Under the current system of distribution requirements, implemented in 2006, already busy professors must take on an additional burden: submitting an online form if they want their course to be considered for a distribution requirement. Applying for such approval takes time and energy?professors told the Orient that the process is "lengthy" and "more complicated than one would expect." This system has been problematic not only for professors, but for students as well.
This spring, the government department is offering 29 courses, but only one counts toward any of the five distribution requirements. Though the courses "International Security," "International Environmental Policy" and "Post-Communist Russian Policy" will be offered, none fulfill the International Perspectives requirement. Though many courses across departments have been designated fairly, too many classes remain uncategorized.
While we understand the rationale behind distribution requirements, the system for designating requirements needs to be re-evaluated. When some courses are left out of the system?for whatever reason?it closes down the very academic universe the requirements were intended to open. In order to engage students in a broader range of academic options, all courses should be considered for distribution requirements.
As it stands now, while students are obligated to enroll in classes that fulfill distribution requirements, professors are not obligated to teach such courses. We encourage professors to take the time to nominate courses they teach for the appropriate distribution requirement. Professors have raised concerns that listing a course as fulfilling a requirement may increase the number of students who enroll out of necessity. However, the more options students have, the more likely they are to find a course that suits their interests. The system of distribution requirements, which helps to cultivate a well-rounded liberal arts education, will work best when all professors are on board.
The system has been in place for three years, and it is time for reflection. Though we are hopeful professors will take the initiative to designate their own courses, there are a number of other possible ideas for improvement. Departments could meet before each semester to evaluate the course offerings and nominate qualified courses for requirements. Or, the College could centralize the system, evaluating every course for the appropriate designation. A revised process would be in everyone's best interests.
The editorial represents the majority view of The Bowdoin Orient's editorial board, which comprises Nick Day, Mary Helen Miller, Cati Mitchell and Nat Herz.