He’s making a list. He’s checking it twice. He’s supposed to find out who’s been studying right.
The dean is coming to town.
Every semester, each college at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln releases a dean’s list. This is meant to be a recognition of full-time students who excel academically, usually when they achieve a certain grade point average.
While this list should be a simple way to give high-achieving students a pat on the back and a resume booster, the selection process is far from perfect. UNL administrators should reform the dean’s list requirements in order to make it a fair and meaningful achievement.
The first problem is that our dean’s lists are not all that meaningful for truly exceptional students.
As of 2020, there were 21,534 full-time students registered at UNL. In the spring semester of that year, nearly 7,500 students were recognized on the dean’s list. That means almost 35% of all students made the list, well above the typical 10-25%.
I find it laughable that the people pulling all-nighters to stay on top of their work-intensive classes are getting the same award each semester as someone like me, who – though not without shame – often does the bare minimum to earn an A or B in my journalism and philosophy classes.
It is true that upon graduation those students going above and beyond have the chance to receive varying levels of distinction on their degrees. However, they are not getting distinguished on a semester-by-semester basis in a meaningful way.
The other glaring problem with our dean’s lists is that despite their high inclusivity, they still have vague and inconsistent requirements which exclude some who deserve the distinction.
A friend of mine in the College of Arts and Sciences – who is much more studious than I am – discovered recently that she did not get a spot on the fall 2022 dean’s list despite the fact that she got straight A’s and had 12 credit hours. The reason given was that one of her classes – worth only one credit hour – was pass/no pass.
This was irritating but understandable given that the list requires at least 12 graded hours. Then she found out that last semester, CAS had begun what they call the dean’s commendation list, meant to recognize part-time students with 6-11 credit hours.
Surely, she thought, she would be eligible for the commendation list for the same reason she was ineligible for the full-time list. But no, she was told that even though one of her classes was pass/no pass, she still counted as a full-time student because she had 12 credit hours.
It was a stupid oversight by the college to make such a gap in eligibility for the lists, and my friend was unlucky enough to fall right into that gap.
Luckily, these issues in the dean’s lists should have straightforward solutions.
First, every college should follow CAS’s example and institute a dean’s commendation list for part-time students. They should also close the obvious gap mentioned above by making sure that people with 6-11 graded hours are eligible even if they have extra pass/no pass classes.
As for recognizing the students that excel way past the dean’s list requirements, we could simply add another list. Many universities already have president’s or chancellor’s lists, which have higher GPA requirements. Seeing as the University of Nebraska Omaha already has such a list, there is no reason we should not.
Some may be hesitant to add further hierarchical distinctions between students, worrying that it could cause some to feel inadequate.
While this could well be the case, and while it is nice when the university aims to help with students’ mental health and self-image with programs like Counseling and Psychological Services, administrators have no moral obligation to make every student feel equally successful.
Ultimately, everyone needs to take personal responsibility; first on what they do to reach their academic goals, and second on how they respond to disappointment. We should not shy away from recognizing exceptional people for fear of hurting everyone else’s feelings.
There is therefore no excuse not to reexamine the dean’s list qualifications. A few minor policy changes would ensure that people working hard can receive appropriate recognition for their efforts.
While your dean does not see you when you’re sleeping or know when you’re awake, they do have full access to your academic records. Screw being good for goodness sake, you should get the accolades you deserve.
Will Cook is a junior philosophy and journalism double major. Reach him at email@example.com.