English concentrators opting to not write a thesis can still graduate with honors, the English department announced in late July.
The department's newest track allows concentrators to earn cum laude status-though not magna or summa degrees-for getting distinguished grades in all the required courses and taking an extra seminar or small group course taught by a departmental Faculty member in lieu of writing a thesis.
"I support the new option, since it gives students themselves more options," said Professor of English and Comparative Literature James Engell, who is the outgoing director of undergraduate education in the department.
Earlier this year, students in the concentration circulated a petition that proposed changes to the department. However, Engell said the petition was not a factor in the development of the new track as the change was approved before the petition was submitted.
"Probably the main reason why the majority of the Faculty voted to make a change was dissatisfaction with the way that the theses had been turning out for a number of students that were receiving cums," said Marquand Professor of English Lawrence Buell, who is also a former director of undergraduate education in the English department and a member of the Educational Policy Committee (EPC) which approved the new track.
Bernbaum Professor of Literature Leo Damrosch, the department's chair, said the department supported the change because "the impression is that a lot of people write theses who are not motivated to do so because they just want honors. It's not as productive for them as it might have been just taking courses."