For months now, the university’s administration has debated expanding the Honors Program into an official Honors College, but our editorial board has some reservations.
The Program as it is has many beneficial aspects like enrichment awards, the Munson Fellows, life in Redding Hall and exclusive scholarships. Yet, there are also many areas for improvement, particularly when it comes to the uniformity in rigidity of individual honors courses.
Anyone who has taken a few honors classes can attest to the fact that some professors hold the exact same class, with little to no differences, for their honors section; some professors, however, want to utilize honors students’ potential, and they assign more difficult assignments in-class and out-of-class.
This disparity means that two degrees with honors from the university can symbolize vastly different things and put two very different faces of the Delaware Honors Program out into the world, additionally discrediting the work done by students that go the extra mile and take the difficult classes.
Next, there is the process of getting in and the work needed to stay in. Our board is of the opinion that there are some students who got into the Program, but purposely cut corners and slack off once they get there. They are not purged from the rosters and end up holding a coveted spot that could go to a more deserving student.
Then when it comes to the actual proposal of an Honors College, we just have one question: What’s the difference?
According to the official Faculty Senate proposal from Feb. 10, many of the immediate changes will be more symbolic, while the proposal stresses that many areas will really not be that different.
Sections 5.2 and 5.3 of the proposal outline how this move would affect faculty and staff currently in the Honors Program by saying some of the higher-up administrative positions, such as Director of the Honors Program, would get promotions, at least on paper, while it would appear to be a lateral move for the rest of the Program’s employees.
Section 5.6 outlines the budget for the proposed new college, coming in at a whopping $12,000,000 over five years. But, not to worry, this money will come from endowment income.
“Enhancing recruitment of high achieving students, fostering diversity and inclusion, increasing alumni engagement, creating opportunities to name the college and create endowments to support student and faculty activities, and enhancing Honors’ ability to serve as an incubator for innovative academic models,” as stated in Section 5.4 of the proposal frankly comes off as vague when describing what the College would bring to the university.
To our board, unless the Faculty Senate can produce tangible differences that would result from the formation of an Honors College, it is not worth it. Of course, an Honors College would be a great investment for any university, but this proposal needs a lot of clarification before it gets The Review’s endorsement.
Something the university has struggled with is the line between business and academic institution, and it is our fear that this would spill over into an Honors College, which is arguably the last place anyone wants a debate about the role of education versus money.
Simply put, if the university wants an Honors College, they should move forward with the proposal, but the College should be just that: A college.
An Honors College should be a rigorous place of learning, regardless of how much tuition or investment it may or may not bring in. Without this guarantee of whole academic independence from the administration and a more clear-cut picture of what a new College would entail, this proposal appears baseless.
The Review’s editorials are written to reflect the majority opinion of The Review’s staff. This week’s editorial was written by Victoria Calvin, Copy Desk Chief. She may be reached at VCalvin@udel.edu.