Faculty considers GPA vote
One month following the Faculty's decision to implement
a plus/minus grading system, the Faculty will once again be making a decision
regarding grading at Bowdoin. This time, they will be voting on whether
or not to calculate GPAs.
Bowdoin's current policy- which dates back to the Vietnam
War era when GPAs were used to determine draftees- prohibits the calculation
of GPAs, except in order to determine which students qualify as Sarah
and James Bowdoin scholars and which students qualify for Latin honors.
The Recording Committee presented its proposal to re-institute
the calculation of GPAs at the April faculty meeting. Faculty members
will vote on the proposal at their May meeting on Monday. If the Faculty
votes in favor of the measure, GPAs will appear on transcripts no later
than this fall.
According to Mark Lucci '04, a student representative on
the Recording Committee, the issue has taken a backseat to the plus/minus
debate, but the Recording Committee has been discussing it for almost
a full year. The proposal was originally brought up by Director of Institutional
Research and Registrar Christine Brooks Cote on behalf of the Office of
According to the memo, a number of individuals request student
GPAs, including scholarship agencies, graduate schools, off-campus study
programs, vehicle insurance companies, and the students themselves.
According to the Recording Committee's memo, the problem
with this is that GPAs that are calculated independently of the school
are prone to errors and complications, especially those arising from how
to count half-credit and pass/fail courses. The addition of pluses and
minuses will only increase the potential for error as people attempt to
determine how many points to assign to a B+.
Another problem identified by the memo is that of confidentiality.
Although the Office of Student Records understands the privacy laws regarding
the release of academic records, other members of the Bowdoin community
who choose to release GPAs on their own may not.
The memo identified three options for resolving these problems.
The first, which is the option being recommended to the Faculty by the
Recording Committee, is to change the College's policy such that a GPA
would be calculated for each student. This GPA would then appear on the
student's transcript, in his or her academic records, and on any other
documents in which GPA was requested. According to the memo, this would
allow the Office of Student Records to be the official calculator of GPAs.
The second option being presented to the Faculty, although
not being endorsed by the Recording Committee, is to "affirm our
current policy of not calculating GPA." If this were accepted, then
no college official would be allowed to compute or report GPAs.
A third option mentioned in the memo but rejected by the
Recording Committee is that of calculating GPAs for internal purposes
only. According to the memo, this is not a viable option because most
of the pressure to compute GPA comes from external sources, not internal.
Lucci said that with the implementation of plus/minus grades
and now the proposal to calculate GPAs, certain ideas that have previously
been fundamental in forming grading policies-that students learn for reasons
other than grades and that GPAs do not really matter¾are fading.
He cited a Bowdoin Magazine article in which a student was praised because
of his GPA, although according to the College, he was not officially supposed
to have a GPA in the first place.
Lucci said that historically the Faculty has questioned
whether or not a student's GPA is capable of summing up his or her educational
experience since it does not take into account things such as the difficulty
level of courses. He questioned if the idea that "students are indeed
the average of all grades earned" was the message that the College
wanted to be sending to students.
Even if the Faculty does decide to allow the calculation of GPAs, the prohibition against calculating class rank will still be enforced.