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Higher Education News from the Collegiate Way

These news items about residential colleges, collegiate houses, and the renewal of university life are posted for readers of the Collegiate Way website. For more about residential colleges and collegiate universities please visit the main Collegiate Way page.

The Collegiate Way, Old and New: The Yale Report of 1828

— One of the most influential documents in the history of American higher education was an essay known today as “The Yale Report of 1828.” Yale College at that time—it was not a university—was a small academic society of only a few hundred members, very much like the residential colleges that make up Yale University and similar collegiate universities today. The Report of 1828 was written by a committee of the faculty and the corporation (the board of trustees) in response to public critics who were pressuring the college to become more relevant to the needs of society, to teach practical subjects, to accept more students, and to include a greater variety of courses in the curriculum. Do any of these topics sound familiar today? As far as I can tell, about the only modern issue that isn’t mentioned in the report is the need for more parking.

One of the Yale Report’s themes is the importance of collegiate life itself to student development. For that reason I have prepared and am pleased to make available a web version of the Yale Report for readers of the Collegiate Way website. Although times have changed, life in small residential colleges, which is what Yale College was in 1828, has in many ways remained the same. The value of that life is found in the personal attention given by instructors to their students, the time spent together, the family-like setting, and the opportunities for students to learn from each other as well as from their teachers. And while it has been fashionable for many years to deride the doctrine of in loco parentis as obsolete and oppressive, any unprejudiced reading of this ancient report will show that the attitude of the faculty toward their students at the time was one of affection and practical wisdom. So pour yourself a cup of coffee and spend a few minutes reading through this document, now nearly 200 years old, and decide for yourself what we in our modern universities have rightly discarded, what we have rightly retained, and what if anything we might profitably restore.

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© Robert J. O’Hara 2000–2021