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Monday, November 12, 2007

Ohio's Miami U Debates Honors Reform: Is Cum Laude Latin For BS (Bull****)?

CINCINNATI (TDB) -- About a fourth of Miami University's graduating seniors leave the Ohio campus with Latin plaudits on their degrees each year -- either cum laude (with honor), magna cum laude (great honor) or summa cum laude (highest honor). Grade inflation seems to be behind the escalation in brilliant scholarship, and grade inflation seems to be driving a move to reform the system. Officials are considering a plan to cut down the number of Latin honors -- to about 17 percent of grads -- and equalize who gets them. There are concerns that students who take easier courses of study are racking up the laudes, while those wrestling with the toughest academic disciplines are less lauded.

The University Senate has passed a resolution that recommends granting Latin honors based on class rank rather than overall GPA, and the ranking would determined divisions within the university. For example -- and this is a hypothetical -- a magna cum laude history major would be ranked against the other history majors, not the physics majors or education majors.

John Skillings, Miami's associate vice president of academic affairs, told the Miami Student campus newspaper that the goal is a balanced depiction of academic achievement.

"Grades are different in different disciplines. We need equity cross-campus."

Anna Turner has dug into the issue at the campus newspaper and her report is here. She reported that the school's administration does not see grade inflation as a problem. But some faculty members see the reform as a way to curb grade inflation.

The issue of Latin honors has arisen at other campuses across the U.S. Stanford University says grades are probably more important than honors, and the notes that employers looking to hire recent grads "care far more about the actual numerical GPA than the Latin honor attached to it."


  1. About time! The number of graduates with honors in the Education school was getting to be ridiculous.

  2. Hi Anon --

    Grade inflation is a huge problem at campuses everywhere. Is the Education School at Miami that bad?
    I haven't seen any breakdowns . . .