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Faculty discusses freshman grading report

Professors Charles Stewart III of political science and Robert L. Jaffe of physics conducted an informal discussion with faculty members about the report of the Special Subcommittee on Freshman Pass/No Record Grading and Advanced Placement Policy at last week's faculty meeting.

The subcommittee, chaired by Professor Stewart, has recommended that MIT modify the pass/fail system that has been in effect for freshmen since 1968 by instituting an A/B/C/no record policy for freshmen during the spring semester. The new policy could go into effect during the 2002-03 academic year.

The subcommittee also recommended that a score of 5 on the College Board Advanced Placement Test or its equivalent on another exam be required for receiving MIT subject credit. Currently, the general cutoff for MIT credit is a 4. In addition, the group suggested that oversight of the advanced placement policy be shifted from the Admissions Office to the Office of Academic Services.

The 72-page report was accepted "with considerable enthusiasm" by the Committee on Undergraduate Programs(CUP) in October, according to Professor Jaffe, CUP chair. The faculty meeting presentation was part of a campaign to solicit comment before formally presenting the report to the faculty for a vote during the spring semester.

"The changes suggested by the committee are appropriate," said Professor and President Emeritus Paul Gray of electrical engineering and computer science (EECS), who noted that the original pass/fail policy was based on the erroneous assumption that performance would not be affected.

Professors Thomas J. Greytak of physics and Arthur C. Smith of EECS, a former dean for undergraduate education and student affairs, also supported the grading system changes. Professors Jaffe, Stewart and members of the committee will continue to solicit feedback before fine-tuning the report for final consideration.

In other business, the faculty amended the Rules and Regulations of the Faculty to add the Dean for Student Life to the Committee on Discipline (COD). The memories of Professors Toyoichi Tanaka of physics and Franklin Peterson of mathematics were honored by moments of silence after resolutions honoring them were read. Professor Tanaka, 54, died on May 24. Professor Peterson, 70, died on September 1.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on November 22, 2000.

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