The grading system is currently set up such that Bowdoin students can easily sail through four years of college without knowing the details of how they compare academically to their peers. And as long as the College refuses to release the student body’s average GPA—not to mention the average grades given by each department—this will continue to be the case.
Currently, the most readily available metrics students are given to measure their academic achievements are the Sarah and James Bowdoin annual awards, and the knowledge that they will hear from the Dean’s Office should they stray too far in the direction of academic probation. We reward excellence and punish inadequacy, but ignore the vast middle ground in between.
The Registrar has, in the past, shared both the student body’s average GPA as well as those of individual departments with the Orient. In a recent attempt to report on grade inflation by department, however, our reporter was met with tight lips. The Registrar declined to release the figures and would not explain why the policy had changed.
We recognize that the relatively non-competitive attitude of most Bowdoin students with regard to grades is something to be grateful for, and that releasing data pertaining to average GPAs could impact the academic climate. We believe, however, that students should be aware of the relative difficulty of different departments as they chart a course of study and consider their futures beyond Bowdoin.
The editorial represents the majority view of the Bowdoin Orient’s editorial board, which comprises Nick Daniels, Sam Frizell, Linda Kinstler, Zoë Lescaze and Elizabeth Maybank.