Article 2: Academic Rights and Responsibilities for Graduate Students

2.1   Preamble

2.1.1 The establishment and maintenance of the proper relationship between instructor and student are fundamental to the University’s function and require both instructor and student to recognize the rights and responsibilities that derive from it. The relationship between instructor and student as individuals should be founded on mutual respect and understanding together with shared dedication to the educational process.

2.2   Role of the Faculty in the Instructional Process

2.2.1 No provision for the rights of graduate students can be valid that suspends the rights of the faculty. The graduate student’s right to competent instruction must be reconciled with the rights of the faculty, consistent with the principle that the competency of a professional can be rightly judged only by professionals. It is therefore acknowledged and mandated that competence of instruction shall be judged by the faculty.

2.2.2 Colleges and departments/schools shall provide appropriate and clearly defined channels for the receipt and consideration of graduate student complaints concerning instruction. In no instance shall the competence of instruction form the basis of an adversarial proceeding before any of the judicial bodies established in this document.

2.2.3 Faculty shall have authority and responsibility for academic policy and practices in areas such as degree eligibility and requirements, course content and grading, classroom procedure, and standards of professional behavior in accordance with the Bylaws for Academic Governance, the Code of Teaching Responsibility, and other documents on faculty rights and responsibilities.

2.2.4 No hearing board established under this document shall direct a change in the evaluation of a graduate student that represents a course instructor’s or guidance committee’s good faith judgment of the graduate student’s performance. In the event that an evaluation is determined to be based on inappropriate or irrelevant factors, the dean of the college shall cause the student’s performance to be reassessed and good faith evaluation established. (See also Sections 2.3.10, 2.4.8, and Article 5.)

2.3   Rights and Responsibilities of the Graduate Student

2.3.1 In all areas of graduate education, faculty and students shall comply with the MSU Anti-Discrimination Policy.

2.3.2 The graduate student has a right to be governed by written academic regulations. The graduate student has a right to accurate, timely, and clearly stated information concerning the general academic requirements for establishing and maintaining an acceptable academic standing, the graduate student’s academic relationship with the University, and the details of any special conditions that may apply. Requirements for the student’s academic program and written academic regulations, including codes of professional behavior, shall be made known and made available by the administering unit at the time of the student’s first enrollment. Graduate students are responsible for informing themselves of University, college, department, and school requirements as stated in unit publications and in the University catalog. In planning to meet such requirements, students are responsible for consulting with their academic advisers and guidance committees.

2.3.3 The graduate student, regardless of degree program, has a right to receive accurate information. Faculty will strive to provide the best advice possible concerning program planning, research, professional expectations, selection of courses and professors, and general degree requirements.

2.3.4 Units shall maintain records for their graduate students, specifying and/or containing degree requirements, course waivers and substitutions, program changes, and other stipulations directly affecting their degree programs. Graduate students shall be provided access to and/or a copy of these records upon request.

2.3.5 The graduate student shall be free to take reasoned exception to information and views offered in instructional contexts and to reserve judgment about matters of opinion, without fear of penalty or reprisal.

2.3.6 Graduate students and faculty share the responsibility of maintaining classroom decorum and a collegial atmosphere that ensures teaching and learning.

2.3.7 The graduate student shares with the faculty the responsibility for maintaining the integrity of scholarship, grades, and professional standards.

2.3.8 The graduate student is responsible for learning the content of a course of study according to standards of performance established by the faculty and for adhering to standards of professional behavior established by the faculty.

2.3.9 The graduate student has a right to academic evaluations that represent good faith judgments of performance by course instructors and guidance committees. Course grades shall represent the instructor’s professional and objective evaluation of the graduate student’s academic performance. The graduate student shall have the right to know all course requirements, including grading criteria and procedures, at the beginning of the course. (See also the Code of Teaching Responsibility.)

2.3.10 The graduate student has a right to protection against improper disclosure of information concerning academic performance and personal characteristics, such as values, beliefs, organizational affiliations, and health. (See also Article 3.)

2.3.11 Graduate students and faculty members share the responsibility for maintaining professional relationships based on mutual trust and civility.

2.3.12 Graduate students have a right to be protected from personal exploitation and to receive recognition for scholarly assistance to faculty.

2.4   Academic Programming

2.4.1 The department/school or college is responsible for informing, in writing, all incoming graduate students of program requirements and procedures.

2.4.2 Guidance Committee. It shall be the responsibility of each graduate student admitted to a doctoral program or to a master’s program that requires a guidance committee to form a guidance committee with the concurrence of the unit chairperson/director or designated representative. Composition of the guidance committee will be in accord with University, college, and department/school guidelines. In the event that a student is unable to form a guidance committee, it shall be the responsibility of the unit chairperson/director to intervene with the faculty of the unit to resolve the problem. For graduate students in doctoral programs, the guidance committee shall be formed within the first two semesters of doctoral study, or within two semesters beyond the master’s degree or its equivalent. Within one semester after the committee is formed, the chairperson of the guidance committee shall file a guidance committee report with the dean of the college, listing all degree requirements. A copy of this guidance committee report shall also be given to the graduate student. This guidance committee report, as changed or amended in full consultation between the graduate student and the committee and as approved by the appropriate department chairperson or school director and the dean of the college, shall be regarded as the statement of program requirements. The program will not be considered binding unless signed by the student. Once designated, the guidance committee has the responsibility to meet periodically to oversee the graduate student’s progress as long as the graduate student continues in good standing. Any desired or required changes in the membership of the guidance committee may be made by the graduate student with the concurrence of the unit chairperson/director or designated representative, or by the unit with the concurrence of the graduate student, in accordance with University, college, and unit policy. The guidance committee, with the concurrence of the graduate student, may form a thesis/dissertation committee to supersede or supplement the guidance committee. Committee or thesis/dissertation chairpersons on leave shall provide for the necessary guidance of their advisees during their absence.

2.4.3 Residency. Academic residency requirements and residency fee policies shall be made known to the graduate student at the time of admission.

2.4.4 Time Limits. The time limitations for candidates seeking advanced degrees shall be made known to the graduate student at the time of first enrollment. Application for extension shall be submitted to the department/school and transmitted for approval by the dean of the college.

2.4.5 Program Changes. Each department/school or college shall establish procedures for altering individual student programs that have been approved in accordance with the provisions of Section Graduate students shall be involved in developing such procedures. (See also Section 6.1.1.)

2.4.6 Dissertation and Thesis. The nature and scope of the doctoral dissertation and master’s thesis (or its equivalent) shall be defined by the department/school or college and the guidance or dissertation committee according to the professional and scholarly research standards of the discipline. The department/school or college shall specify in advance the acceptable style and form of the dissertation or thesis in accordance with The Graduate School Guide to the Preparation of Master’s Theses and Doctoral Dissertations. Standards for formatting, duplicating and binding of dissertations and theses – as well as the stipulations covering abstracts, numbers of copies, dates and deadlines for acceptance, and regulations for microfilming and publication – shall be established and published by The Graduate School.

2.4.7 Code of Professional Standards. Each department/school and college shall communicate in writing to its graduate students, at the time of their first enrollment in a degree program or in a course in the unit, any specific codes of professional and academic standards covering the conduct expected of them.

2.4.8   Evaluation. Graduate students have a right to periodic evaluations to assess their academic progress, performance, and professional potential. Evaluation of graduate students shall be made only by persons who are qualified to make that evaluation. Written descriptions of unit/program methods of evaluation and the general rationale employed shall be provided to graduate students and the faculty. Written evaluations shall be communicated to the graduate student at least once a year, and a copy of such evaluations shall be placed in the graduate student’s file. (See also Section When determination is made that a graduate student’s progress or performance is unsatisfactory, the student shall be notified in writing in a timely manner, and a copy of the notice shall be placed in the student’s academic file. When a graduate student’s status in a program has been determined to be in jeopardy, the graduate student shall be informed in writing in a timely manner, and a copy of the notice shall be placed in the student’s academic file.

2.4.9   Dismissals and Withdrawals. Each department/school and college shall establish criteria for the dismissal or withdrawal of students enrolled in its programs. Such criteria shall be published and given to students at the time they begin their programs. Should a decision to dismiss a student be made, the affected student shall be notified in writing in a timely manner. All information regarding the decision is to be held in strict confidence between the student and those faculty and administrators with responsibility for the student, on a need to know basis; release may be only with the written consent of the student involved unless the decision becomes the substance for a grievance procedure, in which case such information shall be released to the grievance committee. All records and information created under this article shall be released only in accordance with the University’s published policies governing privacy and release of student records. The same privacy is to be accorded the reasons for a student’s temporary or permanent withdrawal from the University.  Should a decision to dismiss be held in abeyance, pending completion of the stipulated conditions, these conditions must be communicated in writing in a timely manner to the student.

2.5   Educational Training of Graduate Students in Teaching Roles (not covered by the Graduate Employees Union collective bargaining contract).

2.5.1 Colleges and department/schools are responsible for establishing orientation and in-service training programs for all graduate students in teaching roles. Such programs shall include an introduction to course goals, grading criteria and practice, and classroom procedures as well as periodic classroom visitation. The graduate student in a teaching role is held responsible for full and active participation in all such programs.

2.5.2 Graduate students who are involved in teaching roles are expected to fulfill their assigned responsibilities at a high level of performance. To gain feedback for monitoring and increasing their teaching effectiveness, such graduate students shall use, where applicable, confidential instructional rating reports in each course that they teach. These reports shall be submitted to the unit in accordance with the stated policy of the University Council. The coordinator of each course staffed by graduate students in teaching roles shall submit each semester to the unit administrator or to the appropriate unit committee a formal written evaluation of each of the graduate students in teaching roles. After notifying the graduate student, appropriate members of the college/department/school should visit and observe the student’s teaching in the instructional setting, and information from these visits and observations should be used in the evaluation. The graduate student instructional rating reports (or summaries thereof), formal written evaluations, and any supplementary information shall be placed in a confidential file for use by the student and by faculty members in accordance with This material shall remain on active file until the graduate student’s teaching role is terminated, after which a copy of the file becomes the graduate student’s personal property upon request. If evaluations or summaries of them are kept beyond the student’s tenure at the University, these records should be altered so as to be anonymous. Evaluation material described in may be used in overall evaluations and in determining such matters as renewal of assistantships, teaching assignments, recommendations, and the need for further training. An evaluation of teaching shall be given to the graduate student who has a teaching role at least once each year. (See also 2.4.8.)