Mending an Empty Honor
Published: Friday, January 17, 2014
Updated: Friday, January 17, 2014 02:01
Georgetown’s seemingly endless graduation ceremonies might be shorter in 2017, with two little words cut from the ritual for a quarter of its student body: cum laude.
Latin honors were granted to 1,001 out of 1,806 graduates — or 55 percent of the Class of 2013 — last May. The new university policy affecting the Class of 2017 onward will cut that number in half, granting honors to only 25 percent of the graduating class in each undergraduate school. When more than half of graduates are achieving cum laude distinction and above, it is clear that this change to a more restrictive policy is warranted.
Georgetown’s new system, which ties Latin honors to the GPA distribution of the previous class rather than to a fixed GPA, assures that graduating with honors from Georgetown will represent a mark of true distinction from one’s peers. Furthermore, the new policy will counter a culture through which many students have come to expect honors as a given component of their Georgetown degree.
Members of the Class of 2017, however, are understandably frustrated with the new decision. As the first class subject to these restrictions, this year’s freshmen will face new difficulty in attaining the same distinctions that more than half of their sophomore and upperclassman friends will receive. Freshmen who are thinking ahead to graduation could be incentivized to compete more with one another, intensifying the already competitive atmosphere here on the Hilltop.
But instead of speculating about student competition, the university has rightly taken action against an existing trend that does not give due recognition to the best and brightest of each class.
In the long run, the new policy will distinguish those who have demonstrated mastery of their academic fields. With this strong intention, a Georgetown University degree is poised to further increase in value.