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Faculty discusses more MEng programs

Plans to establish masters of engineering programs in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering were presented to the MIT faculty at its meeting October 19. The faculty will vote on the proposals at the November 16 meeting.

Graduate School Dean Frank E. Perkins introduced the motion for approval of the year-long programs, each of which will require a thesis. The programs are designed, he said, as terminal degrees with a strong focus on project work in preparation for practice for students who plan to enter industry. MIT's existing two-year SM degree programs in engineering are often more oriented to students aiming at doctoral degrees and careers in research. Dean Perkins said the Committee on Graduate School Policy has endorsed the programs.

President Charles M. Vest, in carrying over the proposals for a vote by the faculty next month, said the programs "are precisely the kind of leadership that MIT should be taking. in this time of great change." He said that because the programs contain "some fairly fundamental changes," he delayed the vote to maximize discussion.

Associate Professor Steven R. Hall outlined the Aero/Astro program. He said it will focus on design and will stress student teamwork, "because no one works alone in industry." The thesis will be an individual effort emphasizing the design of an aerospace system.

Professor Rafael L. Bras, head of Civil and Environmental Engineering, outlined his department's MEng program, which will have three tracks: environmental/water quality engineering, environmental geotechnology and information technology.

In discussion following the presentations, Professor Linn W. Hobbs of Materials Science and Engineering, chair of the Committee on the Undergraduate Program, questioned plans to use adjunct faculty in the new programs and suggested instead that training full-time faculty in industry-focused work for the MEng programs would provide added benefits to the undergraduate curricula, which should be seen as potentially benefitting from the increased emphasis on design and team approaches embodied in the MEng graduate programs.

Other departments with MEng programs are Ocean Engineering and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. The EECS program-the firstat MIT-was designed as a fifth-year extension of the undergraduate program and is open only to those who are completing undergraduate work in the department. The other programs are open to current undergraduates both at MIT and at other universities.

In other matters, Provost Mark S. Wrighton presented his annual report on efforts to change the Department of Defense policy which excludes homosexuals from military service and from ROTC programs.

Professor Wrighton said the ROTC programs at MIT are operating on a "don't-ask-don't tell" basis, pending further developments on the national level.

A 1990 resolution of the faculty urged the administration to encourage a change in the federal policy and also set 1995 as a date when MIT should assess the progress toward a policy change with an eye toward the future of ROTC at the Institute.

The provost said that deliberations with other universities and educational organizations have led to the "sense that no further action is to be expected" during the current presidential administration and congressional action seems unlikely. The only course remaining, he said, is to await the resolution of several cases proceeding through the courts that might yield a defining decision at the Supreme Court. President Vest said he has asked the Association of American Universities to have its staff work with the staff of the American Council on Education to analyze the various court cases and formulate a "judicial prognosis." Dr. Vest also said he has asked the AAU to resurvey other universities with ROTC programs to see where they now stand on the issue.

A version of this article appeared in the October 26, 1994 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 39, Number 9).

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