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The Educational Policy Committee (EPC) approved changes to the Economics Department's requirements for cum laude degrees this week.
Under the new requirements, passed by the Faculty of the Economics Department on March 19, students can be considered for an honors degree without completing a thesis, according to Assistant Professor of Economics Andrew P. Metrick, head tutor of the department.
While economics students must still write a thesis to be considered for magna cum laude or summa cum laude, they can achieve a cum laude degree either by writing a thesis or by completing a new academic program.
Under this advanced track, students will be required to complete all the department's honors requirements aside from the thesis. In addition, students must take econometrics, as well as a writing-intensive course within the department.
The approved changes also eliminate the special fields component from the general exam for honors candidates.
Many students said yesterday they were pleased the department will be offering a non-thesis program that will still allow students to attain an honors degree.
"This new process, at least theoretically, allows people to graduate with some degree of honors without writing a thesis just to get honors," said Gopal Garuda '98-'97, a member of the Economics Student Advisory Committee (SAC).
But some faculty members of the department said they do not think a cum laude degree will be sufficient motivation for honors hopefuls to abandon writing theses.
"I don't think the thesis program will change all that much," said Metrick. "Most of the people who were writing thesis were at least within striking distance of a magna."
The conception of the new non-thesis track, as originally formulated, would have allowed students to graduate with a magna degree without writing a thesis.
While some students were disappointed that the changes do not include the possibility of a magna cum laude without a thesis, many also said they understand why the department hesitated about limiting magna requirements.
"I wanted it to go to magna," said Angela W. Pan '97, another member of the SAC. "I also understand why they didn't go as far as the original proposal, because they wanted to leave themselves room."
Metrick said he hoped the new advanced course track would allow some students to take more hardcore economics courses without worrying about a thesis.
"Hopefully we'll have more concentrators staying connected senior year," said Metrick.
The department will also be adjusting the weighting of the requirements for honors degrees.
Although they have not decided the figures positively, Metrick wrote in an e-mail message that a possible breakdown for students in the Advanced Course Track is approximately 70 percent for grades and 30 percent for the general exam.
The weighting of the requirements for students in the thesis program will also be modified, according to Metrick.
"We want to add flexibility to the thesis program," Metrick said. "What we don't want to do is discourage people from doing a thesis because it's riskier."
Metrick said the department has been focusing on student concerns throughout the development of these changes.
"This has been a process that we have tried from the beginning to have a lot of student input on," Metrick said.
Students said they felt the reforms indicate that the department has been listening to concentrators.
"I think definitely this is a move in the right direction," Pan said. "The Economics Department is reforming and reacting to students."
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