Nearly a year after its first meeting, the Committee on Yale College Education is taking final steps to produce a formal set of recommendations.
Over the past year, the 41-member committee has discussed the Yale College distributional requirements, study abroad and the language requirement, said Political Science chairman Ian Shapiro, who leads the social and international studies working group. He said there were also discussions about creating more seminars for freshman, making seminars available to nonmajors, and examining the faculty increases these proposals would require. In addition, the committee has discussed advising and science culture at Yale.
The academic review committee, which is composed of faculty, students and alumni, is divided into four working groups — biomedical education, physical sciences and engineering, social and international studies, and the humanities and arts. Yale President Richard Levin announced the review at the Tercentennial Convocation in October 2001 and appointed Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead to lead it.
Brodhead said he hoped to have a draft of the report when the committee meets as a whole at the end of February.
“I’ve been trying to raise the pressure to bring things to sufficient conclusion that we can see what else needs to be done,” Brodhead said. “It’s like writing a paper — you write down the thoughts you do understand and then you see what you don’t understand.”
A new subcommittee on advising, led by Associate Yale College Dean Penelope Laurans, met for the first time shortly before winter break, said Rachel Alpert ’03, a member of the social sciences subcommittee. Laurans said in an e-mail that the advising committee is composed of students and faculty from the academic review committee, as well as residential college deans, freshman counselors, Yale College assistants deans and students in specific academic areas, such as those who had an early focus in science.
“It is the great range and variety of people and their different needs that makes formulating a system that is not superficial so complex and difficult,” Laurans said. “We are not necessarily looking to entirely reinvent the wheel but to find a number of smaller pragmatic ways to make a real difference.”
Laurans said the committee is focusing on advising students before they choose their majors, but emphasized that it would not be possible to discuss the different facets of advising separately.
“Advising is hydra-headed,” Laurans said. “There is general freshman advising, course and departmental advising, major advising, pre-med advising, career advising, life advising. Some of these are extricable from others, but many are deeply intertwined with at least some of the others.”
Justin Cohen ’04, a member of the physical sciences working group, said the academic review committee knew that advising was one of the biggest problems in Yale College. He said the committee was examining advising in terms of the different needs of students at different times.
“Yale treats advising as one thing when actually it is many things,” Cohen said.
Barbara Wexelman ’03, a member of the physical sciences subcommittee, said advising was a special issue because it did not fall within the domain of any single working group and it was too large an issue for the central coordinating committee to tackle alone.
Peter Salovey, Graduate School dean and chairman of the biomedical education working group, said the Yale community would not be disappointed with the scope or boldness of the academic review’s recommendations.
“I think many of the issues you have heard and many of the things there have been a lot of outreach to the undergraduates about are on the table,” Salovey said.
Cohen said science for non-science majors was the most pressing problem for his working group and it was working on ways to expand course offerings for non-science majors. He also said the group was interested in creating a resource center for the sciences.
The physical sciences working group sent a survey last fall on science at Yale to seniors who had taken the fewest science courses. The sub-committee has since drafted a few of its proposals, including one on the culture of science at Yale, Wexelman said.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing it all come together,” Wexelman said. “I’d like to see Yale’s reaction to it before I graduate.”