The time-honored tradition of sophomores and juniors using acceleration credits to gain admission to advanced seminars might soon become extinct.
Last spring, after receiving myriad complaints from irritated faculty members, Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead instructed the Teaching and Learning Committee to investigate students’ uses and abuses of acceleration credits. Faculty members have been discussing the committee’s recommendations, which, if adopted, may make students’ misrepresentation of their year in school a thing of the past, starting with the Class of 2005.
The Teaching and Learning Committee issued a report on March 29, 2000, which recommended using a special designation on an instructor’s class roster for accelerated students. This mark would let professors differentiate between those students who truly are members of the class and those who accelerate to gain standing. Students who accelerate with the plan to graduate early — and not just to gain seminar access — will also have the designation on class lists.
“I think it’s about time,” said Yale College Council Treasurer Vidhya Prabhakaran ’03. “The professors are tired of being tricked.”
Paul Freedman, director of undergraduate studies for the History Department, said the current acceleration policy needs reform.
“The pressure to accelerate is high during shopping period,” Freedman said. “If you can tell the instructor you’re a junior, you will have a better chance of getting into the course than if you told him you’re a sophomore merely using acceleration credits.”
Brodhead said another problem is the time frame in which students must accelerate. Under the current system — which, until the committee’s investigation, had gone unexamined since 1975 — students must decide by their third semester of enrollment whether or not to accelerate.
“This limits flexibility,” Brodhead said. “It’s not what acceleration is about.”
Under the proposed plan, students can choose to accelerate anytime during their third, fourth or fifth term. This extension gives directors of undergraduate studies — who must approve the acceleration of every student majoring in their department — the option of advising a student to wait to accelerate as opposed to rushing the decision.
YCC President Libby Smiley ’02 said the proposed new time frame would promote acceleration for the right reasons, such as if a student wants to graduate early.
“I hear a lot of people saying they accelerate ‘to keep their options open,'” Smiley said. “But it shouldn’t be a back up plan. — This new program will give students time to decide whether they want to accelerate and graduate in three years.”
The committee also recommended the minimum number of acceleration credits — with enough regular Yale credits — necessary to accelerate by one term be increased from one to four and for two terms be upped from four to nine credits, because “acceleration should be primarily for the purpose of reducing the number of terms at Yale, not for the purpose of lightening course loads,” according to the report.