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Committee recommends A-B-C-no record policy for freshmen

A special faculty subcommittee has recommended that MIT modify the pass/fail system that has been in effect since 1968 by instituting an A-B-C-no record policy for freshmen during the spring semester.

The special subcommittee on Freshman Pass/No Record Grading and Advanced Placement Policy was appointed in November 1999. Its 72-page report was accepted "with considerable enthusiasm" by the Committee on Undergraduate Programs (CUP) on October 4, according to CUP chair Professor Robert L. Jaffe of physics.

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, it suggested that oversight of the advanced placement policy be shifted from the Admissions Office to the Office of Academic Services.

Professor Jaffe and subcommittee chair Professor Charles Stewart III of political science are inviting reaction to the report from the MIT community. They and other members of CUP and the subcommittee plan to attend meetings and forums, dine with faculty and students, and visit living groups to discuss the report and its recommendations. A community forum on the policy will be held tonight from 7-8pm in Rm 5-234.

Noting that CUP members had "great enthusiasm to continue the discussion," Professor Jaffe said, "We plan to visit as many places as possible." Professor Stewart said, "This is an opportunity to start a broader conversation."

The comments will be studied with an eye toward fine-tuning the report. At that point, CUP will decide whether to endorse the findings and present the report at a faculty meeting next spring. Target date for implementation would be the 2002-03 academic year.

The subcommittee reached its conclusions after meeting 12 times for a total of 25 hours during IAP and the spring semester. Materials reviewed included previous reports on freshman grading at MIT and reports on other universities' practices. The members also consulted with faculty, freshman advisors, associate advisors, representatives from the dean's office, department academic officers and members of the Undergraduate Association Student Committee on Educational Policy.

In addition to Professor Stewart, members of the committee are professors Duane Boning of electrical engineering and computer science, Wit Busza of physics, W. Craig Carter of materials science and engineering, David Jerison of mathematics, Donald Sadoway of materials science and engineering; Dean Margaret Enders of the Office of the Dean for Undergraduate Education; and two students: senior Peter Shulman, president of the Undergraduate Association, and sophomore Malena Stiteler. Professor Carter is a member of the Committee on Academic Performance and Professor Sadoway chairs the Committee on Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid.

Staff support for the subcommittee was provided by assistant registrar Ri Romano and Van Chu of the Office of Academic Services.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on October 18, 2000.

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