St. Thomas students’ diplomas have never listed their majors, and that won’t change this year.
The Undergraduate Student Government investigated the practice this year as one of its strategic goals, but found it’s not feasible.
USG Executive Vice President Tony Linn, a senior, said the issue has been raised every year since he joined USG as a freshman.
“This year it was actually brought up by Felipe [Pino]; he’s our international representative, and he brought it up this year because he has the concern that the international students who come to St. Thomas, they leave with their degree and it simply says ‘bachelor of arts’ and ‘bachelor of science,’” Linn said. “He was under the fear that that could lead to misunderstanding in other countries. They might think that he got that degree in art or in science.”
This year, after speaking with University Registrar Paul Simmons, Linn and other USG senate members concluded that printing majors on diplomas just wasn’t feasible.
“It was the most clear understanding that we’ve been given, in my opinion, in the four years that it’s been brought up,” Linn said. “Paul Simmons was very clear with his three reasons: the logistics, the resources and the practice.”
Simmons declined to speak to TommieMedia about the issue.
Michael Jordan, director of undergraduate academic affairs, said Simmons declined to comment because the registrar’s office has no direct influence over the decision, but does play an important role in consultations over what it would take to make the change.
Jordan said making the change would be a matter of considerable trouble and expense.
“The vendor from whom we order our transcripts is not equipped, and in fact it would be a fairly complicated matter, somewhat labor intensive as well, because we have students with double majors, triple majors, two majors and a minor,” Jordan said. “The logistics don’t present insurmountable obstacles, but they present obstacles sufficient to prevent us from going ahead and acting affirmatively in response to this request.”
University officials also didn’t see a reason for the change, Jordan said.
“The diploma itself is a ceremonial document; it is not a document that is used for official verification of academic record,” Jordan said. “The official transcript is the means through which any person presents evidence of what their accomplishments were in the undergraduate program. The transcript does certainly print the major. All majors and minors are there on the official transcript, even individualized majors.”
Academic transcripts better serve the purpose of documenting majors than diplomas do, Jordan said.
“For international students, just as for any St. Thomas student, complete information and actual verification of your educational accomplishments is there in the official transcript and not on the diploma,” Jordan said. “When somebody needs official verification of educational accomplishment, transcripts go through the registrar’s office with a system of security that assures us and the recipient that the document being received is an official approved document.”
Jordan also noted that some schools let students pay to have their majors printed on their diplomas.
“It certainly could be considered [at St. Thomas],” Jordan said. “But it’s just not clear that the desire to have the major on the diploma is really well grounded or entirely sensible, given the limitations in the way in which diplomas actually function as evidence of undergraduate accomplishment… If you can fake a passport, you can fake a diploma.”
Linn said he was satisfied with the explanation USG received from the university registrar, but wouldn’t be surprised if the issue is raised in future years.
“Maybe it will get turned around; maybe someday there will be majors on their diplomas,” Linn said. “But I’m sure it will get brought up and maybe it will come to the same conclusion it did this year.”
Macalester is the only ACTC college that prints students’ majors on their diplomas.
Brent Fischer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.