Looming registration for next semester’s courses invites conversation about how we choose classes. The process requires us to manage a number of different (and sometimes competing) aims: pursuing our intellectual interests, maintaining GPAs, fulfilling major and distribution requirements, and allowing enough time for activities beyond school work. One of the best ways to perform this balancing act is to keep the Credit/D/Fail (Cr/D/F) option in mind.
Last year’s Bowdoin Student Government (BSG) President and Vice-President for Academic Affairs promised to reevaluate the Cr/D/F policy during their tenures, floating ideas about pushing back the deadline until after students had received graded feedback. In last spring’s BSG election, the Orient endorsed current BSG President Sarah Nelson, who included a similar proposal in her platform. Pushing for Cr/D/F amendments is a frequent campaign pledge, and one that many students support, but the policy remains unchanged. BSG currently has a proposal to extend the deadline for taking a course Cr/D/F until the ninth week of classes, which the Recording Committee may consider. We support these changes.
Taking a course Cr/D/F is not an inherently lazy decision or a way to opt out of trying in class. Liberal arts education is predicated on a broad range of intellectual exploration; removing the disincentive of a potentially bad grade is invaluable in getting us to take unfamiliar courses.
In a 2007 proposal to change the Cr/D/F policy, students would have been able to set a lowest acceptable grade up until the last week of classes. If their grade dropped below this mark, the class would revert to Cr/D/F status. If not, the course would be taken for a grade. This policy was based on Dartmouth’s Non-Recording Option, and seems like an obvious way to encourage the use of Cr/D/F for academic exploration instead of GPA protection. The possibility of earning an “acceptable” grade would promote continued engagement in the course and suppress much of the “how little work can I do for a C”-style thinking that characterizes the main criticism of these policies. It seems strange that the 2007 proposal was shot down. We think it’s a change worth reconsidering.
When the 2007 revisions were being discussed, the Registrar provided data on grade distribution. In the 2005-2006 academic year, roughly 6,000 grades were recorded per semester; of those, roughly 75 were F grades and between 125 and 150 were D grades, according to an article in the Orient. While it would be interesting to compare those numbers to similar statistics from today, we cannot. The Registrar has denied the Orient’s repeated requests for more recent data on grades or how many students take advantage of the currect Cr/D/F policy. Because this information is not publicly available, it is difficult to analyze the efficacy of the current Cr/D/F policy. As students, it is not easy for us to understand why popular changes like those proposed in 2007 were not enacted. Knowing the grade distribution and the frequency of Cr/D/F usage would help us make fully informed decisions as we register for another semester of classes. Chances are, you are not an outlier in taking an interesting class Cr/D/F—but it would be reassuring to see the numbers.
The editorial represents the majority view of the Bowdoin Orient’s editorial board, which is comprised of Claire Aasen, Erica Berry, Nora Biette-Timmons, Marisa McGarry, Eliza Novick-Smith, Sam Miller and Sam Weyrauch.
Correction, Friday, November 8, 10 a.m.: The article previously stated that the Recording Committee was working with BSG on a proposal; it has been updated to show that BSG has this proposal and the Committee is open to consideration of the policy.