Dissertation Committees: Graduate School Policy on Departing Faculty

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The Graduate School policy on the role of retired faculty is governed by the overall authority and responsibility of the GSC to watch over the academic affairs of graduate students.  Departed faculty, emeritus or not, are no longer voting members of the GSC.  The role of the graduate school is to ensure that decisions with regard to the outcome of a graduate student's academic program are made by a dissertation committee comprised of a majority of voting GSC faculty.

The base rule on dissertation committee membership specifies a minimum of three voting members of the GSC, including the supervisor, plus a minimum of one person who is not a member of the GSC for the graduate program. 

Functionally, a faculty member on the dissertation committee of a student in candidacy prior to departure may continue as an ongoing member of the committee for as long as it takes to get the dissertation defended and approved—up to one year.  After one year, the departed faculty has the same status as a committee member not on the program’s GSC.   Specific rules for status of departed faculty are as follows.

Departing Supervisors

  1. The departing supervisor of a student in candidacy can continue as sole supervisor only under the following conditions:  a) the defense of dissertation is officially scheduled prior to the last day of faculty employment; and b) the scheduled date of defense is within one month of the last day of faculty employment.
  2. If the conditions in #1 above are not met, a new supervisor must be chosen from the voting GSC faculty. The new supervisor is listed as Supervisor and the departed faculty is listed as Co-Supervisor. If the dissertation is not completed and successfully defended within one year of the last day of faculty employment, the Co-Supervisor relinquishes that title and takes on the status of a non-GSC committee member.

Departing Committee Members

  1. A committee member for a student in candidacy prior to the last day of faculty employment may continue to serve as if they were a voting GSC representative for one year from the last day of faculty employment.  After one year, the departed faculty takes on the status of a non-GSC committee member.

Overall Requirements

  1. A minimum of three voting GSC faculty, including the supervisor, is required at all times, regardless of the status of the departed faculty.  If the faculty departure reduces voting GSC membership on the committee below three, then an additional voting GSC member must be added to the committee.
  2. A departed faculty member cannot serve as Supervisor, Co-Supervisor or as if they were a voting GSC committee member for a student whose candidacy is approved after the last day of faculty employment.  (Stated differently, a faculty member not of voting GSC status at the time of application for candidacy cannot serve as Supervisor, Co-Supervisor, or as if they were a voting GSC member.)  Status in this case is limited to service as a non-GSC committee member.

    In the past, we've seen a number of issues with committee members who have left the university, with emeritus status or otherwise.  The longer the period since leaving the university, the higher is the probability of a problem occurring for the student.

    When a faculty member leaves the university, his/her students and all committee members should be made aware of the above policy.  The student, with the assistance of the Graduate Adviser and GSC Chair, may select a new committee if the conditions for participation of the departed faculty as a supervisor or co-supervisor are not met.  The policy-appropriate committee changes, if approved by the Graduate Adviser, should be submitted by the Graduate Adviser to the Graduate School on the form "Petition for Change in Doctoral Committee."

Flexibility at the One-Year Point (4/15/13)

The following deviation from the policy may be pursued on behalf of the student.  Current policy is that co-supervisors and GSC committee members become non-GSC committee members at one year after the last date of employment.  If the status of the student's dissertation at the one-year-out point is such that completion is to occur in the near short term—no more than a couple of months—the GSC may vote to petition for continued GSC committee member status for the one-year departed faculty.  The petition will include a recorded vote of the GSC, detailed statement of the status of the dissertation, steps required for completion, and estimated completion and defense date.  The petition is submitted over the signatures of the GSC Chair and the Graduate Adviser.  The Graduate School will determine whether to grant the petition.

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