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Faculty Discuss Policy, New Degrees

By Sanjay Basu

Members of the Institute proposed major changes to the curriculum and policies of MIT. Some of these changes regarded the use of intermediate grades, revisions to the Aeronautics and Astronautics curriculum, and the proposal of a new S.B. program in Linguistics, Wednesday at a faculty meeting.

Professor Paul A. Lagace of the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics first announced a vote on the motion to approve the internal use of intermediate grades. The motion, which called for the inclusion of plus/minus grades in internal reports but not on official student transcripts, was passed without discussion.

Professors Edward Greitzer and Steven Hall then announced their proposal to revise the undergraduate program in Aeronautics and Astronautics. The professors did not specifically announce what changes they planned to make, but simply announced to the faculty that a revision process would begin.

S.B. Proposed in Linguistics

One of two significant curriculum changes proposed at the meeting was the development of a new undergraduate degree in Linguistics.

Professor Edward Hall of the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy explained his justification for proposing the degree.

“After the Linguistics department merged with the Philosophy department several years ago, we decided to begin restructuring one of our major programs: Language and Mind,” said Hall. “We are proposing now that we have a jointly administered program that awards students with a ‘Bachelor of Science in Linguistics and Philosophy’ instead of just a ‘Bachelor of Science in Philosophy’.”

MIT’s Linguistics department has almost exclusively catered to a graduate audience in the past.

“But in recent years, we’ve really ‘beefed-up’ what we offer to undergraduates. Undergraduates are showing a strong interest in our department,” said Hall.

The department will now offer two undergraduate degrees: the traditional ‘Bachelor of Science in Philosophy’ (Program I), which does not require linguistics classes, and the new integrated ‘Bachelor of Science in Linguistics and Philosophy’ (Program II).

“Students in both tracks will have the same core introductory subjects before continuing with one of the two major fields,” said Hall.

Undergraduates must complete 180 units beyond GIRs to obtain an S.B. A draft of the proposed requirements is posted at

Faculty members will vote on the proposal during the May faculty meeting.

Course X Creates New PhD

At the meeting, Professors Robert C. Armstrong and Robert E. Cohen of the Department of Chemical Engineering proposed a new Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering Practice.

“We’ve designed this program to prepare graduates for positions of leadership in industry,” said Cohen. “We’ve found that many of our doctoral graduates don’t go into R&D, and we feel that its necessary to train them for what will allow them to reach management positions.”

The degree in Chemical Engineering Practice includes an initial one-year core of Chemical Engineering subjects accompanied by weekly seminars. Students then spend a summer term at an industrial site and begin a research project.

Perhaps the most unique aspect of this degree is the incorporation of management studies into the program. During their final year of study, students complete the first year core of Sloan’s MBA program.

“During the year, we’ve been able to show our proposal to a number of people,” said Armstrong. “And we received much enthusiasm from the Sloan school faculty.”

Though only ten students will be accepted to the new program, each of them will be awarded a ‘Certificate of Re-entry’ from the Sloan School, allowing them to complete their MBA’s within ten years of the completion of their Ph.D.’s.

Some faculty members at the meeting raised concerns about the name of the new degree. The degree is the first of its kind to bear the name of a specific department, as opposed to being a traditional generic doctoral degree. The degree proposal is posted at

ROTC Introduces Sloan Class

After the two new degrees were proposed, Professor Robert B. McKersie addressed faculty members regarding ROTC initiatives taking place at the Institute.

“We have under consideration the conflict between national rules on discriminatory policy with regard to sexual orientation and MIT’s policy of non-discrimination,” said McKersie.

McKersie and others have introduced both an Independent Activities Period leadership workshop and a new Sloan class entitled “Leadership and Management” to allow gay students to participate in ROTC-type activities without violating national military rules.

The IAP workshop, which took place in January of this year, had higher enrollment than expected. The Sloan School class in “Leadership and Management” will begin next Spring. The class will address several issues of ethics and leadership in both the military and in business.

A Tribute to Faculty Members

Following the two departmental proposals, several committees reported to faculty members at the meeting. Among the topics were policies on retired faculty members and changes to the ‘Rules and Regulations of the Faculty’.

Professor Karen Polenske announced the winner of this year’s Edgerton Award -- a prize given to a member of the junior faculty who demonstrates outstanding achievement in research, teaching, and service to the MIT community. This year’s winner was Associate Professor of Biology Tania Baker.

Before the announcement, Institute Professor Francis E. Low approached his colleagues to pass a resolution on the death of Professor Kenneth A. Johnson, a physics professor known for his achievements in particle physics. Johnson died of brain cancer in February.

MIT President Charles M. Vest also announced that Professor Gian-Carlo Rota, joint professor in mathematics and philosophy, had recently died.