The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 41.0°F | Fair

Faculty Approve New Communications Requirement

By Daniel C. Stevenson
CONTRIBUTING EDITOR

Faculty members overwhelmingly approved a modified motion to implement the new Communication Requirement at Wednesday’s faculty meeting.

The faculty also heard about proposed changes to class regulations that limit professors’ flexibility on assignments and evening exams, a summary of disciplinary proceedings for the past year, and statistics indicating a continued downward trend in harassment.

The relatively large crowd of 100 people who attended the meeting in Room 10-250 included several undergraduates interested in the Communication Requirement and exam regulation discussions.

The requirement replaces the old Writing Requirement and its Phase 1 and Phase 2 competency tests with a more instructional approach requiring four communications-intensive classes.

The motion as passed calls for the Committee on the Undergraduate Program to develop an implementation plan, to be presented to the faculty by next February.

Motion clarifies enforcement

The modified motion was offered after members of the Committee on Academic Performance and the Committee on Curriculum voiced concerns over the implementation and monitoring of the requirement.

“We strongly endorse this [modification], in that it will give the faculty time to come up with a better solution” to implementation issues said Sarah L. McDougal ’00, chair of the Student Committee on Educational Policy.

Professors Steven R. Lerman ’72, chair of the faculty, and Suzanne Flynn, chair of the CUP, supported the development of an implementation plan. In a statement handed out at the meeting, they proposed creating three groups that will manage the phase-out of the existing Writing Requirement, establish criteria for designating CI classes, and draft administration processes for governing the requirement.

Associate Dean Jeffrey A. Meldman offered a poorly received amendment to the modified motion that would have required students to take “essentially” four communications classes. Meldman said he wanted to offer some “wiggle room” to allow for flexibility in the implementation process.

Professor Arthur C. Smith also raised the issue of curriculum flexibility. Smith, chair of the COC and former dean of students, pointed out that the requirement is unique in that it specifies a time sequence of classes (one per year for four years). “We expect a lot of our students,” he said. “One way that we help students meet those expectations is to allow flexibility wherever we can.”

Undergraduate Association President Matthew L. McGann ’00 said that students were also concerned about the flexibility of the implementation. “I would like to see this ‘wiggle room’ so that students, the CAP, the CUP, and the COC may discuss these issues,” he said.

However, most speakers felt that any problems arising during implementation could be handled by the various committees resulting from the modified motion.

Professors Gene M. Brown and Langley C. Keyes PhD ’67, who chaired the group that drafted the requirement and made the original motion, both opposed Meldman’s amendment. “What’s critical is to get in place this proposal,” Keyes said.

Exam changes proposed

Professor Donald R. Sadoway presented the report of the Faculty Policy Committee’s Subcommittee on Exam and Term Regulations, which focused on reorganizing the rules on exam and assignment scheduling.

The proposed changes apply mainly to undergraduate classes and include the following:

* No required academic exercises are allowed from 5 p.m. Friday through 8 a.m. Monday

* Instructors must give students a “clear and complete description” of the required work in the class by the end of the first week of classes (third week for graduate classes)

* Evening exams may not exceed two hours, must start after 7:30 p.m., and may not be held on Mondays.

* A regular class must be cancelled whenever an exam is held outside of class time.

* No assignments can be due two days before, the day of, or for the remainder of the week following an evening exam.

* Special six-hour final exams can be held by permission of the chair of the faculty, but students will have unrestricted use of resources.

* No exams can be held after the Friday preceding the start of the reading period.

The full text of the motion can be found on the Web at <http://tute.mit.edu:8001/dept/libdata/d/archives/facmin/000315/0003c.html>.

The Student Committee on Educational Policy looked favorably on the additional disclosure and violation reporting requirements, SCEP Chair McDougal said. However, McDougal added that students would like the rules extended to cover the Independent Activities Period.

The motion to implement the changes will be voted at the April 17 faculty meeting.

Typical year for misconduct

Dean for Student Life Margaret R. Bates presented the annual report on student disciplinary proceedings. The past year was typical in issues of academic misconduct, Bates said.

One exception was that this year the Committee on Discipline looked at a number of alcohol violations. The COD worked to “establish expectations and precedence of types of action to be taken” in such cases in the future, she said, speaking on behalf of Professor Stephen C. Graves, the committee chair, who was unable to attend the meeting.

Bates also spoke about Graves’ request that faculty members who deal with issues of academic dishonesty within the confines of a class also share those incidents with the COD, so that the committee can have a more complete history of any students coming before it.

Professor Emeritus Samuel Jay Keyser presented his annual report on harassment statistics. Less than 100 respondents to faculty and staff surveys said they had witnessed or received a complaint about harassment, continuing a general decline since statistics were first collected in 1993. Most incidents were sexual harassment or general mistreatment, Keyser said.

Keyser reported that more than 1,000 faculty and staff have been trained at his complaint-handling seminars.

Also at the meeting, Vice President and Dean for Research J. David Litster PhD ’65 presented an update on the guidelines for licensing and equity ownership. “The idea is not to have hard and fast rules,” Litster said, but to provide examples of situations that faculty and staff should try to avoid.

Litster said that the process revision was prompted in part by discussions with the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General. They asked for improved disclosure on research sponsored by the National Science Foundation and Public Health Service, he said.

Associate Provost Philip L. Clay outlined the junior faculty leave policy. The policy, to be phased in over the next three years, would allow faculty to take one semester off, with pay, sometime during their second through sixth year at the Institute.