With the two new residential colleges nearing completion, the University is responding to faculty concerns about how it will maintain the quality of undergraduate education as the Yale College population grows.
Last semester, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Senate published a report highlighting widespread uncertainty among the faculty about how an 800-person increase in the undergraduate population over four years will strain teaching capacity. On Wednesday, University leaders issued a response to the senate’s report, addressing the major concern that there will not be enough faculty members to teach the additional undergraduates. The response promises greater clarity about the administration’s expansion plans and notes that several departments — including history, economics and political science — are conducting multiple ladder hires to address the expansion.
“Although many at Yale have been working diligently to establish strong infrastructure for the new colleges, we can and should do better to communicate with our faculty plans to ensure a continuation of the highest standards for undergraduate education,” University President Peter Salovey wrote in the administrative response. “This goal can only be accomplished through our informed collaboration.”
FAS Dean Tamar Gendler told the News the FAS hopes to recruit about 45 new ladder faculty members on average per year over the next three to four years -— consistent with the 42 hires made this year but moving well beyond the 25 hired on the basis of searches conducted during the 2014–15 school year. The goal of the hires is not to increase the number of ladder faculty overall -— which the University has said it will not do for the new colleges -— but rather to move the FAS back to its optimal size of 700 ladder faculty members, as the number has decreased by roughly 50 since 2010, Gendler said.
“Our goal over the next few years is a net growth of roughly 10 faculty [members] per year,” Gendler said. “Assuming that, as has historically been the case, roughly 35 faculty [members] per year retire or leave Yale for another job, we expect to bring in between 40 and 50 faculty [members] each year to reach the ultimate FAS faculty size of some 700 by about 2021.”
The administration’s response highlights several “pressure points” that the expansion will bring to course offerings and faculty numbers over the next several years. For the 2017–2018 year, the 200 additional freshmen will likely take introductory classes typically taught by non-tenure track faculty, such as English 114 or L1 and L2 language courses. The University is addressing this increase through the “thoughtful hiring of well-qualified non-ladder faculty,” plans for which are already in place.
Administrators also said several departments are undergoing multiple ladder faculty searches over the next few years to allow them to address the eventual increase in upper-level seminar enrollment. These departments include economics, political science, psychology, computer science and history. Gendler said most of these searches are using vacant departmental slots and that while a few of the departments, most notably computer science, will grow significantly, most will expand only marginally.
Gendler said the History Department has an “unusually high” number of searches right now for a variety of reasons, such as new funding provided by the MacMillan Center for positions in international relations and a number of recent departures and retirements.
History professor Beverly Gage, former chair of the FAS Senate, explained that in addition to ongoing departmental searches, unique circumstances have necessitated additional hires. Those circumstances include recent retirements and history faculty members taking on time-consuming administrative roles.
Gage added that the hires are a “sincere and welcome” effort on the part of the administration to address what some perceive to be underinvestment in the FAS.
“Really thinking strategically about the FAS overall is something the faculty have been pushing for and is a welcome development,” she said.