Yale Univ. sponsors curriculum review

by Sara Schnitzer | 11/13/01 6:00am

It's that time of the term again -- ORCs can be seen on tables in Collis and '05s are meeting with their academic advisors. As Fall term nears its end, students are looking ahead to Winter term and their impending course selection.

During this time more than any other, there is a focus on an oft-overlooked aspect of Dartmouth -- the curriculum. As students struggle to fulfill distributional requirements and expand their horizons, they are able to take a closer look at the wide variety of options available to them. Of course, no curriculum is either perfect or static.

Yale University recently announced plans to conduct a major review of its academic curriculum. University President Richard Levin announced the plan in his Tercentennial Address, stating that "this is no time for complacency about the quality of education."

Citing the improvements that have recently been made to Yale's research programs, graduate schools, and community, Levin cautioned in the address that Yale "must not let this moment pass without considering how undergraduates might share in the benefits of these University-wide investments."

In order to ensure that undergraduates do take advantage of the increased opportunities available to them, Levin ordered a thorough curriculum review, a measure that he feels is a bit overdue. As he stated in his speech, "It has been three decades since Yale College undertook a comprehensive review of its curriculum."

Although Dartmouth has not announced any plans to conduct a similar review, College Provost Barry Scherr said Dartmouth has taken similar measures to keep its curriculum up to date.

"Every 10 to 12 years, " Scherr said, Dartmouth has "looked at the curriculum very seriously." The last curriculum review, conducted about 10 years ago, was chaired by current Dartmouth President James Wright.

Dartmouth's last review shaped the current curriculum, including policies on distributive requirements. Since the last major review, the new curriculum has been reviewed quite recently by a committee that has made "small changes" as necessary, according to Scherr. In each review of the curriculum, there has been "some kind of student involvement," Scherr said.

In his address, Levin, outlining his plans for the measure, hinted that it would be a bit broader in scope than the conventional curriculum review. "Rather than confine this work to a small faculty committee working in isolation, this study will involve many faculty, students, and recent graduates, who will solicit ideas and suggestions from the entire Yale family," Levin said in his address.

The curriculum review is estimated to take two academic years. Levin appointed Richard Brodhead, Dean of Yale College, to head the committee. Brodhead was unavailable for comment.

When asked for the date of Dartmouth's next curriculum overhaul, Scherr said that there is "no fixed timetable." Scherr, however, did note the importance of such measures, saying that a curriculum is "never something that stays fixed forever."