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Transfer student with 3.7 GPA will not receive Latin honors from UB

Student is short three credits of meeting Latin honors threshold

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When Lauren Mojeski graduates this spring, she will not be able to wear the gold cords given to students with grade-point averages of at least 3.2, a symbol of academic achievement. And when her name is called to walk across the stage to accept her diploma, there will be no outward sign that the mother of two is expected to graduate with a 3.75 GPA, an accomplishment usually marked by summa cum laude honors.

Mojeski will not be eligible to receive Latin honors because she only has 57 credit hours from UB, three credits short of the 60 credit hours required by university policy. Eligibility for Latin honors is set by the Faculty Senate and outlined in the undergraduate catalog, but Mojeski said she wasn’t made aware of the policy when she transferred in 2016 from SUNY-accredited Niagara County Community College. She feels the policy is unfair for transfer students who may begin at a community college for financial reasons.

“It’s not really fair,” Mojeski said. “I talked to my professors because I just wanted to let them know, because I also just feel a little bit embarrassed walking at graduation. They know I get A’s in their classes and I don’t want them to be like, ‘Wow, she must suck at everything else.’”

Elaine Cusker, senior associate dean for educational affairs, said it is standard for universities to require students to complete a minimum level of work at their new institution to receive Latin honors.

“I can assure you that all new students go through orientation, and the [undergraduate] catalog is supplied as a very significant resource for procedures and requirements,” Cusker said. “The qualifications are quite explicit, and a student starting out at UB aiming for these honors would certainly want to make themselves aware of what these requirements are.”

The Latin honors policy means that all students who come to UB with an associate’s degree and graduate in two years have to maintain an average of 15 credits per semester. Similarly, to be eligible for the Dean’s List students must take an average of 15 credits. Mojeski averaged 14.25. Full-time is 12 credit hours.

English professor David Schmid, who taught Mojeski, said he understands the policy but thinks there needs to be flexibility.

“Not only is she three credit hours short, she transferred these credits from a SUNY-accredited institution,” Schmid said. “This isn’t some Podunk university. I think there needs to be come consideration of that.”

Mojeski is an “exceptional student” and “incredibly hardworking,” Schmid said. He asked Mojeski to present a paper at the English department’s undergraduate conference, despite being a history major.

“Even from a purely public relations point of view, everyone knows that if UB has a reputation, it is as being a large, anonymous school in which it’s easy to fall between the cracks,” Schmid said. “Here’s a student who’s not only played by the rules but has excelled. UB has an opportunity to demonstrate its flexibility and to demonstrate that to them, Lauren is not just a number; she’s an exceptional case.”

Originally from Canada, Mojeski worked in a law office after graduating from high school, while waiting to receive a green card to join her husband in the U.S. She had her first child when she was 23 and became pregnant with her second less than two years later. It was during this time that Mojeski realized she wanted to get her bachelor’s degree and eventually attend law school. She saw the work lawyers around her were doing and thought, “I can do that.”

“I just thought, ‘I can put myself to better use, I’m smart enough to go to school,’ so even though I was pregnant with my daughter when I made my decision, I just decided I’m going to push through and get something done,” Mojeski said. “I just wanted to show them some kind of inspiration they could look up to, not just me sitting at home with them. There’s nothing wrong with [sitting at home]. It was just for me. I knew school was my thing.”

Mojeski decided she would first attend NCCC, which was cheaper and right down the road from where she lived. She planned to transfer to UB to finish her bachelor’s.

Mojeski gave birth to her second child during her first week of classes at NCCC. Two years later, she graduated with her associate’s and applied to pursue an undergraduate in history at UB.

“Every class I registered for, I would always check to make sure it was transferable or the equivalent to a UB course,” Mojeski said. “I knew some people fall behind or end up having to take an extra year to finish their four-year degree, so I was always making sure to check that all my credits would transfer.”

Ian Stapley, Mojeski’s English professor from NCCC, said he is “a bit vexed” by UB’s Latin honors policy and said it seems “draconian.” Stapley graduated from UB with his bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate and teaches honors English at NCCC.

He said Mojeski was “the student every professor wants to have.”

Her planning worked, and when Mojeski applied to UB, she was accepted and all the credits she received at NCCC transferred. Mojeski said she knew that as a mother she wouldn’t be able to have the traditional college experience, so she threw herself into her schoolwork.

“I wanted to do rowing or some kind of extracurricular, but with two kids, you just can’t do it,” Mojeski said. “So basically all my focus was on getting high grades. I would come here for classes, go home and be with my kids, make dinner, do laundry, do dishes, then sneak out and do homework until midnight. It’s all been about school, so it just really sucks that it’s being taken away for what I feel like is a pretty unfair reason.”

Mojeski first found out she would not be able to graduate with Latin honors after picking up her cap and gown, and discovering she was not on the list to receive a Latin honors cord.

“It really hurt,” she said. “I made the decision to go to [NCCC] for financial reasons, which I’m sure many other [transfer] students do also. My husband’s like, ‘Oh, well you can just take summer courses, and maybe then you’ll get it.’ But that’s not fair, that’s not right. I have enough to graduate.”

She was invited to apply to her departmental honors society, but Mojeski said she turned it down because of a $100 registration fee.

“That’s not a lot, but I mean it’s three boxes of diapers,” Mojeski said. “I just didn’t think much of it. I told myself, ‘Well I won’t worry about it since I’ll have the Latin honors to go for instead.’ Or at least I thought.”

Mojeski would have to pay out of pocket for summer courses to bring her credit hours up to the required amount, something she said is out of the question.

“There’s also the fact that the sooner I finish, the sooner I have nights back to be with my kids,” Mojeski said. “That’s important. Everything changes when you have kids.”

Mojeski emailed Sharon Nolan-Weiss, director of the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, about the situation.

Nolan-Weiss responded and told Mojeski she would relay her concerns to the Office of Educational Affairs because it sounded more like an academic issue than a discrimination issue.

Mojeski said she doubts much will happen in time for her graduation in less than two weeks, but she hopes she may be able to help students in similar situations by bringing attention to the issue.

“She’s done this all as a mom of two kids. She’s worked her butt off to put herself through school,” Schmid said. “I admire the hell out of her and I think if any exception is going to be made, it should be for this.”

Sarah Crowley is the senior news editor and can be reached at sarah.crowley@ubspectrum.com and @crowleyspectrum


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