For the second time in a decade, Yale College is considering implementing minors. On January 31, the Committee on Majors sent a survey to students to gauge their opinions, following a Yale College Council Survey that indicated 84 percent of respondents would want to earn a minor if Yale offered them, according to the Yale Daily News.
Dean of Students Marvin Chun said in an interview with The Politic that there is always a group of faculty who want minors, usually from smaller departments looking for more students. Other faculty fear that introducing minors would undercut the liberal arts education, leading students to credentialize.
Chun said that no department should be obligated to offer a minor—it would instead be an opt-in process.
Yale College Council President Saloni Rao ’20 said in an interview with The Politic that she is in favor of minors because they can decrease pressure to pursue a double major while providing academic structure in a second department.
“A lot of student at Yale feel pressure to do the most—we’re all overachievers,” she said. “If you’re at Yale college and there is an opportunity to double major, students often feel like a failure if they don’t do it.”
While the number of students double majoring has stayed steady at about 20 percent, Rao said this does not include the students who attempt a double major and then drop it after burning out. Adding minors could be a way to decrease the pressure on students who are interested in multiple disciplines.
Kate Kushner ’21 said that she feels a lot of pressure to double major between STEM and humanities and wishes she had the option of pursuing a minor instead so that she could have more time to explore other disciplines.
“It would be beneficial to have a more structured [minor] program that might help people feel more involved in the department,” she said.
Rao also thinks that offering minors would be a less stressful alternative while still giving students credit for the courses they have taken.
“You’ll be hard-pressed to find another university at which students are clamoring for more academic offerings,” Rao said. “There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be meeting that demand.”
Chun also said that if 80 percent of students want minors, a dean should listen to that feedback.
He said minors would be a good way to increase breadth for students, but that he would only support minors if he thought it enhanced Yale’s liberal arts education.
“Everybody wants to protect and enhance the liberal arts, and nobody wants students to credentialize,” Chun said. “I think everyone’s values are aligned, but the disagreement occurs over whether [adding minors] will enhance or subtract from that goal.”
According to both Chun and Rao, faculty and administrators fear that students would use minors to bolster their resume rather than explore a secondary interest.
Claire Davidson ’21 said in an interview with The Politic she thinks that having minors would make students less inclined to explore courses outside of their major.
“There would be less demand for the niche classes you take for a credit/D/fail senior year,” she said.
Instead, Davison believes that people will feel pressured to take on minors they do not want in order to be more employable.
Director of the Office of Career Strategy Jeanine Dames said in an email interview that Yale students are already incredibly marketable to employers, even without the option of minors.
“That being said, it is a unique opportunity to show another expertise and interest area, which will be valuable to employers,” she said. “As a college advisor, I do think minors would be valuable for students that do not want to fully immerse themselves in a second major, but want to gain some level of expertise in a second discipline.”
Kaija Gahm ‘20 said that while minors could be a way to give credit for the work that students are already doing, she feels that introducing minors would introduce another source of pressure because it’s another box that students could check off.
“We’re Yalies—we got here doing the absolute maximum we could possibly do, and I think it’s pretty easy to fall into that trap,” she said.
Gahm said that requirements of a minor could end up being limiting, and she thinks that not having minors has encouraged her to explore more in a way that is not about credentialing. While she considered completing the Statistics and Data Science certificate along with her Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Major, she ultimately decided there were too many requirements.
Nash Keyes ‘21 said that minors would encourage students to pursue interdisciplinary fields, and that having minors seems necessary to compete with other other schools. If given the opportunity, they would want to pursue an environmental science minor.
The Committee on Majors hopes to reach a final decision on whether or not to introduce minors by the end of this academic year, as committee chair Sarah Demers told the Yale Daily News in an interview. While introducing minors would more closely align Yale with its peer institutions, it could nonetheless undercut the academic diversity of a liberal arts school.
Gahm said that distribution requirements offer the perfect balance of subject areas, and she thinks adding minors would mean students have less time to explore.