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Revised Policy on Incompletes Takes Effect Starting This Term

By Carina Fung

Students will begin to see the effect of the new, stricter incomplete policy in coming weeks as its first term in effect draws to a close. Among other things, the new policy imposes deadlines on when incomplete grades may be resolved.

The new policy states that incomplete grades must be completed by the Add Date of the following term. However, the policy allows the instructor to grant additional time if there are extenuating circumstances.

If student does not complete the missing work by the deadline, the instructor must submit a final grade based on the work the student turned in.

An additional provision prevents seniors from receiving incompletes in the semester in which they plan to graduate and prevents students from graduating with an incompletes on their transcripts.

Changes follow discussion

The new deadlines come as a result of almost two years of discussion by members of the Committee on Academic Performance and other faculty committees, said J. D. Nyhart, chair of the CAP and acting registrar. The changes reflect the committee's concern that students take their academic commitments seriously, Nyhart said.

"What also bore on the CAP's mind was the lack of fairness in students who draw out the time in which to complete work," Nyhart said.

Some students continue to "work on a basis of incompletes, while other students complete their academic commitments on time," he said. Some students thought that the problem of dangling incompletes had to be remedied, he said.

The CAP felt that the previous system allowed students to accumulate incompletes which they could complete later in a leisurely manner, if at all. The old system also allowed students to get higher grade point averages by temporarily eliminating "problem" subjects with an incomplete grade, he said.

"Some students seemed to be taking the incomplete policy too casually and felt that they could always petition the CAP for an incomplete," said Associate Registrar Elizabeth C. Bradley. "Sometimes they did not finish their work until two years later."

"Students would leave MIT and years later want to clear their records, though by that time they had completely forgotten the nature of the assignment which they were supposed to complete," Nyhart added.

The CAP receives approximately 75 petitions each year asking for permission to resolve incompletes that have gone beyond Institute deadlines.

Prior to bringing its proposal for a new policy on Incompletes to the Faculty, the CAP examined the incomplete policies of other schools, including California Institute of Technology, Harvard University, and Stanford University.

None of these schools allows incompletes to remain on students' records, and most of them require students to complete missing work within a very short period of time from their receipt of an incomplete.

Margaret E. Devine, assistant to the chair of the CAP, said that additional information on the new policy is available through her in 7-104.