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GIR Task Force Student Board Releases Addendum to Report

By Kathy Lin
CONTRIBUTING EDITOR

The final output of the Student Advisory Committee to the Task Force on the Undergraduate Educational Commons was e-mailed rather than presented to the task force and leaves several questions unaddressed.

Instead of a final draft, SAC produced an addendum to their April preliminary report that includes student feedback on the initial draft.

The committee felt that it could not complete a final report in a timely way that would deliver the feedback to the still-active Task Force, said John R. Velasco ’06, a member of the student committee and the Task Force. The addendum is based on feedback from discussions with about 10 student groups, conversations with administrators, and online feedback.

Although the addendum makes mention of future work and issues left to address (for example, “there are several concerns that the SAC needs to address as it moves forward …”), the committee does not have any plans to make further recommendations, Velasco said. Instead, the Task Force will be responsible for addressing any concerns that they deem important.

According to the addendum, there was agreement by students that the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences requirement is complicated and in need of improvement.

Students mentioned that the communication requirement discourages students from taking classes with the designation, and that making Communication Intensive assignments, along with the designation, optional would be a possible solution. In addition, the addendum mentioned student suggestions about implementing a “strict prerequisite chain” for HASS classes, evaluating the scheduling of HASS classes, and making the HASS concentration optional.

For the Science General Institute Requirements, students “appreciated our attempt to allow more flexibility in choosing the courses to fulfill the requirement by having a ‘basket’ of options,” according to the addendum. There was, however, negative feedback regarding the proposal that students would be required to “take at least six science GIRs regardless of past AP or advanced standing tests,” according to the addendum. The committee offered an amended proposal, in which students who took advanced placement tests would have to take an advanced standing exam, the introductory class, or a more advanced class to fulfill the requirement.

Lastly, the addendum reports that students felt changing the GIR structure might increase the course load required for some students because certain GIRs are prerequisites for classes within many majors. The committee responds in the addendum that only students in four majors, comprising 16 percent of the undergraduate population, would be required to take an additional course.

There is no comment in the addendum about advising. Most of the comments that Velasco received were regarding the HASS and science requirements, he said. “I can’t say that we got any notable feedback other than ‘Oh, we agree advising should get better,’” he said.

Velasco said that he anticipates that a small group of students will gather student feedback about the Task Force report this fall when it is released in preliminary form.

Committee Chair Kevin McComber ’05 could not be reached for comment.

The addendum is available at http://web.mit.edu/committees/edcommons/students/index.html.