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Carnegie Mellon Department of Chemistry

Guide to Graduate Studies

Evaluation of Student Standing and Progress Toward Ph.D.

Academic Actions and Appeals

For students entering Fall 2015 and later

The department is committed to supporting students in meeting the standards set by their research advisors and to ensuring that all students maintain the high standards of performance that reflect Ph.D. quality work. The following procedures are designed to give students a reasonable opportunity to correct deficiencies in their work when needed and to make a transition to other future plans when some requirements by the advisor or department are not satisfied.

Failure on a Ph.D. Program requirement.

Failure on either the research progress report/candidacy exam or the original research proposal requirement requires a majority decision of the advisory committee at the exam with the assessment forms with detailed comments provided in support of the decision. The student has the right to appeal within 7 days following the decision following the University’s grievance procedure for graduate students. However, failure on either examination can lead to immediate withdrawal from the Ph.D. program with the option to transfer to the M.S. program. Financial support is not guaranteed for completion of the M.S., although a terminal semester with TA support may sometimes be possible as described under Termination from the Ph.D. program below.

Departmental Warnings or Probation.

Students who do not make satisfactory grades or do not complete other requirements at the expected time typically receive a warning letter from the GPC indicating when they are at risk for losing good standing in the Ph.D. program or will receive a probation letter when they are at risk for possible termination from the Ph.D. program. Failure to make consistent efforts with the ICC on English proficiency may also lead to departmental probation.

Advisors ending research-advisor relationship with a student.

Advisors may terminate a student from the group, for example, based on a student’s inability to learn how to produce reliable results within a reasonable period of time and while using reasonable resources. Faculty members are strongly encouraged to consult the GPC when they observe early signs of concerns about a student’s performance or progress. Difficulties that cause the advisor to consider terminating a student should be documented by the advisor in written feedback and discussed in person in a timely way, as discussed below. Such discussions should be included, when needed, formally as part of the annual review and the GPC can assist advisors and students at other times when they may have concerns.

Faculty and departmental concerns will generally be expressed in two forms, warning letters or probation letters. The GPC Co-Chairs need to review a copy of any warning or probation letters before they are sent to ensure compliance with departmental and university policies.

  1. Warning letter: If an advisor is dissatisfied with one of his/her student’s progress or efforts in research, he/she is strongly encouraged to provide both in person and in writing a warning to the student about the areas of concern and the criteria for continuing as a member of the group in good standing to assist in addressing the concerns promptly. Students may also receive a warning letter from the GPC for low grades or delays in working on program requirements. Normally, such a notice would specify a plan for monitoring the student’s progress toward the desired performance or progress. If the concerns are serious enough that the student may be terminated from the group or Ph.D. program, the warning letter should provide, when possible, 6 months written notice of when financial support would be terminated if the concerns are not adequately addressed.
  2. Probation letter: If an advisor has serious concerns and may wish to terminate a student from his/her group, he/she should consult with the GPC Co-Chairs about the details of proceeding to put the student on probation in the group. In addition, failure to complete Ph.D. program requirements on the expected schedule can lead to probation. The minimum recommended probation is 3–4 months, during which time the student’s financial support as a TA or RA will continue, and will be typically maintained by the advisor if the probation occurs in the summer. Probation letters must include a written notice of when financial support would be terminated if the concerns are not addressed satisfactorily; these letters must be approved by the GPC Co-Chairs. Students on temporary visas are advised to consult with OIE at the start of any probation to discuss visa implications in the event of potential termination that semester.

Note that Annual Review feedback may serve the purpose of a probation or warning letter.

Eligibility to change advisors

A student may change advisors only once, and such changes should occur in the first 1–2 years if at all possible to complete the degree in a timely way.

If terminated from his/her group prior to reaching ABD status or if choosing to change advisors, a student may request a 1–2 month grace period to find another advisor before termination from the Ph.D. program, although financial support cannot be promised during this period. After this grace period, a student without an advisor cannot remain in the Ph.D. program. Where possible and appropriate, TA positions or other assignments may be offered, depending on availability of funds and positions. However, if a student is without a research advisor, the department cannot guarantee funding.

If an advisor wishes to terminate a student from his/her group after the student achieves ABD status, the student may request a formal meeting with the advisory committee and at least one GPC Co-Chair to review the grounds for the decision and to explore options for the student to complete the M.S. or possibly change to another group if the majority of the advisory committee is supportive of such a change.

If a student is on probation in one group but otherwise in good standing in the department (as described under Research Advisors), he/she remains eligible to change advisors. If a student is on probation for lack of timely progress on departmental requirements and a new advisor is willing to consider the student for his/her group, the student may only be accepted in the group on a probationary basis and remains at risk for termination at the end of the semester in which he/she changed groups if the advisor’s expectations are not satisfied and the cause for departmental probation has not been satisfactorily addressed.

Termination from Ph.D. program

If a student is not making adequate and timely progress through the program requirements or on dissertation research and no exceptional circumstances have been documented in petitions approved by the Graduate Program Committee, the GPC may place a student on probation and state the criteria or conditions to regain good standing. If a student does not adequately address the concerns on the timeline specified in the annual review memo or the probation letter, the GPC may require the student to withdraw from the Ph.D. program.

With GPC and department head approval, the student may be eligible to work toward the M.S. program for a terminal semester if there is a means of financial support, or to transfer to the M.S. without financial support. Note that students who have already completed the M.S. in Chemistry requirements will not be eligible to transfer to the M.S. program and typically are not eligible for TA support. A terminal semester with support to complete the M.S. program normally requires a double TA assignment; there needs to be an available TA position for which the student has suitable background in order for the student to receive a stipend as a TA.

A student will not normally be terminated from the Ph.D. program without the warning of three months of probation, nor will financial support normally be terminated without three months warning, normally in a probation letter from either the advisor or the department. Six months notice will be given when possible. Limited exceptions with less notice may occur. For example, an advisory committee’s decision based on failure of a program requirement may lead to termination in less than three months. Also, extended, unapproved absences, serious misconduct covered under university policies, such as scientific misconduct, violations of academic integrity, misuse of computing resources, and workplace threats or violence, all include dismissal as a potential sanction.

Appeals

A student may appeal academic decisions (e.g. grade, probation, termination) by an instructor, the GPC, advisor, or advisory committee following the university procedure for graduate student grievances. The student may also consult with any member of the GPC or the departmental graduate ombudsperson in an advisory capacity prior to an appeal. If a resolution cannot be reached within the department, the student may consult with the MCS graduate ombudsperson (currently the Associate Dean for Special Projects) about preparing a formal written grievance to the Dean. A summary of the processes available to Carnegie Mellon graduate students who seek review of academic and non-academic issues is available.

For students entering Fall 2014 and earlier

The department is committed to supporting students in meeting the standards set by their research advisors and to ensuring that all students maintain the high standards of performance that reflect Ph.D. quality work. The following procedures are designed to give students a reasonable opportunity to correct deficiencies in their work when needed and to make a transition to other future plans when some requirements by the advisor or department are not satisfied. For example, students who do not make satisfactory grades or do not complete other requirements at the expected time will receive letters from the GPC indicating when they are at risk for losing good standing in the Ph.D. program or for possible termination from the Ph.D. program.

Advisors ending research-advisor relationship with a student.

Advisors may terminate a student from the group, for example, based on a student's inability to learn how to produce reliable results within a reasonable period of time and while using reasonable resources. Faculty members are strongly encouraged to consult the GPC when they observe early signs of concerns about a student's performance or progress. Difficulties that cause the advisor to consider terminating a student should be documented by the advisor in written feedback and discussed in person in a timely way, as discussed below. This is done formally each fall at the annual review and the GPC can assist advisors and students at other times when they may have concerns.

Faculty and departmental concerns will generally be expressed in two forms, warning letters or probation letters.

  1. Warning letter: If an advisor is dissatisfied with one of his/her student's progress or efforts in research, he/she is strongly encouraged to provide both in person and in writing a warning to the student about the areas of concern and the criteria for continuing as a member of the group in good standing to assist in addressing the concerns promptly. Students may also receive a warning letter from the GPC for low grades or delays in working on program requirements. Normally, such a notice would specify a plan for monitoring the student's progress toward the desired performance or progress. If the concerns are serious enough that the student may be terminated from the group or Ph.D. program, the warning letter should provide, when possible, 6 months written notice of when financial support would be terminated if the concerns are not adequately addressed. The GPC Co-Chairs should receive a copy of any warning letters, ideally before they are sent.
  2. Probation letter: If an advisor has serious concerns and may wish to terminate a student from his/her group, he/she should consult with the GPC Co-Chairs about the details of proceeding to put the student on probation in the group. In addition, failure to complete Ph.D. program requirements on the expected schedule can lead to probation. The minimum recommended probation is 3-4 months, during which time the student's financial support as a TA or RA will continue, and will be typically maintained by the advisor if the probation occurs in the summer. Probation letters must include a written notice of when financial support would be terminated if the concerns are not addressed; these letters must be approved by the GPC Co-Chairs. Students on temporary visas are advised to consult with OIE at the start of any probation to discuss visa implications in the event of potential termination that semester.

Note that Annual Review feedback may serve the purpose of a probation or warning letter.

Eligibility to change advisors.

If a student is on probation in one group but otherwise in good standing (as described under Research Advisors), he/she remains eligible to change advisors. If a student is on probation for lack of timely progress on departmental requirements and a new advisor is willing to consider the student for his/her group, the student may only be accepted in the group on a probationary basis and remains at risk for termination at the end of the semester in which he/she changed groups if the advisor's expectations are not satisfied.

If terminated from his/her group, a student may request a 1-2 month grace period to find another advisor before termination from the Ph.D. program, although financial support cannot be promised during this period. After this grace period, a student without an advisor cannot remain in the Ph.D. program. Where possible and appropriate, TA positions or other assignments may be offered, depending on availability of funds and positions. However, if a student is without an advisor, the department cannot guarantee funding.

Termination from Ph.D. program.

If a student is not making adequate and timely progress through the program requirements or on dissertation research and no exceptional circumstances have been documented in petitions approved by the Graduate Program Committee, the GPC may place a student on probation and state the criteria or conditions to regain good standing. If a student does not adequately address the concerns on the timeline specified in the annual review memo or the probation letter, the GPC may require the student to withdraw from the Ph.D. program.

With GPC and department head approval, the student may be eligible to transfer to the M.S. program for a terminal semester if there is a means of financial support. Note that students who have already completed the M.S. in Chemistry requirements will not be eligible to transfer to the M.S. program and typically are not eligible for TA support. A terminal semester in the M.S. program normally requires a double TA assignment; there needs to be an available TA position for which the student has suitable background in order for the student to receive a stipend as a TA.

A student will not normally be terminated from the Ph.D. program without the warning of three months of probation, nor will financial support normally be terminated without three months warning, normally in a probation letter from either the advisor or the department. Six months notice will be given when possible. Limited exceptions with less notice may occur. For example, serious misconduct covered under university policies, such as scientific misconduct, violations of academic integrity, misuse of computing resources, and workplace threats or violence, all include dismissal as a potential sanction. In addition, extended, unapproved absences may lead to termination by the department without three months warning or probation.

Appeals.

A student may appeal academic decisions (e.g. grade, probation, termination) by an instructor, the GPC, advisor, or advisory committee in writing to the Department Head. The student may also consult with any member of the GPC or the departmental graduate ombudsperson in an advisory capacity prior to an appeal. If a resolution cannot be reached within the department, the student may consult with the MCS graduate ombudsperson (currently the Associate Dean for Special Projects) about preparing a formal written grievance to the Dean. For more information, see the MCS grievance procedures for graduate students. A summary of the processes available to Carnegie Mellon graduate students who seek review of academic and non-academic issues is available at: http://www.cmu.edu/graduate/policies/images-policies/graduate-student-appeal-and-grievance-procedures-.pdf