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Report Calls for College Changes

After a year and a half of work, a committee of faculty, students, and alumni released a report last month that both proposes significant changes in how undergraduates learn at Yale and lays out novel means to effect those changes. The report of the 41-member Committee on Yale College Education, which was appointed by President Richard Levin just after the Tercentennial in 2001, calls for new academic requirements, new resources for students and faculty, and a ten percent increase in the size of the arts and sciences faculty. (The report is available online at www.yale.edu/yce; alumni are urged to offer their comments at the site.)

Much attention is given to the College’s requirements for course distribution, which are widely believed to be in need of reform. The Committee proposes to replace the current system with a mandate that every student take two courses each in arts and humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, writing, and quantitative reasoning. The last two categories could be fulfilled with courses in any number of departments. The existing foreign-language requirement for beginning language students would be reduced from four terms to three, with the option of fulfilling some of the requirement with study abroad, and all students—even those who arrive already proficient in a language—would be required to do further study at Yale.

The Committee also proposes changes in the use of Credit/D/Fail option, which the report says is currently “used to avoid serious work” in the sciences. To comply with the spirit of the option, which is to encourage students to take academic risks, every course in the College would be available Credit/D/Fail, but the option could not be employed for courses taken to fulfill distributional requirements.

Since the quantitiative reasoning and writing requirements are new to the College, the Committee calls for the establishment of a quantitative reasoning center and a writing center that would help faculty develop appropriate courses to fulfill the requirements. A third center for science teaching would address the perennial problem of developing appropriate science courses for nonmajors. These centers are inspired by the University’s five-year-old Center for Language Study, which Committee chair and College dean Richard Brodhead says has made “a world of difference in language study” at Yale.

Other proposals in the report include a set of initiatives to make more small courses available to underclassmen, a special series of courses for undergraduates taught by professors in the professional schools, and plans for increasing opportunities for study abroad and research. In addition, the Committee affirmed—for the first time in the College’s history, Brodhead says—that “Yale undergraduates should be expected to gain experience of the larger world and to plan their time abroad as an integral part of their Yale education.”

The increase in arts and sciences faculty, which would meet the need for new offerings and more small classes, would not simply be allotted proportionally to academic departments. Instead, the report proposes the creation of a “Yale College pool” of faculty slots that could be apportioned by a committee to departments in response to specific teaching needs in the College.

President Levin said when the report was released that implementing all of its recommendations would require “hundreds of millions of dollars.” The University expects to launch a capital campaign in 2004 or 2005 to fund the initiatives.

Major Recommendations

  • Require students to take two courses each in natural science, arts and humanities, social science, writing, and quantitative reasoning.

  • Make the Credit/D/Fail option available for all courses, but forbid the use of that option in fulfilling distributional requirements.

  • Establish teaching centers in science, writing, and quantitative reasoning.

  • Increase the arts and sciences faculty by ten percent, with slots allocated to improve teaching in the College.

  • Improve academic orientation programs and advising for freshmen.

  • Increase the number of small classes and seminars for freshmen and sophomores.


Students Discuss, Debate the War

In keeping with the time-honored tradition of heated campus debate, particularly in times of war, members of the Yale community wasted no time seizing pen, podium, and placard to express their views on the Iraqi conflict. But there was also a darker side to the response, as some students were threatened and harassed for expressing anti-war views.

Soon after the war began, professors held a series of several teach-ins about the war. The first of these included history professor Paul Kennedy, who warned about “long-term collateral damage” from the war, and classics professor Donald Kagan, who expressed dismay over the U.S. military’s reluctance to use its full force. (Video of the teach-ins is available online at www.yale.edu/opa.)

Meanwhile, the op-ed pages of the Yale Daily News and the Yale Herald quickly filled with columns for and against the war, and it wasn’t long before Beinecke Plaza reverberated with the rallying cries of impassioned students on both sides. Two student groups emerged as the leading voices for campus opinion on the war. The Yale Coalition for Peace (YCP), which opposes the war, was formed after the September 11 attacks, according to group member Saqib Bhatti '04, but the group “shifted focus and kicked it up a notch” when war broke out in Iraq.

Yale College Students for Democracy formed to provide an alternative voice to the YCP, says group member James Kirchick '06. “There really was no group on campus expressing support for the war on terrorism,” he says. “We believe democracy is a political strategy and the best way to fight terrorism is to spread democracy.”

Other students were less measured in their responses. Several incidents of harassment were reported, including a student who found a threatening message on her message board after she hung an American flag upside down outside her window to protest the war. Another student was spit on after attending a silent vigil to mourn the death of Iraqi civilians in the war.


Magnets May Silence “Voices”

More than half of the people diagnosed with schizophrenia hear “voices,” often terrifying auditory hallucinations that in the worst cases have driven sufferers towards suicide or, more rarely, violence against others. Available medications may mute the voices in many schizophrenics, but about a quarter of the sufferers experience little relief.

In a study published in the January Archives of General Psychiatry, Yale researchers showed that a new and unorthodox treatment involving magnetic stimulation of the brain can significantly reduce the hallucinations.

“These voices make sufferers feel as if they’re being controlled,” says Ralph Hoffman, associate professor of psychiatry and lead author of the study. “The fear and anxiety they experience may have a priming effect and make further auditory hallucinations more likely. It becomes a vicious cycle.”

Brain-imaging research by Hoffman and others suggested that the voices were being caused by excessive activation of the area in charge of speech perception. In the study, the scientists used a technique called repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), which is delivered through a coil placed atop a subject’s head, to reduce the overactivity.

About three-quarters of the subjects who received rTMS for periods of up to 16 minutes daily during a nine-day period experienced “clinically significant” reductions in the frequency and intensity of their hallucinations. The effect often lasted at least three months.

“Not only did they hear fewer voices, but the hallucinations had less of an effect,” notes Hoffman. “The reduction may help people with schizophrenia get better because it enables them to understand that the voices are not part of a conspiracy—they’re part of an illness.”


Daily News Celebrates 125

Even with a war on, the pull of the Yale Daily News is strong. Some 500 journalists and other News alumni came to the campus April 4–6 for a weekend of panels and a black-tie dinner celebrating the newspaper’s 125th anniversary.

“I was thrilled by the turnout,” says News editor-in-chief Rebecca Dana '04. “To have 500 people sitting in a room talking about the importance of the YDN was a heady experience.”

An all-star lineup of News alumni—including presidential adviser David Gergen '63, Wall Street Journal managing editor Paul Steiger '64, and Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Samantha Power '92—participated in a series of panel discussions about the state of journalism today. Father-and-son News alums William F. Buckley '50 and Christopher Buckley '75 spoke at the Saturday night dinner in Commons.


Sponsorship Skews Research Results

If a dress designer creates a gown for a client, what are the chances he’s going to tell her it looks terrible on her? That’s the dilemma academic scientists with financial ties to pharmaceutical companies sometimes face, and the results are just as predictable, Yale researchers say.

When drug companies pay scientists to study the drugs they develop, the test results are 3.6 times more likely to be favorable, according to a study that appeaered in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study also showed that about a quarter of biomedical researchers have financial ties to companies whose products they are studying.

Cary Gross and a team from the School of Medicine reviewed the results of 37 past studies of conflicts of interest, building on a decade’s worth of similar reports. He says they undertook the analysis because of the growing debate over industry-sponsored medical research.

“There are a lot of stories about patients having adverse medical outcomes,” he says, “so we thought it would be helpful to carefully analyze and integrate all of the actual quantitative data that pertains to this subject.” Gross says their research showed that industry-funded researchers will sometimes go so far as to deliberately design studies that favor the sponsor’s drug, giving patients inappropriate doses of a competitor’s drug.

Gross says the goal of his study was to present data, not to offer solutions. Drug companies fund nearly 60 percent of the nation’s biomedical research, spending $30.3 billion last year on research and development.


Historian Suggests Sterling Was Gay

Few people pass through Yale without becoming familiar with the name John W. Sterling. The alumnus of the Class of 1864 has several buildings and Yale’s most prestigious professorships named for him, all products of the $15 million gift he left to the University upon his death in 1918. But little of Sterling’s life story is known on campus. Last month, historian Jonathan Ned Katz, a visiting professor in gay and lesbian studies, filled in some of the details in a lecture about what to modern eyes appears to have been a long-term homosexual relationship between Sterling and a cotton broker named James O. Bloss.

In his 1929 biography of Sterling, John Anson Garner described Sterling’s relationship with Bloss. “Like Mr. Sterling,” Garner wrote, Bloss “never married; and the two lived together for the remainder of their days, with . an understanding that held them together for nearly 50 years.” In his lecture and on his Web site (www.outhistory.org), Katz examines the lives of Sterling and Bloss in the context of a turn-of-the-century society in which homosexuality was not discussed openly but a “bachelor subculture” thrived in New York.

Jonathan D. Katz, who coordinates the Larry Kramer Initiative for Lesbian and Gay Studies (LKI), says that Jonathan Ned Katz’s research is relevant to the University today. “It’s time we recognize that it was a childless same-sex couple who brought Yale to the forefront of world-class universities,” he says. LKI sponsored Jonathan Ned Katz’s talk as part of the Brudner lecture series.


Seniors Battle Tight Job Market

As if writing a senior thesis, facing the prospect of paying back student loans, and saying goodbye to close friends weren’t tough enough, this year’s seniors face the tightest job market in years.

“It was really hard getting a job. The competition was pretty crazy,” says philosophy major Ilya Meyzin '03, who interviewed at nearly 20 firms, many more than once, before he was hired as a management consultant in New York. Meyzin says that his job search, which began in September, took priority over his school work. “There were times when I went to New York three times a week,” he says. “I just had to accept that my grades weren’t going to be as good as they had been.”

Sandra Goodson of Undergraduate Career Services (UCS) says that while the number of companies coming to campus remained about the same, they offered fewer jobs. UCS has a number of programs to help students get through these tough times. The newest is a job-listing Web site called Yalelink that allows students to search for jobs, post résumés, and set up interviews. UCS is also working to expand international job opportunities.

Meanwhile, some students are deferring the job search by applying to law school or enlisting in a public service progam such as the Peace Corps. UCS director Philip Jones says applications in both these areas are up 10 to 15 percent.


Sporting Life
Should He Stay Or Should He Go?

Has Christopher Higgins gotten too good for Yale hockey?

The sophomore’s 20 goals and 41 assists this season led the team and fueled the Bulldogs' powerful offense, which notched 3.78 goals per game, second in the conference and among the best in the nation. And although Yale’s post-season hopes ended in an ECAC quarterfinal loss to Brown, the accolades for Higgins poured in. A first-team All-American, he was named ECAC co-player of the year and one of ten finalists for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award, given to college hockey’s top player.

Higgins’s quick mastery of the college game, and his standout play alongside other top young players in various international tournaments, mean he’ll likely face a tough choice this summer: whether to stay at Yale for his junior year or sign with the Montreal Canadiens, the National Hockey League club that drafted him last June. The team’s brain trust will decide by mid-May whether to offer Higgins a contract, says Martin Madden, the Canadiens' assistant general manager.

Higgins says he’s still unsure of his plans. “I want to decide as soon as possible,” he says. “It’s a big decision, and it’s going to change my life either way.”

Higgins has talked to a number of players who made an early leap from college to the pros and has heard mixed opinions. One player happy with his decision is Mike Komisarek, who played in youth leagues with Higgins on Long Island. Komisarek joined Montreal this season after leaving Michigan early and spending less than a year in the minors. “He’s had an awesome time,” Higgins says of his former teammate.

In his two years at Yale, Higgins has honed his finishing near the goal while continuing to show unusually high levels of intensity and desire. Madden of the Canadiens thinks Higgins has a good shot at going straight to the pros, especially after watching him lead the U.S. team in scoring at the 2002 World Junior Championships in Canada.

Other signs also suggest Higgins isn’t long for New Haven. His coaches are hard-pressed to think of specific skills he needs to add to his game at the college level. And some see value in his playing in the American Hockey League, the NHL’s minor league, to experience a professional-length season and the rigors of frequent travel.

However, Yale coach Tim Taylor sees a number of things that may lure Higgins back: his many friends, the importance of education to him, as evidenced by his choice to attend Yale, and his need for a college degree after his playing days are done.

Of course, while Taylor says he wants what’s best for Higgins, he does have his own reasons for wanting his star back. “A lot of our young players who broke in this year will be much more comfortable with their roles,” Taylor says, pointing out that the team played its best near the end of this season.

These words, then, should provide the coach with some comfort: “I would hope I would be able to finish out my education,” Higgins says. “It’s pretty important to me and my family.”  the end




From the Collections

In the early 1960s, Thomas Manley came to Yale to study horticulture, but entomologist Charles Remington got him hooked on insects. Last fall, Manley gave his 65,000-specimen collection, including examples of the silk moth Automeris io, to the Peabody Museum.




Campus Clips

The thick envelope—or its online equivalent—beckoned last month for 1,458 Yale College applicants. Together with 460 students admitted by early decision, the class is the most selective in Yale history: Only 11.4 percent of a record 17,731 applicants were admitted.

University and union officials started talking again after a five-day strike in March. The University offered members of locals 34 and 35 a ten-year contract and boosted its wage and pension proposals. For their part, union leaders agreed to delink contract talks from organizing drives for hospital workers and graduate assistants. Workers have been without a contract since January 2002.

As the Machu Picchu exhibit at the Peabody Museum ends its run, the government of Peru is negotiating to get some of its artifacts back. Nobody disputes that the Peruvian government gave Hiram Bingham permission to take the relics when he first excavated the site in 1911, but now the ownership and stewardship of the treasures is under review in a process Peabody administrators characterize as “very positive.”

Should parents be allowed in operating rooms while their children are being anesthetized? A recent study by Yale researchers challenges fears that the parents might be at high risk for heart attacks if they witnessed the procedure. While the parents in the study showed signs of anxiety, there were no abnormalities in their electrocardiograms.

With or without caffeine, Yale coffee will be guilt-free in the fall. A student committee has persuaded the dining halls to serve only “fair trade-certified” coffee. To earn such certification, suppliers must pay farmers a minimum price for their beans.






Kindergartener Tatiana Alvelo showed off a project about gears at the annual citywide science fair in Commons on March 11. Co-sponsored by the University and the Olin and Bayer corporations, this year’s fair was dedicated to the late engineering professor Robert Apfel, one of the event’s founders.





Sports Shorts

Freshman Cory Werk won the bronze medal in men’s foil at the NCAA fencing championship in Colorado Springs in March. Yale finished 14th overall.

The Yale polo teams earned transatlantic bragging rights over spring break by besting Oxford and Cambridge in the Atlantic Cup competition, held this year at Oxford. Yale’s men’s and women’s teams faced each other in the finals, the men winning 5-2.

Pay no attention to the “interim” in front of her title: As far as the ECAC is concerned, Yale’s Hilary Witt is simply Coach of the Year in women’s hockey. Witt, who led her team to its best conference finish ever, was also one of eight finalists for national coach of the year.

Performing on their home turf at Payne Whitney Gymnasium, the gymnastics team finished second in the ECAC championship meet on March 30. It was the third straight year that the team has been runner-up to William and Mary in the ECACs.


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