Students looking to graduate with honors this fall will have make sure they maintain their GPA during their final semester.
A University Senate bill passed in April 2013 altered the calculation of commencement honors — or Latin honors, as they are now referred to — to include a student’s final semester GPA. The change will go into effect for the first time with this semester’s graduating class.
Previously, university officials made cum laude, magna cum laude or summa cum laude designations before commencement, excluding a student’s overall GPA, which is calculated after graduation. Those honors will now be granted after commencement, and candidates for the honors will be recognized at graduation.
“We were concerned that people might get these honors and then … take a holiday in their final semester and their GPA could have fallen,” said Christopher Davis, former chairman of the Academic Procedures and Standards Committee. “If we are going to give an honor to people, it should be for what people have done for their entire career at the university.”
The committee suggested that the cutoff ranges for Latin honors in each college or school be published on the registrar office website, so students are aware of the minimum GPA they must achieve in order to qualify for a certain honor.
Doug Roberts, general education associate dean in the undergraduate studies office, believes this change increases transparency for students who want to know how they measure up going into their final year.
“The registrar’s office should be able to say … what the GPA is that you would need in order to graduate with Latin honors from your college,” he said. “In the past, I don’t think anyone had any idea what that cutoff would be.”
The GPA cutoffs will vary each year and will be calculated based on the average cumulative GPA of students graduating from each college during the previous academic year’s three graduating terms, according to the registrar office website.
Graduation ceremonies won’t change much — Davis said there will be a disclaimer in the commencement program stating which students are candidates for certain Latin honors, pending final grade calculations.
Sophomore economics major Sade Ayinde believes it’s valuable for students to be recognized for their work all the way through their last semester.
“It really does have an effect on how you are are looked at,” she said. “It’s great to know the work that you are doing that last semester really matters. It’s more of an incentive to keep working harder.”
Benjamin Kurtz, who submitted the proposal to the senate and attended this university from 2009 to 2011, said he understood why final semester grades weren’t used to compute honors for graduation ceremonies. However, he did take issue with the calculations excluding final class rankings when it came to honors being printed and recognized on diplomas.
“You are purchasing that diploma, in all senses. You are paying for an education,” he said. “There’s an intrinsic value to being able to say ‘I graduated with honors.’”
In his final semester at this university, Kurtz said he was able to raise his GPA past the threshold for the cum laude honor and put himself in the top 10 percent of the behavioral and social sciences college.
However, since his GPA from his final semester did not count toward him receiving the honor, his diploma does not say that he graduated with honors, despite graduating within the top 10 percent.
“All I could say on my application to law school was I graduated top 10 percent,” Kurtz said. “I could say cum laude because that does mean top 10 percent [at] Maryland, but my diploma doesn’t reflect that.”
With the change, Kurtz plans on contacting the university and requesting that he receive a new diploma that denotes he graduated with honors.
“I should be grandfathered in because I asserted my right before it became law,” he said. “Anyone who has objected since I put that bill in … should have the right to have their record set straight as far as having their diploma modified so they graduate with honors.”