Academic changes affect students#039; honors

by Beacon Staff • January 31, 2007

The department of Academic Affairs asked teh Academic Policy Committee, whose voting members are all faculty, to look into the standards that Emerson formerly had in place for Latin Honors and the Dean's List.,This semester, Emerson students are finding themselves with a new set of academic policies to hurdle when it comes to receiving honors for their transcripts and degrees.

The department of Academic Affairs asked teh Academic Policy Committee, whose voting members are all faculty, to look into the standards that Emerson formerly had in place for Latin Honors and the Dean's List. After a review of the current policies, the Committee decided to make the standards more rigorous for both sets of academic awards.

Janet Kolodzy, last year's head of the Academic Policy Committee, said that the issue had been brewing since last fall. The issue was looked at by the APC for two months starting in March and was brought to the faculty in April.

"It may seem as if it wasn't deliberate because it wasn't on students' radar," said Kolodzy, "but it was on the faculty's."

The decision to enact the changes occurred after a committee of faculty members led by Registrar William DeWolf compared Emerson's policies on the two types of elevated honors to those of typical competitors, schools such as Boston University and New York University's Tisch School of the Arts.

The new requirements as cited in the 2007 handbook for being on the Dean's List are a 3.7 grade point average (GPA) with no letter grades lower than a C-. Students had to meet these requirements starting last semester in order to get on the Dean's List.

The former requirements for Dean's List, which had been in place since the last 1980s, were a 3.45 GPA and no grade lower than a C-.

The requirements for Latin Honors will go into effect for the Class of 2010, allowing current students to retain their Honors status according to old rules.

"There are students who have been here for three years," said DeWolf. "We were not going to change on them midstream."

The former requirements for Latin Honors, which will still be in place for the next three years, are a bit more complex.

In order for a student to graduate with cum laude honors, they need a GPA between 3.45 and 3.64, for magna cum laude honors a GPA between 4.65 and 3.84 and for summa cum laude a GPA of 3.85 or higher, according to Anne Doyle, assistant dean of academic advising.

Thew new standards for Latin Honors will be based on a percentage system whereas the Dean's List has simply upped the minimum GPA.

The top five percent of a graduating class will receive summa cum laude, the next ten percent will receive magna cum laude and the next 15 percent will receive cum laude.

This allows a fixed 30 percent of all graduating students to get Latin honors as opposed to last year, when 48 percent of the graduating class was awarded, according to DeWolf.

"When the number was close to 50 percent, there were just too many students," Doyle said. "When every other student is getting something, it is no longer an honor."

In order to receive Latin honors, a student must also complete a minimum of 64 credits at Emerson with two-thirds of all grades in letter-graded classes, as opposed to pass-or-fail said DeWolf.

Though the new Latin honors requirements do not apply to students graduating before 2010, the Dean's List changes were immediate.

Before winter break this semester, students who met the former requirements were told that they were on the Dean's List.

The school realized the error and fixed it during the winter break, but it came as a surprise to many students who realized that they had been removed due to their GPA.

"I feel kind of bad because my dad called everyone and told them [that I was on the Dean's List]," said freshman acting major Julian Travis. "He said that the best Christmas gift he could have gotten was me on the Dean's List."

According to DeWolf the reason for the false notification lay in the computer program that calculates GPAs and creates the Dean's List. The new minimuc GPA was entered into the system after that program had already been run on the grades for last semester. It had not been updated to reflect the new GPA.

It was the lack of communication about the new requirements that made the change so upsetting for junior broadcast journalism major Evan Crean.

"There's something wrong about the communications school not telling anyone," he said.

Boston University runs on the same percentage system as Emerson for the Latin honors in the University.

But the school has eased up on the requirements for the Dean's List in one of the colleges.

"Students have to carry a full load, 16 credits, and have a 3.5 GPA," according to Mary Mahnke, Senior Program Coordinator.

After looking at about 50 schools, the faculty at Emerson decided to change to the percentage plan for Latin Honors.

According to DeWolf, "The change to the percentage system was the way that was most fair to the students."

The choice to raise the minimun GPA was one that the faculty had been considering for several years.

"All of this comes from the faculty, not from the administration. I was concerned since I came here in 2001," said DeWolf. "We really need to look at this. We have good students and we admit good students, but we need to look at the reality of the situation."

Gabe Mosse, a sophomore marketing communication and WLP double major, understood the need for a change but was miffed about the way the college handled it. He was one of the students who was told he was on the Dean's List, only to be removed from it later.

"It needed to happen after they informed people, not randomly," he said. "It's just cruel."