IAP group issues report
By Katherine Shim
In an August report, the Independent Activities Period Policy Committee (IAPPC) noted the present lack of faculty involvement in IAP and strongly recommended active faculty participation throughout the month of January. The report was a review of the IAPPC's two-year experiment to increase student participation in Independent Activities Period and emphasize the academic seriousness of the period.
The committee, a permanent adjunct to IAP whose role is to evaluate and govern IAP policy, strongly recommended that faculty members run classes that continue throughout IAP rather than meet only once.
In the report, the IAPPC "concludes that the present governance and management of IAP makes it easy for most of the faculty not to think about IAP. Central to the success of IAP is the active participation of the faculty, and this will not occur unless the faculty systematically and conscientiously thinks about IAP."
The report specifically recommended that department heads and faculty members assume the responsibility of creating more IAP credit-bearing subjects. These subjects should be listed in the MIT Bulletin and the Registrar's fall schedule book to enable students to plan in advance for their IAP activities, the committee suggested.
The faculty used to plan for IAP in the fall, according to Professor Travis R. Merritt, associate dean in the Undergraduate Academic Support Office. "Now we would like for the faculty to plan for IAP in the same manner in which they plan for their fall and spring curriculum -- a year in advance. We would like for the faculty to treat IAP equally with their fall and spring terms.
"IAP '92 should definitely feel the affect of this advanced planning. We would also like to see more and more sustained IAP activities listed in the Bulletin. Currently, only a few sustained IAP activities exist and are listed."
President Paul E. Gray '54 and Provost John M. Deutch '61 have endorsed the recommendations of the IAPPC, and a letter concerning these recommendations has been sent to the deans of all five schools.
Student participation increasing
Data collected from surveys taken during the two-year experimental period indicate that the amount of time students have been spending at MIT during IAP has been increasing. Students spent an average of about 65 percent of their time at the Institute during IAP this year.
The number of students who spend all of their time at MIT during IAP, and the number of hours spent by students in IAP activities has also been increasing significantly. A greater percentage of students earned academic or physical education credit during IAP '90 than in previous years as well.
While student participation in IAP appears to be increasing, the level of faculty participation has remained constant. According to the IAPPC report, in the years with data available for study (1983, 1988, 1989, and 1990) faculty participation consistently accounted for only 25 percent of the total number of activities offered in the IAP Guide.
Finally, the IAPPC found that of all the activities offered in the guide, half of them met only once, approximately 20 percent met two to three times, and 25 percent met four or more times.
"It is a bit deceiving," stated Mary Z. Enterline, associate dean in the Undergraduate Academic Support Office. "Students receive an IAP Guide that seems to contain a plethora of courses, and of those courses 50 percent meet only once. Clearly, we must offer an increased number of large scale and/or credit-bearing activities."
The report commented on student attitudes toward IAP by stating, "Student expectations of IAP in its current state lean markedly toward benefits conventionally associated with `vacation time'. . . and away from those conventionally associated with intellectual enterprise."
In a survey the IAPPC conducted, 91 percent of the student correspondents rated the idea of "IAP as a period for relaxation" as "important," seven percent rated it "somewhat important," and two percent felt it was "not important."
In response to the concept of "IAP as a period to learn new academic courses," 31 percent rated "important," and 46 percent voted "not important." Thirteen percent of those responding rated as important the idea that IAP was "a period to earn extra academic credits," while 76 percent felt it was not important.
The feeling of the IAPPC has been that the "vacation-time" attitude of students results in part from the insufficient amount of sustained IAP activities provided by the faculty. Students do not expect to engage in intellectual activity if it is not provided on a sustained basis.
"Students are not to worry," Merritt said. "The basic character of IAP as a change of pace from the fall and spring terms will not change. IAP will not turn into a short, killer-course term. We are mainly interested that those students who want to study intensively will have the chance to do it, and we want the students to be able to interact more with the faculty."
A committee may be set up to institute changes in the Institute calendar, which would as a result address the issue of IAP. This committee is not directly connected to the IAPPC, but some of its decisions may affect IAP. - andrea"The small scale calendar adjustments of last spring had been more of a stop-gap measure," Enterline said. "This year the half week off after the end of IAP will be done away with. Registration will take place the day immediately after the end of IAP."
could this last paragraph go???