Taking the Measure of Yale College

Committee on Yale College Education Report

In the fall of 2001, on the occasion of the tercentennial of the University, President Richard Levin called for a study of education in Yale’s oldest component, the undergraduate college. No full-scale study of Yale College education has been undertaken since 1972. Since that time, changes that were new in the early 1970s—notably the opening of the college to women and to all sectors of American society—have been fully incorporated into the life of this school. Changes scarcely foreseen thirty years ago have transformed Yale in other ways. The computer revolution has made intellectual problems soluble in ways unimaginable a short while ago while also changing the way we teach, write and (arguably) think. Thanks to technology and a host of other forces, the points of the globe are in touch with each other to a degree that no citizen of 1972 could have envisioned.

Closer to home, in the last decade Yale has rebuilt its campus and renewed its intellectual resources on a scale that once seemed inconceivable, and the University is making further investments with major consequences for education and research: the $1 billion rebuilding of the sciences, the renovation of the arts schools, the founding of the Globalization Center, and many more.

In this season of renewal and with the arrival of a new century, the time seemed right to take the measure of Yale College education anew.

For the past sixteen months, a Committee involving thirty faculty members (four from the junior faculty), four recent graduates and eight current undergraduates has examined the character of education in Yale College. Few committees have put in so many hours or consulted so widely. As part of our self-education, committee members interviewed chairs of departments and programs, directors of undergraduate studies, deans of professional schools, and directors of galleries, libraries and centers; conducted surveys and held focus groups; hosted six town meetings in the residential colleges attended by nearly three hundred students; and visited other universities to see how they approach shared problems. In addition, the Committee met with the Yale Corporation and solicited the wisdom of Yale College graduates at a special assembly of the Association of Yale Alumni.

Though their number far exceeds our ability to name them, we are grateful to everyone who shared thoughts with us. The chair is grateful as well for his extraordinary committee. It is a lucky University that can call on intelligence and devotion of such an order.

On the whole, the Committee on Yale College Education found much to celebrate in its review. We admired the richness of the college’s offerings, extraordinary by any measure. The Committee was also impressed by the energy and commitment that Yale faculty and students bring to the work of education: it is these qualities, in the end, that determine the value of the education we provide. But we also saw things that have long needed fixing, and we saw new areas of opportunity as well.

The Committee does not propose radical innovations in the Yale College program of study. But it does recommend a variety of important changes, some sweeping, some more narrowly targeted. The Committee believes that these changes, taken together, would dramatically improve the quality of Yale undergraduate education. Many recommendations address problems that have emerged over the past several decades, some uniquely at Yale, some in American higher education at large. Others look forward, attempting to anticipate the intellectual resources students will need in the complex future world.

Though we recognize their great value, our report does not spend much time addressing things that are in good health at Yale. Nor have we commented on changes to which the University is already committed and that are already underway, changes the Committee warmly endorses as complements to its proposals. These include especially the recruitment of an intellectually distinguished and socially diverse faculty and the provision of full technological support for teaching and research. This report outlines further good things that should be done at Yale, not every good thing Yale already has in hand.

We have tried to make our proposals ambitious enough to make a real difference and practical enough to permit them to be enacted. We have worked to adapt general ambitions to the particular facts of this University, and for this reason we present our recommendations in a fair bit of detail. We hope to have imagined them specifically enough to show what they can achieve and how they can be accomplished.

Some of the recommended changes will require new resources; many could begin right away. Some of the recommendations may gain easy approval; others may be quite controversial. That is as it should be, and a sign that serious issues are being addressed. As the Yale community reflects on these issues, we will need to keep in mind the complex mission we are trying to serve: to make Yale at once a center of knowledge and discovery, a place of powerful academic instruction, and a place that prepares engaged and responsible citizens for the nation and the world. In furtherance of these goals, the Committee submits its report.

 Charles Ahn  John Lewis Gaddis  Laura Oh
 Rachel Alpert  Joseph Gordon  Stephen Pitti
 Dudley Andrew  Gary Haller  Patrick Casey Pitts
 Chirag Badlani  Andrew Hamilton  Benjamin Polak
 Charles Bailyn  John Harris  Leon Plantinga
 Scott Berkowitz  John Hartigan  Joseph Roach
 Kim Bottomly  Christine Hayes  Peter Salovey
 Ronald Breaker  Amy Hungerford  Ian Shapiro
 Jon Butler  Douglas Kankel  Helen Siu
 Justin C. Cohen  Daniel Kevles  Ronald Smith
 Donald Engelman  Maxwell Laurans  Scott Strobel
 Tali Farhadian  Penelope Laurans  Jacob Sullivan
 Joan Feigenbaum  Maria Rosa Menocal  Barbara Wexelman
 Candace Feldman  David Mount