Future classes of Bowdoin students will no longer be able to protect their grade point averages from low marks in required classes, the faculty decided Monday.

By a 66-16-1 vote, the professors passed a motion to prohibit students from using the Credit/D/Fail option in courses taken to satisfy distribution requirements beginning with the Class of 2012. The new rule was passed despite the pleas of more than 40 students who assembled to greet faculty as they passed through the Thorne Hall lobby on their way to the meeting.

At the rally, which was organized by student government representatives who had recently passed a resolution opposing the rule change, students held signs with colorful slogans such as "Stop requiring, keep inspiring" and "Progressive grading, not punishing grading." One sign featured a sketch of a polar bear with the message, "Don't endanger exploration."

Inside Daggett Lounge, the student representatives had draped banners advocating a "no" vote on the walls and placed flyers with their arguments on each chair. Early in the meeting, Physics and Astronomy Department Chair Madeleine Msall proposed that the banners be removed in accordance with the rule that students are forbidden from "speaking" at faculty meetings, but her motion was defeated.

Professor of Mathematics William Barker introduced the proposed policy change by summarizing the majority view of the Curriculum and Educational Policy Committee (CEP), which endorsed a "yes" vote.

"The real issue here is, I believe, ambivalence about Bowdoin's distribution requirements," he said in his comments. "The Credit/D/Fail option is seen as softening the requirements, but in fact the option undercuts them. If we are going to have distribution requirements, the College policies should support the requirements, not compromise them."

German Department Chair Helen Cafferty began discussion by asking why the 'D' option was insufficient in curbing the sort of student apathy that some instructors had charged.

Suzanne Lovett, chair of the psychology department, said that students who "skate the 'C-/D' line" can hold a class back while ultimately avoiding a 'D' grade.

"Some Bowdoin students are smart enough that they can be very unengaged and do very poorly up to a point, and then kick it in, get 'A's, and get credit for the course," she said.

Several professors argued that having a mix of students taking their courses for a grade and students taking them Credit/D/Fail forces them to avoid structuring those courses in ways they feel are optimal.

"I currently have to restrict the way I structure my classes," said Professor of Physics and Astronomy Dale Syphers. "It affects what I can do in class. I can't have certain in-class discussions if the engagement isn't there. So I've had to restructure what I do."

"Really it is a plea from me and other instructors of these courses to be able to run the course the way I'd like to run it," Syphers continued, "to get [students] to expose themselves to new things...I don't have the leverage to do currently. And it really becomes a problem when I don't have that leverage to assign certain things and have certain discussions."

Assistant Professor of Biology and Biochemistry Ann McBride made a similar argument.

"The course that I teach which in the past had a large number of Credit/D/Fail students?one of the parts of the course that people get the most out of is a group project at the end of the course," she said, "and I've had severe problems in the past with groups that end up having some Credit/D/Fail and some for a grade, so that you have unequal work amounts within that project that have a large domino effect in that group."

Msall, the physics and astronomy department chair, said that by restricting Credit/D/Fail to non-required courses "we are not requiring heroic feats of our students."

"We're asking students who, for the most part, had a good exposure to sciences in high school to work at that same level," she said, adding that Bowdoin provides tutoring and other support opportunities to help students for whom scientific learning comes less easily.

Though nearly every professor to speak on the issue argued in favor of the proposed policy change, Professor of Biology Nat Wheelwright said that he has "often found his Credit/D/Fail students to be a joy." Wheelwright motioned to amend the proposal such that the instructor of each course could decide whether students could still receive distribution credit while taking that course Credit/D/Fail.

"I guess I worry a little bit about a solution that is applied to the entire faculty because of some specific struggles of individuals," he said.

The faculty denied the Wheelwright amendment by a voice vote.

With the clock ticking towards 5 p.m.?the deadline for voting on substantive issues?the question on the Credit/D/Fail rule change was then called. The faculty voted to submit their votes by a secret ballot. The motion passed by a 50-vote margin, with at most 50 percent of eligible faculty participating in the vote.

The crowd of students that had assembled outside Daggett Lounge had dispersed by the time the meeting adjourned, but Bowdoin Student Government President Dustin Brooks '08, who had helped organize the rally before sitting in on the meeting, expressed disappointment following the faculty's decision.

"I wish our arguments had been more convincing, and that a longer period of debate had taken place before the vote," Brooks wrote in an e-mail. "The faculty's vote made it clear that we as an organization need to reach out more to our professors and engage with them about policy issues."

The new rule will take effect beginning with the Class of 2012, and will not affect current students. The CEP has pledged to consider further changes to the Credit/D/Fail system in coming months.