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Faculty approves amended calendar

A new 65-class-day Institute Calendar was approved by the faculty by an 83-to-13 vote at its last meeting of the 1992-93 academic year May 19.

The vote, on a friendly amendment substituted for the proposal of the Institute Calendar Committee, came with the understanding that IAP would be lengthened to all the days of the full weeks in January and that departments could offer one course for credit during IAP under the oversight of the faculty committee structure.

The 65-class-day structure of the new calendar represents a compromise between the current interim calendar and a longer Calendar Committee proposal, said Professor Robert L. Jaffe, incoming chair of the faculty, who introduced the motion to substitute.

Under the new calendar, registration day in the fall is the first Tuesday after Labor Day. Classes start the next day. There would normally be 6 holidays, a 4-day reading period, and a 5-day exam period.

To ensure that classes do not begin before Labor Day-a requirement during some years under the Calender Committee proposal-the fall semester would be shortened to 63 class days in two years out of seven. In those years two holidays would be dropped, and the fall reading period would be three days.

The spring semester would have 65 class days, 8 holidays, a 3-day reading period, and an exam period of 5 days.

Commencement would be held on a Friday between June 3 and 9.

IAP will have 19 class days under the new calendar. Departments will be allowed to move no more than 12 units of required departmental program into IAP. "It is anticipated that these subjects might not be offered during regular term times. The Faculty Policy Committee and the Committee on the Undergraduate Program, in conjunction with IAP Policy Committee and the Committee on Curricula, will develop guidelines and procedures to ensure that departmental offerings during IAP are educationally appropriate," according to material distributed in support of the proposal.

Professor Jaffe, speaking at the meeting in support of the substitute calendar plan, said it was a compromise between the interim calendar the the Calendar Committee proposal. He said several faculty committees were involved in developing the substitute proposal and it had been widely discussed in the community.

With respect to IAP, Professor Jaffe said the proposal would have the effect of requiring department majors to spend "at least one intensive IAP time here engaged in a department-focused activity" during their four years at MIT.

In order to make this work, given "the finite resources of departments," he said it would be necessary that departments which move material into IAP not be required to offer the same subject during term time. Under the present plan, he said, departments cannot offer a subject for credit only during IAP.

The primary motive, he said, was to increase flexibility. "Department programs aren't increased by this proposal," he said. While some faculty and students would have to be at MIT during IAP for the credit subjects, the Calendar Committee proposal would have meant that all would have to be here, he said.

Acknowledging that dealing with calendar issues makes theoretical physics look easy, Professor Jaffe made this comparison: The interim calendar has 125-127 days. The Calendar Committee proposal was for 134 days. The compromise proposal, which was adopted, calls for 130 days in five out of seven years and 128 days in other years.

Comments during the discussion period included flat-out disapproval of the proposal, strong endorsements and suggestions for further alterations.

Professor Vernon M. Ingram of biology, while approving the new calendar, suggested easing end-of-semester crunch by having half the large undergraduate classes begin during IAP and end in April.

Professor John V. Guttag, who said he also spoke for Professor Barbara H. Liskov-both of electrical engineering and computer science-disagreed with the "basic premise" that the academic calendar should be longer and objected to "moving work into IAP.

"I am quite confident that my colleagues, if offered an extra three class days would not choose to spread out the material that they currently teach over more lectures, but instead would choose to add more material." The net effect, he said, would be to keep pace and pressure constant, "but maintain it for a longer period of time." The amendment, he said, was "far superior" to the proposal of the Calendar Committee, but the current interim calendar was better than the amendment.

Professor Lawrence S. Bacow of urban studies, chairman of the IAP Policy Committee, reported that the committee endorsed the substituted proposal.

Professor Alvin W. Drake of electrical engineering and computer science, while supporting the new proposal, said he thought the "free extension" of subjects for credit into IAP "is probably a terrible idea." He also said the proposal "makes a lot of work for everybody, and it should because we have too little contact with our students. They are underserved compared to what they would do in other schools, and I very much like the proposal."

Professor Elizabeth J. Garrells of foreign languages and literature said she was concerned that having subjects for credit in IAP would create "one year of hell" for students.

Graduate School Dean Frank E. Perkins said that "within the constraints of a lengthy IAP and ending before Christmas," the substitute proposal "was as good a proposal as we are going to get."

Professor Steven Pinker of brain and cognitive sciences said he did not share the view that "MIT students are undereducated" and therefore a longer calendar was needed. He said MIT offers as much and in less time as other schools where he has taught. The proposal would result in "a significant decline in quality of life," he said.

Sloan School Dean Lester C. Thurow supported the proposal, saying "We aren't teaching students enough."

In other business at the faculty meeting, Professor Jack Ruina of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science was saluted as he completed his term as secretary of the Faculty, a post he has held since 1979, serving with seven consecutive groups of faculty officers.

Acknowledging a round of applause, Professor Ruina advised his colleagues "to look forward to my memoirs about those groups of faculty officers."

Professor Ruina is succeeded as secretary by Professor Irene Tayler, who took over in mid-meeting because Professor Ruina had to leave for an appointment.

The faculty also voted to approve the list of 11 ex officiis members.

A version of this article appeared in the June 2, 1993 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 37, Number 35).

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