The Center for Teaching and Learning has pushed ahead with plans to physically and structurally consolidate various academic support resources around the University, despite some staff members’ reservations.
The CTL was established in July 2014 to integrate on-campus services for undergraduates, graduate students and faculty members in areas like writing, language study and technology use. Since then, the consolidation process has progressed both physically and in less visible ways, such as online. While the CTL’s constituent programs originally operated out of seven different locations on campus, over the summer the center reduced that number to three. All the units now share the common CTL website instead of their individual websites. The Center plans to physically unify all these services into one central location on two floors of Sterling Memorial Library by December 2016. But as that date nears, some of the center’s staff have raised concerns about the implications of the consolidation.
CTL Executive Director Jennifer Frederick, who has already met with architects to discuss preliminary ideas, said she envisions a space that is flexible and will promote a sense of community. She said the design may include minimal walls and flexible dividers. But some staff members have expressed worries about whether they will still have access to enclosed working spaces.
“I really value collaboration, but some of us want to retain our offices because we feel our most important collaborations work best in private,” said Ryan Wepler, associate director of the Yale College Writing Center. “Others involved in the merger have voiced similar concerns about how working in an open-air space would negatively affect the collaborations they already have as teachers, mentors, advisors and consultants.”
But Frederick said a more open model will make collaboration easier, adding that office spaces create a defined hierarchy that the center is trying to avoid.
Deputy Provost for Teaching and Learning Scott Strobel agreed. The design must take into account the fact that the Center will be a public space, he said.
“If we are going to have a whole set of small offices that walls us off, it creates an unfriendly and unwelcoming space in the library,” Strobel said. “That really isn’t the vision for the space where people come to interact and engage.”
The center’s structural organization is also in flux, including whether the individual resources will retain their own name and brand.
Wepler said he is “mildly concerned” that the merger will lower the visibility of individual centers and resources. The Writing Center has an established presence on campus which may become less recognizable if it is merged with the overall CTL brand, he said.
Staff members at two other CTL resources voiced similar concerns about the organizational and physical merger, but declined to comment further.
Frederick acknowledged that preserving the distinct recognizability of each resource is challenging, but said having centers within centers would be “nonsense.” Instead, she said, the resources will become substructures of CTL and continue to provide their trademark services. Some of the resources will maintain their brands, she said. For example, while the Yale Teaching Center and the Center for Scientific Teaching no longer exist and their services have been integrated into the CTL, the Writing Center will retain its name until the entire CTL moves into the Sterling Library space.
Strobel also noted that the individual resources will still be highlighted and showcased, but that it is “unmanageable” to have each resource maintain a more distinct identity.
While Frederick and Strobel acknowledged staff members’ concerns, they maintained that the organizational and physical consolidation supports the University’s goal of making the CTL a highly visible and utilized resource on campus.
“We are making a better ‘cake,’ rather than focusing on the individual ingredients,” Frederick said.
Roughly 70 staff members will work within the new CTL.