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Communication requirement among faculty meeting topics

The CUP subcommittee on the Communication Requirement has recommended that entering students who fail the Freshman Evaluation Essay (FEE) "with subject recommended" be required to take an introductory writing course during their first year.

The decision was announced by Professor Gene M. Brown of biology, chair of the subcommittee, at the faculty meeting on March 17. It affects 15-20 percent of the freshman class.

Faculty members also heard reports on disciplinary actions, harassment and intermediate grades, as well as a proposal to create an information technology program in aerospace engineering that would offer an SB degree.


The CUP subcommittee has also recommended that students be required to take at least one communication-intensive subject each year. Noting that pilot projects are being offered in all departments, Professor Brown said the goal was to "embed " communications in the existing curriculum.

He said 15-20 percent of previous incoming classes had not had adequate writing skills, but that many did not take a writing course during the first year. Making that a requirement would prepare future students for the communication-intensive courses that will be required in succeeding years.

He said that feedback from a pilot program involving 300 students and 24 subjects in the School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (HASS) initiated last spring had been positive. The instructors were "very impressed and very enthusiastic," Professor Brown said, "and the students were doing well."

Responding to a question about helping students develop better oral communications skills, Professor Brown said, "We're concerned... it's more difficult to do, but we are working on it."


Dean for Student Life Margaret R. Bates reported that the Committee on Discipline (COD) had conducted hearings on four cases involving academic misconduct during the 1997-98 academic year, with charges leveled by a professor and the dean's office in one, by professors in two others and by students in the fourth. Sanctions included informal and formal probation and counseling. COD conducted seven hearings in 1996-97 and two in 1995-96.

The Office of the Dean of Students and Undergraduate Education (ODSUE) conducted two hearings last year on charges of personal misconduct, one of which was dismissed. The students found culpable received internal probation. ODSUE held six hearings in 1996-97 and dismissed charges in two cases. In 1995-96, two cases were heard, both resulting in sanctions.

Four charges of personal misconduct were disposed of through administrative review last year, with letters of apology required in three and restitution and community service in the other. Fifteen cases were handled by administrative review in 1996-97 and four in 1995-96.

Warning letters were sent by professors in 22 cases of academic misconduct last year. All of the students had their grade reduced as well. The previous year, 20 warning letters involving academic and personal misconduct were sent by professors, lecturers and CampusPolice. Nine warning letters, all by professors, were written in 1995-96. Dean Bates said such letters were "very helpful" if a student is cited again and a copy has been sent to Betty H. Sultan on behalf of the COD in Rm 5-110.

Campus Police have issued 17 alcohol citations since the fall, two of which were subsequently rescinded on the basis of additional information, she said.

Dean Bates and Chancellor Lawrence S. Bacow discussed the issue of sentencing guidelines. She said that while guidelines were "not formalized," a sense of "appropriate sanctions" was being established through the work of the COD. For instance, she said, COD conducted hearings in two cases involving alcohol violations this year "to help establish expectations about the way in which such cases will be handled in the future."


Professor Emeritus Samuel J. Keyser said the annual harassment survey resulted in 78 complaints last year, 34 involving general mistreatment and 22 regarding sexual harassment. Other charges were racial or ethnic (six), sexual orientation (three), religious (two), disability (two) and gender (one). Eight could not be categorized.

Professor Keyser noted that complaints had increased over the past three years, from 52 in 1996, to 69 in 1997, to 78 in 1998.

He said 958 MIT faculty and staff had participated in the harassment seminars. "We should do better with the faculty," he said.


Professor Paul A. Lagace, chair of the ad hoc CUP subcommittee on intermediate grades, said the subcommittee had voted to permanently adopt plus and minus modifiers on grades of A, B and C as the result of a satisfactory three-year experiment.

He introduced a motion that would allow the modifiers to be used for internal reports but would not include them in determining cumulative averages. Transcripts would not include the modifiers. The motion will be put to a vote at the next faculty meeting.


Professors Edward Greitzer and Steven Hall reported on a proposal to create a program in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics that would lead to two new degrees, an SB in Aerospace Engineering and an SB in Aerospace Engineering with Information Technology. The department now offers only the SB in Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Under the proposal, the department would add several upper-level subjects in aerospace information technology. The department's emphasis on this area is also reflected in its move to strengthen alliances with the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Lincoln and Draper Laboratories and the Operations Research Center. Further, the department has recently hired several new faculty members to support this new thrust.

Adding the program and offering both degrees would be "truth in advertising," said Professor Greitzer, associate department head. "This makes explicit both the connection with a critical part of the aerospace industry and the direction in which the department has moved."

The proposal will be put to a vote at the next meeting. ������

A version of this article appeared in the March 31, 1999 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 43, Number 24).

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