Graduate students should take extreme care to make sure that they meet the minimum academic standards required by the Graduate School, by the College of Arts and Letters, and by the graduate program in Rhetoric & Writing. Failure to meet these minimum academic standards has a range of consequences, ranging from loss of travel support, to loss of teaching or research assistantship, to dismissal from the program. Below are listed the standards for the Graduate School, the College, and the Rhetoric & Writing program–and then the overarching standards for maintaining good academic standing.
Graduate School Standards
A 3.00 cumulative grade-point average in the degree program is the minimum University standard, but colleges, departments, or schools may establish a higher minimum standard. However, attainment of the minimum grade-point average is in itself an insufficient indicator of potential for success in other aspects of the program and in the field.
The guidance committee and academic unit are jointly responsible for evaluating the student’s competency (as indicated by, e.g., grades in core and other courses, research performance, and development of professional skills) and rate of progress (as indicated by, e.g., the number of courses for which grades have been assigned or deferred).
Written evaluations shall be communicated to the graduate student at least once a year, and a copy of such evaluations shall be placed in the graduate student’s file. A student whose performance does not meet the standards of quality will not be permitted to continue to enroll in the degree program, and appropriate action will be taken by the college, or department.
Graduate Assistants in the College of Arts & Letters
A graduate assistant in the College of Arts & Letters must:
- maintain a cumulative grade-point average of at least 3.25;
- accumulate deferred grades (identified by the DF-Deferred marker) in no more than 8 credits in courses (excluding 899 and 999 credits).
If at the end of a semester a graduate assistant fails to meet one or both of the requirements specified above, the graduate assistant shall receive a warning and be allowed to hold the graduate assistantship for one additional semester. If at the end of the additional semester the graduate assistant has failed to meet one or both of the requirements specified above, the graduate assistantship shall be withdrawn.
R&W MA Program Standards
Students must maintain a cumulative GPA of at least 3.50 in all graduate courses. A student may accumulate no more than 6 credits with a grade below 3.0 in courses taken for the purpose of satisfying the degree requirements.
R&W PhD Program Standards
Students must maintain a cumulative GPA of at least 3.50 in all graduate courses. A student may count toward the degree only those courses in which the student has received a grade of 3.0 or higher. A student may accumulate no more than 6 credits with a grade below 3.0 in courses taken for the purpose of satisfying the degree requirements. A student who fails the comprehensive examinations, the pre-dissertation examination, or the final oral examination in defense of the dissertation may repeat that examination only once, during the following semester.
Maintaining Good Academic Standing
For students to remain in good academic standing, they must make satisfactory progress toward their degree completion. There are time limits for both MA and PhD programs.
Time Limits for the MA Degree
The time limit for the completion of the requirements for the Master’s degree is six (6) calendar years from the date of enrollment in the first course included for degree certification.
Time Limits for the PhD Degree
All three of the comprehensive examinations must be passed within five (5) years and all remaining requirements for the degree must be completed within eight (8) years from the time a student begins the first class at Michigan State University that appears on her/his doctoral program of study.
Application for extensions of the eight-year period of time toward degree must be submitted by the department for approval by the dean of the College of Arts and Letters and the dean of the Graduate School. Upon approval of the extension, doctoral comprehensive examinations must be passed again.
Satisfactory Progress Towards Degree
In addition to these time limits, students are expected to make “satisfactory progress” toward completion of their degree–i.e., complete required coursework and exams, and complete the dissertation/thesis (if applicable) according to the general timelines established by the program. If a student falls too far behind the expected timeline for completion of a degree, the guidance committee should warn the student about this problem. Failure to make satisfactory progress could result in loss of teaching or research assistantships (which typically require satisfactory progress toward degree as a condition of employment).
PhD Candidates (ABD)
Good academic standing for doctoral students is assessed during the Annual Review process. We expect doctoral students to complete their degree in 4-5 years, depending in part on their funding arrangements and the nature of their dissertation research.
As part of the PhD pre-dissertation exam, it is expected that doctoral students will present a work schedule that will be approved by their guidance committee during the oral portion of that exam defense. This schedule will, at the very least, match research goals and dissertation production to specific milestones and dates.
Once doctoral students attain candidacy (after having successfully defended a dissertation prospectus) they should continue to make satisfactory progress toward completion of the degree. To make “satisfactory progress,” candidates must meet the following minimum standards:
- maintain regular contact with the chair of their doctoral guidance committee and provide regular updates to the other committee members;
- meet research and materials production deadlines as outlined in the timeline or file the appropriate amendments to the timeline with the guidance committee via the chair;
- meet all requirements associated with their graduate assistantship (e.g., graduate teaching assistants must meet with mentor groups);
- meet a minimum standard of delivering at least one chapter per calendar year that is reviewed and approved by the guidance committee.
Restoring Academic Good Standing
If at the end of a semester a graduate student fails to meet the GPA requirement, or accumulates an excessive number of DF and I grades, or in any other way fails to meet the standards for progress and for academic good standing in the program (as determined by the graduate director or by the student’s committee), the student shall receive written warning that details the options for restoring good academic standing.
Students may respond to this warning in writing to the chair of the committee and/or the graduate director. The student must remedy the problem within one semester following the one in which the problem occurred. (For example, if the student’s GPA falls below a 3.5 in spring, the student has until the end of the following fall semester to bring his/her GPA to the appropriate level).
Grades of DF and I
Graduate students may not accumulate more than eight (8) credits total of DF and I (excluding 899 and 999 credits) and remain in good academic standing in the program. In general, the program discourages students and faculty from using the DF grade. The DF should only be used under extraordinary personal circumstances that prevent a student from completing course requirements. If a student simply needs extra time to complete a course, the grade of I should be used. See the university rules for use of the I: “Agreement for Completion of (I) Incomplete“.
Additionally, when a student takes a DF, the required coursework must be completed and a grade reported within six (6) months (with the option of a single six-month extension). If the required work is not completed within the time limit, the DF will become U-Unfinished and will be changed to DF/U under the numerical and Pass-No Grade (P-N) grading systems, and the DF/NC under the Credit-No Credit (CR-NC) system. This rule does not apply to graduate thesis or dissertation work.
Each part of each exam at both the MA and PhD levels (and each question of the take-home portion) will be graded on this scale: High Pass, Pass, Fail.
On any given exam, a student must pass the portfolio and both questions in order to pass the overall exam. A student who fails any of the comprehensive exams has the opportunity to retake the exam once during the following semester.
For the PhD concentration exam and for the PhD pre-dissertation exam, an additional grade option is “Revise and Resubmit.”
The guidance committee must provide the student with their evaluation of each exam within two weeks of receiving it. Students are responsible for submitting the exam to each guidance committee member in an accessible format.
In order to receive a pass, the exam should:
- show in-depth knowledge of the given topic or issue, as well as familiarity with the readings being discussed;
- show that the student understands the topic deeply and is acquainted with how the field approaches the topic (as prompted by the exam questions or topics);
- show that the student has the ability to assess the topic or issue critically, to evaluate and compare approaches, to synthesize diverse views, and/or to contribute to the field’s understanding of the topic or issue;
- be appropriate for its audience and its purpose; and
- be well organized, clear and fluent.
An exam evaluated as high pass should:
- consistently show expert knowledge of the given topic or issue, as well as in-depth familiarity with and understanding of the readings being discussed;
- show that the student understands the topic exceptionally well, thoroughly, and is acquainted with how the field approaches the topic;
- show excellent command of the subject including the ability to assess the topic or issue critically, to evaluate and compare approaches, to synthesize diverse views, and to contribute to the field’s understanding of the topic or issue;
- be of such high quality that the student could submit it to a scholarly journal or that the writing could be used as a model for other students to emulate.
A fail indicates that a portion of the exam is significant flawed in the previously stated standards for passing.
A student who fails the core, the concentration, or pre-dissertation exam has the opportunity to retake the exam once. In such cases, the guidance committee decides which portions of the exam must be retaken and reports that decision to the graduate director. All failed exam components must be retaken by the end of the following semester. For instance, if the student fails the exam in spring semester, the student would have until December of the following fall semester to make up the exam. There are no appeals in this process.
Dismissal from the Program
While we are willing to extend a second chance to students who are in violation of the program’s academic standards and/or the program’s ethical expectations (see details above and in Section 6.0LINK Ethical Expectations), we are obligated by the Graduate School to provide explicit conditions for dismissal of graduate students in our program.
The conditions for dismissal from the Rhetoric & Writing program are as follows:
- a cumulative GPA below 3.5 for two consecutive semesters (as stated previously, students are warned when this occurs the first time and given one additional semester to remedy the problem); or,
- more than eight (8) credits total of DF or I grades for two consecutive semesters (as stated previously, students are warned the first time this occurs and are given one additional semester to remedy the problem); or,
- violation of the guidelines for appropriate professional conduct outlined in Section 6 Ethical Expectations (for the specific sequence of warnings in relation to such instances, see “Consequences of Unethical/Dishonest Scholarly/Research Practices and Inappropriate Professional Conduct” in Section 6); or,
- a second failure of the core, concentration, or, the pre-dissertation examination, or the oral defense of the dissertation; or,
- failure to re-take a previously failed comprehensive examination, the pre-dissertation examination, or the oral defense of the dissertation examination in the semester following that initial failure; or,
- failure to make satisfactory academic progress as articulated in the criteria suggested for evaluation in the Annual Progress Report section above; or,
- the finding that a student is not making satisfactory progress is made by the student’s advisor and/or guidance committee (students are warned after the first semester in which this occurs and are given one additional semester to remedy the problem).
After all the appropriate warnings and second-chance procedures have been exhausted, the student will be informed of his/her dismissal from the program by the graduate director. At that time the University Registrar will be informed that the student is no longer enrolled in the program.