By Lindsay Haislip
Washington College encourages academic achievement in its student body through the Dean’s List and graduation honors Cum Laude, Magna Cum Laude, and Suma Cum Laude. Beginning in early 2012, the Committee on Academic Standing and Advising made a recommendation to the faculty that WC should set the bar higher in terms of academic recognition, raising the grade point average requirements for both Dean’s List and Graduation Honors.
Previously, the requirement for Dean’s List, a recognition determined on a semester basis, was a 3.4 GPA. With the changes the Dean’s List requirement will now be a GPA of 3.5. For graduation honors, the requirement for Cum Laude has been raised from a GPA of 3.437 to 3.625. For Magna Cum Laude, the requirement has been changed to 3.75. Suma Cum Laude GPA requirements will remain the same at 3.875.
The decision to raise the requirements stemmed from an initiative that came in part from WC President Mitchell Reiss, whose goal has been to improve the College’s profile.
“He believes, and I completely agree, that that requires raising academic expectations,” Associate and Provost for Academic Services Patrice DiQuinzio said.
A large part of the decision was driven by the fact that under the current numbers, almost 40 percent of the graduating class was eligible for graduation honors.
“Part of what we wanted to do is make a statement about encouraging students to really push themselves to go a little further and little higher than they thought they could go. We also wanted to make a statement to the world about what a Washington College degree means and I worry that with 40 percent of the class getting graduation honors, people in the outside world question the meaning of these honors,” she said.
The committee consists of three faculty members, the registrar, and Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Mela Dutka. The committee also consists of two student representatives whose purpose is to take the ideas and recommendations drawn up by the committee and discuss them with their fellow students; they then report back with suggestions before the plan is recommended to the faculty.
This year’s student representatives, senior Smaa Koraym and junior Jeffrey Sullivan, were in support of the decision and played a large role in advocating for students.
Graduation requirement changes will go into affect with the Class of 2014, given the fact that members of the Class of 2013 do not have time left in their undergraduate career to make a significant enough change in their academic performance to allow them to still receive graduation honors.
“Upon realizing that the increase in graduation honor requirements was in place for the Class of 2013, I brought it to the attention of the committee that this information was not shared with the campus as a whole, and that students were unaware of this issue,” said Sullivan.
Although Sullivan and Koraym had hoped for the new requirements not to go into affect until the Class of 2017, the committee was able to compromise and apply the changes to the Class of 2014 and beyond.
Despite the fact that the timing of implementation was different than they had hoped, both Koraym and Sullivan agree that the higher requirements represent positive change for WC.
“I do think this was a good step forward because it begins molding a student body that wants to achieve the best,” Koraym said.
In making the decision as to how high the new GPA requirements should be, the Committee examined the requirements of other peer colleges.
“Our cutoffs were low and now we’ve moved them closer to those of other colleges,” said DiQuinzio. “[Other peer colleges] also don’t want the meaning of their degree and their graduation honors to be diluted.”
Because of the significance of the change in requirements, the Committee was required to have the initiative approved by the faculty, whose response was positive.
“I think that it’s built into faculty DNA to want their students to achieve,” said DiQuinzio. “I think they felt that the College, by raising these standards, was supporting them in what they wanted to achieve and sending a message to students that was consistent with their message: to work harder and accomplish more.”