SGA Considers New Credit System

UPDATE:  The SGA has passed the credit resolution.  The resolution essentially says that the student body feels that adding a half credit for these courses is something the administration should consider.


As it stands, Middlebury’s credit system is pretty simple.  Every class is one credit, regardless of the number of hours spent in the classroom, the difficulty , or  the department.  There is no such thing as a credit-hour here which means that every class is weighted exactly the same.  While this is your traditional liberal arts credit system, it has aroused discontent from an array of students who feel that the system treats them unfairly.

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Primarily, these objections come from the students who are pursuing lab-intensive science majors.  Labs typically constitute 3 or 4 hours of in class work in addition to a lecture and a discussion.  These classes also have a separate professor from the lecture and a separate set of work.  Central to the argument to modify the credit system is that these students feel they are simply in class a disproportionate amount of time.

SGA announced some time ago that it is considering a resolution regarding the college’s credit system that will recommend granting an additional half credit for lab classes as well as introductory languages and studios.  In an email sent out to the student body, the SGA stated:

The premise behind this [resolution] is that these courses meet for significantly more time than other classes and it would make it easier for all students to take time intensive courses that they otherwise would not be able to fit into their schedule if the course only received 1.0 credits.

However, the resolution has certainly not been universally accepted.  Students against the credit modification claim that it goes against the principle of the liberal arts institution to treat some courses as more valuable than others.  Furthermore, these students claim that there is no direct relationship between the difficulty of a class and how many hours a week they meet.

The SGA votes on the resolution tonight after which, if approved,  the administration will have to consider the new system.  As an issue that is clearly very important to the continued education of Middlebury students,  every student has a right to have their opinion heard, so feel free to weigh in on your thoughts about this issue in the comments.



7 thoughts on “SGA Considers New Credit System

  1. Personally I have to say the giving more credit weight to classes that are more time consuming would not “treat some classes as more valuable than others,” rather it would have the opposite effect: When I take a studio class, which inevitably requires I turn something decent in multiple times per week, that class takes precedence over discussion classes for which all I have is reading. As a result, the classes which I may be interested in but don’t have time for because of my studio class get the shaft. Having the option of not taking four classes with a time-intensive course like costume design or a theatre production (to speak merely about my personal investment in this idea) would free me up to pay attention to my other classes, not fall behind, reduce my stress level and value my single credit classes more by giving more focus to them.

  2. Plus, the idea that the college regards all departments as equally valuable is false. Professors are paid differently depending on which department they teach for.

    I don’t see how this change would hurt anyone.

  3. I get your point EJ, but I do not think this is an issue that should that should be looked at from each student’s experience with academics at Middlebury. I too have taken classes that have met 7 times a week, but at the same time taken classes that have met for only a couple of hours a week and have been way more work. I am sure there are a bunch of examples either way, but we should be looking at the bigger picture as this policy could have a big effect on academic life at Middlebury for years to come.

    Although a class that meets for more hours a week may mean that it is more challenging to many of us, defining which is a “harder” class and which isn’t is a completely subjective move. And therefore drawing a connection between difficulty and in-class time (which is the premise for this policy) is in itself flawed.

    As students, we each have our academic interests and it is the duty of our school to provide each student with the level platform to pursue these interests. No matter how much a professor may be paid, I would find it hard to believe that Middlebury values a student of a certain major more than a student of another major. During my time at Middlebury, I am grateful for the academic atmosphere that the school has nurtured and this policy would imbalance or would begin an imbalance in this atmosphere.

    For example, if lab classes or beginning languages are given the extra half credit, alls great for the students of these subjects but this would solidify the perception that certain classes are harder than others and hinder the desire of non-science or non-language students to experiment with classes in these departments. It would be naïve to belief that a segregation of classes on the terms of credit points would not translate over to the further academic segregation of classes and in turn departments.

    I feel that this policy, if implemented, will have side-effects and circumstances that would prove hard to deal with. There may be appeals for the expansion of the policy to include more classes and the current system of registration would go also askew. If implemented, I wouldn’t be surprised 10 years down the line, that a Chinese class would be valued at 3 credits and a Music class at 1. This start points to the direction that would harm the fabric of a liberal arts education and replace it with a specializing and hierarchic model that so many other larger universities have in the US.

  4. I’ll just add as a science major myself, I am against the resolution to make some classes worth more than others. You might meet in class for more hours a week, but professors know this and as a result there is little extra work other than lab reports and readings from the textbook. If science classes are all of a sudden weighted as 1.5 classes, you can expect that professors will adjust the syllabuses accordingly and assign even more work.

    I also want to point out that it is impossible to know how many hours a given student puts into work outside of class. I’m sure there are English majors for example that spend many all-nighters a semester perfecting their papers, while I spend only a few hours on a typical lab report. Sure, Middlebury grants another 0.5 teaching credits to a professor instructing a lab course, but granting another 0.5 credits to students will make some classes appear inherently different from others and could drive students away or toward them because they are “too hard” or “worth more credits.” This goes completely against the idea of a liberal arts education where students should not feel any of this sort of pressure to take one class over another.

    Put this resolution to rest before it goes any further. To me it essentially is a whiny student saying, “This class is sooo hard for me. I deserve 1.5 credits for this course, wahhh.” Is that really what the typical Middkid has become?

  5. I understand the argument that giving more credit for certain classes appears contrary to a liberal arts education. From my experience, however, it seems that this change would actually allow for many students to embrace a liberal arts education. In my time at Middlebury, I have taken classes in a wide variety of departments, lower and upper level, so I feel that I have a pretty good understanding of the work involved in many classes. I can honestly say that many of my lab classes have involved much more work than others–not just more class time. There are some lab classes that basically treat the lab and the lecture portion as separate classes. There are approximately 4 hours of lecture per week, several exams, and multiple problem sets. There is also a 3-4 hour lab period each week, but this lab also requires multiple large papers and hours spent in lab outside of class. Giving 1.5 credits for these classes is not saying that they’re “harder” or saying that the students taking them are smarter. Instead, it is simply acknowledging that the material being covered in them is more than what we usually designate for a class. These classes have been an unbelievably enriching portion of my Middlebury education, but success in them often comes at the expense of not really engaging in other classes one is taking. For those of us who are lucky enough to come in with AP credits, we are already able to take 3 classes when taking several of these time-intensive courses. This has allowed me to pick classes outside of my major that I am really interested in and truly be engaged in them. I can honestly say that during one or two semesters, I would not have been able to participate fully in my courses if I had been taking a “full course load” because two of my three courses were easily consuming 40 hours of each week. There are many students I know who do not have the credits to take 3 classes during these time-intensive semesters, and they muddle through the semester, choosing 2 additional classes that will take the least amount of time possible in order to survive. Part of a liberal arts education is being thoroughly engaged in what you are learning. The 1.5 credit system for some classes would allow many science majors (and majors in other departments with time-intensive classes) the opportunity to embrace this philosophy and choose challenging courses outside of their majors.
    I agree that deciding what courses to designate as worth 1.5 credits is a difficult process. Not every science course with a lab is that much more time intensive and perhaps not worth the extra credit. Additionally, many of the intro languages and studio classes seem to involve equally intense devotions of time. Clearly, the decisions about which classes to make 1.5 credits will be more difficult than broadly choosing all lab courses or all studio courses. I strongly believe, however, that this is an issue we need to address in order to make a truly enriching liberal arts education accessible to all Middlebury students.

    • Wait a minute, as a double major (science and another) I’m totally opposed to 1.5 credits. I did very little work for the lab components of my science classes (Bio0145 being a notable exception) and felt like I deserved as much as I did because of the small weighting of lab. If we go to 1.5 credits, lab will become just as hard as the rest of the class, meaning that sutdents will either be stuck with 3.5 or 4.5 credits, and deserve the workload. I don’t think I could have double majored if my lab classes had been worth 1.5 credits, I would have simply had too much work.

  6. The number of credits on your transcript do not matter once you’ve popped the bubble and enter the real world. Someone who actually demands to see your classes will likely be able to reason the difference in effort put in Creative Process versus OChem II.

    Stop the hand-holding and learn how to manage your time.

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