Ask most students what qualities they would desire of their graduation student speakers, and the last virtue they would list is the student’s grade point average. But the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, Elliott School of International Affairs and School of Business and Public Management all consider GPA to be one of the most important qualifiers when picking speakers.
All three schools require potential graduation speakers to have extraordinarily high GPAs, which will not necessarily translate into the most interesting, inspiring or noteworthy message. There is no direct correlation between grades and the ability to speak. There are plenty of students with good grades – not great grades – who might be able to provide much better speeches than those in the top of their class. This dramatically limits the possible field of speakers and is unrepresentative of GW students’ participation in campus life.
GW is often recognized as a school where students are actively involved in city life, extracurricular activities, internships, jobs and volunteer opportunities. Many of these students are surely overachievers, but they might not have the 3.8 that the Elliot School, for example, requires for students to speak at graduation. Students work at the White House, study in exotic countries, volunteer in the toughest neighborhoods, for example, and many of them might have been too busy to get a 4.0 but could provide interesting insight or perspective that students who spent days in the library might lack.
While GPA should be a consideration when picking speakers – someone with straight D’s probably did not actively contribute to the community – it should not be so high as to become the main consideration. The three schools should consider lowering the GPA requirement to 3.0, and if not that then, at least, to 3.4, which honors students are required to maintain. While The Hatchet is not criticizing this year’s lineup of student speakers, we hope GW offers the opportunity to more students in the future.
GW students are much more interesting and involved than some of their GPAs would suggest, and these schools are undoubtedly missing out on intriguing students who are excluded from speaking because they got a B- in one of their intro classes freshman year.