Opinion Asks: NRO

by The Dartmouth Opinion Staff | 5/27/15 9:35pm

We asked our opinion staff: "What are your thoughts on the proposal to end the non-recording option? What are the benefits or disadvantages of the NRO?"

I think limiting the non-recording option to three classes over one’s Dartmouth career is quite reasonable. It is perfectly fine to take a class just for the fun of it and not because that class is particularly relevant to one’s major or professional career plans — that’s what a liberal arts education is about. Do NROs encourage students to care less about a course? I think not — they are, instead, an added incentive to take that random class. Even if one receives an NRO in the maximum number, that’s a mere twelfth of one’s total courseload. Let’s keep the NRO.

— Reem Chamseddine ’17

I think the NRO has a place in that it allows you to prioritize some courses above others, while still exposing yourself to all the learning that interests you. It does not represent a lack of rigor to recognize that receiving your desired grade in three hard classes is not always possible here. Rather than making classes less intense, the NRO gives you the option not to work as hard in a class that perhaps is not in your major path but still interests you a great deal. You get to learn what that class has to offer without negatively impacting your grade point average. Getting rid of NROs will not make students work harder — it will make them less likely to take a class out of interest.

— Isaac Green ’17

The proposal to end the NRO is one that seems as informed as a Bush administration foreign policy advisor and as responsible as Lindsay Lohan after a few vodkatinis. I see no advantages to it, besides further supposed implementation of “academic rigor,” all in the name of the College’s craven public relations purposes. In reality, the end of the NRO stands to both dissuade students from intellectual exploration and betterment and devalue Dartmouth’s mission as a liberal arts college. I am not only opposed — I am offended.

— Ivan Hess ’15

I have been saving my NROs for my last two terms here, when my heart is heavy and my motivation is low. College President Phil Hanlon’s lock on improving academic rigor is not only insulting, but dangerous. Every year, a little more than a thousand new students matriculate to the College. Most of them are extremely bright. And while every student admitted has the potential to succeed, not all of us are going to be Phi Beta Kappas with 4.0 GPAs.

Some students excel at courses in one area and struggle in another, but in the spirit of the liberal arts, many students venture out of their comfort zones to get a taste of the unfamiliar. A senior English major might not have the best capabilities in a physics class, but the NRO provides the opportunity to experience a new field without threatening his or her academic standing.

Many athletes on campus elect the NRO in season to balance academics and athletics without worrying about playoffs interfering with finals. I have heard it time and again — athletes are providing a service to the College. While not every professor is willing to accommodate athletes with extensions, the NRO allows them to go about both school and sports without fearing the choice between failure in one or the other.

The NRO is a valuable asset at a school that schedules classes for fewer than 10 weeks at a time and has a sizable workload, particularly for engineering and pre-med students. GPA should not be the most valued part of an education — the academic experience should. Outside of major and distributive requirements, let the kids have some breathing room.

— William Peters ’15

Far from eliminating the NRO, I believe it should be expanded — other than distributive courses, seminars and major or minor courses. Departments, like the government department, should not be able to disallow the use of the NRO. The NRO, contrary to certain vocal professors’ assertions, enables students to leave their intellectual comfort zones without fear of wrecking our GPAs. I would never have taken a course in the physics department this term without the option of setting an NRO limit. But does this mean I plan on getting below an A in this course? Certainly not. Too often professors inaccurately conflate a student choosing an NRO option with his or her distinct lack of effort in that course. The repercussions of having an “NR” on one’s transcript, for most, are serious in and of themselves, as we have to explain them away in job interviews. Choosing to NRO a course is not equivalent to “checking out.” It’s our prerogative to choose risky courses that we may have to NRO. The stereotypical argument that students who choose an NRO do not contribute to discussion and therefore negatively affect the learning environment is, quite frankly, fallacious. Fluctuating effort levels have nothing to do with NROs — if a student wasn’t going to try hard to begin with, the NRO won’t affect that trait.

— Aylin Woodward ’15