On the heels of last year’s nationwide admissions scandal, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Senate approved the formation of a faculty committee that will allow professors to get involved with the undergraduate admissions process.

According to FAS Senate and Director of the Modern Hebrew Program Shiri Goren, the committee will take on a variety of tasks, including developing ways to inform faculty members of admissions policies and ensuring adequate support for accepted students. The Senate voted to establish the ad hoc committee for the 2019–2020 academic year in May, just months after the Varsity Blues scandal, in which former soccer coach Rudy Meredith accepted bribes to falsify admissions information. Still, even before the Varsity Blues scandal, a variety of faculty members reported not knowing enough or, in some cases, not knowing anything about how the University selects its incoming class.

“We conceived of the [committee], and I proposed it long before the [Varsity Blues scandal] came out,” FAS Senate Chair John Geanakoplos said. “But I’m sure that stimulated more interest in it.”

According to the FAS Senate Research and Scholarly Excellence Report, which was released in November 2018 — several months before the scandal made national headlines – 41 percent of tenured faculty reported that they “had no idea how admissions are done,” 44 percent said that they were “somewhat familiar” with admissions policies and 57 percent said that the faculty should be more involved in establishing admissions priorities.

According to Dean of Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid Jeremiah Quinlan, several faculty members serve as voting members of the admissions committee. Quinlan also meets with the standing Faculty Committee on Admissions and Financial Aid – which puts forward policy recommendations regarding student selection, application processes and undergraduate outreach — six times a year.

Quinlan said he hopes to add more faculty members to the Faculty Committee on Admissions and Financial Aid or the admissions committee to increase professors’ engagement with the process.

“It is no exaggeration to say we could not do our work at the level of quality we expect without extensive faculty involvement from all corners of the university,” Quinlan said. “I am always interested in expanding my office’s connections with new campus partners, and I welcome any opportunity to collaborate with faculty individually or in a group to share our work and hear their ideas.”

Goren, who has served on admissions committees, said she has a solid understanding of undergraduate acceptance practices at Yale. She added that her work allowed her to witness the “thoughtful and nuanced” admissions process.

But many faculty members, specifically those who do not serve on any admissions committees, feel underinformed. Psychology professor Margaret Holmes and English professor David Kastan each separately said they know “almost nothing” about Yale’s admissions policies.

“In a sense, it seems to me the real problems are not with admissions process, but in the lack of an articulate context in which it takes place,” Kastan said. “The crucial conversation that is missing is what is the University trying to do, trying to be. Without an answer to that, it is hard to see how we could know how the admissions process could or should be modified.”

Stearns said that he hopes the Senate committee will generate increased awareness surrounding admissions practices at Yale.

“I would hope [the Senate] would produce a report that would cause discussion of important points in the Yale community at large and in [the Committee on Admissions and Financial Aid] in particular,” Stearns said.

According to Geanakoplos, the Senate will designate who will serve on the committee during the first Senate meeting later this month.

Carly Wanna | carly.wanna@yale.edu

  • Nancy Morris

    Wait, somebody thinks that Yale faculty members are eager to serve on another committee? A committee regarding undergraduate admissions, no less? Has it occurred to those behind this initiative that any Yale faculty member who has an interest could easily arrange to have coffee or lunch with Mr. Quinlan or other faculty involved with the admissions process and have as detailed a conversation as might be desired about the topic, thereby exiting the population of faculty who “know ‘almost nothing’ about Yale’s admissions policies?” Has it occurred to the worthy initiators that the faculty already know that, but don’t arrange such coffees or lunches because they don’t want to be involved in such things?

    Perhaps what is more needed is increased faculty awareness of what those at the helm of the Faculty Senate are trying to do to the faculty.