Departmental Honors Need More Consistency
The clock strikes two in the morning, but, perhaps unsurprisingly, your desk light and brain cells are still turned on. Campus should be asleep, but a handful of students have forgotten what it feels like to be tucked into bed at this hour. That’s because many seniors are writing theses and need to reach 60 pages by tomorrow.
This raises the question: why would a student put themselves through such an ordeal?
For some, it is because they are required to do so for their major. For others, they have to write a thesis in order to qualify for departmental honors -- a system of recognition that is surprisingly inconsistent across departments
One of the largest departments to require a thesis in order to attain departmental honors is Political Science, where students need to achieve a 3.5 GPA in the department as well as an A- on their thesis if they wish to qualify. However, in other departments, such as Anthropology, students need to attain a 3.65 GPA in the major, and 3.0 GPA in all other college courses. The Economics department is actually in the process of changing their GPA requirement to better fit what they see other departments requiring.
Additionally, the Business department requires a GPA of 3.8 or higher in the department. Students must also get an A- or better in the Business Strategy class (MB 349).*
Other departments, like English, give the option between a capstone paper, project, or thesis.
Some people could argue that departmental honors do not really mean anything if each department has a different standard as to what qualifies as honors level work. While honors are clearly important to many students, the inconsistencies make it unclear what Skidmore, as a university, determines is distinctive -- especially in accordance to other colleges.
Moreover, Skidmore also has a large population of double majors, who may want to write an interdisciplinary thesis, simply to combine both topics. But, if one department requires a thesis for honors, students are more likely to work on that paper -- spending hours upon hours perfecting and writing.
However, coming up with a solution is difficult because certain course work is not comparable to others. And some departments do require -- just as a result of the discipline -- different amounts of training to reach an appropriate level of knowledge to enter the field (i.e. Studio Art). Consistencies between departmental honors by picking a specific GPA that all students, no matter their major, need to reach or rise above could be the best solution. This would create a standard for all students, no matter their major(s), and would streamline what it means to reach an honors level of work.
Overall, departments should consider consistency when it comes to what qualifies students for honors. This is especially true in respect to other colleges -- like Bates College, where more than 96% of each graduating class completes a senior thesis.
These inconsistencies could have implications for students on the job market. Especially if a student with a 3.5 GPA qualifies for honors, but a student with the same GPA in a different department does not. Having that extra line of departmental honors can look appealing to employers, and may heighten a student’s chances of getting the job.
*This article was initially published with false information regarding the Business Department's honors system. It has since been adjusted.