In preparation for the most comprehensive review of Yale undergraduate academics in 30 years, University President Richard Levin laid out the review project’s infrastructure at Thursday’s faculty meeting.
Four sub-committees will operate under the direction of a steering committee headed by Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead, and the review will last throughout this academic year and into next fall.
Levin said the idea of a thorough review came in response to recent investments the University has made in Science Hill, the School of Medicine, the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, and the arts.
“On one hand, if you think about all of those things, they could proceed without having much impact on undergraduate life,” Levin said. “On the other hand, they could have great benefit. We wanted to ensure that all the changes would benefit undergraduates.”
Brodhead said each of the four task forces will have six to eight members. These subcommittees will focus on biomedical research, the physical sciences, the social sciences and the humanities. The 15-person steering committee will be composed of members of the smaller task forces.
Psychology Chairman Peter Salovey will head the biomedical technology task force. Brodhead said this subcommittee will work closely with the School of Medicine to increase the number of opportunities for undergraduate research.
“In the future, every student will have to understand the meanings and implications of today’s medical discoveries,” Brodhead said. “So we have to ask how students can take appropriate advantage of all the research that’s happening at the Med School.”
Salovey is currently in Tokyo, Japan and could not be reached for comment.
The second task force also will deal with the sciences, specifically physical sciences and engineering. This sub-committee, led by Astronomy Chairman Charles Bailyn, will largely focus on science and technology education for non-science majors.
In such a technologically advanced world, Levin said a basic knowledge of scientific principles would be valuable in the future.
“There are a lot of students who go through here without really managing to respond in a reflective way to scientific and technological ideas,” Levin said. “Our feeling is that to be a good citizen in the 21st century, a comprehension and understanding [of scientific and technological ideas] is important.”
Physics Chairman Ramamurti Shankar said such an investment would be worthwhile.
“Science is inescapable,” Shankar said. “Look at what’s happening now. People are trying to deal with biological and nuclear weapons and it can be very dangerous if politicians and decision-makers always have to rely on second hand sources for information. It’s the duty of any university in today’s world to supply a basic knowledge of science.”
Political Science Chairman Ian Shapiro will lead the task force in social sciences and international studies. Brodhead said the committee will work closely with the new Yale Center for the Study of Globalization and try to incorporate student opportunities abroad into the undergraduate curriculum.
“We need to look at how investments in the social sciences and globalization can be used to improve courses and majors,” Shapiro said. “The idea is to make sure the college gets all the benefits it can from the University’s investments.”
Maria Rosa Menocal, Spanish professor and director of the Whitney Humanities Center, will lead the subcommittee on the humanities. Brodhead said this group would coordinate its efforts with the School of Art, the Divinity School and Yale’s art galleries to systematically build these resources into the curriculum.
The subcommittee will also review special programs, such as the Humanities major and Directed Studies.
Menocal is in Paris on a leave of absence and could not be reached for comment.
The steering committee will have meetings every week or two beginning this month. The biotechnology and social sciences task forces also will begin meeting this month.
Activities in the physical sciences group will not commence until next term because of Bailyn’s teaching schedule. The humanities task force will also wait until next semester, when Menocal returns.
Before the committee makes any recommendations to the University, Brodhead said the group will do substantial research. As part of this plan, Brodhead said he is planning to make trips to New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. in order to solicit alumni opinion.