Students will play imortant rol in shaping MIT's futureLast week, representatives from the California Institute of Technology visited MIT in their continuing effort to reform Caltech's curriculum. Their visit came amid thesimilar undergraduate educational reevaluation taking place here.
Caltech professor Sunney Chan told The Tech that Caltech students are overworked and do not have time to "digest and think." Sound familiar? Faced with a 30 percent dropout rate and a shrinking applicant pool, Caltech's administration has decided that changes must be made.
MIT, too, has realized that its undergraduate program could stand improvement. Students and faculty agree that overwhelming pressure and pace often impede learning. For many students, studying at MIT merely consists of churning out weekly problem sets and papers and cramming for tomorrow's test. The environment permits little love of learning.
Too narrow a focus in education is another problem often cited. MIT graduates will serve as leaders of a technologically advanced world. MIT may not be adequately preparing them for this role. Degree requirements often leave few opportunities for breadth and diversity.
Dean of Undergraduate Education Margaret L. A. MacVicar '65 has been leading an evaluation of what an MIT education could and should be. The results of this study could mean radical alterations of undergraduate programs -- MIT in 15 years may very well be unrecognizable to current students.
Several possibilities are already in the works. The Committee on Integrated Studies will recommend the creation of a four-year program leading to a Bachelor of Science and Arts degree, emphasizing both technical and humanistic concerns. This degree could be the first in a series of alternative degree options.
Another change could be extending the number of years of education, as suggested by Steven R. Lerman '72, professor of civil engineering.
While the faculty is evaluating its offerings, students might do well to look at themselves, to see how much of the pressure is self-inflicted. Many students go far beyond minimum degree requirements. They opt for advanced and graduate courses. Some seem to thrive on pressure and a heavy workload. For the rest, developing efficient study habits and avoiding unreasonable overloading can do wonders.
Then again, students did choose to come here, realizing that MIT's prestige carries a price. Professor Alvin W. Drake '57, chairman of the Committee on Students Affairs said, "We are a firehose; we want to be a firehose; we will always be a firehose."
As much as students may yell "IHTFP" while here, they are appreciative of MIT's unique assets. When graduates look back on their years at MIT, it is with a sense of pride for having "survived," President Paul E. Gray '54 said.
Keeping MIT's unique assets while eliminating the problems will be difficult. How can intensity be sustained while students are relieved of pressure? How can MIT diversify its educational offerings while maintaining premier science and engineering programs?
We, as undergraduates at MIT, shall be playing a crucial role in answering these tough questions. As the administration's main source of feedback, we are in a position to directly affect MIT's future. This responsibility is one we can't ignore.