“One overarching message emerged from student and faculty feedback: ‘If it’s not broken, don’t fix it,’” the report reads. The IAP Subcommittee of the Faculty Policy Committee has released its final report following a “thorough review of IAP and its evolution in the last 40 years,” as stated in its charge. The report contains 10 recommendations in response to seven questions the committee was asked to consider, as well as an additional recommendation regarding campus community during IAP.
The committee does not recommend that the length of IAP be changed in any way, citing that 91 percent of undergraduates reported being satisfied with IAP according in a survey conducted by the subcommittee at the start of this academic year. Aaron R. Weinberger, special assistant to the chancellor and member of the committee, also noted that the survey revealed that 85 percent of surveyed students preferred having IAP as opposed to extended reading periods and longer summer vacations.
Additionally, the committee does not support lifting the current 12-unit cap for IAP credits.
“The subcommittee rejects this notion not only because it conflicts with the original intention of IAP, but because it is counter to the balanced, healthy experience that the Institute should be encouraging,” the report reads.
The report goes on to recommend that required classes (including GIRs) offered during IAP be periodically evaluated by the Committee on Curricula (CoC) every three to five years to ensure that the classes are appropriate for the “unique pedagogical opportunities offered during IAP.” Furthermore, the report suggests that only required subjects that can be used to fulfill a GIR or some component of a major or minor program be offered for a letter grade, recommending all other elective subjects be offered P/D/F unless a compelling case can be made as to why they should be graded.
“IAP has become increasingly academic, very much contrary to its intent,” said Ravi M. Charan ’14, one of the undergraduates on the subcommittee. “The hope is that this recommendation can slow the progression of IAP towards being a third, more compressed term (for some students at least), without preventing too much of the flexibility associated with the ability to take classes during IAP.”
The subcommittee does not recommended changing this policy in relation to graduate classes, however, stating that the graduate offerings are best coordinated at the local level by the Committee on Graduate Programs since departments approach graduate subject offerings differently. The report also recommends that departments that offer for-credit subjects also offer not-for-credit activities.
During their research for the report, the members of the subcommittee stumbled upon what the report describes as a “number of students who expressed feelings of emptiness and loneliness during IAP.”
“New England winters are harsh, it’s dark, there are fewer people on campus, and there’s less structure to the day. These qualities can lead to a feeling of isolation,” Weinberger said. “While there’s not much we can do about the cold, our hope is that by identifying the issue, we might be able to take some steps to help build a greater sense of community during IAP.”
To this end, the subcommittee additionally recommended that the dean for student life, in conjunction with the Office of Undergraduate Advising and Academic Programming (UAAP), “undertake a review of campus activities during IAP to help foster a greater sense of community.” The committee also recommended that the UAAP survey the sponsors of non-academic activities after each IAP to gather participation data on “the very type of activities that IAP was designed to encourage.”
Graduate students had, on average, mixed feelings about IAP; only 60 percent of graduate students reported being satisfied with IAP. Since only five percent of graduate students reported being dissatisfied with IAP, the subcommittee concluded that IAP is “simply not a factor for graduate students.” In the hopes of getting more graduate students involved with IAP, the report also calls for evaluating and adjusting the methods for communicating the merits of IAP to the graduate student population.
Naren P. Tallapragada ’13, member of the subcommittee and chair of the Undergraduate Association’s (UA) committee on education, said that the UA has already been sponsoring several activities over IAP, such as a series of well-attended informal lectures from MIT professors that ran this past IAP and will continue for future IAPs.
“We cut across different departments and different schools,” Tallapragada said. “When a room is packed with 120 people who come from different backgrounds, majors, schools, dorms, and years, you have an opportunity for community building.”
Other recommendations by the committee are administrative suggestions to bring IAP more on par with the fall and spring semesters. The subcommittee is proposing a change to the Faculty Rules and Regulations that will prevent on-campus IAP classes from being offered between 5 and 7 p.m. weekdays and between 5 p.m. Fridays and 8 a.m. Mondays, a stipulation that is already in place during the regular semesters. Additional administrative recommendations include developing a complete class listing and schedule for classes that is comparable to what is available for the regular terms and creating a better system for tracking subject enrollments during IAP — including a system to notify advisors when students sign up for IAP subjects (currently, students do not need advisor approval to add or drop subjects during IAP).
A full text of the report can be found here: http://web.mit.edu/faculty/reports/pdf/iap.pdf.