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Summary of the Task Force Report

Educational Goals

The report from the task force identified the following four educational goals as important for every undergraduate at MIT:

A broad understanding of the most important concepts in modern science and technology.

Deeper expertise in a subset of these concepts that will enable the successful pursuit of a challenging major in science or engineering.

Knowledge about the “humane culture of society” and the necessary ability in social interactions to participate as an effective citizen and innovator.

Experience from participation in a new discovery through research such as a UROP, a senior thesis, or an international internship.

Principal Recommendations

The task force made recommendations in the following four areas:

Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Requirement

The current science core, REST requirement, and Institute laboratory requirement will be replaced by an eight-subject Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Requirement.

• The figure “The General Institute Requirements” on this page illustrates the organization of the SME Requirement endorsed by the majority of the task force.

• A significant minority of the task force favored alternative plans with five, not six, elective categories, either eliminating mathematics or combining computation and engineering with the project-based first-year experience.

With very few exceptions (possibly only calculus), students will no longer be able to place out of science core classes except through MIT-administered Advanced Standing Examinations.

The number of classes a major may require out of the SME Requirement will be limited. Major programs that have a large number of required classes should also offer a more flexible degree alternative.

Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences Requirement

The current Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences Requirement will be replaced by a new requirement as illustrated in the figure “The General Institute Requirements” on this page.

There should be coordination in class scheduling such that the foundational HASS subjects have a dedicated time into which major lectures from the SME Requirement should not encroach.

International Experience

Existing programs that give undergraduates meaningful encounters with foreign countries should be strengthened.

Within five years, any MIT student who wants to should be able to undertake meaningful study, work, or internships abroad without financial or academic penalty. In particular, financial aid should be available for students who study abroad, and they should still be able to graduate in four years.

MIT should explore arrangements with comparable universities in other countries to promote undergraduate study and research exchanges.

All academic departments should provide formal guidance to its undergraduates who wish to pursue study abroad.

Miscellaneous Recommendations

Students should be able to pursue a double major (as opposed to a double degree) by simply completing the GIRs and the programs of the two majors.

The academic calendar should be examined, especially whether the Drop Date should be so late, whether there should be a true reading period before final exams, and whether there should be formalized advisor-advisee meeting times during an extended pre-registration period.

First-year coherence and integrity: There should be an integrated, more general view of the first year experience, bolstered by an examination of orientation, freshman advising, and coordination of primarily first-year classes.

Upperclass advising: Advising and mentoring of undergraduates by faculty members should be acknowledged in annual salary reviews and in promotion and tenure cases.

Classroom resources and scheduling: There should be a committee to conduct long-range planning of classroom space needs at MIT, and current class scheduling practices should be reformed to more efficiently utilize classroom space and to allow for more flexibility in the GIRs.

Diversity: MIT should encourage and foster opportunities for more meaningful interactions between people of differing backgrounds, structure the development of its curriculum so that diversity is appropriately reflected, and regularly assess its progress on this issue.

Resources for education innovation, renewal, and assessment: MIT should place a high priority on improving undergraduate education.

The full 158-page report of the task force on the Undergraduate Educational Commons and the 11-page summary can be accessed from http://web.mit.edu/committees/edcommons/.

Source: Report of The Task Force
on the Undergraduate Educational Commons