The Committee on Undergraduate Education (CUE) yesterday proposed legislation that would raise the minimum standards for all honors degrees at Harvard.
The proposed changes would eliminate the General Education component in honors determination, keeping in line with the College's phasing out of the General Education curriculum with the Class of 1985. They would also raise the minimum GPA requirements for honors.
The changes are being proposed in pursuit of "fairness and simplification in honors calculations, not to reduce the number of honors degrees [awarded]," said Steven Ozment, associate dean for undergraduate education.
The CUE--composed of Ozment, five faculty members, and five Undergraduate Council representatives--meets bi-weekly and makes recommendations to the Faculty Council, which will consider the proposed revisions at its December meeting.
Currently, candidates for degrees cum laude must receive minimum grades "in at least two-thirds of the appropriate completed letter-graded courses outside the field of concentration," as stated in the 1984-85 Handbook for Students. The minimum GPAs for cum laude and magna cum laude degrees are B- and B respectively.
With the graduation of this year's senior class, which has had to complete courses under both the General Education and Core Curriculum requirements, the General Education honors component will become obsolete.
Because candidates for degrees summa cum laude and cum laude in general studies are required to have high grades in each of the three General Education subdivisions--natural sciences, social sciences and humanities--students could currently petition to have the subdivision descriptions twisted to cover courses in which they did well.
No More 'Manipulation'
Ozment said yesterday that the proposed changes would eliminate "manipulation of courses around the old General Education requirements and the two-thirds rules," and would base degrees on grade point averages.
Under the proposed requirements, candidates for honors degrees must "have satisfactory letter grades (C- or higher) in a minimum of 24 letter graded half courses (prorated appropriately)" in addition to meeting the new higher minimum GPA standards.
If the Faculty accepts the new legislation this winter, the CUE has recommended that the rules take effect with the class of 1989.
But "both sets of rules would apply to the classes of 1986 through 1988, and whichever set of rules is more favorable shall take precedence," said Ozment at yesterday's meeting.
"Fairness will be pursued," he added. "Nobody will be blindsided by rules they hadn't expected. If anything, the students will win, not lose by this."
Registrar Margaret E. Law used figures and grades from a post year's graduating class to determine the potential impact of the proposed changes. She found that the number of cum laude and cum laude in general studies degrees would have increased, while the number of magnas would decrease and the number of summas would remain the same.
The committee also voted against raising the minimum GPA standard from 11.0 to 11.5 by a six to three vote. CUE faculty members cost the three votes in faver of raising the standard