Phi Beta Kappa Passes on George Mason Chapter

Posted: May 21, 2002 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Robin Herron

The Phi Beta Kappa honor society has notified George Mason that its bid for a chapter was rejected, Provost Peter Stearns announced. “The site review committee recommended us and said some very nice things,” Stearns says, “but the nominating committee turned us down, although it was a close vote.” Stearns adds it is not uncommon for an institution to have to apply several times before being accepted, and he expects George Mason to apply again in the fall of 2003.

Stearns says the major reasons given for the rejection were the university’s aggressive growth plan and the committee’s uncertainty about where George Mason will be several years from now; the university’s heavy reliance on adjuncts for freshman and sophomore classes; and the “most sensitive issue,” the Board of Visitors’ past interference in faculty governance.

“I don’t understand the committee’s concern about growth,” Stearns says, “because that doesn’t change our commitment to a liberal arts education. The adjunct issue is a legitimate one, although we’re pleased with the quality of our adjunct pool. The Board of Visitors did take action in curricular matters a couple of years ago, and the boundary lines haven’t always been clear. That’s something we need to pay attention to.”

As the oldest undergraduate honor society for liberal arts and sciences in the country, Phi Beta Kappa has “an element of an old boys’ club” that is hard to break into, Stearns says. “But we should try again because it’s a really nice honor for some of our good liberal arts students, and we do have good students.”

Stearns praises the hard work of Marion Deshmukh, History and Art History, who coordinated the university’s application. Chapter selections by the prestigious honor society are made only once every three years, and George Mason made it to the second round of the process.

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