Julia Nagel/Sun Photography Editor

Students relax as Cornell and The Faculty Senate begin fazing out the Dean's List honor.

February 7, 2024

Students Reflect on Cornell’s Decision to Discontinue the Dean’s List

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Starting Fall 2023, incoming Cornellians, including the Class of 2027, became ineligible to receive the Dean’s List distinction on their transcript. 

The move away from the Dean’s List came after discussion within the Faculty Senate regarding equity concerns. 

The Faculty Senate’s Resolution 182: Regarding the Award of Honors and Distinctions to Cornell’s Undergraduate Students, passed in May 2022, sought to create a more fair and equitable learning environment for students.

“[The proposal] is aimed at creating consistency across the undergraduate colleges and schools in the award of academic honors and distinctions and balancing recognition of high-achieving students against amelioration of an unhealthy level of competition at Cornell,” the Faculty Senate wrote in the resolution.

Cornell will officially stop listing the honor on student transcripts by Spring 2026, thereby leaving only two Ivy League universities — the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University — maintaining the tradition.

Many students, such as Parthenia Tawfik ’26, a student in the College of Arts and Sciences, believe the Dean’s List distinction is less relevant and more arbitrary than it seems.

“I didn’t really ever think about it,” Tawfik said. “It’s very much a subjective thing because it’s different across all colleges.”

Cornell’s seven undergraduate colleges each have their own set of requirements for students to earn a place on the Dean’s List, including different credit and GPA requirements. For example, The College of Architecture, Art and Planning requires a minimum GPA of 3.8, while the Nolan School of Hotel Administration requires only a 3.3. In the School of Industrial and Labor Relations, there are different GPA requirements for each class year, with first-year students needing a lower GPA than other students in the college.

When asked about the reasoning behind the Dean’s List requirements at each individual undergraduate college, Cornell and individual college administrations each declined to comment. 

Though first-year students and future Cornellians no longer have the opportunity to be considered for the Dean’s List, Hannah Sherman ’26, a student in the College of Engineering, does not think this disadvantages them in any way.

“I don’t think it’s unfair because you still have a record of the grades you’ve gotten,” Sherman said. “If employers are super interested in knowing which students would have gotten on the Dean’s list, that evidence is all still there on your transcript.”

Sherman acknowledged the usefulness of the Dean’s List as a tool for tracking a student’s success in the classroom, but was wary of its ability to measure a student’s full academic potential.

“It’s a measure of how well you do in your classes,” Sherman said. “I don’t think that’s necessarily a measure of how successful you’ll be.”

Madeline Esquivel ’24, a student in the College of Architecture, Art and Planning, believes that the discontinuation of the list will help foster less competitiveness on campus and positively influence students’ mental health.

“I think it’s a good move, honestly, because just removing the conversation away from academic validation might help encourage more camaraderie and [a closer] community atmosphere between colleges,” Esquivel said. 

Instead of relying solely on her GPA and the Dean’s List honor as validation, Esquivel strives to measure her academic success in terms of satisfaction from what a course has taught her. 

“Coming from an architectural school background, we’re never really shown our grades until the end of the semester,” Esquivel said. “So I moved away from looking at letter grades as cues to my progress and more [towards] self-reflection on whether I am learning something.”

Sherman does not think the presence or absence of the Dean’s List distinction on student transcripts will affect life after college or have a substantial impact on students’ hireability.

“Do employers really look at that kind of stuff, or are they really only looking at your grades and extracurricular activities?” Sherman said.

The removal of the Dean’s List comes in conjunction with Cornell’s decision to remove median grades from student transcripts, a similar measure previously used to show how well students performed in comparison with fellow students in each class. 

“There’s a lot of pressure already on students, so this is just one less thing to worry about,” Tawfik said. “There are more important things to be focusing on.”