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"Summa cum laude" degrees are harder to win in the Social Sciences than in the Natural Sciences or the Humanities, according to a report which the Faculty will consider at its meeting today.
Dean K. Whitla, director of the Office of Tests, prepared the 17-page statistical study, entitled "The Ability and Achievement of Students Recommended for Highest Honors Degrees Among the Three Areas of Concentration."
The Faculty will probably only discuss it, since sweeping legislation is neither proposed nor implied.
The report, dealing with graduates of the last five classes, finds that the percentage of students receiving "summacum laude" or "magna cum laude" with highest honors degrees was 6.9 in the Natural Sciences, 3.6 in the Humanities, and 1.3 in the Social Sciences. "Magna cum laude" with highest honors is awarded when a Department recommends highest honors, but the Faculty does not accept the recommendation.
Of the men recommended for highest honors, the report shows that, within their own field, the scientists had grades slightly superior to those of the social scientists. Social Science concentrators, on the other hand, had a slight edge in distribution course grades.
Men with high Predicted Rank List estimates (Group I or II), gain highest honors more frequently in Natural Sciences and Humanities than in Social Sciences, the reports says.
Multiple Requirements Considered
The report also considers the effect of multiple requirements-generals, theses, orals-in addition to grades. It finds that in some Departments these are not heavily weighed in determining honors, but "are learning devices only."
However, it names the five fields which weigh these additional requirements most seriously, and recommend the lowest percentage of their highly graded students for highest honors. These fields are Biochemical Sciences, English, History, Government, and Economics.
The study suggests that these additional requirements function as hurdles, tripping up able students whose grades would win them highest honors recommendations in other fields.
While the report contains no proposals, it implies that Departments with multiple requirements make their grade requirement too stringent to produce a more representative number of highest honors recommendations.
"The percentage of highest honors degrees awarded to the able students in the Social Sciences was far less than the percentage awarded to able students in the Natural Sciences or the Humanities," the report concludes.
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