08 Jul 2016

Yale Names New Residential College “Heads” and Reveals New Heraldry

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Somebody-You-Never-Heard-of College (left) and Benjamin Franklin College (right).

Yale News:

The inaugural heads of Yale’s two new residential colleges have been announced by President Peter Salovey and Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway. Charles Bailyn, professor of astronomy and physics, will be the head of Benjamin Franklin College, and Tina Lu, professor of East Asian languages and literatures, will be the head of Pauli Murray College.

The new colleges will be finished by the time the incoming Class of 2021 arrives on campus. …

Bailyn has been a member of the Yale community since his undergraduate years, earning his B.S. in astronomy and physics from Yale College in 1981 [ Calhoun – JDZ ] and later returning to campus in 1990 to join the faculty ranks. In 2010 he was named the A. Bartlett Giamatti Professor of Astronomy and Physics. From 2011 to 2016 he served as the inaugural dean of the faculty of Yale-NUS College in Singapore.

In his research, Bailyn studies black holes and related sources of celestial X-rays, as well as dense star clusters and the effects of collisions between stars. His work on measuring the masses of black holes was awarded the 2009 Bruno Rossi Prize from the American Astronomical Society, and he has carried out research with a wide variety of ground- and space-based telescopes, including NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. …

As a Yale undergraduate, Bailyn was awarded the George Beckwith Prize in astronomy and was an avid participant in the a cappella singing scene. Salovey and Halloway noted in their letter that Bailyn considers becoming a pitchpipe of the Duke’s Men at the age of 19 one of the highlights of his undergraduate experience. After completing his Yale College degree, he pursued graduate work at the University of Cambridge and at Harvard University, receiving his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1987 and spending three years as a member of Harvard’s Society of Fellows before returning to Yale as an assistant professor of astronomy. He has served both as chair and as director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Astronomy and was a member of the 2001-03 Committee on Yale College Education, which reviewed Yale’s undergraduate curriculum. He twice chaired the Teaching, Learning, and Advising Committee in Yale College. In his five years at Yale-NUS, he led the recruitment of more than 100 faculty members and supervised the development of the college’s common curriculum.


Tina Lu joined Yale’s Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures (EALL) in 2008, with a secondary appointment in the Department of Comparative Literature. She has served as EALL’s director of graduate studies (from 2009-2010), director of undergraduate studies (2012-2013), and chair (2013-present). In 2009 she was a visiting professor with the Yale-PKU program in Beijing; since 2013 she has been a consulting faculty member to Yale-NUS College, where she taught as a visiting professor in spring 2015.

Specializing in Chinese literature from 1550 to 1750, Professor Lu has written three books — one on personal identity, one on the nature of the human community, and the most recent (still being completed) about materiality. Noted Salovey and Holloway: “In the course of them, she has discussed a portrait that comes to life, optical illusions, and stories about severed heads!” Her current work examines time travel and its pre-modern antecedents. With colleagues at other universities in art history and social history, she is also at work on a collaborative book about Xu Wei, the 16th-century polymath, playwright, and painter.

One of her major ongoing projects is The Ten Thousand Rooms, a web-based platform she is developing with grant support from the Mellon Foundation (and in collaboration with her colleague Mick Hunter) that will allow scholars around the world to work together on the transcription, translation, and commentary of pre-modern Chinese sources. She has been an invited speaker and panelist at dozens of universities and other forums in the United States and internationally. In 2009, she was awarded the Gustav Ranis Prize for Best Book on an International Subject by a Yale Faculty Member, and from 2005 to 2011 she was a Mellon Foundation New Directions Fellow. She has served on numerous Yale advisory groups, from the Humanities Program Executive Committee to the Digital Humanities Executive Committee to the Yale-NUS Advisory Committee and Curriculum Review Committee. Her undergraduate courses include EALL 200, “The Chinese Tradition,” an overview of Chinese culture and history from antiquity to the 20th century.

Lu earned her A.B. (in East Asian languages and civilizations) and Ph.D. (in comparative literature) from Harvard University. Prior to coming to Yale, she was a member of the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania from 1998 to 2008, earning tenure in 2004.

Yale’s residential college “heads” seem to be younger these days, not as distinguished as they used to be, and more commonly chosen on the basis of “diversity” (what some of us would call: favoritism), but Professor Bailyn looks to me like a decent choice. At least he’s a Yalie.

Professor Lu, appropriately for her new college, is diverse. But, at least, she has eccentric areas of academic study, so I suppose they could do worse.

What is up, however, with these new college coats of arms?

College and universities customarily assume the arms of their namesake. Benjamin Franklin had a real coat of arms, complete with dolphins no less. Why on earth aren’t they using it?

Whatever-her-name-was, doubtless, had no coat of arms, so Yale is free, I suppose, to invent one and confer it on her, but Yale ought to be aware that these are referred to coats of arms or armorial achievements, not “shields.” And unmarried ladies’ arms are displayed on a lozenge (a diamond) or an oval, and not upon a shield.

Yale can’t even do heraldry right today. Sigh.

Benjamin Franklin’s real coat of arms, blazoned: Argent on a bend between two lions’ heads erased gules, a dolphin embowed of the first between two martlets or.


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