Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead, who is heading Yale’s academic review, offered a Bulldog perspective to Harvard University last week as the Cantabs embarked on their own curricular review.
At a symposium called “Curricular Options and Opportunities: Views from Outside Cambridge,” Brodhead and other Ivy League representatives addressed Harvard faculty members and students last Thursday. Speakers discussed different models for undergraduate education, using Yale, Brown University and Columbia University as examples of varying approaches to curricular requirements, Brodhead said.
Benedict Gross, the Harvard dean of undergraduate education who will lead Harvard’s review, presided over the panel. Other panelists included Brown Dean of the College Paul Armstrong and Columbia Jewish history professor Michael Stanislawski.
William Kirby, dean of Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, kicked off the school’s curricular review in October in a letter to the members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Yale started its own academic review last year and its 41-member committee, composed of students, alumni and faculty and led by Brodhead, is now starting to draft proposals.
Brown is famous for its “open curriculum” and Columbia has a core curriculum, Brodhead said.
“Yale has more structure than Brown, but more freedom to complete the structure than either Harvard or Columbia,” Brodhead said. “The regulations and requirements at any school have only a little to do with what kind of education you would get there.”
Gross said the panel was part of a series of symposia aimed at introducing faculty and students to the issues of the review. He said he would like to start the review with a committee next year.
The first symposium, held Nov. 6, addressed the Harvard Core and consisted of four Harvard faculty members. Gross said the review would not focus exclusively on the Core.
“The whole curriculum will be reviewed,” Gross said. “If you change one thing it affects a whole bunch of others.”
Brodhead said the Yale faculty considered Harvard’s Core when the distributional requirements were first established.
“The faculty here were of the view that it would be best to tell students what kinds of things they should study, but let them find specific examples that interest them,” Brodhead said.
Harvard professor Maria Tatar, who was on the panel for the first symposium, said she hopes young faculty members and students will have input on the review, especially when addressing the Core.
“My hope is that there will be broad representation on the committee,” Tatar said.
Gross said he thought there would be 10 to 12 faculty members and two to four students on Harvard’s committee.
“All of us made the point of how valuable it has been to have students involved in the process,” Brodhead said.
Gross said a possible structure for the review might be four committees examining different elements of the curriculum — undergraduate academic experience, concentrations, teaching and general education.
Yale’s academic review is divided into four subcommittees — biomedical education, physical sciences and engineering, social and international studies, and the humanities and arts.
Brodhead said the proposed structure for Harvard’s review was more general than Yale’s review.
“We felt that we would be dealing with a certain number of general questions, but we would be dealing with them in a particular opportunity,” Brodhead said.