Bowdoin is a drastically different place than it was 10 years ago, according to a draft of a self-study released by the College this week. Changes over the past decade detailed in the report include a complete reorganization of residential life, a significantly more diverse student body, and a larger faculty.
The report was released in anticipation of the College's once-every-decade reaccreditation review next fall by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). The self-study evaluates the College in each of 11 standards set by NEASC, describing changes since the last study in 1996, assessing current successes and weaknesses, and projecting the future.
The draft was compiled under the guidance of the Self-Study Steering Committee, a group led by Dean for Academic Affairs Craig McEwen. The eight-member committee has representation from students, faculty, staff, and alumni.
The draft report was presented to the Bowdoin community Tuesday in an email to the campus. McEwen and the committee requested that students, faculty, and staff read the report posted on the Bowdoin web site and submit comments before May 8.
At press time, the section on student life and student services had yet to be released to the campus.
Professor of English Marilyn Reizbaum, a member of the steering committee, told the Orient that while reaccreditation is likely a forgone conclusion, self-study is a valuable process nonetheless.
"We will be reaccredited," she said. "There's probably not a danger here that we won't be. But the self-study is not inconsequential. There's something to gain from it."
Reizbaum and Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy Thomas Baumgarte both noted that the past decade has been extraordinarily active.
"It is really a remarkable amount of change, and I don't think that's typical. There has been change in many different areas," Baumgarte said.
One of the biggest changes highlighted in the report was the reorganization of residential life. The 1996 report had included an intensive evaluation of student life that recommended that the College seriously address problems created by the fraternity system. Bowdoin subsequently abolished fraternities and created the College House system.
Since 1996, the College has built five new dormitories, transitioned many of the old fraternities into College Houses, and started a renovation of the first-year bricks.
According to the report, after these renovations are completed, "the attention will then shift to improving the quality and quantity of housing for the upper classes."
Junior DeRay Mckesson, one of two student representatives on the committee, told the Orient that he believed residential life was the most crucial issue for the self-study. He stressed a need to re-evaluate residential life in light of its substantial positive changes.
"We need an honest discussion on residential life. Now is the time for that check-in," he said.
The centerpiece of the report's appraisal of academic life at Bowdoin was a focus on the redefined goals of liberal education and the recently redesigned course requirements. These requirements?which oblige students to take one course in each of several categories such as "Exploring Social Difference," "International Perspectives," and "Visual and Performing Arts"?were approved by the faculty in 2004 and will be fully applicable to the Class of 2010.
The report notes that the College will need to confront various issues raised by the academic changes.
"The challenges for the next decade include alignment of our advising of students with the newly articulated goals of a liberal education, implementation and evolution of the new general education requirements, continued work on pedagogy and supporting student excellence, and return to the examination of major programs," the report reads.
The draft also noted how efforts to reduce class size have led to an increase in students getting rejected from their requested classes.
The faculty has grown 23 percent since the previous report and will continue to grow in the coming years. The report notes, however, that the College needs to make a greater effort to attract a more diverse faculty.
The report describes Bowdoin's effort to diversify its student body over the last decade as an "all-encompassing" effort. It attributes the increase in students of color?from 13 percent 10 years ago to 26 percent today?to more effective recruiting strategies. The study also notes that students of color are significantly more satisfied with their Bowdoin experience than they were six years ago.
Other changes listed in the report include a more than doubling of the College's endowment since 1996 and a 50 percent reduction in the admission of recruited athletes since the late 1990s.
According to McEwen, the primary concern for Bowdoin's future is making the College's successes sustainable.
"The fundamental challenge for the College is that our aspirations continue to be high and we need to build the resources to meet that challenge," McEwen said in a interview with the Orient.
McEwen, Reizbaum, and Baumgarte agreed that the implementation of the curriculum changes and an assessment of the academic advising system were among the top challenges for the College.
Mckesson urged the campus community to join the self-study discussion.
"We really need people to read this carefully and give us feedback," Mckesson said.
Although Reizbaum and Baumgarte said that they received several helpful anonymous comments during the drafting processes, they expect more feedback now that the draft has been released.
Before Bowdoin receives a reaccreditation, a team led by Pomona College president David Oxtoby will conduct a four-day, on-campus evaluation beginning November 12.
According to Reizbaum, the committee will play only a small role in the visit.