OPINION | Dean’s List falls short of academic excellence

Abe Messing, Contributing Columnist

The Dean’s List is an ineffective measure of student achievement. (Gabe Darley)

Tulane University, like most colleges concerned with their rankings in the world of higher education, is keen on making its students feel intellectually superior. Convincing the student body that the university is as high-minded and prestigious as it advertises is essential to keep the money flowing in, after all. 

Application baiting results in plummeting acceptance rates and enables students to feel intellectually elite in the larger context of college rankings. At a local level, the Dean’s List reinforces this meaningless elitism and encourages a culture obsessed with test scores and academic egoism.

The Dean’s List claims it rewards “academic inquisitiveness,” but it is possible that this is not the primary motivator behind earning high grades. Instead, feelings of inadequacy or fears about not meeting expectations probably deserve much more credit for getting kids on the Dean’s List than actual intellectual curiosity. 

If cultivating academic inquisitiveness is the university’s goal, then sending an email with digital confetti to any student who succeeds academically by following directions and turning in homework does not seem like the best course of action. 

Currently, students who want to see their names immortalized in beautiful Arial font have to earn a GPA of 3.7. This requirement is a 0.2 point increase from 2019. Perhaps this change could be attributed to Tulane’s constant pursuit of excellence or some other rah-rah, but it is a negligible adjustment to make, considering Tulane’s new threshold for gaining Latin Honors — the ultimate achievement for anyone who measures their self-worth with a number between zero and four.

Because of this change, a current senior who, under the old requirements, made the coveted Dean’s List every semester they have been at Tulane, may never receive Cum Laude on their degree, which requires a 3.7 cumulative GPA.

Here is how this situation could play out: A student enters Tulane in the fall of 2018, and they manage to get their GPA up to a 3.5. They have made the Dean’s List. As a sophomore and junior, they achieve a 3.667 GPA. They have, again, made the Dean’s List. Finally, they complete senior year with a 3.7 GPA and once again make the list. Altogether, their grade point average finishes a 3.6335. At the condolences of the administration, this student does not receive Latin Honors. 

These students who Tulane has been congratulating for their hard work will not necessarily get any lasting recognition when they graduate, because the administration keeps redefining what level of achievement will be Dean’s-List-certified. 

 The Dean’s List does not do a good job of indicating exceptional achievement, which is the one thing that it is supposed to do. In the realm of things that do not matter, the Dean’s List manages to matter even less. Although this issue may not be one of Tulane’s more pressing problems, it would be incredibly easy to fix: simply stop publishing the list.