Rewriting Old Traditions

The Cum Laude cer­emony and honor has long been a Hawken tradition used to give public recognition to students who have demonstrated aca­demic excellence during their Hawken careers. Recently, the Hawken Senate has been dis­cussing a collection of changes that have been proposed. These changes were initially consid­ered because a number of stu­dents and faculty have come forward in the past few years and expressed their concern with some parts of Cum Laude, including the timing of the cer­emony and aspects of the cer­emony, itself. The Senate is also discussing methods of refining the Cum Laude selection pro­cess, but they are very early in the process and have not made any concrete decisions yet.

Three of the four pro­posals concerning Cum Laude have been passed by the Sen­ate. The first Senate resolution on Cum Laude 2014 deals with the ceremony. In past years, the Cum Laude ceremony has taken place during a special assem­bly at the end of a school day. The student body is expected to dress nicely for the ceremony and publicly acknowledge the inductees’ achievements. There are two main reasons for the Sen­ate’s adjustment to the ceremony. The first is that only roughly 30 out of 400 Hawken students are inducted into Cum Laude, so the ceremony may feel awkward. In fact, 56.90% of the freshman and sophomores who answered a poll about the ceremony said they felt it was too long.

cum laude

The second main rea­son is the timing of the ceremo­ny, which takes place during the weeks before finals and AP tests. Senior Sophie Kerman says that to her “there’s a slight irony in the fact that we ask teachers and students, in the weeks before fi­nals and AP tests, to sacrifice classroom time to honor aca­demic achievement.” The Senate resolution states that “the Sen­ate resolves that the Cum Laude induction ceremony be moved to an evening event. While spe­cifics of the event shall be un­der the discretion of the Upper School director, we recommend that inductees, their advisors, and families be invited. The event should remain open to the public, so that any member of the com­munity may attend, but it will no longer be a required event for the entire student body and faculty. We envision an evening with re­freshments, a faculty or alumni speaker, with family, teachers and friends of inductees in at­tendance. A brief public recog­nition of the inductees (perhaps at awards day) will follow.” The logistics have been worked out so that the resolution will take effect this year.

Sarah Senkfor, a soph­omore Senate representative, agrees with the resolution. “Per­sonally,” she says, “I think the ceremony change will be nice because many people thought the ceremony was a little lengthy in the past, and combining it with awards day should help cut down on time… it will not cut down on the importance of the ceremony for those being honored because they will also have the dinner af­ter school”.

The second Senate res­olution concerns the timing of Cum Laude induction. The main reason for this change is that cur­rently, the committee in charge of Cum Laude inductions includes the students’ grades through the first intensive of their junior or senior year, depending on when they are inducted. Sophie Ker­man summarizes an issue with the timing, saying “Hawken gen­erally claims that interim grades serve as a check point or a tem­perature check, yet used to use interim grades when deciding on Cum Laude.” In response, “the Senate resolves that the timing of Cum Laude induction be shifted to include second rotation grades. While this shift will create some time pressure and potentially some scheduling conflicts, we

believe that this change will give the Cum Laude committee better data from which to make their selection, and more completely capture the four years of academ­ic record Cum Laude is meant to honor.”

This resolution too will be put into action this year. Sarah Senkfor succinctly sums up the view of many senators who sup­ported the change with their vote by saying that “I… believe that including spring rotation grades will give the Cum Laude commit­tee a much more accurate display of students’ work”.

The third Senate resolu­tion concludes that “some small degree of weighting by year be applied to candidates’ records to aid in selection. Ninth grade would be weighted less than tenth grade through twelfth grade. The purpose of such weighting is to give ninth graders some small leeway in making an adjust­ment to Hawken Upper School, to reward improvement over the four years, and to make sure we are recognizing those who finish their academic careers strongly.”

The resolution is in the interest of students entering the Hawken community from schools that had different academic systems, whose transition, according to sophomore Senate representative Tim Holman “can be challeng­ing… because they are not used to writing essays or are not famil­iar with many of Hawken’s teach­ing styles,” as well as any student who may struggle in making the transition from middle school to high school.

According to Mr. Har­ris, the resolution will take ef­fect in the 2014-15 school year, and will weigh Freshman year through Senior year as 1-2-2-2 respectively. A student whose lack of effort freshman year is reflected in their grades still may struggle in terms of eligibility for Cum Laude. However, a student who had difficulties transitioning into high school will now have a better chance of being considered for Cum Laude despite some set­backs.

The fourth Senate pro­posal is set to be debated at a fu­ture date that has not yet been set. Currently, the proposal includes the idea that junior induction into Cum Laude could be eliminated. Any students who would like more information or have opin­ions on the matter are urged to attend the next Senate meeting. The Senate meetings are always open to the public, and the sena­tors are always delighted to hear the opinions of students who will be affected by their resolutions!