Letter to Presidents

August 15, 2005

Dear President:

As you begin anew the yearly cycle that makes up the pulse of academia and look ahead to the new academic year, I want to take a moment of your time and call your attention to the mission of the Association of College Honor Societies (ACHS) and to the benefits that ACHS member societies bring to your campus. I also want to address an issue that has become a growing concern on campuses around the nation, an issue I am sure you have dealt with on your campus, namely, that of bogus honor societies preying on impressionable students and profiting from the students’ natural desire for recognition.

Since it’s inception in 1925, ACHS has worked with leaders in higher education, like yourself, to work towards a goal of ensuring that deserving students receive the recognition they deserve and that such recognition is always awarded altruistically—never with a profit motive. We are proud to reaffirm once again our partnership with you in attaining this goal.

As the only certifying agency for college and university honor societies, ACHS sets high academic and operational standards for its member societies. In this responsibility, the Association guides its member societies in determining the scholarship criteria for selecting initiates and in ensuring that funds are used primarily for rewarding the highest standards of academic excellence rather than generating profit. To strengthen this important role, ACHS became a member of the Council for the Advancement of Standards and has helped develop standards for honor societies recognized by the CAS group. 

During the past several years, the academic community has experienced a plethora of non-certified groups soliciting money from students in exchange for a questionable “certificate of honor.” In this regard, I am alarmed at the surge of these “honor society mills” that offer memberships via e-mail solicitation, on-line registration via the Web, sign-up stations, and campus-wide mailings—all indicating a dangerous lack of high standards for membership selection. Creditable honor societies determine who is eligible in academic standing and, then, extend an invitation to all those who qualify.

In light of the increasing number of questionable groups soliciting students in the name of honor, ACHS has strengthened its role as the standard bearer for legitimate honor societies. ACHS has published a Standards Alert on How to Judge the Credibility of an Honor Society on its website (www.achsnatl.org) to help parents and students evaluate the differences between legitimate and illegitimate honor societies, carrying forward its role as a guardian of higher standards for the recognition of academic excellence. ACHS also offers a offers a Chapter Search (www.achsnatl.org/search.asp) where people can search to see what ACHS member honor societies are on each campus. Although we hope to pursue these endeavors vigorously, I personally believe the main resistance must be on local campuses.

As president of your institution, you are in a pivotal position to help maintain the integrity of the honors community. It is critical that you, your administrators, and faculty realize how these non-certified groups dupe students and, in turn, dilute endeavors to promote honor and excellence in academe. As spokesman for ACHS, I want to urge you and your colleagues to adopt CAS institutional standards for organizations called “honor societies” that seek permission to function on your campus, request student lists, and request use of official university mailing label services to solicit members and fees. 

On a positive note, I want to applaud the work of creditable honor societies on your campus. They manifest themselves in numerous ways with their induction ceremonies, honors day festivities, and special recognitions on and off campus. On international, national, regional, and local levels, these organizations provide hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in scholarships and awards. Because various faculty and administrators on your campus are involved in nationally recognized honors activities, please share a copy of this letter along with your endorsement to those who provide that leadership.

In an effort to promote more visibility at the collegiate and national levels, ACHS member societies have joined efforts to promote “A Matter of Ethics” as a collaborative national project. ACHS honor societies are collectively and individually discussing ethics in a diverse number of settings. The recent partnerships that ACHS has formed with the Council for the Advancement of Standards, National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, the Center for Academic Integrity, the Center for Ethics, the National Collegiate Honors Council, the American College Personnel Association among others has strengthened the visibility and role of ACHS in the higher education community.

I am enclosing the handbook that identifies the honor societies that maintain the high standards for membership in ACHS. As you examine this list, I believe you will agree that their presence on your campus is a hallmark of your institution’s commitment to excellence and, at the same time, serves as an external indicator of your school’s quality.

In closing, I wish to reiterate that ACHS is honored to work with you in recognizing and celebrating the highest achievements in academic excellence and student leadership. I am especially appreciative of your support of our member societies on your campus and remind you of the many dedicated faculty and staff who give so much of themselves and their time to serve as chapter advisers/counselors.

Sincerely,

 

Glenda Earwood, Ph. D.
President

P. S. Two books are enclosed so that you may share this information with others on your campus.

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October 1, 2001

Dear President:

In this new academic year, I wish first to call your attention to the mission and benefits that the Association of College Honor Societies (ACHS) provides your institution through its member societies on your campus and secondly to alert you to serious concerns in the honors community. In accord with higher education’s commitment to excellence, the association’s primary and complementary role is its dedication to celebrating the highest achievements in scholarship and student leadership in the academic community. Since its beginning in 1925, ACHS has collaborated with colleges and universities in its mission and once again is proud to claim this partnership with you.

As the only certifying agency for college and university honor societies, ACHS sets high academic and operational standards for its member societies. In this responsibility, the Association guides its member societies in determining the scholarship criteria for selecting initiates and in ensuring that society operations and funds are used primarily for rewarding the highest standards of academic excellence.

During the past two or three years, however, the honors community has experienced a grievous situation with the emergence of non-certified groups that are soliciting money from students in exchange for a questionable “certificate of honor.” It seems that history is repeating itself, for in 1925, ACHS was founded in response to the plea of university officials who were lamenting the duplication of honor societies and a proliferation of such groups that were contributing to low academic standards for membership. In this regard, I am alarmed at the surge of these “honor society mills” that offer memberships via the Web, sign-up stations, and campus-wide mailings—all indicating a dangerous openness for membership selection. Creditable honor societies determine first who is eligible in academic standing and, secondly, extend an invitation (preferably written) to those who qualify.

As president of your institution, you are in a pivotal position to help maintain the integrity of the honors community. It is critical that you, your administrators, and faculty realize how these non-certified groups dupe students and, in turn, blemish all endeavors to promote honor and excellence in academe. As spokesman for ACHS, I want to urge you and your colleagues to monitor carefully those organizations called “honor societies” that seek permission to function on your campus.

To help counter this invasive element, ACHS would like to start a national dialogue by communicating with college and university administrators and by actively participating in their professional meetings. For instance, last spring, we had limited representation at AACRAO, and in early summer I talked with Dr. William J. Nunez, III, the new president of the American Association of University Administrators, who has expressed concern regarding these non-certified “societies.” Though we hope to pursue these endeavors vigorously, I personally believe the main resistance must be on local campuses.

On a positive note, I want to applaud the work of creditable honor societies on your campus. They manifest themselves in numerous ways with their induction ceremonies, honors day festivities, and special recognitions on and off campus. On international, national, regional, and local levels, these organizations provide hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in scholarships and awards. And, in particular, the promotion of high scholarship and academic excellence by the honors community has never been more crucial in a time when our educational system is experiencing what many see as a lowering of standards. Because various faculty and administrators on your campus are involved in nationally recognized honors activities, please share a copy of this letter along with your endorsement to those who provide that leadership.

I am enclosing a brochure entitled “A Matter of Honor” that identifies honor societies that maintain the high standards for membership in ACHS. As you examine this list, I believe you will agree that their presence on your campus is a hallmark of your institution’s commitment to excellence and, at the same time, serves as an external indicator of your school’s quality.

In closing, I wish to reiterate that ACHS is honored to work with you in celebrating the highest achievements in academic excellence and student leadership. I am especially appreciative of your support of our member societies on your campus and remind you of the many dedicated faculty and staff who give so much of themselves and their time to serve as chapter advisers/counselors.

Sincerely,

John W. Warren
President

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March 21, 2001

To Whom It May Concern:

As president of the Association of College Honor Societies (ACHS), I am writing you because you are in a key position to help address a grievous situation in the honors community. ACHS has received various reports from parents and students that money is being solicited by what appear to be “questionable” groups calling themselves honor societies. It is truly unfortunate for students to be misled and to pay fifty dollars or so for a dubious honor.

It seems that history is repeating itself, for ACHS began in 1925 in response to the plea of university officials, who for several years had lamented the proliferation of so-called honor societies that accepted low standards for membership and that duplicated recognized high-quality societies. Since 1925, ACHS has collaborated with colleges and universities to establish and maintain acceptable criteria for recognition of outstanding achievement; in this work, ACHS has been remarkably successful. Thus, it is imperative that we take action at this time and not let dishonor blemish our reputable honors community; the so-called honor societies in question actually dishonor not only honor societies but all institutions and programs that value excellence and high standards.

Today, as the coordinating body of most college and university honor societies, ACHS has three primary functions: (a) to help determine the scholarship criteria that member organizations use for selecting initiates, (b) to help ensure that society operations and funds are utilized primarily for rewarding the highest standards of academic excellence, and (c) to certify as “bona fide” those societies that require high academic standards of students receiving honors recognition.

I am alarmed about non-certified “honor society mills” that offer membership via the web, sign-up stations, and campus-wide mailings from off-campus sources—all indicating a dangerous openness for membership selection. The practice of creditable honor societies is for officially sanctioned faculty advisers to determine first who is eligible for membership—that is, those who have earned recognition and then, secondly, to extend an invitation on behalf of the campus chapter to those who qualify. Equally perturbing is that some off-campus groups, I am told, are able to obtain or buy university student lists and use them for solicitation of members and fees. Although the sale of lists is certainly not inherently an inappropriate university policy, the implication is that groups are sanctioned by the university and thus creditable.

Your connections with students and student activities place you in a strategic position to help maintain the integrity of the honors community. First, I would urge that you scrutinize carefully new “honors” groups that seek permission to operate on your campus, request student lists, and/or request use of official university mailing label services to solicit members and fees. Secondly, I hope that, in some way, your office would alert campus officials about such organizations that are soliciting money in the name of “honor.” Further, I think sharing this concern with others might well start a national dialogue and create a general awareness of the problem.

In December of 2000, my predecessor sent a letter to university and college presidents applauding the work of creditable honor societies and included a cautionary statement about certain groups not adhering to high standards for scholastic and business operations. Whether in broad areas or in specific disciplines, all these societies insist on the highest levels of character and academic achievement. Please review the ACHS Web site (www.achsnatl.org), where you will find a Membership Directory that enumerates the criteria for society membership and the high mark of achievement that each society must require for recognizing and honoring individuals.

If you wish to discuss this matter beyond this letter, please feel free to call me at my number or the Executive Director, Dr. Dorothy I. Mitstifer, at the ACHS National Office as noted on the letterhead. Working together, we can, and we must, counter the invasions of such campus activities that threaten the integrity of both the university and the honors community.

Sincerely,

John W. Warren
President
225.926.7355

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