Seniors are completeing Phase II eariler
By Chitra K. Raman
Students have completed Phase II of the Institute Writing Requirement more rapidly since its administration was decentralized, said Les Perelman, coordinator of the Writing Requirement. "There exists only a handful of students planning to graduate in June who have not yet completed the requirement, and this number is decreasing every day," he said.
In April of 1988 the MIT faculty adopted and endorsed the Committee on the Writing Requirement's proposal to allow Phase II of the Institute Writing Requirement to be handled within the individual departments.
Because the subject of the Phase II paper is in the area of the student's concentration, it made more sense to allow the student's own department to handle it, Perelman said. The rationale is that the best teachers and judges of written discourse in a particular discipline are the practitioners of that discipline.
The change was also suitable from an administrative point of view. Rather than having the Writing Requirement office oversee 1000 seniors, it was more advantageous for the students to deal directly with their departmental administrators who are more aware of their particular situations, Perelman said.
In 1987, 39 percent of seniors did not complete Phase II until their final semester. This number has fallen dramatically; Perelman estimated that approximately five percent of MIT seniors who plan to graduate have yet to complete the requirement, compared to 25 percent from last year. Also, he explained that within this five percent, there exist a significant number of students who are in five year programs or who are not expected to graduate this spring for some other reason.
One of the reasons for the more rapid completion rate since the new system was approved is the increase in the number of writing cooperative subjects available, Perelman said. Students enrolled in these subjects can satisfy Phase II by receiving a writing grade of B or better for a paper in that course. With this system many students are able finish the writing requirement earlier, because they often take these courses in their sophomore and junior years, he explained.
Another part to the proposal, which will take effect with the Class of 1990, requires students to complete Phase II by registration day of the term in which they are planning to graduate. This will deter students from procrastinating until the last term of their senior year, Perelman said.
Perelman maintains that the departmental management of the writing requirement has not made Phase II any easier. "No more than usual are passing the first time around," he said. "They are just getting it out of the way earlier." The number who pass their first try is about 50 percent, he noted.
Perelman attributed the rapid completion rate to the students themselves. "Now the Writing Requirement is beginning to be established as a fact of MIT life," said Perelman. "Realizing for themselves that sound writing skills are vital in today's world, many students no longer consider the requirement an unfair burden and are beginning to take it more seriously," he added.