Honors Reforms Likely To Go to Faculty Vote

Faculty Council Considers Plan Today

A new set of guidelines for undergraduate honors degrees will likely more one step closer to implementation at today's meeting of the Faculty Council, council members said yesterday.

The 19-member steering committee is expected to pass on to the full Faculty a proposal generated in the Committee on Undergraduate Education (CUF) which would simplify the current honors standards.

The full Faculty must then approve the reforms at its monthly meeting before they take effect.

The new legislation would base all honors degrees on grade point averages alone, rather than on the current system of complex distribution requirements, Associate Professor of Biology Andrews H. Knoll said yesterday.

Knoll said the Faculty Council will discuss the specific grade points for each honors degree. "It wouldn't surprise me if it went up slightly," Knoll said.

The Council will probably vote against allowing student to exclude any grades from their GPA, Knoll said. He added that under the proposal students must take at least 24 letter-graded courses to receive honors.

"Most council members view the system as the fairest and simplest with as few exclusionary clauses as is possible," Knoll said.

The Faculty Council is not trying to reduce the member of honors degrees awarded for numbers' sake, but rather has set out to simplify and make more fair the honors system, Knoll explained.

Currently more than 70 percent of Harvard students graduate with honors said council member Richard J. Hernstein, Pierce Professor of Psychology.

The legislation would count all courses towards the GPA, thereby eliminating the existing "two-thirds" rule, which requires students to achieve a grade above the honors level (B-or higher) in at least two-thirds of the courses taken outside their major.

A change in the present system is in order, Hernstein said, because all the courses taken outside of one's major, and not just two thirds of them should be included in honors calculations.

If the reforms pass an entire Faculty vote, the first class to be affected would be the class of 1989, Herrnstein added.

The entire Faculty will likely approve the new requirements if the Faculty Council passes the reforms, Herrnstein said, adding that the Faculty usually agrees with the Council's recommendations.

However, when honors degree legislation passed the Faculty Council three years ago, it was defeated by a vote of the entire Faculty.

Then, the CUE propose, which called for tabulation of GPA based on a minimum of 21 letter-graded courses, was opposed by David R. Layzer '46, Menzel Professor of Astrophysics. Layzer felt that students who exceeded a minimum should be allowed to drop their lowest grades.

Faced with a choice, the Faculty sent the issue back to committee, where it lay until last November.

At the end of last fall, the CUE chaired by Steven Ozment, associate dean for undergraduate education, proposed the new honors standards currently being evaluated by the Faculty Council.