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From Nemo to Nobels: ten biggish things that happened at Yale this year

So you went off the grid with no forwarding address in 2013? Let us catch you up on what happened at Yale this year.

1. We got a new president. That's a bigger deal than it might sound, since we kept our last one for 20 years. Succeeding Richard Levin ’74PhD, the bluegrass-playing psychology prof Peter Salovey ’86PhD transitioned from provost to president over the first half of the year, taking over on July 1 and getting officially inaugurated on October 13.

2. Our men's hockey team won a national championship. Yes, you read that right. For the first time in history, Yale skated to the finals of the NCAA ice hockey tournament in April and came away with a 4-0 win over Quinnipiac, our Hamden neighbor.

3. Two of our professors won Nobel Prizes. First it was cell biologist James Rothman ’71, who shared the prize with researchers at Berkeley and Stanford  for their discovery of . . . how stuff happens in cells. (Read more here.) A week later, economist Robert Shiller (a former cover model for the magazine) was part of a trio that was lauded for their analysis of asset prices.

4. Someone gave Yale $250 million. Billionaire Charles Johnson ’54 made the largest gift ever to the university in September, earmarked for the construction of two new residential colleges (and thus a 15 percent expansion of Yale College enrollment). As big as the check was, it still leaves Yale $80 million to raise in order to build the $500 million colleges.

5. A college with Yale's name on it opened in Singapore. Less than three years after the idea was first made public, Yale-NUS College—a joint venture with the national University of Singapore—began teaching its first freshman class in August. The college is both an Asian beachhead for, and a workshop for reforming, American-style liberal arts education. The idea remains controversial, though, because of Singapore's restrictions on civil liberties.

6. People thought Yale was punishing rapists with reprimands. The university's semiannual reports on sexual misconduct—which were created to respond to concerns that Yale doesn't respond adequately to such misconduct—created a controversy of their own this summer. With no names and few details, the reports describe incidents reported to yale authorities and how they were resolved. Reacting to instances of "nonconsensual sex" that were punished by written reprimands and probation, the website Jezebel reported that "Yale Officially Declares 'Nonconsensual Sex' Not That Big of a Deal." The university responded with a set of scenarios to explain the variety of cases they handle and how they are resolved.

7. The faculty considered doing something about grade inflation. Or "grade compression," as they prefer to call it. A faculty committee proposed moving to a 100-point numerical grading system and creating a set of guidelines for grade distribution in order to address the swelling proportion of A's given to Yale College students. The proposal was tabled by the full faculty and later withdrawn. They're working on a new plan now.

8. A professor was suspended for having an affair with a student he supervised. Egyptologist John Coleman Darnell was suspended for a year over the affair with a graduate student he supervised and who later became a fellow faculty member in the Near Eastern languages and civilizations department. After other graduate students in the department complained that their affair had created a "hostile environment," the suspension was extended for another term.

9. New Haven got its first woman mayor. Ten-term Mayor John DeStefano Jr. was in office for almost all of the tenure of Yale president Richard Levin, and those 20 years marked a new era of town-gown partnership. His successor, state senator Toni Harp ’78MEnvD, is not only the first woman mayor; she's also the city's second African American mayor and the first Yale graduate in the position in 34 years.

10. It snowed. A lot. Winter storm Nemo dropped 34 inches of snow on the campus in February, the most New Haven had seen in a hundred years. Classes were canceled for two days as Yale and the city struggled to dig out.

Now, for those of you who were here and paying attention, what did we leave out?


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