Faculty Committee Activity: Fall 2012 Update
In a practice begun last spring, the Office of the Faculty Chair publishes a biannual article in this Newsletter summarizing the work of the Standing Committees of the Faculty. In a meeting of the Committee Chairs in September, a number of common themes emerged.
Across the board, the committees are thinking about the potential impact of MITx on education and student life. Online learning could affect nearly every aspect of MIT, including curriculum development, course credit, the Library’s Open Access Policy, space planning, and technology.
Committee Chairs are eager to hear more about the Institute’s plans for the governance of MITx in order to start planning for the appropriate oversight and support infrastructure.
The Committee on Nominations is facing a challenge as it tries to recruit new members to serve on the Standing Faculty Committees. The annual committee preference questionnaire generates only a 37% response rate. As a result, the same faculty members are consistently called upon to serve while many others remain unengaged in faculty governance. In recent years, there also seems to be an increase in the number of faculty who choose to leave their three-year service commitment early. The Committee is considering ways to increase faculty participation, including asking department heads to place a higher premium on committee service.
The Library continues to face obstacles to its Open Access Policy, most notably from Elsevier. As Professor Richard Holton described in an article in the FNL last spring [“New Open Access Working Group Formed: Formulating Response to Elsevier's Policy Change,” Vol. XXIV, No. 4] the Committee on the Library System has charged a working group to reassess the policy in light of Elsevier’s revised author contract requiring authors to obtain an express waiver from MIT’s policy in order to publish. The Library is committed to building on the success of the Open Access Policy and maintaining a free flow of faculty scholarship online.
In consultation with the Faculty Officers, the Committee on the Undergraduate Program (CUP) and the Committee on Curricula are considering models for the governance of interdisciplinary minors. Last spring, an experiment initiated by the CUP to govern the Energy Studies minor came to an end. The committees have worked with administrators in the Energy Initiative to formulate a long-term plan for governing the minor, and are working to implement oversight for interdisciplinary minors that are comparable to those provided for departmental minors.
The Committee on Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid is closely monitoring the case of Fisher v. University of Texas now in front of the Supreme Court. The case focuses on a white student who was denied admission to the University of Texas, allegedly because of discriminatory admissions practices. If successful, the suit could impact the way universities assess and admit underrepresented minority applicants. MIT has made great strides in cultivating a diverse student body; there are concerns that the Court’s ruling could negatively impact MIT’s commitment to diversity.
The Faculty Policy Committee’s (FPC) IAP Subcommittee continues its work to examine the evolution of IAP since its introduction in 1971. IAP has clearly changed over the last 40 years, most notably with the inclusion of for-credit subject offerings. Many would argue that the evolution of IAP has been positive and that the current state of IAP is now integral to the MIT experience, while others are concerned that the term-like qualities of IAP are at odds with its original intention. The Subcommittee plans to submit a report to the FPC later this fall.
The FPC is also preparing to charge a working group to examine the September student holiday experiment that was launched in 2009. The experiment shifted the date of the September student holiday, which according to the Rules and Regulations of the Faculty must fall on a Monday, to a Wednesday in 2011 and to a Friday in 2012. The impetus for the experiment was to align the holiday with Career Day; the students in 2009 felt that it was not ideal to hold Career Day on a Monday. With the experiment now complete, the FPC must assess its success to determine the appropriate long-term placement of the September holiday.