A weed-out class, or “weeder” as it is also known, is a college colloquialism, commonly defined as a lower level course required for a specific major/track, that is intentionally difficult and rigorous in order to “weed out” students that the ubiquitous “they” don’t believe have the skill or tenacity to continue.

A simple Google search suggests that these classes most certainly exist, and in particular, they are prevalent in STEM tracks. Courses like Organic Chemistry and Intro to Biology repeatedly come up as examples of common weed out classes. Some of the reasoning put forth is that applying to medical school is much harder than undergrad, thus pre-med students must test their resolve to be a doctor and are challenged to see if they can handle future courses.

Centre is no exception, and after talking to a variety of current and former students, there are three classes that stand out: BMB 320 Cellular Metabolism, BIO 110 Evolution, Biodiversity, Ecology, and CHE 241/242 Organic Chemistry. These classes are known to be exceptionally difficult (even for Centre!) and STEM students can often be found in Young at all hours of the day, studying for these classes. A current Centre senior, who would prefer to remain anonymous, has this to say about PSY 295 Physiological Psychology:

“During your sophomore year as an intended psychology major, you should be taking PSY 295. It is a behavioral neuroscience course where you learn about anything from neurons and the structure of the brain to sensory and perception of an individual. Before I took this course, many upperclassmen psychology majors warned me about this course and how difficult it was. While I was in the course, I constantly questioned if I wanted to still be a psychology major.”

They continued, “It made me wonder if I was cut out for taking more psychology courses and if I would do badly in those courses too. The amount of knowledge that is thrown at you would be difficult for anyone to attempt to remember, especially if you are encouraged to take it your sophomore year. The common perception of the course is that it is a hazing that every psychology major must go through while at Centre.”

The question is, is it fair to have weed out classes? I would argue that there is a fine line between what is actually a weed out class and what is difficult. At a school like Centre, hard classes are not rare. We pride ourselves on having rigorous and challenging courses. But this can be, at times, more of detrimental than helpful. How many students have come to Centre with specific hopes and then find themselves lost and undeclared after feeling disillusioned and discouraged by a weed-out class? There is a fine line between ensuring that students are able to succeed in their endeavors and actively discouraging them.

Weed out classes can also negatively impact GPAs of students taking the class. Grades are important, even if some professors would like to argue otherwise. This is especially negative for students who are being forced to take the class as a requirement and may not even be pursuing the subject further or wouldn’t take it otherwise.

Another question that comes up in this debate is whether Centre should make attaining a degree more accessible for students. Students are here to get an education and weed out classes seem counterproductive to this goal. However, I would argue that for Centre to adjust the challenge of taking classes would go against the image we try so hard to fulfill. Centre prides itself on being a small liberal arts college, with small classrooms sizes and a lot of student engagement. This is an image we often succeed in fulfilling, with a different slew of awards and titles given to us every year. To make classes easier would be to change what makes Centre, Centre.

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