MIT Reports to the President 1994-95


The Committee on Academic Performance (CAP) spent the majority of its bi-weekly meetings considering petitions from undergraduate students requesting exceptions from various Institute rules. A total of 530 petitions were acted upon this academic year (about the same amount as last year). The usual end-of-term and end-of-year meetings were held to review the performance of students making adequate progress towards a degree and those with poor academic records.

This year the CAP continued to discuss the current grading system and possible forms of intermediate grades for upperclass undergraduates at MIT and surveyed students and faculty for their views. The limited data available from these surveys suggested that overall, students favored the current system over the proposed forms of intermediate grades, while a clear majority of faculty favored an intermediate grading system based on plus and minus modifiers. The CAP then proposed a three-year experiment in which the plus and minus form of intermediate grades would be used at MIT but not reflected on external transcripts or in the student's grade point average. A joint subcommittee of CAP, CUP, and CGSP will be established to monitor this experiment, with members serving throughout the three-year period of the experiment. In a sense-of-the-Faculty vote at the April 1995 Faculty meeting, the experiment was endorsed by the Faculty and will begin in September 1995.

Another grading issue discussed by the Committee this year was the definition and use of the "I" grade. There was strong sentiment to change the conditions for awarding an incomplete to requiring a signed agreement between the student and faculty member on the deadline for completion. The Committee also felt that the instructor should be free to submit a grade of F should the student not complete the outstanding work within the designated deadline. While there was agreement reached within the Committee about a proposed change in the definition of the "I" grade, no change to the present policy on Incompletes can be made without a proposed change to the Rules and Regulations of the Faculty. This issue will be carried over to the new academic year.

The Committee was advised that students in at least one department were required to retake a course in their departmental major in which they received a grade of "D," even though that course was not a prerequisite for another course in the major. The appropriate departments were notified that this practice was in violation of the Rules and Regulations of the Faculty and this practice should not continue.

During the 1994-95 academic year the Committee on Corporate Relations (CCR) continued to discuss the evolving mission of the Corporate Relations Office and its Industrial Liaison Program (ILP). The response of industry representatives to ILP's Voice of Industry survey was carefully considered, as well as its implications. The CCR reviewed the ongoing reorganization of the Office (including a clear division of fund-raising and client service functions), the most efficient use of ILP officers' time and effort, phasing in some new activities (such as a faculty-oriented ILP newsletter and connecting junior faculty with firms in the New England area), modifying and phasing out some old activities (e.g., revising the MIT Report), and pressing financial issues. The Committee also debated relevant aspects of the recent report on MIT's Industrial Linkages; it was noted that this report thus far has had no appreciable impact.

The Committee on Curricula (COC) met eight times during the 1994-1995 year. In addition to reviewing proposals for new, altered, and cancelled subjects and hearing student petitions for variances from General Institute Requirements, the COC addressed a number of substantive curricular, programmatic, and policy issues.

In conjunction with the CUP, the COC defined and structured approval and review guidelines for Interdepartmental Minors and approved a proposal for a Minor in Biomedical Engineering, the first interdepartmental minor formally established at MIT.

A joint CUP/COC subcommittee reviewed the increasing problem of over-enrolled subjects and formulated a pilot program that, while maintaining departmental control of selection criteria, makes it possible to establish class lists based on pre-registration information, thus eliminating stressful and time-consuming in-class lotteries.

The COC also: 1) approved curricular changes to the Course 2 Degree Program to substantially increase the number of design subjects offered; 2) approved a new version of 18.01 and 18.02 to address the unsatisfactory qualifications of students enrolled in the existing versions; 3) commenced a review of undergraduate seminars, which will constitute a principal focus of discussion for COC in the Fall; and 4) with the IAP Policy Committee, established guidelines to ensure that IAP-only subjects satisfy basic educational guidelines and follow the Faculty regulations for departmental programs.

The Committee on Discipline (COD) heard charges against six students this year. The charges included cheating on exams, theft, and collaborating on problem sets. Disciplinary sanctions issued by the Committee ranged from letters of reprimand through expulsion. The Committee also reviewed a number of petitions for removal of disciplinary notations from transcripts. The COD, in conjunction with the Dean for Undergraduate Education, will continue to report on disciplinary actions regularly at Faculty meetings, so that this will continue to sensitize faculty to the need for more consistent reporting of incidents to the Committee on Discipline or to the UESA Dean's Office and provide students with more awareness of the risks they are taking when engaging in dishonest behavior.

The Harold E. Edgerton Award Selection Committee issued a call for nominations that was distributed by direct mail to all faculty and posted in TechInfo. Follow-up letters were sent to heads of departments to solicit further nominations. Eight nominations we received, reviewed, and debated. After further information on three nominees was solicited, Professor Jacqueline N. Hewitt of the Department of Physics was selected as the 1995 awardee. The committee citation presented at the May Faculty Meeting cited Professor Hewitt's significant contributions to the study of gravitational lenses, her discovery of the first Einstein ring, and her contributions to fundamental measurements in cosmology. Professor Hewitt has served on many MIT and observatory committees and leads an active group of graduate and undergraduate researchers.

The Committee on Faculty-Administration (CFA) focused on issues related to the evolving terms of employment for older faculty in the wake of the elimination of mandatory retirement which took effect January 1994. To this end, the Committee conducted a faculty survey on factors which influence retirement decisions.

The extensive survey was distributed to all full-time faculty members and to Emeritus faculty. Over 325 surveys were returned and analyzed. The principle findings of the survey were:

Over the next year, the committee will complete analysis of the survey and report the results to the community. In addition, the committee will consider possible recommendations to both the faculty and administration which would follow from the findings.

The James R. Killian, Jr. Faculty Achievement Award Selection Committee convened for four meetings in the process of selecting Daniel Kleppner, the Lester Wolfe Professor of Physics, as the recipient of the award for 1995-96. In assessing the distinguished nominations submitted this year and those carried over from previous years, the committee kept in mind Dr. Killian's early characterization of MIT as "a university polarized around science, technology, and the Arts" and the statement of purpose at the time of establishment of the Award by the Faculty in 1971:

To recognize extraordinary professional accomplishments by full-time members of the MIT Faculty; to provide a means for the communication of these accomplishments to the Faculty, students, and other members of the MIT community and to the general public, and by so doing to honor the contributions made by Dr. Killian to the intellectual life of the Institute.

A total of eleven nominations were considered this year. Three were considered to be particularly promising, and additional information was requested for the final round of consideration. The Committee agreed unanimously on Professor Kleppner for the 1995-96 Award. Because of the considerable community effort that goes into preparing Killian Award nominations, the Committee will forward four of the nominations to next year's committee so as to avoid undue duplication of that effort, and the nominators of those four have been informed of that action. Next year's chairman will be a member of the present committee, providing valuable continuity in the deliberations of this happy, but inherently difficult, selection process.

The Committee on the Library System was concerned with two major items: the level of the library services (given the constraints of the library's budget) and the acquisition of periodicals and books.

The Committee reviewed the level of services provided by the library and discussed the suggested reduction of open hours of the main reading room. The Committee concluded that as the main library would still be open until midnight, this reduction in hours would be the least damaging of the remaining options. The Committee commended the director and his staff on their efforts to maintain excellent levels of service while faced with the Institute's continuing reduction on library services levels.

The budget reduction has had an enormous impact on the acquisition of both periodicals and books. The Committee reviewed the process used by the library to cut back on periodical subscriptions, a task made more difficult due to the price increase passed on by the journals. The Committee was broadly satisfied that faculty and students' concerns are being properly considered before subscriptions are dropped. However, there is no doubt that the library's quality is being diminished by the lack of funds available for books and periodicals. While this is relieved somewhat by electronic access and by inter-library loans, there is no question that if the trend is not reversed soon, MIT will soon have collections that do not match our academic operations.

The Committee was kept up-to-date with the search for a director to replace Jay K. Lucker when he retires and with the status of efforts to rethink the role of the library in the coming electronic decades. The Committee expects this to be a major agenda item for the coming year.

At the April Faculty Meeting, the Committee on Nominations presented the names of faculty members to serve on 13 standing committees of the Faculty as well as the names of the faculty members to serve as Associate Chair and Secretary of the Faculty. At the May Faculty Meeting, the Faculty voted to approve the nomination for the two Officers of the Faculty and also the 35 faculty members to serve on the standing committees.

The Committee on Outside Professional Activities (COPA) helped several members of the faculty and administration avoid or resolve conflicts of interest. The issue arising most often was involvement of students or staff in outside activities of a faculty member. The Committee also provided feedback to the Director of the Office of Sponsored Programs on the new Public Health Services (PHS) and National Science Foundation (NSF) policies for disclosures of possible conflicts of interest.

After a period of inactivity, the Committee on Student Affairs (CSA) met regularly for 18 months. During this period the CSA focused on issues of housing and dining and on the way in which housing and dining relate to the Institute's educational goals.

With respect to dining, the CSA has been a strong advocate for keeping the Baker House dining facility open. The Committee's concerns extend beyond the obligation of supplying food to our students. It firmly believes that mealtimes should provide opportunities for students to socialize with their housemates and experience a sense of community. This source of relaxation and support is critical in counteracting the high stress levels that students experience on a regular basis. Most importantly, mealtime interactions will likely have intellectual benefits for students by providing access to advice from peers and exposure to new ideas and domains of knowledge.

With respect to housing, last November the CSA supported student constituencies in their desire to be allowed to contribute significantly to the discussions about the renovations of Senior House, East Campus and Ashdown House. The CSA felt that the administration's response to student reactions was excellent and that subsequent administrative decisions reflected awareness of community sentiment. The CSA has prepared a report on its recommendations on housing and dining to be released in the Fall.

During the next year, the CSA looks forward to voicing the educational goals that surround student life. The views of the Committee, and that of many others, is that the students, faculty and administration should jointly articulate an educational vision that encompasses housing and dining.

The Committee On Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid (CUAFA) was active in two areas. The first was to monitor for the year the effect of new policies limiting admissions and financial aid for international students. The following policies were then finalized in May 1995:

The definition of International Student is changed to henceforth include Canadian and Mexican citizens. Prior to this time they had been included in the domestic applicant pool.

There is no quota on international students. Prior to this time the limit had been set at 6% of the entering class.

It is intended that no more than 10% of the financial aid budget be awarded to international students. Each year in cooperation with the financial aid office, the Admissions Office will place an upper limit on the number of international student admits, so that those who attend will require no more that 10% of the financial aid budget. With the history of the two most-recently admitted classes, this limit on financial aid results in an international student population of 7% to 8% of the entering class.

Individual students are admitted on the basis of merit. Approximately one in ten international applicants is admitted.

We seek broad diversity within the international student body.

CUAFA also began discussions on ways to better couple the admissions process with follow-up in the freshman year. The benefits of such activities include better feedback to the admissions staff, which might result in fine tuning of the admissions process and better mentoring and introduction of freshmen to MIT. These discussions will continue next year.

During the 1994-95 academic year, the Committee on the Writing Requirement participated in the CUP review of the Writing Requirement. The Committee also acted on 23 student petitions and reviewed the "Conditional" score on the Freshman Essay Evaluation and decided to eliminate it. Beginning with the Fall 1995 term, entering students will receive only the scores of "Pass" and "Not Acceptable."

Sincere appreciation is extended to the following faculty members for their special contributions and service as appointed Chairs of the Standing and Special Faculty Committees during the past year: Nigel H. M. Wilson (Academic Performance), Alexander M. Klibanov (Corporate Relations), Suzanne Flynn (Curricula), Triantaphyllos R. Akylas (Discipline), Thomas A. Herring (Edgerton Award), R. John Hansman (Faculty-Administration), George W. Clark (Killian Award), Michael S. Scott Morton (Library System), Graham C. Walker (Nominations), Charles C. Counselman III (Outside Professional Activities), Suzanne H. Corkin (Student Affairs), J. Kim Vandiver (Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid), Linn W. Hobbs (Undergraduate Program) and Kip V. Hodges (Writing Requirement).

Robert L. Jaffe
Traci A. Trotzer

MIT Reports to the President 1994-95