The Yale College Council hosted a town hall with Dean of Yale College Marvin Chun on Friday, opening the floor to questions from students about recent developments in Yale’s academic policies, in particular the announcement that early registration for Fall 2021 classes would take place in April and May.
The town hall followed weeks of discussion among the student body since Chun announced the new course registration timeline in an email to undergraduates on March 8. The Zoom event was moderated by YCC Academics Director Saket Malhotra ’23 and First-Year Class Council President Leleda Beraki ’24. Chun gave remarks for the first half of the hour-long meeting before taking anonymous student questions — mostly on the early registration process and Yale’s COVID-19 Courses.
“There’s a lot of confusion and I think general disunity in our response to summer plans and course selections, so we wanted to create a space for students to directly clear up confusion and implore administration to make changes that better suit our needs,” Beraki said.
Chun began his remarks by discussing the new registration schedule, emphasizing his hope that the change would reduce student stress during the course registration process.
Seeking to correct misunderstandings about the new policy, Chun said that the new schedule does not mean shopping period had been eliminated altogether. Instead, he said it means that the administration was “only trying to make shopping better,” preserving shopping — for one week instead of two — at the beginning of term but starting the process of course registration earlier. Chun acknowledged, however, that the application process for limited-enrollment courses could be a “burden” for students, especially when the process coincides with weeks when students have classes or final exams.
“We naively thought that we were giving you a lot of time,” Chun said. “I have received feedback that you feel that it’s not enough time, or at least the timing is not good, and so I’m very happy to continue talking about the challenges.”
Chun also noted that the earlier course registration did not disadvantage students currently on leave, who would have “equal access” to the earlier process of expressing interest in limited-enrollment courses.
Bao Phan ’24 left the town hall feeling disappointed and unconvinced of the argument behind the earlier course registration schedule.
“The whole time I was surprised (and a bit appalled) at how adamantly Dean Chun insisted that the decision would ‘reduce stress’ and how ‘everyone wants to see this succeed’ when so many students and even faculty have expressed that this would put unnecessary strain on everyone’s workload,” Phan wrote in an email to the News.
But for Bryce Morales ’23, the town hall was a helpful way to learn more about the changes to the course registration process and the reasoning behind them.
“I do think that Dean Chun did a good job explaining the reasoning behind the decision to add an early registration process,” Morales said. “I appreciated his explanation of how the new process will ultimately help more students get into their top-choice limited-enrollment courses, a benefit which I think is worth the added student effort during the spring term.”
Later in the town hall, questions arose about Yale’s COVID-19 Courses, the two free credits for Yale Summer Session awarded to first-year and sophomore students who attended at least one semester remotely this academic year.
Some students questioned the equity of this policy, suggesting that it disadvantaged students who received a housing exemption due to unstable learning conditions at home and are therefore ineligible for the free credits. In response, Chun re-emphasized the position that the courses are intended as compensation for students who studied remotely and subsequently lost time living on campus.
“I still think the issue of COVID credits for students who didn’t have a choice other than living on campus both semesters needs to be rethought and addressed,” Beraki said. “It’s a serious equity issue and it’s not sufficient to say that these credits are to balance time on campus or are not as desirable as other opportunities Yale provides. If affected students decide not to use these credits that’s one thing, but to not have the option at all is another completely.”
Chun questioned whether students really wanted to spend their summers “doing more Zoom classes,” referencing available fellowships and summer experience awards and suggesting that students spend their summers away from the classroom.
Viktor Shamis-Kagan ’24, however, said that this suggestion was “completely out of touch” with the experiences of students who felt a need to stay on campus for both semesters and were still interested in taking summer courses.
“Dean Chun relayed to us that he felt the event was a constructive discussion, and we hope that attendees feel the same,” said YCC President Aliesa Bahri ’22. “Nevertheless, we will continue to garner testimony and feedback from students around issues such as pre-registration, summer session credit and more in order to ensure their voices and opinions are heard.”
Per the updated registration schedule, the application period for limited-enrollment courses begins on April 6.
Lucy Hodgman | firstname.lastname@example.org