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In calling for the elimination of the Dean’s List and reducing the number of students who qualify for Harvard College and John Harvard Scholarships, Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis ’68 has made a strong recommendation toward restoring the University’s academic integrity. Still, there is no reason to preserve these hollow awards in any form; the full Faculty should vote to abolish such pointless distinctions altogether.
Though Lewis’ recommended changes are meaningful, the awards they concern are largely meaningless. Ninety-two percent of upperclass students were on the Dean’s List last year, and 67 percent earned either John Harvard or Harvard College Scholarships. Because these honors are awarded to so many students, the lists become notable for the people they exclude rather than those they include.
Narrowing the field of honorees (to the top 5 percent of students for John Harvard Scholarships, and the next 5 percent for Harvard College Scholarships) is a step in the right direction; it increases the value of each award, making the scholarships somewhat more meaningful. The recommendation is misguided, however, in its revised method of choosing the winners of the awards. Honors should be awarded based on individual achievement—an absolute GPA cutoff—rather than achievement versus one’s classmates. Outstanding work should be recognized and honored regardless of how many other students have produced equally outstanding work. As long as these awards persist, the method by which they are awarded should not be changed.
The worthlessness of a Dean’s List designation where only 8 percent of upperclass students don’t make it—and the uselessness of “scholarships” that involve no money—is manifest. In order to make Harvard’s academic awards more meaningful, the Faculty should eliminate the John Harvard and Harvard College Scholarships.
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