Put bluntly, the proposed vision for the future Jackson School for Global Affairs is disappointing. As graduate students, we made the decision to come to Jackson after seeing the Institute’s respected practitioners in action — from building a business in Hope Village, Somalia, to convening with the latest U.S. Ambassador to Syria to discuss Middle East politics, our decision to attend was rooted in Jackson’s practical impact on the world. We view this school as unique in the Yale landscape, an institution that values Jackson leaders’ motivation to effect positive change in the world over the publish-or-perish mindset of academia. In contrast, the future Jackson School envisioned in the Chevalier report is entirely unrecognizable and is not a place that we as current students and invested members of the community would have chosen to attend.
When discussing the future direction of the school, the report centers around the questions of what the future holds for global policy as well as the role that Yale will play in these crucial conversations. Where it loses us, however, is where it proclaims that Jackson should provide “the intellectual underpinning for evidence-based policy-making,” then turns around and recommends that “Jackson should remain focused on global affairs, and not become a school of public policy.” What is the purpose of a policy school that does not embrace policy? While this issue may sound like a purely semantic distinction, it is critical in guiding the future of Jackson. The Chevalier report fails to adequately address this critical question. Instead, the report focuses on faculty jobs, tenure track positions and bureaucratic machinations of the institution.
The clearest action recommended by the report is the incorporation of tenure-track faculty into Jackson. We agree that this is necessary. Where we disagree, however, is the dominance of the school by faculty rather than real-world practitioners. The Chevalier report advocates for a governance structure mostly comprised of tenure-track faculty, thinned of current lecturers and fellows. We firmly believe that this luminary cadre of practitioners that Jim Levinsohn established have made Jackson what it is today. Having world-class economists, statisticians and historians teach core classes is an important bonus to the Jackson model, but the fellows are equally if not more crucial — they provide the bread and butter of professional training opportunities to students. Unfortunately, these fellows are the same ones that the Chevalier committee left out, even recommending reducing their number in the future School of Global Affairs. To us, these oversights threaten the heart of what makes Jackson special. The fellows, whom we are honored to have with us, are exactly the people who should be steering a successful transformation of Jackson into a full-blown professional school.
To add insult to injury, the report argues that the tenure-track faculty that it hopes will govern Jackson are not truly Jackson faculty at all. The report recommends that Jackson faculty be jointly appointed with other departments at Yale, which means that final decisions on who receives tenure will be driven by the faculty member’s home department — a home department that will not be Jackson. Whether it be history, political science or any other department at Yale, the home department at hand will be able to recommend and grant tenure over the objections of Jackson without granting Jackson the ability to do the same, leaving it toothless. It is easy to see where this leads: a school ruled by tenure-track faculty, of which Jackson is always the second choice to a home department that offers incentives for professors.
The Chevalier report correctly identifies that Jackson has a weakness in producing competitive policy professionals despite the student population’s clear focus on public service. What value should current and prospective students find in attending a two-year program at Yale if, as the report says, their job prospects following graduation are similar to those of a recently graduated Yale College senior? This is an important question that needs to be resolved, but the proposed solutions simply do not solve this problem. We need a stronger vision for Jackson — one where the master’s program provides a combination of experiences, education and training to vault its graduates ahead of the pack.
Jackson deserves a compelling vision that matches the strength of its appointed faculty. Yale needs to improve the Chevalier report by updating it with a more robust vision for Jackson, a vision that is informed by the practitioners who were excluded the first time around, includes a recognition of the importance of professional training and embraces the professionals that have lived the careers Jackson is hoping to facilitate. While Jackson’s elevation to a school is a welcome recognition of the impact it can have on society, it should not sacrifice what has made Jackson successful thus far. Our hope is that the future of this school, even as we graduate and move on, is a place that we would choose for ourselves once again.
Michael Chieco is a second-year student at the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs. Jarod Taylor is a second-year student at the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com, respectively.