At the February 1 faculty meeting, the Curriculum and Educational Policy Committee (CEP) proposed a policy that would allow students to participate in unpaid internships that require that students receive academic credit as compensation.

Under the current policy, students may only participate in such internships if they coordinate an independent study that ties in with their internship work, to undertake on campus after the internship. If the new policy gains approval at the next faculty meeting on March 1, students who secure such internships would need to request approval from the Career Planning Center (CPC). If approved, the CPC would send a letter to the firm, non-governmental organization (NGO), or organization to establish that the student would receive transcript notation upon their completion of the internship. If the internship sponsor were to disagree to the terms outlined by the College, the student would not be allowed to take part in the internship.

The proposal states that "When students undertake an internship that requires academic credit as a condition of employment, the College will place a notation as a 'comment' on the transcript, indicating that they have completed an internship, e.g. 'Internship: Summer 2010.' Such a notation will not carry any credit toward the degree, nor will it receive a grade."

Henry Laurence, assistant professor of government and Asian studies and CEP faculty member, presented the proposal at the faculty meeting. Laurence said that, in devising their proposal, the CEP "thought that this was a way of being able to do what it was that the companies wanted to have done, which was to grant recognition, without opening up all of those possibilities for a lot of what some people would describe as dilution of the transcript...As long as we made clear that if this was as far as we were prepared to go," the CEP felt that a change to the current policy would benefit to students.

At the faculty meeting, two main points of concern relating to the proposed policy were raised. One addressed the fact that many of the internships that require participants receive academic credit are unpaid internships, and that in coordinating this proposed system of transcript notation, the College would be complicit in some sort of labor law violations.

Laurence acknowledged that this point arose in the CEP's discussions, but that ultimately, the benefits of providing a way to allow students to take these internships were understood as greater than any potential drawbacks.

"There is going to be legal language in the letter that we would send to the companies talking about not indemnifying the company/organization nor insuring the student during the internship so that we're clear legally," he said.

Additionally, there was a concern of unfairness inherent in the proposed policy, given that students who complete internships that don't contractually require they receive academic credit might be put at a disadvantage compared to students with notations on their transcripts indicating their internship experience. To this concern, Laurence pointed out that many other sorts of accolades do not appear on a student's transcript, and the core goal of the proposal is to allow students to participate in internships they are currently unable to take part in.

Of the committee's decision to make the proposal, CEP chair and Dean for Academic Affairs Cristle Collins Judd said, "We looked at what our peers are doing and what we are doing," and decided that there might be some need to change the transcript notation.

"As the chair of CEP, this a proposal that I have supported," Judd said. "We think this is an important way of making opportunities available to our students while maintaining our policies on academic credit."

According to Laurence, the CEP considered how the experience of unpaid internships that didn't "translate naturally into an independent study," could benefit students. He cited examples of students who wished to intern at stock brokerage firms, but were unable to come up with an independent study that would really warrant extensive academic investigation.

"We think that internships are valuable experiences in general, we support them, we encourage them, we think that that's a valuable part of the broader educational process and that Bowdoin students were being denied really interesting and valuable opportunities for experience that, with this policy change, we could relatively painlessly address," he said.

Last year, after landing an internship with NBC Sports that required he receive academic credit, senior Chris Adams-Wall found his experience trying to work with the College's standing policy "frustrating." Adams-Wall was able to coordinate with a history professor and indicate that he intended to pursue an independent study in the department related to his work at NBC, which allowed him to take the internship.

As he went through the process last spring, however, he held no intentions of following through with an independent study upon return to campus this past fall. During his meetings with the history professor, he thought to himself that all he needed was "to make sure that I could potentially do" an independent study, so he could obtain a signature necessary to take the internship.

This past fall, fellow senior Lenny Pierce completed an independent study in scriptwriting with Tricia Welsch, the chair of the Film Studies department, which he coordinated after securing an internship at Comedy Central last summer. Pierce said that his internship experience tied in directly with his independent study. At Comedy Central, much of his internship work involved reading through scripts and deciding if they were funny enough to be considered by his superiors at the company.

"I learned about what makes a good, balanced script, what kind of characters worked," Pierce said, a process that was valuable for his independent study. For his independent study, Pierce worked with Welsch to develop scripts for new episodes of "The Dorm," a sitcom he produces on campus with friends, which airs on the Bowdoin Cable Network.

Pierce noted that his internship experience, was unique because it translated so smoothly to the work he completed in his independent study and that he supported the CEP's policy proposal because would allow more students to gain valuable internship opportunities.

Adams-Wall spelled out his support for the policy proposal: "If we're liberal arts and we're...taking all these different courses so that we can be leaders in the world, how are we going to be leaders in the world if we can't do the basic, fundamental jobs that most leaders start out at?"

-Sarah Levin contributed to this report.