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Gov's Thesis Policy Dismaying



To the Editors of The Crimson:

As a senior honors Government concentrator, I find myself caught between pleasant memories of running to Littauer to turn in my thesis four weeks ago and the not-so-pleasant thought of having to take generals at the end of April.

Even though my thesis-writing days are behind me, I have been following the progress of the Government Department's attempt to deal with its shortage of thesis advisors, and I was quite dismayed when I found out that the Department has initiated an 11.5 minimum departmental GPA requirement for prospective thesis writers beginning with the Class of 1994 ["Gov Faces Thesis Advisor Shortage," March 19, "Government Adds GPA Requirement to Honors Track," April 19].

I find this new requirement quite disturbing for a very simple reason: If I were a member of the Class of '94, I would be barred from writing a thesis, which, at the risk of sounding corny, was indeed the most rewarding experience of my four years at Harvard. Under the new requirement, I would fall into the category of those undesirable Government thesis writers who "use up valuable departmental resources," ostensibly without being able to take full advantage of the thesis-writing experience.

When I contacted the Government Department's tutorial office, I was told that as a concentrator with an insufficient departmental GPA, I would have had to submit a petition to the Board of Tutors asking for a special exemption to the GPA requirement if I wanted to write a senior honors thesis.

I wholeheartedly agree with Government graduate student Gordon A. Silverstein's comment that "this is not the right kind of message to be sending" to potential honors concentrators in the Government Department.

During my four years at Harvard, I have often had to choose between having a more rewarding academic experience and possibly having a higher GPA, and in retrospect, I do not regret having risked my GPA. As a first-year student, I opted for Advanced Standing. During my sophomore year, I chose to take Government 1061, an upperlevel bypass taught by the notorious Thompson Professor of Government Harvey C. ("C-") Mansfield and Professor of Government Michael Sandel, rather than the dismally rated Government 10.

Am I a glutton for punishment? Perhaps so. I took more challenging and more interesting courses, and I wound up having to explain to my parents why my departmental GPA was almost two points lower than my overall GPA. Just the though of having to run through all those arguments once again is somewhat off-putting, which is precisely what Government had in mind when it chose to initiate its honors GPA requirement.

If I were an honors concentrator in the Class of 1994, I would have to consider my academic choices in terms of reaching and maintaining that all-important 11.5, or else I would be staking my entire thesis-writing experience on receiving a special exemption through some nebulous bureaucratic process.

Either way, it is a frightening thought, and I am convinced that my four years at Harvard would not have been as rewarding if I had been affected by such a requirement. I realize that the Government Department honors program is suffering from a serious problem of both supply and demand with respect to thesis advisors.

To its credit, the department will now be requiring its faculty thesis advisors to advise at least three seniors, and there is hope that the new May deadline for choosing an advisor will eliminate the all-too-familiar scenario of advisor-less seniors becoming bitterly disillusioned in September when they can no longer find anyone to advise their theses.

However, the GPA requirement with which the Government Department is trying to manipulate the demand side of the equation does not seem to be a constructive step towards solving the problem. Ivars G. Kuskevics '90

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