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The highest academic distinction that Wesleyan awards is University Honors. To achieve this distinction, a Government major must write a thesis that is awarded High Honors in Government by each of three full-time Government faculty (see below, Evaluation of Honors Theses). The Government faculty then meet to decide whether to nominate such a thesis for University Honors (only a small proportion of High Honors theses are so nominated). If the thesis is nominated, the university-wide Honors Committee meets to decide whether to invite the student to sit for an oral Honors Examination. This is also rare, and a crucial factor here is the breadth of courses that you've taken -- including in the natural sciences and mathematics -- beyond the General Education Expectations. Finally, the student sits for the oral Honors Examination. In most years, only two or three of the eight to ten students who sit for the oral Honors Examination (actual figures may differ; these are for illustrative purposes only) are awarded University Honors. Since 2001, accordingly, the number of students awarded University Honors has ranged from zero to five, and has usually been two or three.
Another high distinction awarded at the university level is induction into Phi Beta Kappa, the national honors society. Wesleyan has the nation's ninth-oldest Phi Beta Kappa chapter. No more than twelve percent of the graduating class is inducted each year into Phi Beta Kappa. A special distinction is being elected to Phi Beta Kappa in the fall semester of the senior year. In most years only 12 to 15 seniors are elected to Phi Beta Kappa in the fall. In the 2011-12 academic year, 13 seniors were elected in the fall and 74 seniors were elected in the spring.
To get elected to Phi Beta Kappa in the fall semester of your senior year, you must have completed Stage II of the General Education Expectations by the end of the spring semester of your junior year. To get elected in the spring you must have completed Stage II by the end of your senior year, but the broader the range of courses you take prior to that time (including natural science and mathematics courses), the better your chances of getting elected (it's not just a matter of grade point average).
To be eligible for Honors in Government you must (1) be a Government major on track to complete the major requirements in a timely fashion; (2) achieve a university grade point average of 90.00 or above, calculated at the end of the spring semester of the junior year; and (3) have completed Stage I of the General Education Expectations.
To become a candidate for Honors in Government, you must meet the three eligibility conditions and also seek out a Government faculty member (tenured, tenure-track, or full-time visitor) to become your thesis tutor. The optimal time to try to find a faculty tutor is the spring semester of your junior year. Each Government faculty member decides for whom he or she will serve as a thesis tutor. In some years some students who meet the eligibility requirements will not be able to stand for Honors in Government because they will not be able to find a full-time Government faculty member to tutor the thesis.
Once you have secured a thesis tutor, you must enroll during the add/drop period of the fall semester of your senior year in GOVT 409, "Senior Thesis Tutorial." You can't include this tutorial in course planning during pre-registration; you have to add it during the in-semester add/drop period. You add the tutorial electronically, following instructions in the Tutorial Manual on the Tutorial Registration page on the website of the Office of the Registrar. Enrolling in GOVT 409 will indicate to the Honors Coordinator in the Office of the Registrar that you are an Honors Candidate from the standpoint of the University as well as the Department. Then, during the add/drop period of the spring semester of your senior year, you must enroll electronically (using the same procedure) in a second tutorial, GOVT 410, which is also entitled "Senior Thesis Tutorial." Enrolling in GOVT 410 will indicate to the Honors Coordinator in the Office of the Registrar that, just over half-way into your senior year at Wesleyan, you remain in good standing as an Honors Candidate from the standpoint of the University as well as the Department. You may count either GOVT 409 or GOVT 410, but not both, toward the eight upper-division courses you need to complete the Government major. Only one thesis tutorial credit may count toward the major.
Finally, actually to receive Honors in Government, you must (1) complete the Government major; (2) complete both Stage I and Stage II of the General Education Expectations; (3) write a thesis judged to be of honors quality; and (4) maintain a university grade-point average of 90.00 through the first semester of your senior year.
To abide by Wesleyan's university-level honors regulations, which are formulated by a university-wide faculty Honors Committee and detailed on the Honors webpages maintained by the Office of the Registrar, is a requirement for receiving Honors in Government. Especially useful are the Jellybean Papers (so-called because they used to come in many colors), which will tell you how to register your thesis project with the Coordinator of the university-wide Honors Program at the beginning of your senior year. You may apply to the Thorndike Fund for help in paying the production costs of creating the bound copy of their thesis/essay you must deposit with Olin Library.
Soon after theses are submitted the Honors Coordinator will deliver two copies of each to the Department administrative assistant, either electronically or in hard copy, according to the format preference that the tutor and reader respectively will already have expressed to the Honors Coordinator.
In the initial stage, the thesis is evaluated by two faculty members: the thesis tutor and a reader designated by the Department chair in consultation with the tutor. Like tutors, all readers must be tenured or tenure-track Government Department faculty members or full-time (not per-course) Government Department visiting faculty.
The tutor and reader each receive a copy of the thesis. Each reads the thesis, writes a commentary on it, evaluates it as High Honors, Honors, or Credit (No Honors); recommends a grade for the thesis tutorial; and sends the comments and evaluations to the Department administrative assistant, who submits them to the Department chair.
The tutor and the reader each decide independently whether to award the thesis High Honors, Honors, or Credit (No Honors).
If the tutor and the reader agree that the thesis deserves Honors, or if they agree that the thesis deserves Credit (No Honors), the Department chair, acting on behalf of the Department, awards the thesis the grade that the tutor and reader agreed upon.
If the tutor and the reader disagree with respect to Honors or No Honors, the Department chair appoints an additional ("third") reader who must also be a tenured or tenure-track Government Department faculty member, or a full-time (not per-course) Government Department visiting faculty member. When the "third" reader completes the evaluation, the Department chair counts the votes. If there are two evaluations of Honors and one of Credit (No Honors), the Department chair, acting on behalf of the Department, awards the thesis Honors. If there is one evaluation of Honors and two of Credit (No Honors), the Department chair, acting on behalf of the Department, awards the thesis Credit (No Honors).
Distinctive to the Government Department are regulations governing High Honors. If (and only if) the tutor and the reader agree that the thesis deserves High Honors, the chair likewise appoints an additional ("third") reader who must be a tenured or tenure-track Government Department faculty member, or a full-time (not per-course) Government Department visiting faculty member. If (and only if) the third reader also turns in an evaluation of High Honors, the Department chair, acting on behalf of the Department, awards the thesis High Honors. If the third reader evaluates the thesis as Honors (or even Credit/No Honors), the Department chair, acting on behalf of the Department, awards the thesis Honors, not High Honors -- even if the tutor and the first reader each evaluated the thesis as High Honors. High Honors in Government, in other words, requires unanimity among the three thesis-readers that the thesis deserves High Honors (rather than simply two out of three grades of High Honors). In this respect, it is more difficult to achieve High Honors in Goverment than it is to achieve High Honors in most other departments or programs at Wesleyan.
When all comments and evaluations have been received by the Department and when all discrepancies have been settled, the Department chair submits in writing the evaluations (but not the comments or the tutorial grades) to the Coordinator of the university-wide Honors Program. The Department administrative assistant records the honors recommendation electronically and retains a copy of the comments and the recommended tutorial grades.