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Faculty Committee Re-examines End-of-Term Rules

By Dan McGuire
CONTRIBUTING EDITOR

The Faculty Policy Committee’s subcommittee on Examination and Regulation proposed significant changes to the regulations governing undergraduate exams and course scheduling at the May 19 faculty meeting.

Several recommendations centered on what faculty could assign during the last week of classes.

The subcommittee recommended that no tests or exams be given during this time period. The report noted that the “last week of term is very hectic and students do not have adequate time... to review the entire semester’s material.”

In addition, the report called the current policy of allowing non-comprehensive tests to be given during the last week “ambiguous and effectively unenforceable”. “We didn’t want to be in the business of regulating content,” said Professor of Materials Science and Engineering Donald R. Sadoway, who chaired the subcommittee.

The subcommittee also proposed that the regulations governing end-of-term assignments be modified to disallow optional assignments which can be submitted to get extra credit or to substitute for an earlier assignment.

The subcommittee also recommended a ran announcement of assignments at the beginning of the term, that there be tighter restrictions on what can be done during the last week of classes, and that there be new restrictions on examinations and review sessions.

The subcommittee also moved to clear up ambiguities in the regulations governing the period from 5-7 p.m. period reserved for for dining, athletics, and other activities. It recommended that optional review sessions not be given during that period and that evening exams be given no earlier than 7:30 to allow students participating in athletics some time to compose themselves. “7:30 is a better time in general,” said Jeremy D. Sher ’99, a member of the subcommittee.

The policies governing graduate courses still need to be addressed. “Early in our mission we decided not to work on both,” Sadoway said. “We still have our work cut out for us” in examining regulations for graduate students, he said.

President Charles M. Vest cautioned that the proposals are “the beginning of a series of conversations that will move into the fall.” “This is not the final discussion,” he said.

The complete text of the subcommittee's report is available at <http://web.mit.edu/faculty/reports/exam-termregs/>.

Weinberg named Killian winner

The Killian Committee named Professor of Biology Robert A. Weinberg ’64 the winner of the prestigious Killian Faculty Achievement Award.

“I’m stunned,” Weinberg said, “I never imagined that I would be recognized by this august faculty in this fashion.”

Weinberg is a noted cancer researcher and a founding member of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical research. He spent almost two decades studying the origin of cancer.

Weinberg received a National Medal of Science for his work in 1997, the nineteenth MIT faculty member to receive the award.

ROTC group reports mixed results

Professor of Management Emeritus Robert B. McKersie, the chair of the Reserve Officers Training Corps Oversight Committee gave the annual report on MIT’s efforts to resolve the conflict between the Department of Defense’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and MIT’s non-discrimination policies.

On the national front “we have no good news to report,” McKersie said. “Existing barriers have been increased or reinforced by acts of Congress with the concurrence of the courts,” he said.

The report notes that the federal case being used as a vehicle for court challenges to the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy, Able vs. United States, has been dismissed by a Federal appeals court. MIT had filed an amicus brief in that case expressing its support for overturning the DOD policy. The report notes that progress on this front has stalled because there are no “current cases in the pipeline that would provide a new or similarly articulate challenge to current law.”

The other prong of MIT’s lobbying effort to overturn the policy, trying to forge a united opposition with universities, has also met with little success, McKersie reported. Many universities are reluctant to “raise an issue that seems to have faded from view,” he said, while others are dedicating their energies to what they see as “higher-priority issues.”

The news on campus, however, is somewhat brighter. MIT has tried to create leadership development programs outside of the ROTC program, but with input and assistance from ROTC leaders, and McKersie said that some of those efforts had borne fruit.

A leadership workshop over IAP attracted over 30 students, the report said. The Sloan School will also offer two leadership courses during the 1999-2000 academic year. Seven freshmen seminars slated for introduction in the fall will also focus on developing leadership skills.

Faculty approves new degrees

The faculty also voted to establish two new programs. They approved a Bachelor of Science in Linguistics and Philosophy, which will be offered by the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy’s restructured “Language of the Mind” program. Until now, that program had only granted graduate degrees. The Department’s Bachelor of Science in Philosophy remains unchanged.

The faculty also approved a PhD program in Chemical Engineering Practice, which will be given by the Department of Chemical Engineering. The program is “designed to prepare graduates for a fast launch into positions of leadership in industry,” according to the degree proposal. As part of their coursework, students in the program will take all of the first-year courses in the Sloan MBA program.