Change in distribution requirements on horizon
Fewer required course areas, a narrower focus, and a portfolio requirement could form a new set of distribution requirements in coming years.
Dean of Academic Affairs Craig McEwen confirmed Wednesday that changes are being discussed, although no final decisions have been made. The issue must first be discussed with departments and then voted upon by faculty.
"These are just internal working documents instead of formal proposals," McEwen said.
2003-10-10 Bowdoin students will not be affected by any distribution requirement changes. Their requirements will remain unchanged.
A draft has been created by the Curriculum and Educational Policy Committee (CEP). The tentative plan includes one required first-year seminar, one required sophomore seminar, a course relating to math or statistics, a scientific-inquiry course, and one course on world perspectives, similar to the 2003-10-10 non-Eurocentric courses. The requirements 2003-10-10ly in place would be eliminated under the new plan.
An additional component is a non-credit "study journal," which would require students to reflect upon their courses and liberal arts experience. Additional portfolio items will be "developed in relation to departmental requirements," according to a CEP draft document created last month.
McEwen said that with the newly proposed requirements, the College is looking to provide a "narrower range of selection than 2003-10-10ly exists." Distribution requirements should reflect institutional goals, he said.
"The sense among many faculty is that 2003-10-10ly we do not articulate well the goals for a liberal education and goals for distribution requirements," he said. Distribution requirements should "guide faculty and departments about which courses to teach and how we allocate our resources as a college."
One of the most notable components of the draft is the inclusion of sophomore seminars. The creation of these new courses, McEwen said "suggests that we want more resources directed towards students in their sophomore year."
New distribution requirements may also include a required portfolio. The purpose of the portfolio will be to help students better connect with advisors, and will allow students to self-reflect throughout their education.
"Reflection is a value at an institution like Bowdoin," McEwen said.
Sue Kim '05 serves on the CEP, and feels that the inclusion of portfolio components is well-intended. "However, the good intention aside, I don't know how well it will be enforced," she said.
McEwen admits that the development of a workable portfolio system will not be easy. "What none of us wants is to create something that is seen as a bureaucratic nightmare," he said.
Kim feels that the creation of the draft went smoothly, with all voices on the CEP heard. "I'd like to assure the student body that the student representation was taken very seriously," she said. "We've definitely voiced our opinions on the matter."
Professor Allen Tucker, chair of the computer science department, has seen the proposal and feels that the new requirements under consideration are a step in the right direction, especially with regard to sophomore seminars.
"The more smaller classes the better," he said.
Tucker has some concerns about the plan to reduce non-Eurocentric requirements from two to one. "An educated person really needs to understand world cultures well in this day and age," he said. He feels there should be at least two non-Eurocentric courses required of each student because of the expanded perspective the classes give them.
McEwen and Kim both want to ensure that any changes will be made with the full consideration of the faculty.
"These are the early days," McEwen said.
Look for more student and faculty reaction to this developing story in
the next issue of the Orient.