For those students fed up with the challenge of finding courses that will satisfy their distribution requirements, relief does not appear on the horizon.
Bowdoin Student Government President Derek Brooks '12 was elected last year on a platform that included reforming the way courses are labeled to meet a distribution requirement. He advocates a system in which professors must explain why their course does not fit a requirement, rather than why it does.
However, reform has proved difficult for a complex system that involves multiple separate college entities and various organs of procedure and bureaucracy.
Since the fall of 2006, all students have been required to take one class in each of five designated distribution areas in order to graduate.
Currently, courses are designated as distribution requirements through a drawn-out process overseen by the Curriculum Implementation Committee (CIC), which is a subdivision of the Curriculum and Educational Policy Committee (CEP).
The CIC is made up of faculty members and students and it reviews any submissions for new courses or for courses to be classified under certain distributions.
In order to classify an existing course as meeting a distribution requirement, the professor must submit a petition to the CIC answering specifically tailored questions that assess whether a class will indeed furnish students with an international perspective, allow them to explore social differences, or inquire into the natural sciences. This process necessitates extra initiative on the part of the professor teaching the courses.
This fall, the CIC implemented a new path for professors registering new courses, combining the petition for the new course with the petition for meeting a distribution requirement.
Additionally, the new process asks professors to, in Associate Dean of Academic Affairs James Higginbotham's words, "opt-out" of distribution requirements, rather than opt in.
Brooks has argued that this should be the standard for all courses.
"Any course that can count, should count," he said. He noted what he sees as an apparent lack of logical coherence in how courses are labeled across departments.
"In sociology and anthropology you can't get a requirement until the 200-level, but in science you can fill them with a sub-100 level course."
This discrepancy arose from the way the various departments dealt with the changes implemented in 2006, according to Higginbotham.
"Science created non-major courses," Higginbotham explained, while departments like anthropology and archaeology determined that 100-level surveys could not "sufficiently engage the spirit of the requirements."
Despite some inconsistencies, many students do not find distribution requirements onerous, although there are certainly stories of minor difficulty in filling them.
Peter Yen '13 is an economics major who has filled all his requirements. The most difficult for him to satisfy was the Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) category.
"I couldn't get into drawing for three semesters, so I ended up taking dance instead," Yen said, adding that the experience had ended up being unexpectedly "awesome," which is, after all, partly the rationale behind the requirements.
Biochemistry major Aubrey Zott '14 has not been able to satisfy all of her requirements, and like Yen, she has had the most trouble with her VPA.
"I want to take a dance class, but since I'm a science major I haven't been able to find one that doesn't conflict with my labs," said Zott.
Although Jen Wenz '12 is a religion major, she found that her Exploring Social Difference requirement was the hardest to meet.
"A lot of humanities courses that should meet requirements don't," she said. "Ironically, I didn't get my ESD until junior year."
The College has been undertaking a protracted internal review over the last few years, and evaluating the distribution system has been a focus.
"There are many faculty who feel that we should go through the entire curriculum and assign everything to a distribution requirement," said Higginbotham.
However, before any new policy changes can be implemented, they must first be approved at several levels of committee bureaucracy, and ultimately, as Brooks explained, "to change anything requires a vote by the faculty."