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Overhaul sought for a quirky tenure system

Yale’s tenure policy is so famously complex and anomalous that one is tempted to say that you would need a PhD to figure it out. But people with PhDs have had trouble too. In February, a committee of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (professors who teach in Yale College and the Graduate School) recommended revamping Yale’s system to make it more attractive to junior faculty and to conform more closely to those of other universities.

“We have a system that is very different from the rest of higher education,” says Yale College dean Peter Salovey '86PhD, who co-chairs the committee with Graduate School dean Jon Butler. “It creates disincentives for young scholars to come to Yale. And it creates more than the usual anxiety among those who do come.”

At most universities, junior faculty are hired with the understanding that after a given number of years, they will be evaluated and offered tenure if their work merits it. But at Yale, junior faculty members don’t even know if a tenured position will be available when they come up for tenure. If one is available, junior faculty must compete in an open search with candidates across the country for the slot.

The committee recommends changing the system so that new junior faculty are assured that a position will exist when they come up for tenure. While candidates for tenure would be evaluated in comparison with top scholars in their field, there would not be an open search. Other recommendations include shortening the “tenure clock”—the typical time frame for junior faculty promotions—from ten years to nine years, a more formal mentoring program for junior faculty, and two paid sabbaticals for junior faculty, including one early in their career.

Although the plan would create what some might call a “tenure track” at Yale, Salovey says it doesn’t mean junior faculty should expect to win tenure. “The phrase 'tenure track' implies a different tenure standard and perhaps a different expectation about the probability of tenure,” he says. “And we are emphatically not lowering our standard. We’re guaranteeing a fair shot, but we’re not guaranteeing the outcome.”

Yale has a lower-than-average rate of tenure for junior faculty; across the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, only 19 percent of junior faculty earn tenure. Salovey says that the new system may result in a higher tenure rate, but not because of a relaxation of standards. Rather, by attracting better candidates, mentoring them more deliberately, and allowing them sabbaticals to work on their scholarship, Yale may nurture more tenurable faculty.

The committee hopes that the new plan will make Yale more competitive in the market for junior faculty, particularly for women and minority candidates. “If we continue to have a completely unique tenure and appointment system,” says Butler, “it is going to be hard to recruit good faculty, and it’s going to be especially hard to recruit faculty who will improve the diversity of the university—people for whom there is increased competition.”

Although Yale’s system is notably unusual, elite universities tend to have less-than-clear tenure policies, says Cathy Trower, a higher-education researcher at Harvard. “Many departments still want to have that final judgment [on tenure] that is ultimately somewhat subjective,” she says. “However, young scholars—Gen Xers—want transparency, equity, and flexibility. And they are not opposed to going where they can find those things.”

The changes will be discussed in meetings of the faculty in March and April. If they endorse the plan, it will go to Provost Andrew Hamilton for final approval. The changes would take effect in the next academic year.


Beyond Ezra and Timothy: Readers suggest names for new residential colleges

How might the architecture of a Charles Ives College differ from that of a Cole Porter College? Would “green” building techniques be a must for Gifford Pinchot College? Our readers' suggestions for naming new residential colleges at Yale have set us pondering these questions and more.

In our last issue, we reported that Yale is exploring the possibility of building two new residential colleges to ease overcrowding and to accommodate an expansion of the undergraduate body. Given that the existing colleges are all named for people and places important to Yale’s history, we floated a few names and invited readers to send theirs. Here are a few:

Yung Wing College

Ben Lee '92, '99PhD, suggests that a college be named for the first Chinese student to graduate from Yale—or any American university. Yung Wing '54 (1828-1912) went on to organize the Chinese Educational Mission, which brought 120 Chinese students to America in the 1870s and sparked Yale’s long history of engagement with China.

Nathan Hale College

Yale’s fondness for Hale (1755-1776) makes one wonder why his name was passed up when the earlier colleges were built. Kent Chen '92 makes a case for the Revolutionary spy from the Class of 1773: “It is time to elevate Mr. Hale from a mere statue in Old Campus and give him the recognition he richly deserves.”

Gifford Pinchot College

Suggesting that scientists are underrepresented among the current college namesakes, Edward Gaffney '64 nominates Gifford Pinchot '89 (1865-1946), the influential conservationist who was the first chief of the U.S. Forest Service and the founder of Yale’s forestry school.

Josiah Willard Gibbs College

Perhaps the most influential scientist ever to graduate from Yale, Josiah Willard Gibbs '58, '63PhD (1839-1903), spent nearly his entire career at the university, where he authored major laws of thermodynamics. “He’s been called by historians the greatest American scientist,” writes Robert H. O'Connor '45W-'48.

Harvey Cushing College

Elliott M. Marcus '54 suggests his fellow physician Harvey Cushing '95 (1869-1939), “a graduate of Yale College who went on to essentially found neurosurgery in America.” Cushing spent the last years of his career at Yale and gave his collection of books to the medical school, which named its library in his honor. (He also gave the school a collection of dozens of brains in jars of formaldehyde. They are still awaiting display.)

Sinclair Lewis College

Dr. Marcus also nominates Sinclair Lewis '08 (1885-1951), the first American—and the only Yale alumnus—to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. Lewis, who shined a harsh light on Middle America in books such as Main Street, Babbitt, and Arrowsmith, might stand for what Lewis Lapham '56 has called Yale’s “spirit of remonstrance and dissent.”

Charles Ives College

Composer Charles Ives ’98 (1874–1954) combined traditional American music with twentieth-century dissonance and atonality—all while running an insurance company. Ethan Hill '80 writes that a college named for Ives would honor “his contribution to twentieth-century music and Yale’s commitment to the fine arts.”

Roosevelt Thompson College

Jeff Orleans '67 reminds us of “a brilliant and extraordinarily caring and inspirational graduate”: Roosevelt Thompson ’84 (1962–1984), a Rhodes Scholar from Arkansas who died in a car accident in the spring of his senior year. Though his life was short, Thompson seemed to make an impression on everyone he met, including Bill Clinton ’73JD, for whom Thompson worked as a gubernatorial intern. A branch library in Little Rock was named for him in 2004.


New chaplain will minister to all faiths

In a development that would no doubt have astonished Yale’s Puritan founders, the university has appointed Sharon Kugler, a Catholic layperson, as Yale’s seventh University Chaplain. Kugler, who has served as chaplain at Johns Hopkins University since 1993, will start at Yale this summer, succeeding Rev. Frederick Streets '75MDiv.

The fact that a non-ordained Catholic—and a woman—could assume a post that has always been held by Protestant clergymen suggests just how much Yale and the chaplaincy have changed. Over the years, the university has welcomed increasing numbers of Catholics, Jews, and, more recently, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, and others. “We now have 30 or more active religious groups on campus, a number of them from non-Western religions,” says President Rick Levin. “It was a strong view of mine and the search committee’s that the new chaplain needs to minister to that entire community.”

That is just the kind of chaplaincy Kugler has run at Johns Hopkins. A graduate of Santa Clara University with a master’s degree in religious studies from Georgetown, she “virtually created the multi-faith chaplaincy at Johns Hopkins,” says Yale Divinity School dean Harry Attridge, who co-chaired the search committee. “She built up that program and the interfaith center there virtually from scratch.”

Kugler says that interfaith dialogue has been her mission as a chaplain. “We're living in a world where people kill each other over religion,” she says. “I feel that my call is to be in young people’s lives when they are expanding their horizons and their brains and their hearts—and to get them to engage with people who might scare them.”

And while some may imagine interfaith dialogue to be, as Kugler jokingly describes it, “Let’s all sit at a round table, put a topic in the middle, and see how everybody comes at it,” she says she prefers a subtler approach. The interfaith center at Johns Hopkins features an ice-cream maker, a bubble machine, and occasional Crock-Pots of “Chaplain’s Chili” to bring students together—first to play, then to talk.

In announcing Kugler’s appointment, Levin made a point of affirming Yale’s roots in the “Protestant tradition.” He said that a Protestant chaplain will be appointed to lead services at Battell Chapel and to minister to Protestants “in much the same way that Father Robert Beloin serves as chaplain for the Catholic community and Rabbi James Ponet ['68] serves as our Jewish chaplain.”

For her part, Kugler says her Catholic faith is central to her personally but not to her job. She sees her non-ordained status as an advantage in her effort to work with people of different faiths. “As a layperson,” she says, “I’m everyone’s chaplain and no one’s clergy.”


Medical school going South?

As winter winds down in New Haven, some doctors at the School of Medicine are warming to the idea of a Yale outpatient facility in South Florida. Fueled by a marketing survey that found a 90 percent favorable response, medical school officials expect to decide this spring whether to move ahead with the plan.

“If we go ahead, we will do it in a way that reflects as closely as possible the quality we have here at Yale,” says David Leffell '77, deputy dean for clinical affairs and director of the Yale Medical Group (Yale’s practicing doctors). “The idea is to bring the excellence of science and clinical care that Yale exemplifies to a wider geographic area.”

Plans are still preliminary, Leffell emphasizes. But he’s clearly excited by the prospect of a new Yale outpost—the first outside Connecticut—whose ambulatory services might include cutting-edge diagnostic imaging and clinical trials. Some current faculty members might go to Florida as consultants, and some work, such as radiology, might take place in New Haven via computer. But most of the staff on site will be new recruits, including some Yale-trained physicians.

To Leffell, it’s a natural growth opportunity. “Many of us on the faculty have patients that go to Florida. We became aware that other medical institutions were going down there, and there’s a simple reason: demographics. It’s a growing area. Palm Beach County does not have a major medical school presence.”

Demographics may figure in another way, too. Leffell points out that Palm Beach County is diverse. Nonetheless, its name is nearly synonymous with wealth. Some local physicians suspect Yale is in it for the money.

Steve Spector, a West Palm Beach ophthalmologist, is one such doctor. In recent months, he’s seen the Cleveland Clinic open a facility in his town, while Johns Hopkins set up a Palm Beach storefront to help patients make travel arrangements for medical appointments on the Hopkins campus in Baltimore. “When new facilities come to put their 'centers of excellence' in our area, it is my feeling that they are doing so only for the dollar sign, and to proclaim their greatness and wave their flag for alumni,” Spector says. His experience with other prestigious medical institutions in the area is that “they’re cherry-picking, and the people who need care are not getting it.”

“I understand why people are concerned that we’re going to come down and skim off the top,” Leffell responds. “But the Yale School of Medicine doesn’t ever turn anyone away. We don’t do it here, and we won’t do it there.” In fact, he says, “we have become the destination for uninsured patients in southern Connecticut.”

The company Yale hired to do its marketing survey in Florida targeted adults with annual household incomes of $75,000 and up—significantly above the $48,000 median in Palm Beach County. Leffell says the firm told him that it considered incomes in the $48,000-to-$100,000 range to be middle-class.

Last year, clinical services at Yale brought in $284 million, nearly one-third of the medical school budget. Opening a Florida facility would take a lot of effort, and “obviously the business plan has to be one that makes the effort worthwhile,” Leffell says. “That determination depends on a lot of factors,” not just money.  the end





Controversial portrait comes down

For nearly a hundred years, Yale’s trustees have made their decisions in a room dominated by a portrait of Elihu Yale, the university’s namesake and first major benefactor. There’s nothing surprising about that, but the painting also includes, at Yale’s right, a small, dark-skinned servant—wearing what appears to be a metal collar. The portrait, painted by the eighteenth-century British artist James Worsdale, was given to the university in 1910 and has hung above the mantelpiece in Woodbridge Hall’s Corporation Room ever since. Student activists have complained about the portrait in recent years, and in February, Vice President and Secretary Linda Koch Lorimer '77JD announced that it would be removed and replaced by another portrait of Yale in the university’s collection.

Lorimer says that a group of alumni, including former trustee Kurt Schmoke '71, approached her recently about removing the picture, which she says creates the inaccurate impression that Yale was a slaveholder. (Yale made his fortune as governor of a British colony in India, which the servant’s presence in the portrait may symbolize.) “This is not to say that we should sanitize our collections or try and rewrite history,” says Lorimer. “But this is a case where history was being misconstrued.”




Campus Clips

Applications to Yale College fell by 9.7 percent this year, reversing last year’s 8.4 percent increase. Admissions officials don’t have a definitive explanation for the decrease, but they speculate that the difficulty of getting into Yale (only 8.9 percent of applicants were admitted last year, an Ivy record) may be discouraging would-be applicants. A few conservative bloggers wondered aloud if the publicity surrounding the presence of a former Taliban spokesman on campus last year had kept applicants away.

Yale in Abu Dhabi? It could happen. The planners of a multi-billion-dollar cultural district in the United Arab Emirates are in talks with the university about establishing an arts institute there that would involve programs and exchanges with Yale’s architecture, art, drama, and music schools. The district may also include a performing arts center and several museums, including branches of the Louvre and the Guggenheim.

While touring in San Francisco, members of the Baker’s Dozen singing group were assaulted as they left a private party shortly after midnight on New Year’s Eve. Witnesses say the assailants were local private-school alumni who had crashed the party and had words with members of the group. No charges had been filed at press time.

Ezra Stiles and Morse colleges have long been considered stepbrothers to Yale’s older, more lavishly appointed residential colleges, and the recent renovations of the older colleges have made the disparities even greater. But the university is now working on plans to renovate Morse and Stiles. Student rooms will be reorganized as suites more like the other colleges', and new activity spaces will be provided in basement additions to be dug underneath the lawn facing Payne Whitney Gymnasium. Morse and Stiles will be the last colleges renovated, after Jonathan Edwards next year and Calhoun the following year.





Food in the library!

The invitation sounded so genteel: an “opening reception and tasting” for a Sterling Library exhibit on Middle East and Islamic cuisine. But to hungry academics at noon on a Thursday in February, it might as well have said, “free grub.” Half an hour into the two-hour event, everything was gone—the kibbeh, the bread salad, the stuffed eggplant, the baklava. “The line was out the door and around the corner at twelve o'clock,” says Simon Samoeil, curator of the library’s Near East collection. The food may be gone, but the exhibit—which features manuscripts and recipe books from the library’s collection—continues through April 19.


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