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University Bulletin

Graduate Degree Programs

APPENDIX III

Procedures for Termination of the Degree Program of a Graduate Student for Unsatisfactory Scholarship

By virtue of their maturity and experience, graduate students are expected to have learned the meaning and value of personal honesty and professional integrity before entering graduate school. Every graduate student is expected to exhibit and promote the highest ethical, moral, and professional standards as scholars, and as future faculty, professionals, and leaders in their respective fields.  Meeting this expectation is a component of satisfactory scholarship for graduate students, in addition to meeting academic standards such as, but not limited to,   minimum required grade-point average or grades in required courses for the program.  A violation of ethical, moral, and/or professional standards is regarded as a serious offense, raising grave doubt that the graduate student is worthy of continued membership in the Graduate School community, and may result in academic sanctions including suspension or dismissal by the graduate program in which the student is enrolled, from that academic program, and/or by the Graduate School from continued or future enrollment in any graduate program at the University.  A violation of ethical, moral, and/or professional standards may not necessarily involve Code of Conduct behavior, but still may result in academic sanctions including suspension or dismissal by the graduate program and/or the Graduate School, as described above. However, engaging in any Code of Conduct behavior, as determined by the Office of Student Conduct, does constitute a failure to exhibit and promote the highest ethical, moral, and professional standards expected of graduate students, and may result in additional sanctions as described above, in addition to any disciplinary sanctions by the Office of Student Conduct.  

Where the basis for unsatisfactory scholarship is behavior that is believed to fall within the Code of Conduct, it should first be referred to the Office of Student Conduct for adjudication.  If the Office of Student Conduct determines that the graduate student did not engage in a Code of Conduct behavior, and if the sole basis for unsatisfactory scholarship was if the behavior did fall within the Code of Conduct, no further action should be taken. If the Office of Student Conduct determines the graduate student has engaged in a Code of Conduct behavior and issues a sanction(s), this does constitute unsatisfactory scholarship and further action may be taken by the program and/or the Graduate School.

 

When a program head, program committee, or, in the case of a doctoral student, the doctoral committee determines that the program of a graduate student must be terminated for unsatisfactory scholarship, the student must be given advance notice, in writing, which in general terms shall advise the student of the reasons for the termination. Examples of unsatisfactory scholarship may include, but are not limited to, failure to exhibit and promote the highest ethical, moral, and professional standards; inadequate grade-point average; failure to obtain satisfactory grades in required courses for the program; failure to make satisfactory progress in research or other activities related to the culminating experience; or failing the candidacy, comprehensive, or final oral examination for doctoral students.  Upon receipt of this notice, the student has the opportunity to seek a review of the decision. If the student desires such a review, the student must, within ten days of receipt of the notice, submit a written appeal to the program head.

  • If the student alleges that discrimination either was the reason for the termination or caused the unsatisfactory scholarship, and the discrimination or harassment was committed by an individual in a role of authority, such as an administrator, faculty member, instructor, teaching assistant, or research assistant, the matter shall be referred to the Affirmative Action Office of the University, established to review such claims. If the Affirmative Action Office determines that the student's allegation has merit, the Affirmative Action Office will manage the investigation and report back to the program head and any other University office as appropriate. If the Affirmative Action Office determines that the student's allegation is unfounded, the program head then provides an opportunity for the student to meet with him/her and, if applicable, the program committee, doctoral committee, or other faculty involved in the decision to terminate the student's program.

If there is no allegation of discrimination within the written appeal, then the program head provides an opportunity for the student to meet with the faculty member(s) who made the decision to terminate the student's program. This meeting must be held within 30 days of receipt of the student's written appeal. (Under extraordinary circumstances, either party may request a stay to the 30-day time limit. A request for such a stay must include a justification and indicate the desired duration of the stay, and be directed to the Dean of the Graduate School, whose decision on the stay will be final.)

Formal rules of evidence are not applicable to the meeting, and attorneys are not permitted to represent any person attending the meeting. If the student's faculty adviser would not otherwise be present (i.e., was not involved in the decision to terminate), the adviser should be permitted to attend this meeting if requested by the student or program head, or if the adviser wishes to do so. The program head is responsible for ensuring that minutes of the meeting are taken and copies distributed to all those in attendance.

Following this meeting, the program head must notify the student within five days, in writing, whether the termination decision has been sustained or reversed. If it is sustained, the program head shall notify the Dean of the Graduate School.  If the termination is based upon failure to exhibit and promote the highest ethical, moral, and professional standards expected of graduate students, the Graduate School may also make a determination to dismiss the student from continued or future enrollment in any graduate program at the University.  If the Graduate School dismisses the student from continued or future enrollment in any graduate program at the University, notification of that decision will be given to the student within this time frame as well. Within five days of receiving this notice of termination for unsatisfactory scholarship, the student may make a written request to the Dean of the Graduate School for a further review of the decision. The student is permitted to submit additional information or statements in writing.  

Although not required to do so, the Dean of the Graduate School may meet with the student and/or program head , or request additional information from the student and/or the program head If a meeting is held, the student may not be represented by an attorney but may have present a faculty adviser of his or her choice..

The standard of review by the Graduate School is whether the decision to terminate for unsatisfactory scholarship was arbitrary and capricious. The terms "arbitrary and capricious" mean that the decision to terminate is not supportable on any rational basis, or that there is no evidence upon which the decision may be based. The Graduate School does not review faculty judgments as to the quality of a student's academic performance (e.g., the quality of a thesis or dissertation, performance on a comprehensive examination, etc.), but only whether a program's decision was arbitrary and capricious, including in cases of failure to exhibit and promote the highest ethical, moral, and professional standards expected of graduate students.

After this review, the Dean of the Graduate School either sustains the termination or, if he/she determines that the decision was arbitrary and capricious, reverses the decision with any corrective action, and permits the student to continue in the program. If the termination is sustained, the Dean of the Graduate School directs, at his/her discretion for termination from the Graduate School and, at the discretion of the program for termination from only the graduate program in which the student is enrolled, that the termination be entered on the student's transcript. The Dean of the Graduate School gives written notice of the decision to the program head and to the student within three weeks of receipt of the student's written request to the Dean. In the event of a reversal, such written notice shall contain a statement of the basis upon which the decision was made.

The decision by the Dean of the Graduate School is final.

A registration hold may be placed on the student's records while action is pending under these procedures.

Note: Nothing within this Appendix, nor within any portion of the Graduate Degree Programs Bulletin, is intended to constitute a contract or contractual terms. No provisions of this Appendix, nor any portion of the Graduate Degree Programs Bulletin, shall confer contractual rights upon any parties. To the extent that the terms of this Appendix may be applicable to faculty or staff, the terms outlined herein do not constitute terms, benefits, or conditions of employment. The terms set forth herein are subject to change unilaterally and without notice by University administration.

Approved by the Graduate Council, May 8, 2002

Revised by special Ad Hoc Committee on Student-Related Policies, August 2005

Revised by special Ad Hoc Committee on Student-Related Policies, April 2007

Revisions by the Graduate Council Committee on Academic Standards, January 2008

Revisions proposed by the Graduate Council Committee on Academic Standards and approved by Graduate Council, February 2013

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This is the official bulletin of The Pennsylvania State University. Programmatic expectations for General Education are those in effect at the time of admission to degree candidacy, and college and major requirements are those in effect at the time of entry to college and major. These are accurately indicated in each student's degree audit.

The University reserves the right to change the requirements and regulations listed here and to determine whether a student has satisfactorily met its requirements for admission or graduation, and to reject any applicant for any reason the University determines to be material to the applicant's qualifications to pursue higher education. Nothing in this material should be considered a guarantee that completion of a program and graduation from the University will result in employment.

The University Faculty Senate has responsibility for and authority over all academic information contained in the Undergraduate Bulletin.