Phi Beta Kappa Faces Rising Grades; Harvard Unit Unaffected, Jewett Says
The Harvard Phi Beta Kappa Society's selection of new junior and senior members will not be affected by academic inflation, L. Fred Jewett '57, graduate secretary of the society's Harvard chapter, said yesterday.
An epidemic of high grades at colleges across the country has forced some chapters to add extra criteria to their evaluation procedures. Carl Billman '35, secretary of the United Chapters of Phi Beta Kappa, said in an interview last week that the increase in Phi Beta Kappa level scores reflected not an increase in the numbers of those qualified for the academic society, but the tendency of some teachers opposed to grading to give A's to everyone.
According to Dean Whitlock there has been a steady "inflation" of grades at Harvard over the years, increasing the number of students above the cut-off for Phi Beta Kappa, which is an academic average of 13.00, or between B-plus and A-minus.
Jewett said this trend "should not have any effect" on the selection of members for the society's chapter here. Its charter limits the number of new members to ten per cent of the graduating class, he added.
Phi Beta Kappa seniors customarily elect in April twelve out of the junior class's twenty-four top students. The next December this group elects a senior twenty-four, chosen from among the fifty leading students in the class.
Before graduation the chapter's incumbent members elect the largest group of all, usually filling out the ten per cent quota, or approximately 116 members annually. This final group comes from the top 200 members of the class, those graduating magna cum laude and others with special departmental recommendations.
"The members of Phi Beta Kappa," Jewett said, "are clearly knowledgeable of the quality and grading of the courses on a student's transcript."