Inter-departmental confusion currently engulfs the cum laude degree in General Studies. The official ruling states that students with honor grades may in "exceptional cases" be recommended by both the department in which they are concentrating and the Administrative Board for the degree. This degree does not require the intensive, specialized research usually connected with honors. In practice, General Studies degrees are awarded for a wide variety of reasons, for each department has its won interpretation of an "exceptional case."
General Studies degrees originally went to students who had high grades in several fields of study without intensive work in any one. The degree was automatic, depending entirely on grades. The University found, however, that the degree was becoming a consolation prize for students who failed to get regular honor degrees. In 1937, the rules were altered so that a recipient could not be a candidate for honors in a special field in his senior year and had to be recommended by his department. The rules also raised the quality of necessary marks. The Administration hoped the change would bolster regular honor degrees.
During the war, the General Studies degree solved the new problem of giving recognition to honor students who were prevented from writing a thesis by the war.
As a result of this varied history, there are now three different outlooks on the degree. Some departments consider that it serves the same purpose it did before 1937--a reward for students who have done good work in general studies. The English Department bases its recommendations almost entirely on marks. Other departments require a strong excuse for not doing a thesis, fearing that the degree may degenerate into an escape-hatch from theses. Still others, such as Economics, have virtually done away with the degree, except for veterans who returned to college too late to write a thesis.
Since this degree is the same no matter what department recommends a student for it, the wide divergence of requirements should be replaced by a set of definite rules. The Administration should clarify the purpose and requirements of this degree if it is to continue to serve a valuable purpose.