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As Harvard College continues to flounder in the mires of grade inflation, we applaud the Law School for setting stricter limits on the number of students who graduate with honors.
Currently, 70 percent of graduating law students achieve the minimum grade point average to receive a cum laude degree. With that ridiculous fact staring them in the face, Law School faculty members overwhelmingly voted to bestow honors upon only 40 percent of the graduating class.
Honors from Harvard Law School should not be a rite of passage like receiving one's diploma and heading for private or corporate practice; it should be reserved for those who have performed superbly, not merely well. If 70 percent of students are receiving honors, then the distinction an honors degree confers becomes meaningless, especially to employers who are trying to distinguish among candidates for jobs.
There is, of course, the argument that most Harvard Law School students should be receiving honors because of their stellar qualifications. We concede that getting into Harvard Law School is intensely competitive and that even some of the most diligent Harvard undergraduates will never experience the utter joy of seeing a Law School acceptance letter in their mailboxes. Yet there are a small number of students who perform better than others and land at the top of the class, and they should be recognized for their efforts.
We commend the Law School for its courageous stance in a world where honors are given away ever more indiscriminately. We only wish that Harvard College (where close to three-quarters of students graduate with some kind of honors) would follow the Law School's example and find some way to control grade inflation in order to give grades from the College more meaning and credibility.
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