Faculty discusses calendar changes
By Niraj S. Desai
A motion to extend the final examination period of both terms to five days was put before the faculty at its Wednesday meeting, at which the report of the MIT Committee on Family and Work was also discussed.
Professor William M. Siebert '46, a member of the ad hoc faculty committee that proposed the calendar changes, said the motion was made in response to the marked increase in the number of finals given each term.
Students with multiple exams find they have little "breathing space" between finals, having to take exams one immediately after the other, Siebert said.
He also noted that faculty members find they must give exams more than once to accommodate students who have conflicting exams.
Both these problems will be alleviated to an extent if final examinations were spread out among more days, Siebert argued. Presently the fall exam period is four days and the spring period is three days.
The motion would allow for the added fall term exam day by eliminating one of the four days in the reading period immediately before the exam period.
In the spring term, the motion would add two exam days and increase the number of reading days from three to four by eliminating the two-day vacation period that follows Independent Activities Period and reducing the President's Day vacation from two days to one day.
Faculty Chair Henry D. Jacoby and Dean for Undergraduate Education Margaret L. A. MacVicar '65 both spoke in favor of the proposal. They noted that there are a host of other calendar-related issues that could be discussed, but urged the faculty to act on this one.
MacVicar noted that "there are almost as many ways to [approach this problem] as there are people in this room." Siebert asked that the faculty, in deciding on the motion, consider only whether the proposed calendar would be better than the present calendar, rather than going into the myriad of alternatives.
The motion will be discussed again at next month's faculty meeting and will likely be put to a vote then.
Family and work
MIT must revise its basic assumptions about the family and the place of family considerations in work decisions, concluded the Committee on the Family and Work.
The committee, formed in June 1988, recently finished its study of family and work issues at MIT. The study included surveys sent to everyone at MIT except undergraduates. The group's findings were presented at the faculty meeting by Professor Peter Elias '44, the committee chair.
Twenty years ago, MIT assumed that women employees were single and had no family responsibilities, while men had wives who took care of those issues, the committee report stated. That MIT culture found no reason to make allowances for its employees in such matters as the bearing and rearing of children or the care of aging parents.
But changes in the demographic profile of MIT as well as in the nature of the family have made the old assumptions inaccurate, the committee found. It noted that two out of seven working mothers and one of 16 working fathers at MIT are single, and that, if a working parent has a spouse, the spouse is also likely to be working. Moreover, fewer extended family members and other providers are available to help care for children and for adult dependents, the committee said.
Unless the Institute can find ways for its faculty, staff and students to better harmonize family and career responsibilities, it will find that it is losing personnel to universities and companies which are more progressive in this area, the report warned.
The committee made 28 separate recommendations. Among them was that MIT adopt a statement of principle that commits it to helping community members "reach an accommodation between their work and their personal lives which minimizes stress and maximizes productivity."
More concretely, the committee urged that the Institute be flexible in allowing employees full or part-time leaves of absence or restricted workloads because of family and personal needs.
It recommended extending from eight to 18 weeks the length of unpaid job-protected parental leave to women and men who become birth and adoptive parents. Also, women should be allowed a fixed term of eight weeks of disability pay for normal childbirth, without the explicit medical certification that MIT now requires, the committee said. It also called for job-protected personal leaves for reasons other than childbirth, such as caring for an ill spouse or partner, or relocating an aging parent.
Other recommendations dealt with providing child care, care for the elderly, housing issues, benefits and medical coverage.
One junior faculty member who described himself as being on the "daddy track," Assistant Professor Paul Hoffman, remained unsatisfied with the committee's proposals because they would allow parents flexible work schedules only so that they could care for newborns. Relegating older children to day care is like "sacrificing our children," he said.
The committee's report and recommendations will now be examined by administrators and others for feasibility and desirability, said Provost John M. Deutch '61.
at faculty meeting
Also at Wednesday's meeting, the faculty recommended to the Corporation name changes for two undergraduate degrees, and passed a resolution honoring Professor Richard B. Adler '43, who was killed in a recent accident.
The Department of Civil Engineering currently offers a program in environmental science and engineering, Course IA, which leads to an undesignated bachelor of science as recommended by the civil engineering department. But because of its undesignated status, the degree has low visibility and has trouble being professionally accredited, department head David H. Marks said. He proposed official recognition for the program in the form of the designated degree of bachelor of science in environmental science and engineering. The proposal passed on a unanimous voice vote.
Graham C. Walker, professor of biology, introduced a biology department motion to change the name of the department's undergraduate degree from bachelor of science in life sciences to bachelor of science in biology. The motion also passed on a unanimous voice vote.
Siebert read a tribute to Adler, who played a leading role in the development of the modern electrical engineering curriculum. The faculty accepted it by a standing moment of silence.