We congratulate Cristle Collins Judd on her appointment as our next dean of academic affairs. When she begins at Bowdoin in July, she will inherit one of the best academic programs in the country, but her job will not be an easy one. There will be several different constituencies to please, and budget constraints, among other things, will necessitate that she make tough choices about Bowdoin's academic priorities. Certain concerns by students about the academic program stand out, and we hope the following issues will be high on Judd's agenda.
First, ask any Bowdoin student what his primary academic complaint is and his answer will likely be his inability to get into the classes that he wants. Bowdoin values letting students design their own academic course load, but too often students are unable to take the classes they decide are best for them. Some departments are worse than others in this regard. Government, the department with the most majors on campus, for instance, is notorious for how quickly its classes fill up, while many classes in some other departments are half empty after enrollment. A new challenge will be shifting the course offerings to better fit the new distribution requirements passed by the faculty; almost nothing is more irritating than not being able to get into introductory classes needed to fulfill the College's requirements.
Judd must also make faculty diversity one of her top priorities. For instance, as the Orient reported last semester, of Bowdoin's over 150 faculty members, only three are black. When compared in this regard to other elite liberal arts colleges, Bowdoin is at the bottom. Having a diverse faculty is not only important academically; it is necessary as Bowdoin continues its effort to diversify its student body. An active commitment to recruiting qualified minority faculty would result in a great service to the Bowdoin community.
On another note, keeping gifted faculty at Bowdoin is vital to Bowdoin's commitment to students to provide an opportunity for intellectual growth. For a student, the loss of a talented faculty member with whom he has developed a working relationship can be both frustrating and discouraging.
Most important, quality teaching must be maintained as the cornerstone of a Bowdoin education. The dean of academic affairs must ensure that learning in the classroom is both rigorous and engaging. Efforts to work with faculty on their teaching skills should be continued and emphasized, perhaps most importantly with tenured faculty, who occasionally succumb to the comfort of job security and fail to make that extra effort to connect with students.
We encourage Judd to keep an open dialogue with the student body about these and other issues, and are confident her leadership will help Bowdoin continue to climb closer to its outstanding academic potential.
The editorial represents the majority view of The Bowdoin Orient's editorial board. The editorial board is comprised of James D. Baumberger, Drew Fulton, Bobby Guerette, Evan S. Kohn, and Beth Kowitt.