Yale’s application-only academic majors will not open their doors to all students any time soon.
Though Princeton recently dropped the application process for the undergraduate program in its Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Yale is not planning to make a similar adjustment for its Global Affairs or Ethics, Politics and Economics programs for budgetary reasons, according to leadership in both majors. Though Yale students interviewed said the application process deters some students from applying and throws those rejected off their intended academic tracks, some said they are drawn to the programs’ exclusivity.
In an email to the News, James Levinsohn, the director of the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, said he does not expect the major to drop its cap of about 50 students. Budgetary constrains have limited the major’s ability to expand, he said.
“We cannot really drop the application since we don’t have the resources to meet demand,” Levinsohn said.
Political science professor Steven Wilkinson, who is the director of undergraduate studies for EP&E, echoed the analysis for the EP&E major.
Dean of Yale College Mary Miller said these budgetary limitations stem from the fact that Global Affairs and EP&E are interdisciplinary majors and are not run by departments. She added that the architecture major — which is also application-based — has to stay capped because of limited studio space and the need to share resources with the School of Architecture.
Expanding the Global Affairs major would require hiring additional faculty to maintain small class sizes and provide support for capstone projects, which are Global Affairs students’ equivalent of a senior thesis, Levinsohn said. Wilkinson said EP&E’s similar emphasis on seminars likewise puts severe limits on its budget.
For Princeton, equalizing student access to the Woodrow Wilson program was the result of recommendations from a committee that conducted a yearlong review of the Woodrow Wilson School. Princeton now has no selective undergraduate majors.
“To be honest I’m very glad they dropped the application,” said Tomi Johnson, a sophomore at Princeton who plans to do the program. “It makes the Wilson School more accessible and less intimidating as a [prospective] major.”
The Princeton class of 2015, which is the first class to experience the nonselective major, has a record number of students in the Woodrow Wilson program. Some students have expressed concern that the major will be less intimate now, Johnson said.
Though Princeton students no longer have to apply to the program, they must now complete a set of prerequisite courses that were not previously mandatory. Members of the Princeton class of 2015 were able to enter the school this fall as long as they had completed one course in statistics, one in microeconomics, one in history and one in either politics, sociology or psychology.
Princeton’s decision to add prerequisites marks a key difference from Yale’s selective programs, Wilkinson said. Neither Ethics, Politics and Economics or Global Affairs have prerequisites in order to accommodate students who had not originally planned to major in those subjects, he said.
“We’ve sometimes debated whether we should have [requirements],” Wilkinson said. “The reason we haven’t is that we don’t want to block off the incredibly smart person who does fine art or biology who decides in sophomore year, ‘I’d really like to switch to EP&E.”
Still, students interviewed said many Yalies feel obligated to start fulfilling the majors’ requirements in order to strengthen their applications.
Maxwell Ulin ’17 said freshmen that hope to major in Global Affairs or EP&E must accept a degree of uncertainty in their academic trajectories.
“If you apply to Global Affairs and you were planning on being a Global Affairs major and were taking classes in global affairs and get rejected, suddenly you have to change course,” he said, adding that he finds the selectivity of these majors dissuading.
Applications to Global Affairs are due Nov. 22, while EP&E applications are due Dec. 6.