College to amp up grad honors requirements

By Jazzy Davenport

Starting fall 2009, Columbia will make it more difficult for its students to graduate “with honors.”

In their last meeting of the academic year, College Council also voted to begin to implement a Latin motto which would include cum laude, magna cum laude and summa cum laude. Summa cum laude, which in Latin means “the highest praise,” would replace the existing degree with honors that 40 percent of students currently earn.

“The reason we need to raise the bar is because 40 percent of our graduating class is graduating with honors,” said Caroline Latta, a Theater Department faculty member. “Usually that is for the top 5 percent to 15 percent. We need to make it more stringent.”

Currently, students need a 3.5 GPA to graduate with honors or summa cum laude. College Council has agreed to raise the bar for students who enter in fall 2009 and thereafter. They will be expected to accumulate a 3.75 GPA in order to achieve that honor.

“If we immediately adopt a system that enables the current system to exist but with different language so that 3.5 GPA to 3.75 GPA is cum laude, 3.8 is magna cum laude and 3.9 is summa cum laude with the incoming class, the bar is raised,” said Steve Kapelke, provost and senior vice president. “So then students that enter in the fall will need a 3.75 GPA to receive the distinction cum laude.”

The Council also agreed to institute the terminology magna cum laude and summa cum laude.

“This could get confusing because we need to focus more on when these students would be entering Columbia and not when they are graduating,” said Sharon Ross, a Television Department faculty member.

The council plans to implement this new terminology and criteria as of June 1, 2009 for the graduating class of 2013, but will continue to offer the graduation with honors recognition until then.

“We had this same situation when I was at Roosevelt [University] and we implemented it right away,” said Louise Love, vice president of Academic Affairs. “We should implement it this fall, but let the people that graduate for the next two years continue to graduate with honors.”

Others, however, disagreed with this tactic.

“We should just gradually grandfather in all of the students now,” said Mark Kelly, vice president of Student Affairs. “No student will be hurt in moving to this new terminology. There’s still a dean’s list that many students will be eligible for.”

While most voiced concerns about the terminology distinctions, others saw a greater issue. In the midst of a discussion, Kapelke, seemingly confused, asked, “Why do 40 percent of our students graduate with honors anyway?”

From, the statistics that Latta had previously read, Columbia students seem to come in and remain at the level that they were performing at before they started their education at the college. Students that struggled before becoming a Columbia student, continued to struggle and students that excelled before coming to Columbia, continued that same trend.

“The real issue here is that there seems to be no value added,” said Louis Silverstein, faculty in the Humanities, History, and Social Sciences Department. “That’s the real problem.”

During College Council’s final meeting  they also agreed to approve new majors at Columbia. They will begin to offer an undergraduate degree in art conservation and a graduate degree in creative non-fiction.

Council members also took time to congratulate Jessica Valerio for getting re-elected SGA president.

“SGA struggles with elections every year, but things are getting better,” Valerio said.

Valerio also recapped events from their recent trip to Springfield, Ill., where they met Gov. Pat Quinn.

“We talked to Illinois officials about many issues such as tuition affordability, textbook affordability and the metra initiative bill.”

According to Valerio, Columbia’s SGA gained support on all of their issues.