Yeshiva College Institutes New Valedictorian Policies
As of this Fall 2018 semester, new policies for determining the Yeshiva College valedictorian have been officially introduced into the updated Academic Information and Policies of the Yeshiva University Undergraduate Catalog for Men. The changes follow a Commentator investigation last semester into policies and processes that determine YU’s nine yearly undergraduate valedictorian awards.
Last year, as in several previous years, the Yeshiva College valedictorian selection process began in March, when 11 finalists were announced via an email from Dean Fred Sugarman, the Yeshiva College Associate Dean of Operations and Student Affairs. In the weeks that followed, a selection process by Deans and professors narrowed down the set and eventually culminated in the final decision in mid-April.
As per the new de jure policies, the Deans plus one member of the Executive Committee (which last year included Professors Shalom Holtz and Aaron Koller) vet candidates on the basis of academic criteria. These candidates shall consist of up to 15 students who have the highest GPAs amongst graduating seniors and have at least 94 credits in residence. Any student with a W or Incomplete grade is not considered for valedictorian. This process leads to the selection of 3-5 students for the next step in the determination.
“The policies for designating the YC valedictorian have been in place for some time,” said Dean Karen Bacon, “but were not known by everyone. It therefore was sensible and appropriate to include them in our catalog.” She added, “I appreciate the input of the students in motivating this change.”
After the 3-5 finalists are determined, the students, as per the new guidelines, are to be interviewed by the Deans and Executive Committee. The students will also deliver short presentations about their qualifications. “The reason we do not go by grades alone,” explained Koller, “is that we see the valedictorian as representing the graduating class, not only being a star within it. A student who has a very high GPA but cannot articulate a vision for life, Jewish or otherwise, deserves to be recognized for his grades, and will be honored with summa cum laude, but is not what we want in a valedictorian. The interviews and presentations allow us to identify a student who is both intellectually and academically spectacular and deeply thoughtful—and is thus reflective of the best YC has to offer the world.”
After deliberations, the Deans and Executive Committee shall vote for the recipient of the award based on academic performance, breadth and an eye for a “well-rounded” student.
“I’m glad to hear that going forward there will be clarity and transparency in the process,” wrote Benji Wajsberg (YC ‘18), one of last year’s valedictorian finalists. “I think that these updates are a good thing for the university and for its students.”
Photo Caption: Yeshiva University Commencement 2018
Photo Credit: Yeshiva University