MIT Reports to the President 1998-99


This year the Faculty Policy Committee (FPC) oversaw those aspects of educational and academic policy that are specific responsibilities of the Faculty and provided faculty input toward policy development at the Institute. The committee met twice with President Vest and once with Provost Brown and Chancellor Bacow. The FPC used these opportunities to convey faculty opinions on a variety of topics ranging from the quality of community interactions to teaching issues and campus facilities. The FPC Subcommittee on the Bachelor of Arts and Science Degree Option and the Subcommittee on Exam and Term Regulations continued their work from last year, and the FPC charged an additional subcommittee: the Subcommittee on the Changes to the MIT Retirement Plan. The FPC provided input and guidance to the development of a faculty website which can be found on the World Wide Web at The FPC also heard from and coordinated the work of the other Faculty committees and reviewed several changes in procedures and programs. In particular, the FPC reviewed and passed on to the Provost recommendations from the Committee on Faculty Administration (CFA) on a junior faculty professional leave and a pre-retirement phase-down period. It also recommended to the Provost that there be serious consideration given to allowing tenured faculty to go half-time for a period of up to five years if they have an on-going need to care for a family member. In addition, the committee approved four proposed degree programs–two undergraduate and two Ph.D. programs–which were forwarded to the Faculty for a vote.

The FPC Subcommittee on Examination and Term Regulations, chaired by Professor Donald Sadoway, was asked to reexamine current Faculty regulations governing the administration of quizzes, test, and examinations during the regular term, as well as Faculty regulations governing the end of term. The subcommittee began its review in the spring of 1998 and reported to the FPC several times during the 1998—99 academic year. In addition to endorsing the continuation of a number of existing regulations, the subcommittee proposed changes and made recommendations in these areas: term and end-of-term regulations, examinations (and other required academic exercises) outside scheduled class times (including evening examinations given by daytime classes), take-home examinations, governance, violations, informing faculty members of regulations, changes to Faculty regulations, and recursion. The full text of the subcommittee's report can be found on the World Wide Web at The report was presented to the Faculty at the May meeting. Once the Faculty has responded to the recommendations, the subcommittee will oversee the drafting of new regulations and policy statements, which will be presented to the Faculty for approval next year. It is proposed that changes go into effect beginning with the academic year 2000—01. The subcommittee has also recommended that another group be charged with undertaking a similar review of regulations governing graduate subjects.

As the result of concerns raised by the FPC and other faculty members, the FPC Subcommittee on Changes to the MIT Plan was charged with understanding and conveying, by a written report to the FPC, the effect of the proposed changes in the Retirement Plan on its members, and making suggestions for improvement, if deemed appropriate. The subcommittee, chaired by Professor Sheila Widnall, carefully reviewed the entire plan and, after an exhaustive investigation, found that, on the whole, the changes are in the best interests of the majority of faculty members. The revised plan takes advantage of changes in legislation that allow individuals to exercise more control over their retirement investments. Furthermore, by shifting management to an outside financial services company, MIT will provide participants with increased flexibility in investment management and options for withdrawals. The full report of the subcommittee can be found on the World Wide Web at

In February, the FPC met with Professors Nancy Hopkins, Mary Potter, Jacqueline Hewitt, and Sylvia Ceyer, and Dean Robert Birgeneau to discuss the Report on the Status of Women Faculty in the School of Science. As a result of the meeting, the FPC encouraged the Committee on Women Faculty in the School of Science to make public a study on the process it employed in making its evaluation. The full text of this study can be found on the World Wide Web at In addition, the FPC urged the Administration to seek buy-in from other parts of MIT and work towards achieving and maintaining equity in salary and resources in all five Schools. FPC members recommended that the Deans of the other Schools be asked to review the study and determine how such an investigation could be conducted in their own Schools.

The FPC Subcommittee on the Bachelor of Arts and Science Degree Option was charged with exploring the feasibility of a bachelor of arts and sciences degree option (BAS) and developing sample curricula. The subcommittee concluded that the BAS would support diverse modes of thought and provide a unique perspective through its focus on the interface between two fields–one in science or engineering and one in the humanities. The group recommended further development of the BAS with the goal of establishing it as a degree option, perhaps as soon as the 2000—01 academic year. The subcommittee's chair, Professor Samuel Allen, met with both the Committee on the Undergraduate Program (CUP) and the FPC to discuss the proposal, and both groups were supportive. It was recommended that the BAS be run as an experiment initially. As next steps, the subcommittee will seek input from the Student Committee on Educational Programs and relevant departments. It will also begin to develop a formal proposal that will include descriptions of the new subjects, discussion of a possible administrative framework, and an implementation plan.

In 1997—98, the FPC Subcommittee on Faculty Work and Personal Life identified four areas central to improving the quality of faculty life: child care, junior faculty housing, technical and information systems support, and increased faculty interaction across School and disciplinary boundaries. This year, the group presented a proposal for establishing a $200K fund to support activities such as social gatherings, summer short courses, retreats, etc. The program would be run as a three-year experiment and requests for funding would be directed to the Faculty Chair. To be considered for funding, activities would need to cut across departmental and School boundaries. The FPC recommended that the proposal be included in a larger discussion about financing faculty governance and activities. In addition, the FPC strongly supported reinstating the program of summer mini-courses, and incoming Faculty Chair Professor Steven Lerman agreed to bring that recommendation forward.

In October, Acting Dean of the School of Engineering, Professor Vander Sande and Professor Roos visited the FPC to discuss the establishment of the Engineering Systems Division (ESD), the second division in the School of Engineering. The division will bring together existing programs already working in complex systems: Leaders for Manufacturing (LFM), System Design and Management (SDM); the M.Eng. in Logistics; the M.S. in Transportation; the Technology and Policy Program (TPP); the Center for Technology, Policy, and Industrial Development; the Industrial Performance Center; and the Center for Transportation Studies. Professor Roos reported that the development of the ESD proposal had been an extensive and participatory process. FPC members inquired about the future educational programs in the division. ESD will bring together a number of masters level programs, typically focused on practice, that are not based in any of the departments. Professor Roos said that the division will have a number of educational proposals to evaluate and prioritize once the faculty come together. The FPC recommended that the division develop a schedule for introducing an undergraduate minor. The ESD was also discussed at the October Faculty meeting.

During the 1998—99 academic year, the FPC approved proposals to establish several degree programs: a Ph.D. in Bioengineering, a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering Practice, and an S.B. in Linguistics and Philosophy. In addition, the committee approved a proposal from the department of Aeronautics and Astronautics to change the name of the existing undergraduate degree option from an S.B. in Aeronautics and Astronautics to an S.B. in Aerospace Engineering and offer an S.B. in Aerospace Engineering with Information Technology. After receiving the endorsement of the FPC, these proposals were presented and approved by the Faculty.


The final report of the CUP Subcommittee on Freshman Advising was presented in November by Professor Stephen Benton. The recommendations included an increase in the number of Freshman Advising Seminars, an endorsement of the Task Force recommendation regarding Freshman Advising Research subjects, increasing the contacts between advisors and advisees before freshmen arrive on campus, and the creation of a standing faculty group to oversee the Freshman Advising Program.

In response to the recommendations of the Task Force on Student Life and Learning regarding the first year experience, the CUP charged a faculty design team to bring proposals to the CUP for a new and enhanced common educational program. The Educational Design Project, co-chaired by Dean for Undergraduate Curriculum Kip Hodges and Professor Stephen Benton, made a preliminary report to the CUP in the spring.

In November, the CUP heard the report of the subcommittee that had begun its work in the Fall of 1995. The subcommittee, chaired by Professor Paul Lagace, had been charged to oversee the CUP-approved experiment that authorized the use of plus-minus grade modifiers as part of the internal record. CUP members approved the proposal that the system be adopted on a permanent basis and forwarded the recommendation to the FPC. After receiving the endorsement of the FPC, the recommendations were presented to the Faculty at the March meeting and approved in April. The policy regarding the use of plus-minus grade modifiers was added to Rules and Regulations of the Faculty.

The CUP devoted two of its meetings in December to the review of the M.Eng. program in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. The department was thorough in its review of the program's first five years, and the CUP presentation was equally comprehensive. The committee concurs with the conclusion of the department–that the EECS M.Eng. program is largely satisfying its educational goals–and endorses its continuation. However, the CUP is aware that the department has identified a number of concerns that are related to the current implementation of the M.Eng, including the large increases in undergraduate enrollment and the concomitant shortage of upper-level teaching resources.

Members of the Subcommittee on the Communication Requirement visited the CUP on several occasions to provide progress reports on a variety of pilot initiatives underway in anticipation of a report to the Faculty in Spring 2000. The CUP approved a proposal that the Writing Requirement be modified beginning with the freshman class entering in Fall 1999 by adding an additional component upon entrance, called the Preliminary Phase, altering slightly the Freshman Essay Evaluation, and revising the guidelines for Phase One.

The CUP approved a proposal by Media Arts and Sciences to offer a special freshman program on a five-year experimental basis. This program will be reviewed in 2005 based on evaluation criteria established by the CUP.

In early January, the CUP charged the HASS Overview Committee, chaired by Professor Peter Child, to undertake a review of the HASS Requirement. The committee was asked to review an experiment, begun in September 1995, that had approved a regrouping of the HASS-D Requirement to incorporate the Visual and Performing Arts into one of the required categories. The charge to the committee included a request to make recommendations on a number of issues. The committee made its preliminary report to the CUP in May.

CUP business in other areas included the following:


Professor Paola Rizzoli continued to chair the Committee on Academic Performance during the 1998—1999 academic year. The committee acted upon a total of 538 petitions during the year, a decrease of 12 percent over the previous year. Of this total, approximately one-half (279) were acted upon administratively by the Chair. A contributor to the decline in the number of petitions is the new Incomplete policy. This year the committee received only 11 petitions to be allowed to complete Incompletes which had expired (received prior to the Fall 1996 term) as compared with a high of 72 petitions in 1995—1996.

There was also a decrease in the number of petitions for late drops and changes to and from P/D/F grading. Possible reasons for this decrease could be students' increased awareness of the hard line traditionally taken by the CAP on such requests, and better planning on the part of the faculty to provide students with more feedback as to their status in the subject prior to the Institute's Drop Date.

Of concern is the steadily rising number of petitions which fall under the category of "administrative neglect." In 1995—1996 these petitions accounted for 29 percent of the total petitions received; it has risen to 40 percent for the 1998—1999 academic year. More than one-half of these requests are to add subjects after Add Date.

Although the committee had anticipated a substantial decrease in the number of petitions for retroactive registration due to Financial Holds (a tightening of the Financial Hold policy was to have taken place this past Spring), they still received 54 petitions of this nature (only down 10 percent from last year). The CAP will work closely over the next year with the offices of Student Financial Services and Counseling and Support Services to address this issue.

At the end of the academic year the committee examined the reporting mechanism for the grade of Incomplete. The committee is concerned by the small number of Instructor Reports forms that are being submitted when a grade of Incomplete is awarded. The committee plans to initiate modifications to the Instructor Report form and formulate ways to encourage compliance with this grade-reporting policy.

CAP now has a presence on the World Wide Web at This web site contains general information about the committee, as well as petition request forms and information on the petitioning process. The CAP also has a new e-mail address ( for any questions or concerns.

CAP actions voted at the end-of-term grades meetings resulted in a total of 45 Required Withdrawals (RW), down from 58 last year; and in 381 Warnings, down from 413 last year. CAP is encouraged by the decline. A possible reason for this decrease is that students are increasingly taking advantage of MIT's resources–specifically Medical and Counseling and Support Services–enabling students with extreme extenuating circumstances to be medically withdrawn prior to the end of the term.

The summary of CAP actions taken on undergraduates in 1998—99 is:



















In Fall 1998, the Academic Progress Group was formed with the objective of carrying out a study about freshmen who fail, i.e., an examination of students who encountered academic difficulties in their freshmen year. The study is to be completed in two phases. Phase I looks at predictors of academic difficulty in the freshmen year and Phase II will examine what happens over time to this group of students. The report on Phase I is near completion. The CAP Chair also served on the FPC Subcommittee on Examination and Term Regulations

During 1998—99, the Committee on Corporate Relations (CCR) reviewed, discussed, and approved the basic conclusions of the previous year's committee regarding priority issues facing the Office of Corporate Relations (OCR). Discussion was wide-ranging as well as focused, and, as a result of these deliberations, CCR members concluded that the Office of Corporate Relations:

CCR members then concentrated on the OCR Faculty Liaison Plan initiative. It consulted extensively with Acting Director of OCR Karl Koster as he developed the "Faculty Liaison Plan" to respond to the conclusions above. The proposed plan met the full approval of the CCR and has been well-received by the faculty as a whole. A subset of the CCR served on the Search Committee for the position of Director of OCR. After an extensive search, reviewing a large number of dossiers, and interviewing selected candidates, the Search Committee unanimously chose Karl Koster to assume the position of Director of the OCR.

The Committee on Curricula (COC) met 21 times during the 1998—99 academic year. The committee approved proposals for new, canceled, and revised subjects, and reviewed student petitions for substitutions to the General Institute Requirements, as well as approving substantive curricular changes and upholding policy.

The COC approved the following: changes to the Minor in Physics; a new Minor in Toxicology and Environmental Health; a new HASS Interdisciplinary Minor in Public Policy; a new S.B. in Linguistics and Philosophy; a new S.B. in Aerospace Engineering with Information Technology; a revision in name of Course XVI S.B. to Aerospace Engineering; changes to the S.B. in Civil Engineering and the S.B. in Environmental Engineering; changes to the Minor in Civil Engineering and the Minor in Environmental Engineering; changes to the S.B. in Music; changes to the S.B. in Ocean Engineering; and a new Major Departure in Ancient and Medieval Studies.

In addition, the COC approved a new policy requiring a supporting letter from the advisor for students who are petitioning for a second S.B. degree and whose GPA is 4.0 or lower and a new policy officially limiting the number of S.B. degrees a student may receive to two.

The COC approved the following: a new S.B. in Archaeological Materials as recommended by the Department of Materials Science and Engineering (Course III-C), which was approved by the CUP on an experimental basis; major changes to Course I-C that encouraged a project-based approach; a proposal to revise the Minor in Cognitive Science and rename it Minor in Brain and Cognitive Science; and minor changes to Course XV's undergraduate program.

The Committee on Discipline (COD) heard charges against 13 students this year. Three charges were for academic misconduct and 10 were for personal misconduct. Two other charges for personal misconduct will be heard during the summer. The sanctions for all three charges of academic misconduct were formal probation with a notation marked on the student's transcript. The sanctions for the charges of personal misconduct were varied, ranging from informal probation, to formal probation with a notation marked on the student's transcript, to expulsion. The COD also reviewed a number of petitions requesting the removal of disciplinary notations from transcripts.

As in the past, the COD, in conjunction with the Office of the Dean of Students and Undergraduate Education (ODSUE), reported to the Faculty on disciplinary actions taken against students. It is hoped that this will alert faculty members to the need for consistent reporting of incidents to the COD or to ODSUE so that students may become more aware of the risks they run when engaging in academic dishonesty.

This year, the Harold E. Edgerton Award Selection Committee reviewed 13 nominations, all of them outstanding, for the Edgerton Award. After considerable deliberation, the committee selected Professor Tania Baker as the recipient of the Harold E. Edgerton Award. Professor Baker of the Department of Biology was commended for her extraordinary research and teaching. Professor Baker's research has played an important role in understanding DNA replication and the molecular process. She was also cited for her strong commitment to both undergraduate and graduate teaching.

Over the course of the year, the Committee on Faculty-Administration carried out a general review of issues that arise when faculty reach retirement, with a particular focus on faculty who remain active at the Institute after this point. The main issue concerned the faculty status of those emeriti who are given a part-time appointments as Professor without Tenure (Retired). On the recommendation of the committee, the Faculty voted to amend the Rules and Regulations of the Faculty to remove professors emeriti holding these part-time appointments from the list of categories comprising the Faculty. By amendment in the Faculty meeting, the Rules were further changed to convey speaking and voting privileges in MIT Faculty meetings to Professors without Tenure (Retired).

In keeping with these changes, the committee also recommended a number of housekeeping changes in Policies and Procedures, which were accepted by the Administration. These included clarification of the length of appointment as Professor without Tenure (Retired), the definition of consulting privileges of this appointment, and the handling of the title of an endowed chair when a professor becomes emeritus.

The committee also participated in the development of a pre-retirement option by which a faculty member may elect to go part time at any point in the five years leading up to the normal retirement age. This new provision also was approved by the Administration, and will be added to Policies and Procedures.

In 1998—99, the James R. Killian, Jr. Faculty Achievement Selection Committee met several times to select a short list of four outstanding candidates, and a final time at the May faculty meeting to announce Professor Robert A. Weinberg as the winner of the Killian Award. He was chosen for his outstanding contribution to cancer research. The committee suggested the following changes in the procedures: making the nominations active for three years and reappointing one member of the committee to serve as chair of the committee for the following year.

The Committee on the Library System met four times during the 1998—1999 academic year and hosted a luncheon for the Libraries Visiting Committee (April 8, 1999). Director of Libraries Ann Wolpert opened the year with a review of the state of the libraries including challenges associated with funding new information technology resources on a flat budget, limitations in study space, and heavy reliance in off-site storage of print materials. She reported that the upcoming capital campaign offers a great opportunity for the library system. The committee also discussed the ways in which the library system should respond to the recommendation by the Task Force on Student Life and Learning that the Institute "focus information technology resources around the library system." Presentation of the annual budget (December) identified the need to improve staff salaries and to remedy under-funded operating expenses in the new budgetary system. A staff salary adjustment reported in April was welcomed by the committee. The library reported on a series of changes in their public services including hiring of an Institute archivist, recruiting of divisional librarians, initiatives for electronic theses, improvements in the library website, planning for a new Aeronautics and Astronautics facility, and new relations with the MIT Press.

Inadequacies in library space were carefully documented in a white paper developed for the visiting committee (April). The committee recommended that these issues be brought to the attention of the whole faculty. Carol Fleishauer subsequently wrote an article on library space in the May edition of The Faculty Newsletter, and Ann Wolpert briefed the FPC about space constraints and their significance in pursuing a master planning process for the libraries. The final meeting of the year included feedback on the visiting committee report and discussion of initial progress towards development of a library master plan.

The Nominations Committee worked to develop a slate for the various Standing Committees of the Faculty, replacing members whose terms had expired. In addition, the committee nominated Professor Paul T. Matsudaira to serve as Associate Chair of the Faculty and Professor Evelynn M. Hammonds to serve as Secretary. The committee emphasized identifying newly tenured faculty for committee slots, in the interests of introducing these colleagues to faculty governance, and also sought to offer opportunities to other colleagues who had not previously or recently served. The committee's slate was presented to the Faculty at the April meeting and approved without dissent at the May meeting.

The Committee on Outside Professional Activities (COPA) had a relatively quiet year. The main agenda item involved a review by the committee for Dean J. David Litster of a draft memo on Conflict of Interest Guidelines for Licensing. The chair of the committee also had a discussion with one department chairman to provide guidance relating to a potential conflict of interest issue. However, during the year there were no serious problems or obvious violations of MIT policy reported.

The Committee on Student Affairs (CSA) met 14 times during the 1998—1999 academic year. Members tackled two issues. The first dealt with ways to lower the barriers to transport of inebriated students to MIT Medical. After interviewing physicians from the medical department, members of the Working Group on Dangerous Drinking, the Chief of Campus Police, attorneys who represent MIT, and the Special Assistant to the President for Communications, the CSA made a final report to Professors S. Jay Keyser, Rosalind Williams and Lotte Bailyn that proposed a specific plan to deal with the transport issue. The second task of the CSA was to formulate a plan to help build community on campus. The committee met with students, housemasters, and administrators and reached the conclusion that the campus is actually an active place. Communication about upcoming events, however, is piecemeal and not uniform in format. The CSA recommended that events mapping be systematized to allow facile communication with the community (faculty, staff and students) about upcoming events, and to help eliminate overlaps and fill in gaps in the MIT social and athletic programs. At its final meeting, the committee met with the developer of the Tech Calendar and members of Information Services to discuss web-based events mapping strategies.

The Committee on Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid (CUAFA) participated in the deliberations of the Financial Aid Strategy Group that was constituted at the beginning of the summer of 1998. The Aid Strategy Group was brought together to evaluate MIT's financial aid policies in the face of growing price competition from schools that have been historical competitors with MIT. CUAFA endorsed the following recommendations that the Aid Strategy Group made to the Academic Council in November:

For the 1999—2000 academic year, a number of need-analysis and aid-packaging changes were made to moderate the costs of attendance for needy students. These included moderating assessments in the analysis of need and allowing 100 percent of outside scholarships to replace self help. CUAFA approved the inclusion of ROTC awards in this treatment of outside scholarships.

CUAFA endorsed the expanded campus preview weekend that was conducted for all prospective students for the first time this year. The weekend was a success that contributed to the increase in yield experienced this year (up from a 55 percent yield for the past three years to 60 percent). With strategies for increasing the number of admissions applications showing results, CUAFA has begun to review the implications on admissions and financial aid processes. Increasing work expectations for a growing cohort is taxing current staff and resources. This item will be on the agenda for the coming year. In addition, the value of Advanced Placement Exams is under review. There is concern among members that AP exams do not appropriately evaluate students' abilities to perform work in higher level MIT courses. This item will also be reviewed in the coming year. Lastly, Admissions/Financial Services is creating a new integrated web presence which CUAFA will need to review along with the next generation of print publications.

The Committee on the Writing Requirement (CWR) continued to oversee the current MIT Undergraduate Writing Requirement. In addition, it continued to coordinate its activities to support the initiatives of the CUP Subcommittee on the Communication Requirement to develop and identify already existing communication-intensive activities throughout the undergraduate curriculum.

The committee's most significant action this year was its joint sponsorship, with the CUP Subcommittee on the Communication Requirement, of the CUP-approved two-year experiment modifying the current Writing Requirement. These modifications will now require that some students take an expository writing subject during their first year at MIT. These changes will also exempt approximately 300 entering students from having to take the Freshman Essay Evaluation. The committee is collaborating with the CUP Subcommittee on the Communication Requirement, the Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies, Foreign Languages and Literatures, and ODSUE in administering the new requirement.

In one important initiative, the committee continued its collaboration with the CUP Subcommittee on the Communication Requirement and the HASS Overview Committee in developing and designating communication-intensive subjects in the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. Students in these subjects receive additional and intensive instruction in writing, and most completed Phase One of the Writing Requirement by receiving a grade of B- or better. Preliminary measures point to the success of this experiment, with over 225 students completing Phase One through these subjects during the 1998—99 academic year.

Three pilot administrations of a web-based Freshman Essay Evaluation were conducted during the summer of 1998 and were a resounding success. One-half of the entering class voluntarily chose to take the test online before coming to MIT. These students and their advisors received detailed and specific written comments in addition to summary scores that are the only information provided by the traditional essay evaluation given during Orientation. Because both advisors and students have almost universally expressed enthusiasm for this new procedure for evaluating the writing skills of entering undergraduates, the committee has made the Online Essay Evaluation the default test for all entering students, except for some non-native speakers of English. A make-up test, however, will still be offered during Orientation week. It now appears that almost all members of the Class of 2003 who are required to take the Freshman Essay Evaluation will do so online this summer.

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: Paola Rizzoli (Academic Performance), Merton C. Flemings (Corporate Relations), Arthur C. Smith (Curricula), Stephen C. Graves (Discipline), Karen R. Polenske (Edgerton Award), Henry D. Jacoby (Faculty-Administration), Boris Magasanik (Killian Award), Andrew Whittle (Library System), Joseph M. Sussman (Nominations), Alan V. Oppenheim (Outside Professional Activities), John M. Essigmann (Student Affairs), Harold Abelson (Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid), Suzanne Flynn (Undergraduate Program) and Winston R. Markey (Writing Requirement). Many thanks to Leigh H. Royden, Steven R. Lerman, and Samuel M. Allen for their service as Associate Chair, Chair-elect, and Secretary of the Faculty.

Lotte Bailyn, Anna Frazer

MIT Reports to the President 1998-99