If you’re a sociology major at the University of Oregon, you can earn honors by achieving a 3.4 GPA; however, if you’re a biology major, you need a 3.3 GPA in upper division courses and an intensive research thesis if you want to graduate with honors.
Achieving honors in college can set students apart from their peers and make them more competitive candidates for graduate schools and internships.
The university Senate appointed a task force made up of faculty, administration and student representatives last spring to diagnose inefficiencies such as these in the honors system at the university. The task force proposed their conclusions and recommendations in June 2017, which will be voted on in the coming year. There are differences between the departments on how honors are achieved, as well as solely GPA-based honors that the task force recommended correcting.
The university Senate will be working with the task force and the honors college representatives to create new policies that, if approved, will be implemented next year.
Josh Snodgrass and Jeremy Piger, co-chairs of the honors task force, presented their conclusions and recommendations at the Senate meeting on Nov. 1. The task force analyzed data associated with the amount of students graduating with honors within each major and department and drew conclusions on where honors qualifications at the university need improvement. The honors report stated that the number of students receiving honors, “seems appropriate.”
Each department within the university can offer honors to the high-performing students in that specific department. According to Snodgrass, they wanted to ensure that there was a similar process of achieving honors between each department of the university.
For example, certain departments within the university offer honors that are solely GPA-based, while others require research or an honors thesis, according to Snodgrass.
They also wanted to ensure that all departments offer departmental honors. Thirty-one of the 36 college of arts and sciences departments offer honors programs, the task force found.
Another issue the task force recommended addressing is a lack of representation of science and math professors within the Clark Honors College itself.
“It’s difficult to get laboratory scientists into the honors college in the current structure because you need a lab and equipment. It’s much easier to find humanities professors to be in the honors college rather than someone who needs a big laboratory,” Sinclair said.
Alex Goldman, a history major in the Clark Honors College, added that the honors college could retain more of its students if it added more faculty from diverse disciplines.
The task force approached this process by questioning the current process of achieving honors, as well as the structure of the Clark Honors College, according to the Honors Task Force report.
“We need to be better as a campus for finding a solution so we can reward our best and brightest students,” Snodgrass said.
According to Senate President Chris Sinclair, the Senate will want the Honors Task Force to create motions for change at the university level, and have them present to the Senate in the coming year. The Senate will then vote on approving or denying the proposed motions. Any changes to the honors college will be conducted through the honors college representatives and later presented to the Senate for voting and approval.
The Clark Honors College is looking to hire a new dean in the next year. In the meantime, interim dean Karen Ford will take the information presented by the task force and present a proposal of the changes they want to make to the provost.
Then, the university Provost, Jayanth R. Banavar, will make decisions on which changes to implement. The substantial changes will be voted on by the Senate in the coming year, according to Sinclair.
“If we are going to offer honors, they should be meaningful and they should provide benefit to the student,” Sinclair said.