Worcester Polytechnic Institute

A Planning Program for Worcester Polytechnic Institute: The Future of Two Towers - Part One


APPENDIX A: Student Profile: Princeton Questionnaire

Princeton Questionnaire

In the fall of 1968, Educational Testing Service of Princeton, N. J., ran an extensive questionnaire at 216 colleges for seniors and juniors. WPI cooperated, furnishing responses from 202 students, mostly seniors, selected more or less at random after an assembly and by calling living groups for volunteers. Questions pertained to all aspects of college life as well as to personal and family backround.

Since the questionnaire was answered by volunteers, it is somewhat non-representative--for example, 50% of the respondents were looking forward to graduate work, while the average for the whole school is nearer 30%. But, allowing for this kind of bias, there would still appear to be a good deal of useful information in the survey. It probably represents the more vocal and active part of the student body better than it does the student body as a whole.

Information in the questionnaire can be summarized as follows: (Dean Trask has the entire result)

Students believe that tutorials and independent study are not important features of our undergraduate curriculum. They feel that there are not many students who place their social interests ahead of their academic ones, and they believe that course offerings here are designed to accomodate a wide range of educational-vocational plans. They are mixed on whether there are courses or programs available to students with educational deficiencies. They feel that capable students are allowed to participate in or conduct their own research projects and slightly favor the thought that their professors have set standards difficult to achieve. However, students are encouraged to think for themselves, and a ratio of 6:1 believe that their instructors have challenged them. They believe competition for grades is keen but are mixed on whether students can slip by with less than their best efforts. 74% listed engineering as their field of major study and 20% science or mathematics. Business was named by 3.5%; biological sciences, by 1%; humanities or fine arts by 1/2%; and 1 1/2% of these upperclassmen did not respond to the question. They estimated their average weekly study time as: less than 10, 7%; 10-20, 39%; 20-30, 31%; 31-40, 14%; over 40, 8%, hours.

Our students are mixed on whether one third of the residents leave the campus on the average weekends, are almost universally convinced that campus social life centers on the fraternities, feel that upperclassmen socialize with freshmen, and that the surrounding community is cordial to students. They favor the thought that books in the bookstore include much more than assigned texts or suggested readings, but deny by 2:1 that the Institute sponsors a rich cultural program, including lectures, concerts, plays and art exhibits. They are mixed on whether nationally-known scholars are frequently invited to address faculty and students. They feel that the dramatic group gives performances of high quality. They know religion does not play an important role on the campus. They are convinced most students do not care what the student government does on the campus, and that there are not adequate opportunities to socialize with the opposite sex. They are convinced by 5:1 that most students avoid anything controversial and that they do not show great concern about political, economic, and social issues. A campus visitor, according to them, would not notice any political activity among students or faculty, and they are mixed on whether the c _ us newspaper comments regularly on ideas and issues of national importance They are not sure whether a person who advocates extreme, unpopular ideas or actions would be allowed to speak here. They think the prevailing attitude is one of "playing it cool" rather than commitment. They believe not quite by 2:1 that a high degree of academic honesty is characteristic of our students. They are divided on whether the students have a good deaL of money to spend on social activities. 6)% of the respondents were involved with fraternities and also with career-interest campus organizations. About the same figure applied to individual competitive sports and a bit more to outdoor recreational activities. 86% felt they were active in dating and social life; 40% in campus issues and student government; 49% in out-of-class science activities; 29% in instrumental music; about 55-60% each in intramural and intercollegiate athletic events. Average dating appeared to be about once a week. 20% felt their religious beliefs had weakened; 15% had rejected formal religion; 38% had retained their original beliefs. The most popular topics for dinner table conversation and bull sessions were: social life, sports, current events, topics from class, and science, in that order.

75% would recommend the school to a high school senior.

Our students see most faculty members as genuinely interested in teaching and recongnize that high ranking faculty members do teach freshman and sophomore courses. However, they feel that the faculty tends to be aloof and somewhat formal with them. They are convinced that students do not have the opportunity to formally rate or react to many of their instructors or courses, and are divided on whether their professors are interested in them as individuals or whether there is much contact outside of class. They are, however, satisfied with the opportunities they have had to meet with instructors and discuss course work and progress, and are equally convinced that their faculty advisors have not been very helpful in planning their academic programs.

Students were divided on whether they had easy access to a counselling service for personal problems. Their library has excellent resources for undergraduate assignments, and they agreed by 20:1 that there are excellent undergraduate laboratory facilities for the physical sciences.

These 202 respondents gave the following statistics on themselves: 34% lived in fraternities; 22% in dorms; 21% off campus; 14% at home. 39% were Protestant; 31% Catholic; 7% Jewish; 17% had no formal religion. 75% had graduated from a public, 15% from a Catholic, and 7% from a private nonsectarian secondary school. 38% were from Massachusetts, and 55% from other New England states or New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. 21% were from towns of population under 10,000; 34% were from cities or towns of 10,000 to 50,000; 21% from 50,000 to 500,000; 5% from larger cities; and 15% from metropolitan suburbs. 24% of their fathers were engaged in a profession requiring a bachelor's or master's degree; 21% represented small owners or members of middle management; 16% were skilled workers or craftsmen; 9%, semiskilled; 8%, owners or executives in large businesses; 5%, service workers, such as the police; 5%, professionals requiring advanced degrees; lO%, salesmen and office workers; and 2%, unskilled. Family income appeared to center between ten to fourteen thousand dollars, with 5% below six thousand dollars and 19% over twenty thousand dollars. 2 to of the fathers had completed college, and 16% had had some college; 14% of mothers had finished college, and 18% had had some college. 86. APPENDIX A: Student Profile: Early Decision Questionnaire

(107 Responses)

1. Intended major

Chem 7 Management 2
Chem E 7
Math 11
Civil E 2
ME 14
EE 18
Physics 4
Undecided 41

2. Number planning to attend graduate school 63
Engineering 27 Science 15 Undecided 21

3. Number not planning to attend graduate school 25
Engineering 9 Science 3 Undecided 13

4. Those undecided on graduate school 19
Engineering 8 Science 4 Undecided 7

5. Students' appraisal of their guidance counselor's knowledge of W.P.I.
not much 25 some 46 a considerable amount 36

6. Number of those having an interview with Admissions Office 101
helpful 95 not helpful 5 no reply 1

7. Opportunity to talk with a faculty member yes 32 helpful:
yes 35 no 72 would have liked opportunity 64 not interested 6

8. In response to the question: "Where else might you have applied if you had not been admitted under the early decision plan?" The chief alternates for admission applications were as follows:

RPI 37 Lowell Tech 26 Tufts 4
MIT 15 Northeastern 24 Cornell 4
U. Mass. 23 Clarkson 11 Dartmouth 4
U. Conn. 12 Lehigh 10 Stevens 5
Holy Cross 3 URI 3 Brown 2
Misc. 29

9. The decision to apply for admission was based on the following as chief consideration reputation of W.P.I.

53 family connection 0 geographic location 2 alumni influence
3 small size 8 particular academic program 36 type of campus
2 techniquest 1 scholarship aid

Table of Average SAT Scores

Class of . . .
1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969 1970 1971 1972
WPI 560 554 542 553 557 567 565 570 580 V
651 654 652 655 673 675 664 670 680 M
RPI 605 600 600 600 V
710 700 725 700 M
MIT 650 675 675 700 V
750 750 750 750 M
Cal Tech 682 674 682 674 700 V
750 765 760 765 750 M
Carnegie (Eng & Sci) 575 600 600 600 625 V
675 700 675 725 725 M
Case 574 610 600 625 600 V
669 700 700 725 700 M
Clarkson 550 525 543 550 V
650 625 654 650 M
Wesleyan 650 640 650 625 625 V
650 680 650 700 700 M
Trinity 590 620 600 625 625 V
635 675 675 675 675 M
Cornell 625 625 625 640 V
675 675 725 750 M
Dartmouth 642 650 655 675 675 V
665 700 680 675 675 M
Northeastern 500 V
500 M

Comparison of Entering Students at Several American Colleges
(Compiled From. Comparative Guide to American Colleges - 1966 Edition)

Cal Tech MIT RPI Carnegie Case WPI Stevens Rose Clarkson IIT Swathmore Williams
Math % >500 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 99 98 97 100 100
>600 100 100 95 95 94 90 88 79 75 81 89 88
>700 98 95 55 58 51 36 35 27 25 36 59 46
Verbal % >500 99 100 89 91 86 78 90 64 66 81 100 96
>600 90 88 50 51 47 28 40 23 25 36 91 73
>700 38 36 9 7 8 2 5 2 3 5 40 17
% of Graduates to full time p.g. 85 75 53 44 41 30 25 26 26 28 77 64
% Fresh. in upper 1/5 of his class 99 96 83 83 83 74 78 70 52 71 71 78
% Fresh. in upper 2/5 of his class 100 99 97 97 97 94 95 96 84 82 82 91
Nat'l Merit Scholars Enrolled 83 206 19 30 23 3 -- 10 5 12 81 20
Enrollment (under-graduate) 665 3497 3138 1918 1631 1268 1144 749 1827 1897 1022 1176
Nat'l Awards for Adv. Study (5 years) 500 983 102 147* 64 15 39 29 40 131 39
Library Volumes (thousands) 161 946 120 235 121 62 49 35 62 128 263 280
Tuition 1770 1885 1700 1736 1600 1600 1850 1700 1400 1875 2600
Total u.g. and p.g. 1392 7151 4957 -- 2569 1402 2480 -- 1934 6700 -- --

*exclude social sciences

APPENDIX B.: Student Comments

The President's Planning Group met with a group of about 70 students in the Gordon Library in early February. The following is a distillation of comments offered by the students: Role of faculty in the school should be increased. Faculty should be academic center. Is there future planning on the University of Worcester idea? Could there not be more cooperation between schools, common use of facilities? The November 1968 article in the Atlantic on understanding student rebels is very helpful. I think the Tech student will change when the faculty changes and leads. The Tech student doesn't know exactly what he wants at first but is looking for something to go along with his technical education. Many are too bogged down in departments. The grade pressure on students under 2.5 prevents their looking around. Need more pass/fail courses, more freedom of choice. 35 of my required 144 hours are labs and only 18 electives. Much of what is required is not needed at all. Here, as everywhere, there appears to be a standard grade distribution. Unfair. Makes students grade hounds instead of interested learners. De-emphasize grades. Make teacher responsible for carrying something of interest and motivation to student. Grades should not be related to attendance or surprise quizzes, but what is learned and known. Some beginning student rating systems on faculty (in our departments) are good but dangerous. They put too much emphasis on just teaching the book back again. Want practical problems instead. I am under the impression that the mathematics lectures were not too successful last year. Our labs are too cookbook, easy enough for 4th or 5th graders. Instead, we should have education rather than training, be prepared to be engineers and not technicians. Emphasis on tools and what we will need is greatly duplicated. We won't need most of this anyway. Science is reduced to a mass of techniques. "Literature After Shakespeare" was my first really stimulating course. Why can't technical courses be this way? We should enjoy them and read freely. Solve this and you've gone a long way.

I met a man who had transferred from MIT to WPI in 1940 because MIT was too theoretical. He was hiring at NEREM. Are we losing this? There is too much duplication between courses--for example, EE and physics and EE and math. Sometimes the math is more practical. You get bored after a while.

I liked my ES-102 and the way the professor taught it. We did things that were different. I was motivated. Exams with notes or open book seem so much more worthwhile than just learning material off board and giving back again by memory. At first studying and living were two different things for me. It was not until my junior year that I realized they overlapped. I like the 5-year work/study programs. Should we do something similar? We could work in industry and find out what is really going on. Shorter terms with fewer courses would be much better--you could really concentrate on them,. Is there anything that can be done to improve individual teaching methods? They need it. Are we considering the negro problem at all? Are we afraid to try something different? Clark and other liberal arts schools give people a month or two off to pursue special projects.

APPENDIX C: Staff Comments

The President's Planning Group has received inputs, written or oral, from nearly half the staff. More than thirty written contributions were received ranging in length from one half to as many as fifteen pages. The comments reveal, as would be expected, that a great deal of individual thought (and writing) had already gone into WPI's future. It is believed that as many of these contributions as possible should be shared with the whole school, and that in so doing further ideas and fruitful discussion will be promoted. With this in mind, the comments have been condensed and presented herein. It has been necessary to shorten drastically and regroup the comments submitted. Individual comments have been grouped into similar ideas and topics. While much of the flavor and some of the specific language of the original comments has been sacrificed, essentially all of the written and some of the oral ideas submitted have been included.

On planning operations:

Planning work is essential but must be done fast. The selection of the new President is vital. Asking the right questions is vital to planning success. In what area or areas do we want to excel. Place no restrictions initially on this discussion, even if it questions the principle of private support. Ask, "What is it we want to do?", not "What can we do?" The Planning Group should not give a list of alternatives without ranking them The Group has the responsibility to let the faculty know what it thinks. Compromising extreme possibilities will produce the mediocre; it may be better than either extreme but never produces a leader. so far costly mistakes have been avoided, but there have been no dramatic successes. Everyone does not have to agree on the new course, but once announced, it should be supported.

On the faculty and staff:

The duties, responsibilities, and authority of a full professor are often no different from those of an instructor. We have a wonderful collection of people here, but the problem of under-utilization and non-realization of potential is great. This can be ill-afforded by an educational institution. The most important contribution to our future will be professional stimulation of the faculty. We are not here simply for students, but for students who want to learn. We must educate the whole man-move toward a more universal view.

Our reluctance to let non-producers (at all levels) go and our personnel work in general is poor. We need day-to-day evaluation procedures on everyone--clerical, administrative, and teaching personnel. We need to improve a humdrum faculty. We need more contact between faculty and students on the one hand and between faculty and practicing engineers on the other. Colloquia, seminars, student society talks, and exchanges between faculty and industrial employment are suggested. More faculty should be recruited from the professional ranks. Engineers with ten year's good experience are better undergraduate teachers than Ph.D.'s with no experience.

If the faculty come from the same (narrow) socio-economic backround as the students, is it likely that they will respond to any attempt to overcome a deficiency in the students coming from this common backround? We should establish Institute Professorships to encourage and reward scholarly performance. These Institute Professors would-report directly to the Dean of Faculty.

On organization of the school:

Some kind of administrative structure is essential in any plan. Present departmental organization limits interdisciplinary and core-course discussion and action, but it does have some compensating advantages. The departmental structure could best be improved by loosening ties somewhat and overlaying with a "dean structure". Rotating department chairmanships on a three or four year cycle is suggested. There should be provision for greater faculty voice in making decisions. Idiosyncracies of the people involved tend to override organizational objectives. Having the right person at the right time should be a goal, but needs frequent adjustment. To get leadership that is right more often than wrong, with eyes firmly fixed on the goal requires good relationships within our organization. There is some fear, lack of strength, and weakness in individual integrity, all adverse to good decision-making. Are most of our problems administrative--discipline, lack of assigned responsibility, measurement of performance only by teaching load? We lack conviction, "going along with" rather than heartily supporting.

Increasing numbers of students will use four years of engineering or science education as a backround for other careers. We must encourage these students rather than treat them as lepers; we must help them identify themselves with WPI.

Like the Sophists of ancient Greece, present WPI students continue to applaud and demand a systematic education based on talent, study, and practice. They are willing to work hard and are essentially technically oriented. However, they demand more freedom of expression, a voice in their awn affairs, and additional liberal arts material added to their curricula. They thoroughly endorse the lecture method of teaching. We should move toward being a small technological university.

On supporting facilities:

We need more rapport between faculty and library staff and more consistent use of library by the staff. Some faculty are utilizing the library effectively for ES-102, but a better library introduction is needed for the freshman year. A better library collection will enable WPI to take its proper place in intercollege library activities. Professional librarians might well be given regular faculty status. This would keep them more abreast of faculty thinking on educational matters. There should be a computer programming course for the non-scientists on the campus. Duplication of computer facilities between administration and the computation center should be eliminated. On research and graduate education costs: Ph.D. programs simply for grants, without relation to faculty or program interests, are probably self-defeating. Alden is in a better position to do this sort of thing, and we need to get them (Alden Labs) closer to us. Research Institutes will enable us to draw federal money to support graduate work and advanced studies. Our graduate activities are a money-losing, sub-threshold operation. If we are to do them right, we need to utilize the route 495 potential for a step-function input to graduate enrollment. Graduate school recruiters should be programmed into our placement operations even if it competes with our own school.

On strong points of a WPI education:

Our student body is definitely ahead of most others academically and in creative citizenship) and these assets should be used more in framing our image. Physical education and student-faculty relations are generally excellent. Our most positive areas are public relations, campus warmth, campus appearance, and emphasis on total individual growth. Our advantages over State Universities are flexibility, ability to tailor to the individual student, and ability to move quickly into new areas. we should keep these advantages by making use of them,

On weak points of WPI:

Employers emphasize need for improved written and oral communication skills, We need improvement in personal/psychological counselling. We need improvement in our public relations on and off the campus. We need to push for more national and international importance for the college, A strong materials center is needed. The name of the school should be changed. We need to improve our trade-school image, community participation, our poor flexibility. We need a student center, Alden Research Laboratories are quite limited because they are not funded to support staff during interim non-contract periods. Some professional staff are on an hourly basis. We need to do something about the education of disadvantaged students. We need to give each student much more project experience.

On education in the future:

The 1955-65 national push on technology has peaked out. The next wave of enthusiasm will be on society itself and the relation to total environment. These areas need top priority rather than erosion from status-quo protectors.

Inter-institutional cooperation can help us here only if it is from strength. Dealing from weakness can only weaken us further. It is recommended that WPI move in the direction of being a technological university with continued emphasis on the undergraduate. We need faith to overcome past inferiority complexes and to dare to innovate and create. Doing what is good for the student should be our main guide. In spite of emphasis on research and graduate work, undergraduate training is still our top priority. The main problem in this area is staff. We need more effective handling of freshmen and sophomores--young men who haven't really changed much from what their fathers were like. There is an overemphasis on research. If a man has an inborn interest in research, he'll find a way to do it. "Modern Engineering Bandwagon" in July, 1968 issue of Spectrum has a good discussion of this point. Overemphasis on science and research frustrates the undergraduates and engineering faculty and turns down engineering enrollments.

Our main success should be based on quality undergraduate instruction, but to do this we must greatly strengthen graduate work--especially the Ph.D. work. Undergraduate enrollment should be cut back to allow for this. Our goal should be excellence in engineering education. We should emphasize four-year preparation with graduate study as a secondary goal. Ph.D. work and research are to some extent antithetical to the undergraduate and master's work which seem to be our strong points. We might, therefore, consider minimizing research and Ph.D. work--restrict to quite selective areas. Else, we should change our emphasis completely and take on the opposite job instead.

Graduate study and research is necessary for quality undergraduate programs and has been directly benefitting them here. Nevertheless there is currently a detracting overemphasis on research and graduate work here. We should not try to change our "personality" drastically. We can't do everything and must specialize in something. We should be able to provide a better social and intellectual climate for the undergraduate.

On the students:

Need for social and economic status is no longer going to motivate enough people to take up engineering, but sound education will. This means we will have to orient toward the M.S. degree with someone else's four-year program in technology supplying the "routine" engineers.

As we stated in the introductory paragraphs of this appendix, the comments of the staff have been included so that they might engender further discussion, particularly in view of the main body of this report, written by the President's Planning Group. It is not surprising that these comments represent virtually all points of view, for they have been written or stated by individuals who are concerned about WPI, each of whom has his own point of view. We suggest, therefore, that the reader remember that these comments are a part of the appendix and not the report, useful in an understanding of faculty opinion. They were of value to the Group in preparing its analysis.

APPENDIX D: Acknowledgements

The President's Planning Group would like to express thanks to all the WPI staff who have aided by comment, criticism, and special talent in getting this important work under way. We would like to express special appreciation to those who did specific reference work for us, and to our very helpful secretaries: (Mrs.) Barbara G. Considine, (Mrs.) Dorothy C. French, and (Mrs.) Marion F. Mundy.

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Last modified: Fri Mar 5 15:28:11 EST 1999