10 of the approximately 40 students in attendance were graduate students, and many of them were affiliated with the Graduate Employees and Students Organization. GESO has been lobbying Yale to recognize a graduate student teachers union since 1991.

Northwestern University President Morton Schapiro, the chair of Yale’s visiting team, led a panel with Becky Brodigan, vice president of institutional planning at Bowdoin College, and Julianne Ohotnicky, Smith College’s dean of students and student affairs. Ohotnicky will be responsible for writing the section of Yale’s NEASC CIHE evaluation on students and student life.

Mark Rivera GRD ’15 kicked off the discussion by asking the NEASC CIHE contingent if they were concerned about Yale’s intent to reevaluate the role of section teaching for graduate students. This view was featured in Yale’s self-study report, published online last month.

For the rest of the hour-long discussion, the topic rarely diverged from graduate student teaching opportunities, their bearing on job placement and a lack of communication between the University and graduate students on changes to the program. Students urged the NEASC CIHE team to encourage Yale to accept a graduate student employees union, expressed frustration with a lack of teaching opportunities for sixth year graduate students and said teaching experience while in graduate school was key to job placement later on.

“There is a dislocation between what we’re given as teaching opportunities and what we need as teaching opportunities,” Laura Miles GRD ’11 said. “If the University doesn’t understand that better teachers from the Ph.D program make graduate programs better, they’re missing out on something.”

The discussion was not without moments of humor, however, as when Molly Farrell GRD ’11 tried to respond to a comment on sustainable university growth.

“I’m not an expert on institutional investment,” Farrell said. “I’m an expert on early Puritan poetry in the English Department. So ask me about that.”

The NEASC CIHE visiting team will be on Yale’s campus until early Wednesday morning, when they will present a preliminary report on their findings to University administrators.

  • 0Y9

    Students going into grad school ought to be responsible for their own decisions; I don’t know how you could possibly end up at Yale without knowing beforehand exactly how limited your teaching options are going to be. I left for a different institution for grad school, and this was one of the main reasons.

    Of course it would make Yale an even better place for graduate study if students had more teaching opportunities. It would probably also make Yale a worse place for undergraduate study. (Ask yourself which body of students Yale makes more money on, and then the lack of teaching opportunities won’t seem very surprising.)

  • Tor

    Yale grad students did come here knowing what the teaching setup is–not great, but okay. The students at the event last night were speaking out to keep it from getting worse. Departments are reducing the number of TF positions and limiting opportunities to teach freshman courses. These vacancies are not being filled by senior faculty though. Instead, Yale is hiring more lecturers, who, when they arrive, may have little more experience than the grad students already here. Many of these lecturers are fantastic teachers, just as many grad students are. But the positions are not well-paid or stable. Moreover, by limiting teaching opportunities, Yale is making it difficult for their grad students to get jobs (despite the Yale name, many schools value teaching experience more highly), which risks hurting the standing of their grad programs. So, these cost-cutting measures are not meant to improve the quality of instruction; they do nothing to increase interaction between senior faculty and students. And it’s a dubious claim to say senior faculty provide better instruction anyway–grad students, lecturers, and faculty all pretty much run the gamut from terrible to outstanding, at least in the humanities programs with which I’m familiar.

  • errol

    The second sentence should read, ‘Fewer than 10 of the approximately 40 students in attendance were UNDERgraduate students.’

    The graduate students were asked to raise their hands, and there were at least 30.

    There were fewer than 8 undergraduate students. Including this reporter.

    Unfortunately this error completely changes the meaning of this article! Please fix it.

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