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Faculty Discuss MEng, Missing Paragraph

By Daniel C. Stevenson
News Editor

At Wednesday's regular meeting of the faculty, Dean of the Graduate School Frank E. Perkins '55 made a motion to establish two new Master's of Engineering degrees. Following discussion of the programs, President Charles M. Vest postponed the vote on the motions until next month's meeting.

The agenda also included a report on the Reserve Officers Training Corps policy on homosexuals and the solution to a mystery surrounding a missing paragraph in the Rules and Regulations of the Faculty.

Representatives from the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering made presentations about the proposed MEng degrees.

A similar proposal by the Department of Ocean Engineering was approved by the faculty at last month's meeting. The Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science has had an MEng degree since last year.

The MEng degrees represent "precisely the kind of leadership that MIT should be taking in its engineering programs," Vest said.

Because of the "fundamental" nature of the changes proposed in the MEng programs, Vest decided to hold over the vote on the motions until the November meeting. "We want to be sure we maximize discussion of this around the Institute," Vest said.

Assuming the motions are passed by the faculty, they will be forwarded to the Corporation for final approval, Perkins said.

The missing mystery paragraph concerning the scheduling of exams was supposed to be included in section 2.11 of the 1993 edition of Rules and Regulations of the Faculty, according to Professor of Physics Robert L. Jaffe, chair of the faculty.

The omission was discovered by Associate Dean for Undergraduate Academic Affairs Margaret S. Enders and Professor of EECS Harold Abelson PhD '73, who were "the real heroes of this detective story," Jaffe said.

Abelson was interested in scheduling an evening exam for a class he taught and consulted Enders, who works with the Committee on the Undergraduate Program. Enders answered Abelson's question with a 1991 document from the Committee on Academic Performance outlining the evening exam policy.

Due to an ambiguity in the document, Abelson asked Enders for clarification from the Rules and Regulations. Enders was unable to find the relevant paragraph, leading to the discovery of the omission, Jaffe said.

The entire section relating to scheduling and the calendar was updated in the 1993 edition, but the paragraph relating to the evening exam policy was omitted due to a printer's error, Jaffe said.

ROTC given one year

At the beginning of the meeting, Provost Mark S. Wrighton provided an annual update on the ROTC situation. The ROTC policy on homosexuals, which now follows the Clinton administration's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, conflicts with the Institute's non-discrimination policy.

In October 1990, the faculty approved a resolution asking the administration to work to reverse the Department of Defense policy on homosexuals over five years. At the time, homosexuals were banned from participation under all circumstances.

During the 1992 presidential election, candidate Bill Clinton "indicated that when he became president he would change the policy," Wrighton said. However, Clinton's "don't ask, don't tell" policy fails to meet MIT's requirements, he said.

It is unlikely that the administration or Congress will act on the matter, Wrighton said. "The only course of action to change the policy would be a court action."

Several cases are moving through the court system which "would appear to possibly result sometime down the road in a Supreme Court decision," Wrighton said.

Because the five year period will expire next year, Wrighton and Vest will likely appoint a committee to work on the issue next fall if there is no other resolution, Wrighton said.

Vest announced that he had asked the American Association of Universities to provide a legal analysis of the court cases involving ROTC and homosexuals.

Concern over adjunct faculty

Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics Stephen R. Hall and Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Rafael L. Bras '72 made the MEng proposals for their departments at the meeting.

Following the presentation, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering Linn W. Hobbs questioned the use of adjunct faculty to teach design and industrial application related portions of the new graduate programs.

Rather than bringing in special faculty for those programs, Hobbs suggested providing training for current faculty. "We ought to be putting in place a program for improving those particular skills among our own faculty," he said.

Hobbs, who is chair of CUP, said he "would not want to see programs which would have an impact on our undergraduate program but would not be staffed by faculty members."

Hall said that his department would hire a senior lecturer with industrial experience to teach the main design course in the MEng program.

Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics Earll M. Murman, head of the department, said he expected faculty members to migrate to the design area. He also said he has had a positive experience with adjunct professors in the past.

Jaffe reported that the faculty policy committee was "delighted to see that there is an emerging template" for the MEng degrees. The common features and conservative nature of one recent and two proposed programs alleviate some of the concern raised when the EECS MEng program was created, he said.