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Honors in General Studies


Out of the current Faculty discussions on the cum lande in General Studies have come two proposals for changing the procedure by which this degree is awarded. The first of these is designed to give the departments greater control over the C.L.G.S., the second to allow students to switch from senior tutorial into General Studies after beginning work on their theses.

Before 1961, the departments had absolute authority to recommend or reject applicants for the C.L.G.S. Since then they have had no say whatever about such matters. The departments are not now asking that their former authority be restored; they merely want to be able to express approval or disapproval of candidates for the cum in General Studies.

At first glance, this request seems reasonable enough since a student's own department is likely to be better acquainted with him than the Dean of the College, who now supervises the awards of Honors degrees in General Studies. In addition, if the departments were able to review applications for the cum laude in General Studies, students with poor course grades but good scores in departmental general examinations might have better chances of graduating with the C.L.G.S. than they now have.

Yet the occasional injustices of the present system seem very minor indeed compared to what would happen if the proposed change is effected. Not only would the awarding of Honors degrees in General Studies become a complicated administrative task, but also the departments would extend their already excessive influence over the undergraduate's career. Further, a degree in General Studies is self-evidently a degree given outside one's field of concentration. A student's intradepartmental activities, then, should not wholly determine his candidacy for that degree.

As things are handled now, the C.L.G.S. is awarded automatically and without fuss. There is no reason to change this happy scheme.

The second proposal would be a boon to students who get cold feet about thesis-writing after they have elected to try for departmental honors; if accepted, it would permit such students to switch into the General Studies program even after they were well under way with their senior tutorial projects.

Certainly, cases occur in which students discover after much research that they cannot write on their chosen thesis topics. To deny these persons degrees with Honors would be unreasonable. But the College certainly does not want to encourage academic shoddiness and therefore must set some standards for judging the validity of a petition to move into General Studies at a late date.

Here, the departments are logical boards of review since they work closely with thesis-writing seniors. Rather than simply adopt a proposal that would allow students to get out of theses and remain candidates for Honors, it would be wiser to ask the departments to hand down recommendations when cases arise and to urge them to be lenient in their decisions.

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