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Letters to the editor

I am writing in response to the question raised by Ron Spangler G in his letter ["Why Is Registrar Slow?", Feb. 19]. He is absolutely right -- it does take the Registrar's Office too long to provide a transcript at our peak times of the year. While transcripts are usually produced in three to five days, the wait can be around two weeks during parts of January, February, and June. Unfortunately we are severely limited by an out-of-date manual system that begins with a permanent record on paper for each student; each term a sticker containing subject registration and grades is applied by hand to the record. A transcript is then produced by photocopying the oversize record on special paper, signing, and affixing the MIT seal.

A significant number of the records and registration staff is involved in this extremely time-consuming process, especially at this time of year when we receive thousands of transcript requests for graduate school and employment, for which permanent records need to be updated with fall and IAP grades before the transcript can be produced. The transcript demand is also heavy as a result of increase orders from alumni.

The good news is that the Registrar's Office and the other student-related services at MIT are in the process of developing a new Student Information System, to become operational late this year, that will include an electronic method for producing transcripts on-line. This automated system will make it possible for us to fill transcript requests for current students in a fraction of the present time, as well as provide rush service, once we have completely converted the current records by Spring 1994. Also, the appearance of the transcript will be greatly improved.

The beginnings of the new system are already visible via the Student Information Service on Athena -- which provides students with electronic access to their academic record and other academic information: viewing grades, degree audit, and subject registration, as well as changing address and phone information. It also permits browsing of public academic information such as catalogue subject descriptions, class schedules, etc. These services will continue to expand after the new system is in place, and will include electronic preregistration during Fall 1994.

The new Student Information System will allow the Registrar's Office and other student-related offices to better serve students, faculty, and various administrative offices. A student advisory committee assisted with planning the new system, but we continue to welcome your suggestions as we finalize the specifications. In the meantime we sincerely acknowledge and appreciate students' patience as the old system is gracefully retired.

David S. Wiley


Students Should Vote to Protect Free Speech

We are writing to announce the formation of the Student Alliance for Freedom of Expression. SAFE will work to protect freedom of speech and freedom of expression on campus, and will monitor Institute policies to ensure that they do not interfere with these rights. We invite interested students, as well as faculty and staff, to join with us in pursuit of this goal.

SAFE's first project is the passage of the Free Speech Initiative. On Wednesday, March 10, on the Undergraduate Association ballot, three referendum questions will appear:

1. Should MIT guarantee its students the same freedom of speech that students have at public universities?

2. Should students have the freedom to express unpopular or controversial views?

3. Should the MIT harassment policy, which currently restricts constitutionally protected speech, be revised to provide protection for freedom of speech?

We encourage students to go to the polls and vote yes on all three questions. We have put these questions on the UA ballot because the existing harassment policy violates freedom of speech. The policy punishes speech on the basis of its alleged offensiveness, with penalties up to and including expulsion. But many true ideas were considered offensive when they first emerged. At a university devoted to pursuit of the truth, speech should not be regulated simply because it is unpopular or controversial, even gravely so. Currently, the administration is not convinced that students value their freedom of speech. By voting for the initiative, you can send a message to the administration that you do value your freedom of speech, and that you want the policy to be improved to protect it.

We are concerned that the MIT policy may be illegal. Federal courts have found similar policies at the Universities of Michigan and Wisconsin to be unconstitutional. While MIT is a private institution, unlike Michigan and Wisconsin, the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act extends freedom of speech protections to students at private colleges. Revising the policy might help MIT by saving it from being found guilty of violating students' civil rights.

Hanyoung Huang `94

Lars E. Bader G