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Departmental Policies

Academic Dismissal and Appeal

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 Advocate 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 Department Advocate 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

Academic Grievance Procedure

An academic grievance is defined as a dispute arising from some aspect of a decision or behavior, which a student claims is unjust or violates his or her rights. Although it is impossible to enumerate all the potential scenarios, we outline the following basic tenants:

A graduate student has the right

  1. to competent instruction
  2. to be fairly evaluated
  3. to be treated with respect and dignity
  4. to have expectations communicated orally and/or in writing

If a student believes a faculty member to have violated one or more of these tenants, the following academic grievance process should be followed as outlined below. Although, it is most common that these grievances arise between a student and his or her research advisor, the policy is not limited to such.

Process

The following steps outline the process by which a student should proceed, if unable to reconcile a problem directly with the accused faculty member.

Step 1 – Discuss the grievance formally with the Associate Chair for Graduate Studies, either in person or by email. The Grad Chair will be responsible for giving advice on how to reconcile the problem. This may be limited to simply advising the student on steps that could be taken, or may involve the Grad Chair discussing the matter with the accused faculty member. The Grad Chair may also serve to mediate discussion between the student and the faculty member.

Step 2 – If a student is unable to resolve the problem with the Grad Chair, a grievance may be escalated to a Department Oversight Committee comprised of the Department Chair, Grad Chair, and Department Student Advocate. Such a grievance should be formatted in writing, and submitted to either the Graduate Chair, or Graduate Coordinator.

The oversight committee will review the grievance and will notify the student in writing of recommended actions.

Step 3 – If a student feels that the grievance has been unsatisfactorily dealt with at the Department level, he or she should reach out to the Rackham ombudsman Darlene Ray-Johnson for further advice (rayj@umich.edu).

The Rackham policy for grievances is described in  http://www.rackham.umich.edu/current-students/help/resolution

Grade Grievance Policy

Preamble

Within the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, instructors are expected to set fair and consistent grading procedures for their respective courses. The key to implementing fair grading procedures in courses across the College is that individual instructors adhere to grading rubrics that are applied evenly and consistently to all students within a respective course. If the grading rubric is used consistently for each student, then the final grade is assumed to be the correct grade. Nevertheless, students can inquire about a grade and subsequently initiate a grade grievance when they think that the grade was unfairly given.

The procedure discussed in this document is for courses in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences (EARTH).

Consultation with Instructor

The first step in inquiring about the accuracy of a final grade should be directed to the lead instructor of the course. This initial inquiry should take place within the first fifteen University business days of the first full term following the term in which the disputed grade was issued. If, after this inquiry, the student is not satisfied with the instructor’s response, the student may choose to initiate a formal grade grievance.

Formal complaint to Associate Chair of Undergraduate Affairs

To initiate a formal grade grievance, the student should contact the Associate Chair for Curriculum and Undergraduate Studies before the end of the fifth week of classes in the first full term following the term in which the disputed grade was issued. If the Associate Chair is the instructor of the course in which the disputed grade was issued, the Chair of the Department will fill this role. To initiate the formal grade grievance process, the student must convey in writing the basis for the complaint, with specific evidence in support of the argument that the grade either was given in error or was unfairly determined. This formal complaint also should summarize the outcome of the initial inquiry to the course instructor, indicating what aspects are in dispute. Upon receipt of the written complaint, the Associate Chair will ask the instructor to provide a written summary restating how the final grade was determined and to respond to the specific claims made by the student.

After receiving this information from both the student and the instructor, the Associate Chair will then determine if sufficient evidence exists to convene the Department’s Grade Grievance Committee. If the Associate Chair determines that there is insufficient evidence for the grade grievance, the matter is considered closed, and the original grade stands.

If the Associate Chair determines that the grade grievance should proceed, a date for a formal hearing with the Grade Grievance Committee will be set.

Grade Grievance Hearing

Once it has been determined that a formal hearing will be held, the Associate Chair will empanel the appropriate Departmental Grade Grievance Committee. Both the student filing the grade grievance and the respective instructor will be provided with copies of the written student complaint and the instructor’s summary in advance of the formal hearing. During the formal hearing, the student will be asked to first present the basis of his or her complaint; the instructor will then be asked to present his or her explanation for how grades were determined. Following an open period of questions to all parties, i.e., the student, the instructor and the Grade Grievance committee members, the formal hearing will be adjourned.

Grade Grievance Committee’s Recommendation

The Grade Grievance Committee will then have ten University business days to determine its recommendation and submit a written report to the Associate Chair.

If the Grade Grievance Committee decides that a grade change is not warranted, the Associate Chair will convey this in writing to the student and the instructor. The original grade will stand and the matter is considered closed.

If the committee recommends a grade change, the Associate Chair will communicate that decision directly to the instructor. The instructor will then be asked to respond in writing within five University business days to the Associate Chair indicating whether or not they will abide by the Grade Grievance Committee’s recommendation. If the instructor agrees to a grade change, the Associate Chair will in writing inform the student of the instructor’s decision and the student’s final course grade will be changed. The matter is considered closed.

If an instructor does not accept the Grade Grievance Committee’s recommendation to change the final grade, the original grade will stand. By College policy, a final course grade rests solely with the instructor and, as such, a course grade cannot be changed without the instructor’s consent. When this occurs, the Associate Chair will convey in writing this decision to the student. The matter is considered closed. There is no appeal beyond the Department.

Approved Winter 2012.
References:
Revisions:
4/20/2020
4/12/2022 Removed names of office holders. No substantive changes.

Graduate Student Tuition Support

The Department’s policy of subsidizing GSRA tuition charges on externally sponsored projects is intended to increase the competitiveness of faculty proposals, to offer an incentive to faculty to

advise graduate students, and to reward faculty who have received an externally sponsored grant.

I. University Policy – Tuition Charges on Sponsored Projects

To facilitate the preparation of budgets, sponsored projects are charged average tuition at in-state rates regardless of the number of credit hours for which the GSRAs are enrolled or their residency status. The pre-candidate subsidized rate for GSRAs is approximately 1⁄2 of the full (non-Michigan resident) tuition cost. Only sponsored federal and other external projects, for which indirect costs are typically charged, are charged the reduced rate. Full tuition is charged for GSRAs appointed to non-sponsored projects where the source of funds is typically internal and indirect costs are not charged. Tuition charges for GSRAs with candidacy status are the same for both sponsored and non-sponsored projects, regardless of residency status.

II. Departmental Policy – Graduate Student Tuition Support

  1. Tuition support for fellowship students.
    The Department will cover the full cost of tuition and mandatory fees on all Departmental fellowships, and will generally cover the tuition and mandatory fees not covered by externally sponsored student fellowships (e.g. NSF student fellowships).
  2. GSRA tuition support eligibility
    Only PhD and two-year Master’s students that are enrolled in the Department’s programs are eligible for tuition support. Students that are co-enrolled in the Department and another UM unit are eligible for partial (50%) tuition support. PhD students are limited to 10 terms of tuition support, if they are entering the program with only an undergraduate degree, and 8 terms of tuition support if they are entering with an MS degree in a relevant field. A single additional term for a PhD student may be approved by the Associate Chair for Graduate Studies. Two-year MS students are limited to 4 terms of tuition support. No additional terms of support will be provided.
  3. Tuition support for GSRAs on sponsored projects
    The Department will cover the pre-candidate and candidate tuition charges for eligible GSRAs appointed to sponsored projects.
  4. Tuition support for GSRAs on faculty discretionary funds
    Except as excluded in (f.) below, the Department will provide tuition support for pre-candidate and candidate tuition charges for eligible GSRAs appointed to a faculty member’s discretionary funds (e.g. research incentive program funds, honorary awards). The support provided will be limited to the University tuition charges for sponsored projects.
  5. Tuition support for GSRAs on non-sponsored (internal) projects
    Subject to the Chair’s approval, the Department may provide tuition support for eligible GSRAs appointed to non-sponsored projects if the internal source does not allow tuition charges and no departmental cost sharing is already committed. The support provided will be limited to the University tuition charges for sponsored projects.

III. Exclusions

The Department will not provide tuition support for GSRAs appointed to:

  1. faculty startup or retention funds, since it is customary for tuition support for GSRAs to be included in these agreements,
  2. laboratory recharge-related funds or other types of income generating projects, as the tuition should be raised through the income source, or
  3. other non-sponsored projects where funds for tuition are allowed, and/or if the Department is already providing cost sharing (e.g. Associate Professor Support Fund).

The Department will not fund additional candidate tuition for courses taken in excess of the “one free” allowed by Rackham policy.

Approved March 2016.
References:
ORSP Website Link to GSRA Tuition Policy
Revisions:
11/27/17 Added III.b.
5/26/2020 Formatting only.

PhD Time to Degree Extension

Time to candidacy can be extended 1-2 semesters with Graduate Chair approval and commitment of tuition funds by the research advisor in excess of the post-candidate tuition.

Approved by the Earth and Environmental Sciences Faculty at 01 February 2017 Faculty Meeting
References:
Revisions:

Request Degree Extension for Graduate Students (COVID)

This is a temporary policy effective until Sept 2021

In response to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on graduate degree progress, the Department will work to provide support for extended degree timelines for those students in need of it.

In response to queries from Rackham, the Department articulated our plan for funding graduate students amidst the pandemic in November 2020. The plan is here: EARTH_ETTD_responses.docx

In order to assess the needs of our graduate students during the pandemic, the Associate Chair for Graduate Studies (ACGS) will query faculty and students mid-term each semester about funding plans for the upcoming semester. This follows our pre-pandemic practice but we will expand the query to ask about pandemic specific effects, adding emphasis on the need for advisors and students to discuss these plans together.

If a student needs additional tuition or stipend support to extend their degree beyond the amount normally allowed by departmental policy, due to situations related to the pandemic, the student’s advisor should make a request to the ACGS with the following:

  1. Explanation of the circumstances that have resulted in the need for more time to complete the degree.
  2. Description of the status of degree progress, including completion of chapters and progress still needed on the remaining chapter(s).
  3. Timeline for deliverables needed for the student to complete their degree, including a defense date.
  4. Formal mentoring plan that will help the student meet these deliverables; plan must include the methods and frequency of communications between student and advisor.

Students are strongly encouraged to work with their advisor to develop these plans. However, if this is difficult then graduate students can submit their concerns about funding or degree progress directly to the Associate Chair for Graduate Studies. In these situations the ACGS will communicate with the student’s advisor before communicating any degree extension request to the Department Chair, working with both the advisor and student to develop responses to items (1-4) above.

The ACGS will forward all requests to the Department Chair who will work with the Executive Committee to consider this request.

The Department Chair and Executive Committee will begin review of the request within two weeks of receiving it.

If there is a dispute in the Chair’s decision on the degree extension request, we will work with Rackham to resolve it. We will rely on the expedited Rackham Dispute Resolution Process, which has been established specifically to address appeals associated with requests for extended time for doctoral degrees due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fifth-Year Masters Degree

University of Michigan students who are currently pursuing an Earth and Environmental Sciences major are eligible for our fifth-year Masters program. Students who are interested in the fifth-year MS are strongly encouraged to discuss their plans with their EARTH undergraduate advisor early in their junior year. The GRE test is not required for students applying to this program. The specific credit requirements for the fifth-year MS degree are identical to the two-year MS degree and include:

  • Satisfactory completion of 24 credits at the graduate level (includes both coursework and research)
  • Satisfactory completion of 22 credits in course work (with a maximum of 4 credits in seminars)
  • Satisfactory completion of 12 credits in EARTH course work
  • Satisfactory completion of 4 credits of graduate-level cognate work; Rackham Graduate School requires a minimum grade of B- for cognate courses
  • Rackham requires a minimum cumulative grade point average of B (3.00 on a 4.00 point scale) for all graduate students.

Students can transfer up to 12 credits of graduate level courses from their U-M undergraduate education and are encouraged to do so in order to allow for sufficient time for thesis research. Note that double counting is not allowed. Graduate level courses can be transferred that were not used to satisfy any requirements for the bachelor's degree. Even if a student has credits above the 120 required for graduation, but a course was used to fulfill a specific degree requirement, that course cannot be transferred. The transfer of credit form and transfer of credit guidelines may be found on Rackham's website.

Fifth-Year MS Thesis

Students in the fifth-year MS program complete a capstone experience that synthesizes and causes reflection on their education progress. In most cases, this experience is a publishable scientific paper or a report on a research project. We require that students be engaged in active research/research experience prior to matriculation that will lead to their MS thesis. Because of the accelerated timeline, it is expected that students will make a full-time commitment to the program and will not engage in full- or part-time work or activities apart from their research. We also expect students to remain in residence until the thesis is completed, even if coursework is complete.

Application Deadline

Applications for Fall admission are due January 5, including letters of recommendation.

How to Apply

Application information may be found in the Graduate Program section of the Department's website. Applications must be completed online. Three letters of recommendation are required to be submitted online. However the GRE and TOEFL are waived for 5th year MS applicants. Admission to the 5th year MS program is competitive. Applicants are strongly advised to have completed or plan to complete the following before matriculation into the program:

  • One full year of calculus (MATH 115 and MATH 116 or equiv)
  • One full year of another science such as chemistry, physics or biology
  • Introductory statistics
  • Undergraduate research experience
  • Cumulative GPA of 3.3 or higher

Applications require a research prospectus submitted as the Academic Statement of Purpose. The prospectus should outline the motivation, goals and methods of the proposed thesis research. It should also include a timeline for completion in order to demonstrate the feasibility of the work for the one-year program. Students should also seek a supporting letter from their potential faculty advisor. Such a letter is required and should explicitly state the willingness of the faculty member to advise the student and provide the necessary research funding for completion of the MS thesis. The personal statement on the application should include a detailed description of how this degree will advance your professional goals, including specific skills and a career plan.

Adopted by Earth Tenure Track Faculty in April 2014.
References:
Revisions:
2015 - Requirements increased.

Payments to Students

Purpose

This document outlines the Department’s policies and procedures for certain types of payments to students to ensure compliance with U-M SPG 601.30 - Payments to Students for Non-employment Purposes.

SPG 601.30 applies to all payments to or on behalf of a student for academic pursuits and achievements defined as “for the purpose of aiding his/her education, study, training or research.”

The policy does not apply to reimbursement for expenses incurred while conducting University business such as: faculty and student recruiting, community outreach, temporary, GSRA or GSI employment or expenses incurred by students in connection with work on a faculty member’s project(s).

This policy does not apply to the payment of salaries, benefits and/or tuition waivers in connection with GSI and GSRA appointments or stipends, benefits and tuition waivers in connection with scholarship or fellowship awards.

Applicable Types of Awards

  1. Awards for student achievement
  2. Department-funded academic field trip expenses (excludes GeoClub field trips)
  3. Department-funded startup awards
  4. Research awards, including:
    ● Department-funded research awards (e.g. Turner research grants)
    ● Other UM-funded awards (e.g. Rackham research grants)
    ● Externally funded research awards designated for a specific student (from NSF, foundations, donors, etc.)

Disbursement Method and Financial Aid Reporting By Award Type

  1. Awards for achievement
    Awards for student achievement such as the Dorr Award, Singer Award and the GSI Award will be processed through the University Financial Aid system and will flow through the student accountas a lump sum cash award.
  2. Department-funded academic field trip expenses
    The net cost of curriculum-related field trips that are fully or partially funded by the Department will be reported as financial aid through the University Financial Aid system. The net cost is equal to the difference between the actual per student cost of the field trip and the amount paid by the student for participation in the field trip.
  3. Department-funded startup awards for new graduate students
    New graduate students are awarded startup funds that may be used for the Department’s purchase of a computer for the student’s use during their academic career and/or for other approved academic or research related expenses, up to the total amount of the award. Each student’s startup funds will be held in a project grant fund in the student’s name and may be accessed by using an associated 6-digit numeric shortcode. Funds must be used in accordance with standard University policies and procedures. The total amount of the startup award minus the cost of a computer purchased by the Department for the student’s use, if applicable, will be reported as financial aid through the University Financial Aid system. If at any time the balance of the fund is less than $200, at the discretion of the Department, the balance may be processed as an award through the University Financial Aid system and flow through the student account as a lump sum payment.
  4. Research awards
    Upon notification of a research award, the student will submit to the Department a copy of the award proposal and budget, as submitted to the sponsor, the sponsor’s award notice and a completed Student Research Award Budget form. Each student’s research funds will be held in a project grant fund in the student’s name and may be accessed by using an associated 6-digit numeric shortcode. The funds may only be used for the approved purposes as identified in the grant proposal and/or award notice and must be used in accordance with standard University policies and procedures. The student will be required to reimburse the department for any overdraft in the fund. The total award amount will be reported as financial aid through the University Financial Aid system. If at any time the balance of the fund is less than $200, at the discretion of the Department, the balance may be processed as an award through the University Financial Aid system and flow through the student account as a lump sum payment.
  5. Approved Uses for Startup and Research Funds
    Approved uses for startup and research awards may include some or all of the following:
    ● Items procured by the student, such as travel expenses, supplies, conference fees, membership dues, etc., and reimbursed by the Department, and
    ● Items procured through UM purchasing and billing systems for which a shortcode is required, such as Supplies purchased from UM strategic vendors via Purchase Order or M-Marketsite Technology purchases through UM Tech Shop (formerly Computer Showcase), Charges from UM and non-UM recharge labs (scientific tests, analyses, DNA sequencing, etc.), Charges from other UM service providers (vehicle rental, poster printing, etc.)

Other Issues

As more fully explained in SPG 601.30, financial aid award payments and expenses paid on behalf of the student by the Department under this policy may impact students who are receiving other types of financial aid.

An adjustment to the student’s other financial aid or an adjustment to the student’s overall Cost of Attendance (COA) budget may be required.

Students should contact the Office of Financial Aid financial.aid@umich.edu or (734)763-6600 for any questions related to their financial aid package.

Approved May 2012.
References:
SPG 601.3 – Payments/Reimbursements to Students for Non-Employment Purposes
SPG 507.10-1 – Travel and Hosting Expenses Policies and Procedures for Concur Users
Revisions:
9/1/2012
4/12/2022 Proofreading and formatting updates. No substantive changes.