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Faculty discuss new degree, freshman orientation

Provost Joel Moses discussed a possible Bachelor of Arts and Sciences (BAS) degree and several issues relating to freshmen at the faculty meeting on March 18. He also announced that the student activities budget would be tripled to $300,000 for the 1998-99 academic year.

The meeting in Rm 10-250, attended by only a handful of faculty, also heard a report on harassment from Special Assistant to the Provost Samuel Jay Keyser and an update on Orientation '98 from Dean for Undergraduate Curriculum Kip Hodges.

In outlining educational initiatives already discussed at a retreat sponsored by the Committee on the Undergraduate Program (CUP) and the Education Committee, a subset of the Academic Council, Provost Moses said, "My expectation is that some of these proposals will be forwarded to the entire faculty next fall."

He said the BAS degree would be a natural outgrowth of the increased desire to teach writing and communication skills and the trend toward team projects. The program would involve substituting three subjects in Humanities and Social Sciences (HASS) for three in Engineering or Science.

"We believe the BAS degree would provide an outstanding background to perhaps 10-15 percent of our students, especially ones who want to go into the professions, such as medicine," Provost Moses said. "The presence of such BAS students in HASS subjects should enliven the classroom experience for most other MIT undergraduates." The Faculty Policy Committee is studying this proposal.

He said initiatives and activities involving freshmen include:

  • Allowing certain science requirements to be taken by upperclassmen on a pass/fail basis.
  • Offering an alternative program, such as Concourse, Experimental Study Group or the Integrated Studies Program.
  • ������������������Paying $1,500 to faculty who teach Freshman Advising Seminars (see story on this page).
  • Continuing an intern program headed by Professor Arthur Steinberg of anthropology, which has already attracted 60 candidates, 30 of whom have already been offered positions by alumni/ae.

Discussing campus renovations, Provost Moses said work would be done this spring on one Building 16 classroom, bringing to 18 the number of rooms updated since last spring. He said five in Buildings 4 and 26 more would be done this summer and 25 in Buildings 1, 5, 8 and 12 during the summers of 1999 and 2000.


Professor Hodges said the freshman handbook and the residence handbook would be mailed to incoming freshman earlier than in previous years, with low-budget versions of both available for campus visits starting this weekend.

The residence book, which will be mailed in early May, will contain a reply card on which students may check off the fraternities or independent living groups in which they are interested. The handbook will have applications for advanced standing examinations and other non-residential information. Professor Hodges also discussed the timetable for orientation, which includes a non-rush residential midway at Kresge Auditorium for students to discuss options in a less pressured environment.

In closing, he urged faculty to participate in a campaign to personally talk with incoming students by phone in June. "Please get involved in this process," said Professor Hodges. President Charles Vest volunteered.


Professor Keyser reported that 69 harassment complaints were received last year, among them 28 for general mistreatment and 15 involving sexual harassment. The previous year, 27 general complaints and 18 sexual harassment complaints were lodged.

The sexual harassment complaints involved unwanted touching, jokes and uninvited interaction, he said. Most of the general complaints involved name-calling. There were also six reported incidents of racial harassment, compared to two in 1996, and four involving sexual orientation (two in '96).

Professor Keyser said he distributed 2,672 harassment survey forms during the year and received 633 answers (567 negative), a 23 percent return. Forty-six complaint-handling seminars have been conducted since 1993 (through February), with 581 participants.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on April 1, 1998.

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