Harvard’s honors system
The Vietnam draft, campus unrest in the late 1960s, and grade inflation have sapped the university's highest status symbol of meaning, officials say. The graph below shows the percentage of Harvard students graduating with honors.
The Boston Globe
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1946 Enrollment of World War II veterans surges; first sign of grade inflation, former Harvard President Neil Rudenstine says. 1961 Harvard faculty eases rules for graduating with honors. 1965 Many students, hoping to avoid the draft, grow increasingly anxious about class rank; Harvard sees signs of grade inflation. 1967 Faculty adds flexibility to grading, stoking concerns about grade inflation. 1969 In April, antiwar protesters seize University Hall; police oust them a day later. In the fall, new affirmative action policy enrolls many more black freshmen. SAT scores for the freshmen class fall sharply, but A’s and B’s increase. 1970 Harvard faculty further loosens grading in the face of antiwar protests. It makes spring finals optional. 1971 Internal report says Harvard grading, honors are erratic and that too many graduate students are teaching classes. 1973 Hoping to stop grade inflation, faculty allows greater use of satisfactory/ unsatisfactory instead of grades. 1977 Under Dean Henry Rosovsky, a new core curriculum is designed; rules for honors are toughened. 1979 First year of Harvard/ Radcliffe official merger; women are included in honors rates. 1988 Harvard faculty dean warns of grade inflation; A’s become increasingly common. 1996 After bulge in highest honors, Harvard caps them, appoints panel to review “outstanding work.” 2001 Harvard honors exceed 90 percent; new President Lawrence H. Summers takes office.