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5. Academic Guidelines

5.1 Guidelines for Satisfactory Progress

The Department’s goal is to provide an environment in which our graduate students can thrive and to support students in making satisfactory progress to degree according to the following guidelines:

Precandidacy Progress Reports

  1. In addition to submitting grades, faculty members who teach a student in the first or second year of our graduate program are asked to submit a progress report on the student’s academic performance to the Comparative Literature office for inclusion in the student’s file. The student does not automatically have direct access to these reports but may request a brief written summary from the DGS.
  2. The DGS will review transcripts and pre-candidacy progress reports at the end of each semester and will contact students who fail to receive a minimally acceptable grade-point average of B.
  3. The Third Term Review Committee will review all pre-candidacy progress reports along with transcripts from the first year.  In the case of a negative review, the student will be notified by the DGS (see Procedures below).

Incomplete grades

  1. Students in their first and second year may hold no more than one incomplete grade during any academic year.  Doing so results in loss of good academic standing.
  2. Students who anticipate having to take an Incomplete should speak with the faculty member teaching the course and the DGS before the end of the semester to consider possible alternatives.
  3. Students who receive an Incomplete must, in consultation with the faculty member teaching the course, confirm a clear plan and deadline for completion of the coursework, and the Incomplete must be cleared during the academic semester (Fall or Winter) immediately following the one in which it was given.
  4. Any student failing to clear an Incomplete in the semester after which it was given, or who accrues an additional Incomplete while holding one, will not be in good academic standing, unless the DGS and the Department Chair grant an exemption. (see Procedures below).


  1. A Third Term Review will take place in the fall of the second year, as a mentoring conversation between the student and a faculty committee, followed by a written summary reporting on academic progress.
  2. The Preliminary Exam must be taken no later than the beginning of September in the third year of study.
  3. The Topics Paper must be completed by the end of the Winter term of the student's third year of graduate studies.
  4. The Prospectus should be submitted quickly upon successful completion of the Topics Paper, preferably in the first term of year four and absolutely within one year of the Topics Paper.
  5. Circumstances may arise that cause students to fall one semester behind in completing any of these milestones.  Students in these situations should consult with and gain approval from their academic committee chair, who should communicate that approval to the DGS.
  6. Any student falling more than one semester behind in completing these milestones (e.g. a student who by the end of the Winter term of the third year has still not taken a Preliminary examination; a student who by the end of the Fall term of the fourth year has not yet completed the Topics Paper; a student who by the end of the Fall term of the fifth year has not yet submitted the Prospectus) will be notified of the possibility of unsatisfactory academic progress by the DGS (see Procedures below).

Post-Candidacy Progress Reports

  1. For students in their fourth year and beyond, an annual Post-Candidacy Progress Report must be submitted by the student and by the academic committee chair no later than March 15 of each year. 
  2. Annual Progress Reports will be reviewed by the DGS and the Department Chair to determine satisfactory progress. 
  3. Any student failing to demonstrate satisfactory progress will be notified by the DGS (see Procedures below).


  1. Any student failing to demonstrate satisfactory progress as defined above will be notified by the DGS, who will convene a meeting with the student and the student's academic committee chair (if there is one).
  2. The purpose of the meeting will be to set forth the conditions under which, including a date by which, the student may be returned to good academic standing, and a deadline for completion of these conditions.
  3. If the student has not fulfilled the conditions by the date set forth at this meeting, the DGS will convene the Graduate Committee. After reviewing the student’s record, the Graduate Committee may determine unsatisfactory progress (at which point the student is no longer eligible for teaching or tuition support in Comparative Literature).  The Graduate Committee may also decide to discontinue the student’s participation in the program (at which point the student will follow Rackham’s procedures for Discontinuation and possible later Reinstatement).
  4. Final determination of unsatisfactory progress and implementation of its consequences rests with the Department Chair in close consultation with the DGS and the Graduate Committee. Should the student elect to pursue an appeal, this must be filed directly with Rackham.   
  5. As always, it is the responsibility of the student to communicate to the DGS, his or her academic committee chair, and the Department Chair to inform them of any circumstances, personal or otherwise, that may prevent the student from either fulfilling the requirements to remain in good standing or those conditions set forth to return to good academic standing.  

5.2 Petitions, appeals, and academic grievances

Petitions. Requests for exceptions to any departmental requirements may be made only with a written petition to the DGS and the Department Chair, who will refer the petition to the Graduate Committee for discussion and a decision. Since petitions for exceptions are by their nature addressed on a case-by-case basis, the student should first schedule an individual meeting with the DGS to assess the need for and feasibility of the exception and what kind of documentation the student should provide in order to make a convincing case to the Graduate Committee. Bear in mind that in most instances exceptions to departmental requirements are—again, by their nature—granted only in exceptional circumstances. Request for exceptions to any Rackham requirements must be granted by the Rackham School of Graduate Studies; no unit within LSA has the authority to override Rackham policy.

Appeals. A student who wishes to appeal a decision made by the Graduate Committee should consult first with the DGS and/or the Department Chair, to discuss the grounds for appeal. A student may appeal on the grounds that (1) procedure was violated; or (2) significant new information has not yet been taken into consideration; or (3) the decision is discriminatory or manifestly unfair. An appeal grounded in at least one of these criteria must be submitted in writing by the student to the Department Advisory Committee (DAC), within two weeks of the Graduate Committee’s decision. If the DAC determines the appeal provides insufficient grounds, the decision will stand with no further appeal. If the DAC determines the decision warrants reconsideration, the DAC will confer with the Graduate Committee as needed and make a final decision. The Department Chair will communicate to the student the result of the appeal, within one month of its submission to the DAC. 

Academic Grievances. We encourage graduate students to seek resolution of conflicts related to grades or academic performance first within the department, in consultation with the DGS. Our departmental policy for grade grievances can be found HERE. Beyond the department, Rackham’s Academic Dispute Resolution Policy and Procedures are available to Rackham students who have a dispute or disagreement with faculty or staff about the equity and fairness of decisions or procedures that affect their academic standing, the conduct of their research, and progress toward degree.

5.3 Student concerns and conflict resolution

Diversity, equity, and inclusion. The University of Michigan supports its educational mission by fostering a community based on civility, dignity, diversity, inclusivity, education, freedom, honesty, and safety. Questions or concerns about diversity, equity, and inclusion within the department can be communicated to the DEI Committee in Comparative Literature, either to the faculty member(s) chairing the committee or via the graduate students serving on that committee. Upon written request, the DEI Committee will provide recommendations for next steps in addressing a concern. Beyond the department, students can go for confidential consultation to the Rackham Resolution Officer, or to the Office of Conflict Resolution (OSCR), or to the Office of the Ombuds.    

Rackham Resolution Officer. The Rackham Resolution Officer (currently Darlene Ray-Johnson) provides information about Rackham Graduate School and University policies and procedures, makes referrals, and offers resources when appropriate. She also provides a safe and confidential environment to discuss a wide range of academic and personal concerns, and advises students on matters related to emergencies, crisis situations, disputes, and student conduct violations. Graduate students can email or call  (734) 764-4400 to make an appointment with Darlene Ray-Johnson at Rackham (Room 1100). 

Student Conflict Resolution. The Office of Student Conflict Resolution (OSCR) offers a spectrum of conflict resolution pathways that are educationally focused, student-driven, community owned, and restorative in nature, which are adaptable to meet the needs of individuals experiencing conflict. OSCR is located in the Student Activities Building (Suite 100). 

Office of the Ombuds. The University Ombuds office is a safe place where student questions, complaints, and concerns about the functioning of the University can be discussed confidentially. Rather than being an advocate for either side in a dispute, the Office of the Ombuds serves as an impartial advocate for fair and consistent treatment. Through informal dispute resolution services, resources, referrals, and discussion of available options, the work of the Ombuds office may supplement conflict resolution processes within the department. Students can call (734) 763-3545 or go to the Ombuds Office at 6015 Fleming Building.

Sexual & Gender Based Misconduct & Other Forms of Interpersonal Violence. The University is committed to providing a safe and non-discriminatory learning, living and working environment for all members of the university community, and does not discriminate on the basis of sex or gender in any of its education or employment programs or activities. The University has established Policy & Procedures on Student Sexual & Gender Based Misconduct & Other Forms of Interpersonal Violence. Persons connected with the University who believe they have experienced discrimination, harassment, or retaliation may bring their concerns directly to the Office of Institutional Equity (OIE). Please note, there is a distinction between making a report to OIE and seeking confidential assistance through confidential resources. Staff and faculty in administrative roles (in the Department of Comparative Literature, this includes the Chief Administrator, Department Chair, Director of Graduate Studies, and Director of Undergraduate Studies) are designated “responsible employees” and therefore required to report concerns about possible misconduct to OIE. Resources available to students for confidential consultation (without reporting to OIE) include the Rackham Resolution Officer, the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center (SAPAC), Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), and the University Ombuds.

5.4 Statement on Academic Integrity

Rackham documents its policies on academic standards and integrity in its Dissertation Handbook, as well as in a separate document on Academic Integrity.  Among rules that need particular emphasis is the one concerning multiple submission of term papers. Rackham states: “It is improper to submit the work one has done for one class or project to a second class or as a second project without first getting the informed permission of the second instructor.  Acceptance of one piece of work that is submitted for two classes must be arranged beforehand.”  The Department of Comparative Literature requires that a student obtain written permission of both instructors before submitting one paper in two courses and notify the DGS of same. It is expected that work submitted for credit in more than one course will be substantially expanded and developed in a manner consistent with dual credit. The new requirements for the combined assignment must be specified and approved in writing by both instructors.

5.5 Rackham Policies on Continuous Enrollment and Leave of Absence

Events may occur that make it necessary for a student pursuing a PhD program to interrupt his or her progress toward a degree.  Since Rackham requires that students in PhD programs be continuously enrolled (registered), a student may ask for a temporary leave of absence when certain life events make it impossible to continue active participation in the degree program.  A leave of absence enables a student not to register during a fall or winter term (students only register in the spring/summer term if they are defending the dissertation) and remain in compliance with the continuous enrollment requirement.  A leave will be granted to students for illness or injury, to provide care or assistance for family and dependents, to meet military service obligations, or for other personal reasons. 

A student on a Rackham-approved leave of absence suspends progress toward the PhD degree for a minimum of one fall or winter term.  No tuition and fees are charged for the period during which a student is on a leave of absence.  A leave of absence may have implications for a student’s federal financial aid and loans.  Please check with the Office of Financial Aid for further information. 

Students on leave have access to limited services that allow them to remain current in their field of study and connected to their program, but they do not have the benefits of registered status and may not use University facilities or services normally available to registered students.

Students are strongly encouraged to discuss the impact of a leave on the plan of study with the DGS and their faculty advisor in order to develop a strategy for completing the degree program as well as to discuss alternatives to a leave.

U.S. immigration regulations may restrict the eligibility of an international student for a leave of absence.  International students considering a leave of absence must consult with the International Center as a first step toward discussions regarding a leave of absence.

Rackham offers leaves of absence for medical reason, family necessity or dependent care, military service, extramural study, and personal reasons.  Please see the Rackham website for further information regarding leaves of absence for PhD students.