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Forum to Solicit Student Opinion on Writing Requirement Proposal

By Venkatesh Satish
contributing editor

The Committee on the Writing Requirement will host a forum later this month for students to ask questions and express opinions about the new proposal to revamp the current Phase I and Phase II system.

The proposed changed mandate that students would have to take a "communication-intensive" each of their four years at the Institute. ["Committee Plans to Revamp Institute Writing Requirement," Sept. 20]

Students will get a chance to ask members of the committee about the proposal at the meeting, which will take place on Monday Oct. 21 from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in room 10-250, said Undergraduate Association President Richard Y. Lee '97, who is helping organize the event.

"I am very happy the committee decided to solicit student input I was really impressed," Lee said.

"Student input is absolutely essential Students will often know the problem better and have different ways of approaching it," said Coordinator of the Writing Requirement Leslie C. Perelman.

After the forum, the committee members will try to speak to smaller groups of students, Perelman said. "We are going to try to reach as many students as we can," he said.

Plan emphasizes communication

The proposed changes say that students could satisfy the yearly communication class requirement by taking courses such as specialized writing classes, seminars, or classes in their department that incorporate "practica," six-unit subjects that integrate communication skills with the material in a traditionally technical field.

The details of the proposal will be finalized during the fall and would then be submitted to the faculty for approval.

The plan would only affect future students, since it would take approximately seven years to create all the subjects the new system would need.

Student opinions mixed

While the proposal is still taking shape, students state that the plan has some benefits, but also some possible pitfalls.

"I'm very glad they are taking a proactive [stand] on improving the communication skills of MIT students," Lee said.

"It would be good because there's the outside impression that we don't have any humanities [at MIT] Obviously you're going to be writing reports or proposals your whole life," said Christopher S. McGuire '00.

"I think writing is an important part of communication. Reading a book in equations isn't good enough. I think courses that are in your major and allow you to write at the same time," work best to help students express themselves, said Robert W. LaChance '97.

Some expressed concern over the change and felt that requiring certain writing classes would restrict their choices of humanities courses.

"I would definitely prefer the current system. Four, or even two or three more classes, take a good chunk of time from taking more general humanities classes. I'd rather have the writing be a part of the current humanities classes," said Matthew S. DeBergalis '99

"I don't think it's useful to have courses devoted specifically to writing. I would not want to take four classes out of a constrained set of humanities classes. You don't get enough variety if you choose only four writing classes," said Hussein M. Waljee '97.

"I'm concerned about the negation of other HASS [subject areas], like music and philosophy," said Avi C. Weiss '99.

"If you pass Phase II, you should have the basic skills [to write reports]," and this is the main writing ability that students need, said Marlon D. Shows '97.