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Historical Documents


Introduction - Josephine Broude

Throughout Yale's history, there have been important committees appointed by the President and other members of the administration to investigate and explore such topics as the curriculum, student life, athletics, the library, administration policy, and alumni relations among many others. After considerable deliberation and effort, each committee would write a report. Very often, the title of the committee's chairman was attached to the report. For example, the Report of the President's Committee on the Freshman Year, issued under President Griswold, was often called the Doob Report and the Report to the Executive Committee of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences of the Ad Hoc Committee on Policies and Procedures on Tenure Appointments, a document which would significantly affect the faculty, was most often referred to as the Dahl Report.

However, many of the most important reports were lost in office files, and when topics arose in later years which replicated what had been explored earlier, there was no reference point for someone searching for previous information on a topic or for a committee appointed to explore a new aspect of the topic. Even Sterling Library's Manuscripts and Archives would find that committees had neglected to send them copies of their reports for future reference in their holdings. This is particularly true in the last half of the twentieth century when changes were instituted rapidly by recommendations from presidential or provostial committees.

Provost Alison F. Richard and Vice-President and Secretary Linda K. Lorimer had the thought that, on the occasion of the Tercentennial, it would be a great service to future department chairmen, deans, other administrative officers and faculty and scholars of educational history to have in one place the most significant documents of the last half of the twentieth century as well as the Charter and Legislation: The Yale Corporation republished in 1976, and the two most significant reports of earlier times: the 1828 Curriculum Report and the Report on University Reorganization, March 1919.

          A committee was formed to review an all-inclusive list of documents. The members were Henry Chauncey, Jr., former Secretary of the University, Joseph Gordon, Dean of Students, Yale College, Sterling Professor Emeritus Georges May (and former Dean of Yale College and Provost of the University), Charles H. Long, Deputy Provost, and Gaddis Smith, Larned Professor Emeritus of History. Added to the general wisdom and experience of committee members was the fact that they had used these documents in their administrative duties. This collaborative effort has resulted in bringing together for the first time reports that have had wide ranging effects on the University. Concentration here is on the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, but the impact, for example, of the Report of the Committee on Freedom of Expression (the Woodward report) was university-wide.

          The two historical documents which are included were extraordinarily important for the University. It was under President Jeremiah Day that the faculty wrote their report defending a classical curriculum. Historians writing about Yale believe that this was the most influential document on educational policy ever issued at the University. In spite of its eminence, few people have ever read it or realized its existence. In addition, as one writer has said, "The Yale Report was a magnificent assertion of the humanist tradition and therefore eventually of unquestionable importance in liberating the American college from an excessive religious orientation."1 As Brooks Kelley has written, also under President Day, the faculty was granted "an influential role in running the college, and this was one of Jeremiah Day's most significant contributions to American higher education."2 George Pierson emphasized this preeminence of the faculty by noting in his history that "The teachers at Yale ruled a realm larger than that known to other educators. Each man felt free to teach and study nearly as he chose. Collectively they were masters of their own destiny, self-governing and self-perpetuating."3 There was little doubt that the Yale faculty felt, and still feels, pre-eminent in decision-making on all matters, but particularly with regard to curricular reform, appointments, grades, and even advice on the budget.

          One of the aims of the Tercentennial Steering Committee was to initiate and support a project called Archives 300. It is hoped that in the development of this comprehensive records management program now underway, there may be initiated a complete file of documents in Manuscripts and Archives which will allow any Yale report to be accessed. Until that time, however, this compilation has brought together a number of the most significant and influential documents.

                                                                                                           Josephine Broude

 

1 Frederick Rudolph, The American College and University: A History (New York, 1965), p. 134
2 Brooks Mather Kelley, Yale: A History (New Haven, 1974).p. 141 
3 George Wilson Pierson, Yale College: An Educational History 1871-1921, (New Haven, 1952), p. 269