Around half of first-year students took one fewer GIR in the fall

Experiment proposal for Class of 2023 is being drafted, OVC says

Approximately half of first-year students took one fewer General Institute Requirement course than usual last fall after an experiment conducted by the Office of the Vice Chancellor allowed first years to take up to three additional science, mathematics, or engineering GIRs on Pass or No Record at any time after their first semester.

The goal of the experiment is to increase first years’ flexibility to explore different majors before they have to declare one. By allowing students to delay taking GIRs, the administration hoped to encourage students to take more non-GIR classes earlier in their college career.

Most first years delayed taking the biology or chemistry GIRs, Vice Chancellor Ian Waitz told The Tech in an interview.

To further encourage major exploration, the OVC has also arranged for a variety of “academic exploration subjects” to be offered in the upcoming spring semester. They are mostly 1–3 unit classes in which students can hear about current, exciting work being done in the field from experts and alumni.

The subjects to be offered include 5.001 (Frontiers in Molecular and Materials Science), 12.00 (Frontiers and Careers in Earth, Planets, Climate, and Life), and 21G.012 (Exploring Globalization through Chinese Food).

The experiment may have also been partly responsible for the Class of 2022’s better academic performance this past fall. According to grade data collected by the OVC, the average GPA of first-semester freshman slightly rose, and the number of fifth week flags dropped, Waitz said.

The OVC is unable to further quantify how much these metrics changed because they do not publically release GPA-related data, according to Michael Rutter, senior advisor for communications in the OVC, in an email to The Tech.

However, student preparedness to choose a major did not see statistically significant change based on survey and interview data the OVC collected from the classes of 2021 and 2022, Waitz said.

According to Waitz, pre-health students, which make up about 10 percent of the freshman class, were advised not to change their P/NR plans because it was not clear how medical schools would respond. Medical schools already tend to ask students to release their hidden grades, and they may be skeptical of applicants who have more hidden grades.

It is too early to tell how many first years will take a GIR on P/NR this spring, Rutter wrote.

The OVC is just beginning the proposal for any policy changes for the class of 2023, but the policy will be along the lines of increasing exploration, Waitz said. The proposal will be ready early next month, when it will be submitted to the Committee on the Undergraduate Program.