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Task force is sending out questionnaire to faculty

All senior faculty will receive questionnaires from the Task Force on Student Life and Learning this week seeking widespread input in establishing the key issues facing the Institute in the next century.

In addition, the group's co-chair, Professor of Chemistry Robert J. Silbey, said at last Wednesday's faculty meeting that all members of the Task Force would spend at least one night in a dormitory "to experience what happens from midnight to 7am."

Professor Silbey urged all faculty to respond to the questionnaire and communicate with the Task Force, formally and informally. "Any way we can get a response, we'll take them and listen to them," he said. "Stop us in the hallways and talk to us."

Reporting on the Task Force's progress, which includes a brainstorming session with junior faculty and a survey of alumni/ae, Professor Silbey noted that a diverse student body with different career ambitions might require changes in the core education. For instance, he said, 20 percent of the class of '97 plans to attend medical school, while a large number of their classmates plan careers in finance and in consulting.

He said alumni/ae were pleased with the problem-solving skills they acquired at MIT but were less happy with the contribution the Institute made to their writing ability and self-esteem. That disparity should be resolved, Professor Silbey said.

Noting the dramatic changes at MIT in the past five years and the deep commitment to undergraduate education, President Charles M. Vest said, "We need to communicate better."

Earlier in the meeting, Professor Samuel J. Keyser reported that a survey of 2,730 staff and faculty indicated that reports of harassment are declining, and that most complaints involve general mistreatment and sexual harassment. "In most cases, it's offensive language," said Dr. Keyser, a professor of linguistics and philosophy. "There are very few cases of touching."

Professor Jed Z. Buchwald, chair of the Committee on Discipline, said disciplinary cases had decreased in the past three academic years, with 21 complaints resulting in nine expulsions, two suspensions, four formal probations, one informal probation, one degree revocation and two reprimands. Three cases have been filed so far this year.

Dean for Student Life Margaret R. Bates said disciplinary actions were about the same as last year.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on February 26, 1997.

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