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UNDER the heading of "Government" in the Fields of Concentration booklet is the following message: "Almost all who have written a senior thesis agree in regarding it as the high point of their undergraduate education. Last week, the Department adopted a minimum GPA requirement (11.5 out of 14) for students who wish to write theses, beginning with the Class of 1994. The entry in Fields of Concentration should be amended to read: "But if your grades aren't up to par, you don't deserve this high point."
The new policy, enacted by Head Tutor Mark A. Peterson in response to a shortage of thesis advisors, is unnecessarily exclusive. As an intellectually beneficial experience, theses are democratic: all students, not just the top-ranked, can benefit from them. The entire premise of these new restrictions--that lower-ranked students produce lower-quality research--is tenuous at best. Grades often are not an accurate predictor of thesis success.
As a remedy for a lack of tutors, the restrictions have the distinct flavor of blaming the victim. The more educational and fair solution would not be to hold students responsible for the shortage, but to combat the shortage itself. The Department took the first step by requiring its 35 faculty thesis advisors to take on at least three theses each. This group alone accounts for 105 theses, only seven short of this year's figure. With an additional 35 eligible advisors, the Department could accommodate the anticipated growth over the next few years. Department administrators should spend their time thinking of ways to attract more advisors rather than calculating the precise GPA cut-off.
THE Department is afraid of unevenly taxing its faculty as student interest fluctuates from year to year. As students have of late gravitated en masse towards American government, for example, faculty specialists in this field have had their hands full. Obviously, faculty hiring could never keep pace with random shifts in student interest. But if the department finds a particular subfield oversubscribed one year, excising the 25 or so lowest-ranked students--only a handful of whose theses would be in the oversubscribed field--is cruel and unusual punishment.
The new Government policy is a step in exactly the wrong direction: toward less student-faculty contact and more alienation in an already institutional department. Only months after Richard J. Light, a professor at the Graduate School of Education, concluded that students who miss the benefits of the College's advising system are victims of their own negligience or shyness, the Government Department has ratified a policy which will only alienate its undergraduates.
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