The News’ editorial regarding the new majors in Computing and the Arts and Modern Middle East Studies refers to them as “academic placebos” and complains that “while interdisciplinary majors provide the variety central to [the University’s] mission, they sidestep the grounding that students can get from the broader, more fundamental majors such as political science, English, anthropology or physics.”
The Committee on Majors reviews all proposals for new majors and only approves those that provide broad and fundamental training in coherent disciplinary areas and fields of study.
In the case of Modern Middle East Studies, majors will take a set of introductory and intermediate courses in the languages and civilization of the modern Middle East, offered by the department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. They will then build on that fundamental disciplinary knowledge with courses in closely related departments. In Computing and the Arts, majors will each learn two disciplines, computer science and one of five arts disciplines. Both new majors fully meet the goals of a liberal arts education.
Although the College is reluctant to offer new majors where there may be a question about long-term feasibility or faculty resources, these two majors offer important models for why the curriculum must change over time: the Middle East is a region of great importance that demands to be understood in an interdisciplinary perspective; Computing and the Arts responds to the expansion of knowledge and the particular synergies available at Yale, which has world-renowned experts in Computer Science and a deep and distinguished history in Arts education.
The new majors are fully consonant with the goals of Yale as both a global research university and an undergraduate college that strives to educate the intellectual and social leaders of the future. That is why the faculty voted unanimously to approve the two new majors.
The writer, a professor of both English and comparative literature, is the chair of the Committee on Majors.