The Phi Beta Kappa Society, the nation’s oldest academic honor society, this year admitted 74 graduating seniors from the Class of 2017 into the MIT chapter, Xi of Massachusetts.
Founded in 1776 at the College of William and Mary, Phi Beta Kappa (PBK) honors the nation’s most outstanding undergraduate students for excellence in the liberal arts, which include the humanities, the arts, science, and social sciences. Only 10 percent of higher education institutions have PBK chapters, and fewer than 10 percent of students at those institutions are selected for membership.
“Our newest members have been selected due to their all-around excellence in these areas of academic endeavor,” said Arthur Bahr, an associate professor of literature and the president of Xi of Massachusetts. "This year's inductees represent the very best of MIT, in the sense that they have excelled not only at technical subjects, but also at the humanities, arts, and social and natural sciences in their purest forms. The education these students have received will prepare them for successful careers, and also for a rich life full of learning and contemplation.”
At the induction ceremony, which took place in June, Malick Ghachem, an associate professor of history, presented a talk examining the role of American universities in the litigation over President Trump’s recent travel ban as a way of understanding the purposes of higher education and academic excellence. In the address, entitled "The University, the Constitution, and the Ends of Academic Excellence," Ghachem argued that a commitment to openness and engagement with the widest possible range of voices and opinions is central to a university’s mission and lies at the core of academic excellence.
Bahr, with assistance from chapter historian Anne McCants, a professor of history, and chapter guardian Charles Stewart III, the Kenan Sahin Distinguished Professor of Political Science, gave the 2017 inductees a brief introduction to the rights and responsibilities of PBK members. The 74 inductees were then recognized individually and asked to sign the register of the Xi of Massachusetts chapter before receiving their certificates of membership.