Students at Yale University are enrolling by the hundreds to get into an introductory Art History course this semester, but that’s not the big surprise. The real shocker is that professor Alexander Nemerov is turning many of them away.
The Yale Daily News reports that while over 500 people have signed up for the course, Nemerov has capped enrollment to 270 due to his wish to move the class to a smaller room where there is no Wifi so students can’t surf the internet during lectures.
Nemerov told The Yale Daily News:
In the past many students in the lecture were doing Facebook or email or all kinds of things on their computers. So for me it’s better if there’s a room where that is not possible, and one of the unfortunate effects of that is that I have to limit the enrollment of the class to the capacity of the auditorium.
Have we really gotten to the point where internet policing is going to limit people’s education? True, I remember sitting in Art History courses, or most courses for that matter, and seeing people looking at Facebook or random sites on their laptops, and I also indulged in that myself. But when it comes down to it, professors should trust that the students who want to do well in a class and are interested in the subject matter will be smart enough to resist the internet for an hour and pay attention. Are Yalies really that weak? Will budding art worlders not be able to read art websites during class?
Professors should also realized that students spending time on the internet in class may be due to a lack of engagement (hint: Prof. Nemerov, maybe it’s YOUR fault). Of course it’s hard to get students to participate and feel engaged in a lecture with hundreds of people, but it doesn’t help when professors read straight from their dissertations, as I remember experiencing in some courses at my school. This isn’t to say Professor Nemerov is not an inspiring lecturer — one commenter on the Yale Daily News article actually calls him just that — but a professors’ teaching style is something to consider when looking at how students behave during class.
Robin Cembalest, editor at ArtNews and a Yale alumna, told Hyperallergic, “I think it’s a pity that they have to limit the class size for technology reasons.” Cembalest pointed out the importance of Art History courses for a well-rounded education, especially for people studying other subjects, and also mentioned that Yale has two great art museums plus several galleries, another reason why students should be encouraged to take Art History at the university. “It just seems like rather than limiting the number of students, they should create another class,” Cembalest added.
In the past Professor Nemerov has taught his course, titled “Introduction to Art History: Renaissance to the Present,” in the much larger Yale Law School Auditorium that he estimates seats about 450 students, so capping enrollment was never necessary.
Considering how much students fork over nowadays to go to a tony college like Yale, and how much arts education itself is suffering in the US, perhaps Professor Zemerov will want to reconsider his decision. Just the fact that so many students want to take an Art History course shows that the interest and demand for arts education is on the up. A school as rich in art resources as Yale should be able to find a solution.