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Faculty Hears New Plan On Writing Requirement

By Nomi Giszpenc
Staff Reporter

The faculty discussed issues ranging from the writing requirement to a new Master of Science program during the monthly faculty meeting on Wednesday.

Professor of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences Kip V. Hodges PhD '82 updated the faculty on the findings on the Institute Writing Requirement. Hodges is the chair of the Committee on the Writing Requirement.

A subcommittee reached three main conclusions: that students consider the writing requirement a minimum proficiency test; that both writing and speaking skills are very important in future careers; and that more classes are needed throughout the undergraduate curriculum and not just for fulfilling Phase I and Phase II of the writing requirement.

The committee tried to frame a proposal keeping in mind that neither faculty nor students want an increased workload, but Hodges admitted that it would be "very difficult to have no negative impact."

The committee has already formulated a proposal to require undergraduates to take a writing class during each of their four years at MIT.

The bottom line is that students have to write more - with feedback, Hodges said. Still, he emphasized that the committee is proposing not so much adding courses as changing the content of courses that students are taking, making them more "communication intensive."

Also, several findings from an alumni survey pointed out that alumni consider writing and speaking skills very important but that MIT hardly contributes to their development, Hodges said. Though many students object to writing courses early on, by the time they are seniors, they recognize the need for improved skills, Hodges said.

The committee's goal is to bring a joint proposal with the Committee on the Undergraduate Program and to present it to the faculty during the spring of 1997. In the meantime, the committee wants faculty and student help in developing the proposal. There will be an open forum on the writing requirement on Monday, Oct. 21.

EAPS master program planned

Thomas H. Jordan, chair of the EAPS department, announced that EAPS is in the process of implementing a new Master of Science program in geosystems.

The EAPS department is not actually required to present the program to the faculty, since the department has already received approval from the Committee for Graduate School Policy and the new program will only represent an extra line on an already existing degree, Jordan said.

However, since the degree represents a departure from usual policy, the faculty would probably want to know more about it, Jordan said. The department consulted with people in industry to craft a course more amenable to practical work and produced a set of classes they hope will make students "highly sought," Jordan said.

The faculty decided to discuss the degree and vote on it at the November meeting.

Faculty survey results revealed

Associate Provost Phillip L. Clay presented the results of the Higher Education Research Institute Survey of Faculty, in which MIT participated for the first time last fall.

The survey results will serve, along with the undergraduate survey, to reveal the common concerns of the MIT community and differing issues among students and faculty, Clay said. By locating the common concerns of students and faculty, the Institute can "triangulate" and decide the best course of action, Clay said.

The survey found that 75 percent of faculty said that they were under a high degree of stress, Clay said. The survey found that faculty priorities at MIT included intellectual development and maintaining a national image. Faculty personal goals included becoming an authority in a certain field and having a close family.

Over the next few months, Senior Planning Officer for Institutional Research Lydia S. Snover will be in charge of further analyzing the survey results.

Professor of Philosophy Judith J. Thomson initiated a resolution on the remembrance of the late Professor of Philosophy George S. Boolos PhD '66, who died last May of cancer. The faculty acknowledged the motion with a moment of silence.

President Vest closed the meeting with a discussion of the recent administration reorganization, which symbolizes the "importance of the greater life of our students."

The changes in the reorganization involved shifting control of about 10 major offices that were formerly managed by MIT's operations end over to the Dean's Office, which typically focuses more directly on student concerns and educational policy.

The re-engineering committees have been pointing to the integration of these areas, Vest said.

The integration of activities got rid of artificial boundaries, Vest said. The reorganization is creating a single integrated unit for delivery of all student services, he said.