Acceleration, a practice that allows students to replace terms at Yale with advanced placement credits, is abused so frequently that few understand — and fewer still abide by — its original intent: early graduation. The popular academic option, marketed to sophomores as an insurance policy against an uncertain future, has been reduced to a tool for students looking to accelerate class status to gain admission into high-level seminars, better housing and even more desirable summer internships. But the ride may soon come to an end. Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead wisely instructed the Teaching and Learning Committee last spring to investigate the practice, and the committee is proposing a set of reforms for the next academic year.
Of all the Teaching and Learning Committee’s recommendations, the most cogent is its proposal to add flexibility to the time frame in which students can apply for acceleration. Under the new plan, students can accelerate during their third, fourth or fifth terms. Currently, students can accelerate only in the first semester of their sophomore year. More time would mean that students could accelerate if the need arose later in their careers, cutting out the acceleration-as-insurance-policy rationale often peddled en masse by residential college deans.
But more can be done. Acceleration now is a miracle drug: it is readily available, it has no adverse consequences and its effects can be undone by signing a form in a dean’s office. To prevent its abuse, Yale should take steps to discourage casual accelerators from getting their fix. Acceleration — and, more importantly, deceleration — should not be a form to be filled out. It should be the result of a conversation with a dean about plans, goals and reasons. Those who need it can get it, and those who would flaunt it are discouraged.