Office of the Vice Chancellor conducts reviews of Phase Two of CUP experiment

A record high number of first years have registered for advising seminars and discovery subjects

The Committee on Undergraduate Preparation (CUP), in association with the Office of the Vice Chancellor (OVC), is conducting reviews of Phase Two of the CUP experiment. The CUP will use these reviews to propose changes that, if approved by faculty vote, will be up for permanent adoption in the spring.

Phase Two, which affects the Class of 2023, lowers the credit limit in the fall from 54 to 48 units, increases the credit limit in the spring from 57 to 60 units, adds an additional nine units restricted to discovery classes and related approved exceptions such as advising seminars or music performance subjects, and eliminates Early Sophomore Standing.

The experiment was designed to give first-year students more exploration opportunities “by providing a broader range of classes to students and inspiring more learning opportunities,” Vice Chancellor Ian Waitz said in an interview with The Tech.

According to the Phase One’s cohort responses to an Oct. 2019 survey conducted by the OVC, 89.3 percent of students are in favor of designating up to three science General Institute Requirements to be graded on a Pass/No Record basis after the first term. The OVC has run surveys with students from the Class of 2021 (control), Class of 2022 (Phase One), and have an upcoming survey for the Class of 2023 (Phase Two).

CUP Chair Arthur Bahr said in an interview with The Tech that the CUP will try to look at the consequences of the changes “to put together a set of proposals of changes that we think would be beneficial for the faculty to vote on for permanent adoption in the spring.” 

According to Waitz, there is currently a record high of about 650 students in the Class of 2023 that registered for first-year advising seminars and 524 students registered for discovery classes.

Discovery classes were primarily put in place to help students who have not yet decided on a field of study and are open to exploration, Waitz said. The classes, although they do not fulfill GIR requirements themselves, are designed to allow students to fulfill GIRs while taking low-workload classes that allow for exposure to a wide variety of subjects.

Some concerns that have been raised, Waitz said, are that students are not completing necessary science core GIRs required for sophomore subjects and are receiving information, explicitly or implicitly, that GIRs are not valuable because they are on P/NR. 

While GPA in science core GIRs increased by 0.06 in Fall 2018, GPA in science core GIRs dropped by 0.36 in Spring 2019, according to last year’s results from Phase One of the experiment.

Bahr emphasized that the CUP’s charge, as defined in the Rules and Regulations of the Faculty, includes encouraging “experimental innovation in undergraduate education, including the approval and supervision of limited educational experiments and granting of exceptions to allow any experiment to depart from specific faculty regulations and MIT administrative procedures.”

More information regarding the proposed changes by the CUP will be available in the spring. 

Update 11/21/2019: This article was updated to clarify that the CUP does not report to the OVC and that discovery classes do not fulfill GIR requirements. In addition, the nine additional units also include related approved exceptions.