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Academic Dismissal and Appeal

Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Michigan

Rackham Graduate School policies regarding academic probation and dismissal govern PhD and MS students in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences.  The following guidelines describe the processes leading to Departmental recommendations for graduate student probation and dismissal, and appeal of these decisions by the graduate student.


Academic Dismissal

Graduate students are expected to regularly meet with their advisors to discuss their academic performance and progress. Candidates are required to meet with their dissertation committees annually. When performance falls below an acceptable level, students may be placed on academic probation or dismissed from the program.

Reasons for academic probation and dismissal may include, but are not limited to:

  • Failure to maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or greater
  • Failure to reach candidacy
  • Unsatisfactory progress toward thesis
  • Lack of a PhD advisor
  • Failure of thesis defense as determined by the thesis committee
  • Discontinuous enrollment (PhD only) without department consent
  • Violation of the University’s Honor Policy
  • Academic or professional misconduct
  • Exceeding time limit for the degree program


Academic Probation

Academic probation is an opportunity for a student to review and correct problems with academic progress in order to return to good standing in their graduate program. Academic probation is normally required before a recommendation is made that a doctoral student be dismissed for academic reasons. However, a student who fails to pass candidacy or preliminary exams may be dismissed without probation.


Length of the probationary period. The probationary period may be no shorter than two months of the fall or winter term and ordinarily will conclude at the end of that term. For a student placed on probation within two months of the end of the fall term, the probationary period will extend into the winter term for a total of at least two months. For a student placed on probation within two months of the end of the winter term, the probationary period may include the spring or summer half-terms or the following fall term, for a total of at least two months. A student may be placed on probation starting in the spring or summer half term for a minimum of two months, and does not need to be enrolled during these half terms.


Non-compliance with the probationary period. In the event that a student is non-responsive (in person, by phone or email), produces no work, and does not show up to perform GSRA duties on campus (or elsewhere per direction of the advisor) for a period longer than two weeks duration, GSRA or fellowship funding to the student, including salary, stipend, tuition waiver and benefits, may be terminated.


Academic Probation or Dismissal Review and Recommendation Process

The Graduate Chair may recommend probation or dismissal of a graduate student for failure to meet the program's standards of academic performance or progress as outlined in MS Requirements and PhD Requirements on the departmental website.

Any recommendation for probation or dismissal will be reviewed by the Graduate Chair and two of the faculty who serve as standing members of the Qualifying Exam Committee. The Graduate Chair will render a decision based on this review and will notify the student in writing. The decision will be accompanied by a brief statement of the reasons for the probation or dismissal and any supporting documentation. The Graduate Chair’s written notice will include:

  • Reason for probation or dismissal
  • Length of probation
  • Outline of the necessary steps or accomplishments that are to be completed within a stated timeline for reinstatement to good academic standing or dismissal

Department staff will send notification of the probation or dismissal to OARD staff to be including in the Rackham OARD system.


Appeal of Academic Probation or Dismissal

The student has the right to dispute academic probation or dismissal. Within five days of the date of the notice, a student who disputes the reasons for the probation or dismissal must contact the Department Chair, the Graduate Chair, and the student’s faculty mentor for informal group discussion of the situation.

If the student remains dissatisfied with the informal discussions described above, he/she may file a formal appeal of the probation or dismissal, no later than 30 days from the notice of the probation or dismissal. The appeal must be made in writing by electronic communication to the Department Chair. The letter must include: (a) a statement justifying the grounds for seeking an appeal (e.g., extenuating circumstances that warrant reconsideration); and (2) a description of a plan for successful program completion. Any supporting documentation for the appeal should be clearly organized, labeled, and appended to the letter.

The Department Chair will review the written appeal to determine whether the request should be considered. If the appeal is to be considered, then the Department Chair, the Department Ombudsman and the Associate Chair for Curriculum will review the probation/dismissal and appeal documentation. At least one person should not have been previously involved with the dismissal decision nor have served in an advisory or instructional role with the student.  If this is not the case, the Department Chair will choose an appropriate substitute for the Ombudsman or the Associate Chair for Curriculum. The Department Chair will render a decision based on this review and notify the student in writing of the decision.


Dismissal by a Thesis Advisor

Though rare, cases occur when a student’s academic performance is satisfactory, but the student’s thesis advisor seeks to dismiss the student from his/her research group. This situation may occur for a number of reasons (e.g. intellectual disagreements, conflicting personalities or work styles). In this case, the advisor must notify the student and the Graduate Chair in writing of this decision with an explanation for the separation. The advisor is expected to continue to mentor and provide financial support for the student for an additional semester beyond the one in which the notice is given, unless another faculty member agrees to take on the advisor role prior to that time. Likewise, the student is expected to remain committed to the work outlined by the original advisor until such time that a new advisor is formally appointed.

If after one semester, the student is unable to secure a new faculty thesis advisor, the Graduate Chair may recommend dismissal of the student from the program.


Approved by the Executive Committee, January 23, 2015

Modified by the Graduate and Department Chair, June 16, 2016

Modified by the Graduate and Department Chair, April 15, 2019

Reinstatement to a Ph.D. Program