The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 64.0°F | Mostly Cloudy

Faculty Chairman proposes degree requirement changes

By Charles R. Jankowski

Chairman of the Faculty Arthur C. Smith proposed structural changes in the requirements for undergraduate degrees at a faculty meeting Wednesday.

"It is proposed that the General Institute Requirements be stated as a requirement of 17 subjects -- not as a number of credit units," states notes distributed at the meeting.

The number of required core subjects would remain the same.

The proposal calls for a slight change in the science distribution requirements, recommending that students take at least one science distribution subject outside of their departmental requirements.

Current degree requirements state that students must take at least 24 units of science distribution outside their major. However, this requirement is often fulfilled by departmental requirements outside the major.

According to meeting notes, "about 35 percent of the students do not take [a science distribution subject] outside of their department beyond required subjects and restricted electives."

"We recognize that many departments feel that their program provides ample breadth, but the proposal allows students to choose the area of breadth -- which can be particularly important in the process of selecting a major," the notes continued.

Presently, the science distribution requirements are satisfied by core courses in the following majors: 16, 10, 6-1, 6-3, 22, 23, 7, 12,

The following programs contain two of the three :1, 2, 3, 8. The proposal also calls for changes in the Humanities and Social Sciences requirement. The new policy would require students to take eight subjects, with no unit minimum. More humanities subjects, however, would be twelve unit classes rather than nine.

The proposal would also guarantee that all students have at least 48 units of unrestricted electives. Now "there is no specified lower limit on the amount of elective time available to students,"states the meeting notes.

The meeting supplement explained that "the minimum amount of elective time can vary from 12 to 60 units, depending on the departmental program, and upon the extent to which students take [humanities] subjects, and in some case restricted electives."

Departmental programs would normally include ll subjects and generally total 132 units but could be extended to 12 and one-half subjects totalling 150 units.

Smith's proposal would also require that at least 96 units of courses be from MIT subjects. This restriction is designed to prevent transfer students cross-registered at other colleges from having too few MIT subjects on their MIT transcripts.

The proposal would also change the residence requirement for an undergraduate degree to three terms from two.

The main idea of the changes, Smith said, is to "define more clearly what constitutes an undergraduate curriculum and what designates a bachelor's degree at MIT."

"Keeping track of four subjects is healthier than keeping track of five," Smith said, adding that proposal stresses a reduction in the number of nine unit classes in favor of 12 unit subjects.

Professor Mark Wrighton, undergraduate curriculum chairman of the Department of Chemistry presented a proposal to eliminate General Biology (7.01) and Chemical Thermodynamics (5.60) from the list of courses which satisfy the general Institute science requirements.

"Neither of the two subjects meet the spirit of the requirement," Wrighton said. The meeting notes added, "these courses are unrealistic beginning courses for most students." 5.60 requires both considerable chemistry and mathematics experience and 7.01 requires substantial chemistry.

The faculty will vote on the structural changes at its next meeting, scheduled for May 15.

Looking ahead

Provost Francis E. Low presented a report on a long-range plan for MIT, which resulted from the work of a ten-member planning committee Low chaired.

Low outlined in the report MIT's long-range goals, including "research and educational initiatives," and the attraction of "a more diverse undergraduate student body."

Other long-range goals included attracting more women and minorities to MIT and increasing the Institute's endowment. He said this should raise faculty salaries, lower research costs and provide more financial aid to students.