In the next month, the Faculty will delete, no doubt with some heat, a question which concerns only some 40 students--the cum laude degree in General Studies. Although the recent CEP proposal to eliminate the distinction between Honors and non-Honors candidates has focused attention on it, the degree has been awarded infrequently in recent years. Only 43 Seniors received the distinction last year, and, even if it is opened to all students not enrolled in Senior tutorial, the cum laude in General Studies is not expected to have more than 75 recipients.
This was not always the case. In 1929, for instance, 57 Seniors--26.9 per cent of all Honors graduates--took cum laude degrees in General Studies. The requirements at that time were nine Honors grades, and C--or better in two-thirds of the remaining work.
The first substantial change since the General Studies plan began under President Eliot's elective system came in 1934. Then men like Dean A. C. Hanford were engaged in an uphill struggle to establish specialization and Honors concentration as a way of life in the College. Every student, even in the Natural Sciences, was involved in tutorial, and the proportion of Honors graduates was 35 per cent and rising slowly.
Requirements Tightened in 1934
The Committee on Instruction then changed the requirement for cum laude in General Studies to 10 Honors grades, and barred students who had been candidates for Honors in special fields in their Senior years--in other words, those who embarked upon theses but falled to complete the requirement. The Committee instituted the requirement of Departmental certification, and added that this should be given only "In exceptional cases."
In 1936, the last year before the 1934 decision took effect, 31 men graduated with cum laude in General Studies. In 1937, the number fell to eight, and in 1938 it dropped to two.
In subsequent years, the requirement was raised to 11, and then, with the advent of General Education A, to 11 1/2 Honors grades.
The CEP proposal advanced this week would eliminate the requirement of Departmental recommendation. It would, however, demand two Honors grades in courses outside the field of concentration.
According to Dean Monro, Faculty discussion will touch upon three main issues. Some Faculty members dislike the name "General Studies," and would change the degree to "cum laude in course." While many, including Monro, see reasons for maintaining and popularizing the degree, others feel it contradicts the aims of the College. And the restriction on Seniors in departmental Honors may be debated again.
Monro said, "I think we've won the battle that started in the Thirties ... 11 1/2 Honors grades should qualify a man for an Honors degee."