7.0 Program Policies


Determining Program Requirements
Students are to meet the committee formation and course requirements specified for the academic year (beginning in the fall) in which they officially enter the program. All students are subject to the university, college, and program policies detailed herein as of August 16, 2010.

Admissions
All admissions decisions for the Rhetoric & Writing program are made by the Rhetoric & Writing Graduate Committee and are communicated to applicants by the director of Rhetoric & Writing. Once students are admitted, they must decide whether to accept or decline the admissions offer. Once students decide to accept the offer, they are considered to be “enrolled.” When students decide to enroll in the graduate program (usually in April or May), they should contact the director of Rhetoric & Writing for advice about registering for classes for the first year of study. Students should register for courses as soon as possible after accepting the admissions offer.

Sometimes students are admitted provisionally to the graduate program. All decisions regarding provisional admittance are made by the Rhetoric & Writing Graduate Committee. For instance, an applicant to the PhD program who has not yet completed the requirements for an MA degree might be admitted provisionally, pending successful completion of the MA by some specified date. Or a student might be required to take additional coursework in order to provide needed background for graduate work. Provisional acceptances always specify some condition that needs to be completed by a given date. It is important that the student meet those criteria by the date specified, or else the student will not be allowed to continue in the program.

Advising
MA Advising
During the first year in the program until they have formed an advisory committee, all MA students are advised by their program advisor, assigned by the R&W Program director.

By March 15 of their first year in the program, all MA students must form an advisory committee. (See “MA Advisory Committee” in Sections 2.0 and 3.0.) Once the student files her/his plan of study for Master’s work (which lists the advisory committee director and members), the chair of the student’s guidance committee serves as the student’s advisor.
Students should consult regularly with their advisor–at a minimum of two or three times per year (and more often if circumstances warrant).

Students who fail to form a guidance committee by the end of their first year are considered not to be making satisfactory progress. (See Section 5.0 Academic Performance Standards.)

PhD Advising
During the first year in the doctoral program until they have formed an guidance committee, all PhD students are advised by the Rhetoric & Writing Program director.

By March 15 of their first year in the program, all doctoral students must form a guidance committee. (See “PhD Guidance Committee Formation” in Section 4.0.) After the student files her/his plan of study for doctoral work (which lists the guidance committee chair and members), the chair of the guidance committee serves as the student’s major advisor. Students should consult regularly with their advisor–at a minimum of two or three times per year (and more often if circumstances warrant).

Students who fail to form an Advisory Committee by the end of their first year are considered not to be making satisfactory progress. (See Section 5.0 Academic Performance Standards.)

Coursework
Pass-Fail Courses
Courses that are being counted toward fulfilling the degree requirements may not be taken on a pass-fail basis (or credit-no credit basis) unless the courses are only offered on this basis.

Independent Study Courses
Students may take an independent study course to explore a specialized topic for which there is no current MSU course. (Independent study courses should not be used as substitutes for existing courses.) The student needs to find a faculty member willing to sponsor the course, and the course material and number must be graduate level. Guidelines for independent study courses can be found here.

The student and the sponsoring faculty member apply to do an independent study course by filling out the form. The request must be approved by the sponsoring faculty member, the student’s academic advisor, the graduate director, and the associate dean of CAL. Note that the request must specify number of credit hours, what work will be completed for the independent study, how it will be evaluated and graded, how often the student and sponsoring faculty member will meet, etc. Students should save a copy of the form for their own records, and must file a copy of the request form with the graduate secretary.

Graduate Assistantships
Graduate assistantship is a generic term referring to financial support of graduate students that results in a stipend and compensation, and for which performance of defined duties is expected. A variety of graduate assistantships, fellowships, and funding opportunities is available to graduate students in the Rhetoric & Writing program, depending on the student’s level of professional and instructional experience. Typically, PhD students are admitted with the promise of at least a four-year assistantship or fellowship package. MA students are usually admitted without an assistantship package; however, the program can help MA students locate support for their studies.

Assistantship reappointments are based upon satisfactory academic performance (see Section 5.0 Academic Performance Standards for details), position performance, and availability of funding (see the Forms and Links page).

For a list of the assistantships offered by the graduate school see the Graduate Assistantships page.

Appointment Responsibilities
According to the Graduate Employees Union contract (see the Forms and Links page), the academic year encompasses two appointment periods: August 16-December 31 and January 1-May 15. During each appointment period, a graduate assistant’s responsibilities require an average of 10 hours per week for a quarter-time appointment, 20 hours per week for a half-time appointment, and 30 hours per week for a three-quarter time appointment.

Anticipated distribution of duties over the weeks of a semester should be communicated to the graduate assistant by the appointing unit at the time of appointment. To the extent that current policies and procedures contain provisions about wages, benefits, or other terms and conditions of employment, they are, for teaching assistants included in the collective bargaining unit, subject to negotiations with the Graduate Employees Union/American Federation of Teachers.

Summer appointments are determined under a different budget category, are fewer, and are advertised by the department in January on the department’s website.

Assistantship Levels
The following levels of assistantships have been contractually established by the Graduate Employees Union (GEU):

Graduate Assistants, Level 1. These graduate students have a bachelor’s degree and have less than one year’s experience as graduate assistants or as full-support fellows. They teach, do research, or are assigned such supervised duties as reading and grading papers.

Graduate Assistants, Level 2. These graduate students have a relevant Master’s degree, or equivalent, and/or one year’s experience as graduate assistants or as full-support fellows in the appointing department or school, or in a unit considered relevant by the chair of the appointing department or school. They teach, do research, or perform administrative tasks with moderate supervision.

Graduate Assistants, Level 3. These graduate students have a relevant Master’s degree, or equivalent, and have at least two years’ experience as graduate assistants (or equivalent experience at the faculty level) in the appointing unit or in a unit considered relevant by the chair of the appointing unit. They teach, do research, or perform administrative tasks with minimum supervision.

Advancement to the rank of Graduate Assistant Level 3 is on a merit basis, with the above prerequisites being considered minimal. Within the range established for the University, the stipend depends on the qualifications of the individual and on the availability of funds in the appointing unit.

Graduate Assistantship Eligibility Policy
The College of Arts & Letters mandates that each graduate program in the College will have in practice a policy that limits the total number of semesters of Graduate Assistantship eligibility, and that ties eligibility for assistantships to progress toward the degree.

For MA students in Rhetoric & Writing

  1. Students are eligible for graduate assistantships within the program for a maximum of 4 semesters (not including summer).
  2. Students who have exhausted their assistantship eligibility may be given an assistantship if such are available after assistantships have been given to all normally qualified and eligible candidates.
  3. A student who is not making satisfactory progress to the degree is not eligible for an assistantship.
  4. Academic-year funding provided by fellowships or other achievement awards will not count towards the number of eligible semesters.

For PhD students in Rhetoric & Writing

  1. Students are eligible for graduate assistantships within the program for a maximum of 6 semesters (not including summer) prior to passing their comprehensive exams (core and concentration). Students who do not pass their comprehensive exams at the end of 6 semesters are not eligible for assistantships within the program again until the semester following successful completion of exams.
  2. Upon successful completion of comprehensive exams (core and concentration), students are eligible for graduate assistantships within the program for an additional four semesters.
  3. Students who have exhausted their assistantship eligibility may be given an assistantship if such are available after assistantships have been given to all normally qualified and eligible candidates.
  4. Students who are not making satisfactory progress to the degree are not eligible for an assistantship.
  5. Academic-year funding provided by fellowships or other achievement awards will not count towards the number of eligible semesters.

R&W Program Expectations for Graduate Assistants (GAs)
GAships are subject to the policies and evaluation procedures of the units in which they are appointed. GAs are expected to observe the following norms of professional behavior established by the R&W graduate committee and enforced by the graduate director:

Expectations of TAs in the First-Year Writing Program
TAs are expected to:

  • participate in an orientation workshop scheduled during the two weeks before fall semester classes begin;
  • teach a version of the first-year writing curriculum that aligns with program learning outcomes;
  • participate in weekly mentoring meetings in the first year of teaching;
  • work with a mentor to design an individualized mentoring program after the first year of teaching;
  • attend curriculum and teaching workshops;
  • contribute to the knowledge of their colleagues as they gain experience by leading conversations and workshops;
  • be observed periodically by mentors and colleagues;
  • observe the teaching of their colleagues;
  • comply with the provisions of the University Code of Teaching Responsibility;
  • submit a teaching portfolio at the end of the year;
  • receive a letter of evaluation from the program director or mentor at the end of the year.

Expectations of GAs with Assignments Other than FYW

  • The faculty member(s) with whom a graduate assistant is working should clearly specify the assistant’s duties and responsibilities at the start of the semester, or at a time sufficiently in advance of the date of expected completion.
  • Assistants should be available for work for the number of hours specified from the start of the contract to the end of the semester (the last day of the final exam week).
  • Assistants should report to the person(s) to whom they are assigned at the start of contract, usually during the week prior to the beginning of the semester.
  • Assistants have the responsibility of reporting to the person(s) to whom they are assigned at least once per week.
  • Inability to perform assigned duties should be communicated immediately to the faculty member directly or through the departmental office.
  • Compliance with the provisions of the University Code of Teaching Responsibilities is necessary.
  • The student will receive a written evaluation from the supervising faculty at the end of each semester.

Violations of These Expectations
Violations of the above expectations and norms will be detailed in written evaluations of the students at the end of each semester. The graduate director of Rhetoric & Writing will review these evaluations when making decisions regarding the recommendation of students to assistantship positions. The director may at that time write a warning that indicates the violations of expectations, or may choose not to forward a recommendation for retention in that position.

Fifth-Year Graduate Assistantship for PhD Students
Typically, admitted doctoral students receive a graduate assistantship package providing them with four years of support. Exceptions to this general rule are UEF/UDF fellowship packages and Writing Center fellowship packages, which provide five years of support.

If a student has not yet completed her/his degree work after four years of funding, the program will make every effort to assist that student in securing a graduate assistantship for the fifth year. Funding priority will be given to those who have been doing excellent professional and academic research and teaching, and who are closest to finishing their degree work. However, fifth year students are only considered after those students in their first through fourth years.

Externally Funded Fellowships
Receipt of externally funded fellowships by students who have written their own grant applications and worth at least $20,000 (direct costs) now makes students eligible for in-state tuition rate. The in-state tuition rate applies only to the semesters during which the student is supported by the fellowship. This policy applies only to grants funded through a competitive process by a U.S. institution, agency, or foundation. Funds obtained through non-competitive processes (e.g., need-based fellowships) or from international sources do not qualify students for in-state tuition rates. For more information contact The Graduate School in 110 Linton Hall.

Teaching Assignments Other Than First-Year Writing
Occasionally, opportunities to teach courses other than first-year writing arise — these include teaching in WRAC’s professional writing program or teaching an undergraduate course in the English department or the Residential College in Arts & Humanities as well as other units. When those opportunities are available, they will be announced on the R&W grad student lists. Students should follow the application procedures required in those announcements.

English Language Proficiency for International TAs
MSU international teaching assistants who are not native speakers of English are required to demonstrate that they meet a minimum standard of fluency in spoken English before they can be assigned teaching work that involves oral communication with undergraduate students. TAs may meet this requirement by achieving any one of the following:

1. A score of 50 or higher on the Test of Spoken English (TSE), given by the Educational Testing Service. Any person who signs up and pays a fee to the Educational Testing Service is eligible to take the TSE. The TSE is given regularly on campus and internationally. At their own expense, students may take the TSE as many times as they wish. Test dates, registration procedures, and a TSE practice test are posted on the Educational Testing Service home page at http://www.ets.org.

2. A score of 50 or higher on SPEAK, given by the English Language Center (ELC). SPEAK is given free of charge to eligible students at MSU by the ELC. Students have four opportunities to meet the university’s requirement. To be eligible to take SPEAK on campus, students must have regular admission and must have proof of TA status. Students who are being considered for a teaching assistantship must submit a SPEAK request form to the ELC signed by their department or program. Students who do not receive a sufficient score on SPEAK in a given attempt must wait at least two months before re-testing. A SPEAK test practice tape and booklet (call number TAS000#25) are on reserve at the Audio Visual Library (4th floor west wing, Main Library).

3. Taking English 097 (the ITA Speaking and Listening Class) and getting a score of 50 or higher on the ITA Oral interview (ITAOI). The ELC gives the ITAOI free of charge to eligible students at MSU. Students have four opportunities to meet the university’s requirement on the ITAOI.

Appeal Procedure by Review Board
If a student obtains a 45 on SPEAK or a 45 on the ITAOI and the student’s department feels the test result inaccurately reflects the student’s speaking ability, the department may ask a Review Board to independently evaluate the student’s spoken English. This Board will consist of (a) a departmental representative, (b) two ELC representatives, and (c) a representative of the Graduate School. The graduate director of the student’s department or program must request the review on the student’s behalf. The Review Board may grant interviewees a full or partial waiver to teach. They may also refuse to allow interviewees any waiver.

Assignments for TAs Who Fail to Meet the University English Requirement
If a TA does not receive the minimum university score on SPEAK or the ITAOI, the student’s department has the option of giving the TA a work assignment that does not involve direct oral communication with undergraduates.

Conflicts & Grievances
If a student has a disagreement or a conflict with an instructor, administrator, or another student, or feels that in some way her/his academic rights have been violated, s/he should attempt to resolve that conflict directly with the person(s) involved through informal discussion.

If the issue remains unresolved despite this effort, the student may contact the University Ombudsman (www.msu.edu/unit/ombud) to discuss procedures, rights, and remedies at the appropriate level.

Every unit on campus is required to have a formal, written grievance policy for students:

The WRAC Academic Grievance Hearing Procedures for Undergraduate and Graduate Students may be found in Appendix A of the departmental bylaws (revised 2012).

The College of Arts & Letters policy may be found here.

Each of these policies stipulates that any point the student may file a formal, written grievance for consideration by a hearing board at the appropriate level.

For disputes about a final grade received in a course, students must initiate the process by speaking to the instructor no later than the mid-point of the semester following the one in which the grade was received (excluding summer terms).

Research on Human Subjects
Students whose research for the PhD dissertation or MA thesis will involve human subjects must submit an IRB (the University Committee on Research in Human Subjects) application to the MSU Human Research Protection Program.

Approval of the research protocol must be received before beginning to collect data from subjects. The student’s advisor or committee chair will be designated the responsible project investigator on the IRB application, and the student will be designated an additional investigator for the project.

Examples of research involving human subjects include interviews, telephone or mail surveys, behavioral or educational testing, and observation of individual or group behavior. Surveys, case studies, ethnographies, usability studies, and observations of human action all require approval by IRB.

We recommend that all doctoral students and all Plan A Master’s students take the online IRB seminar available at http://35.8.104.116:591/ucrihs/ucrihs_tutorial/ in order to become acquainted with the regulations and ethics regarding treatment of human subjects in research projects.

Requirements for Formatting Dissertations & Theses
There are very specific and detailed requirements for formatting dissertations and theses. See http://grad.msu.edu/thesisdissertation/formattingguide.aspx.

Guidelines for Submitting Dissertations & Theses
A list of requirements for submitting the dissertation or thesis is available at http://grad.msu.edu/etd/.

The new publishing agreement for theses/dissertations with ProQuest now provides an Open Access Publishing Option as an alternative to the traditional publishing option available to our students. The Open Access option gives ProQuest the authorization to make the electronic version of the document accessible to all via the internet, including the selling of the document by commercial retailers and the accessibility to the work via search engines. A student selecting the Open Access option will not be eligible to receive royalties. The pros and cons of selecting this new option differ significantly across disciplines. For more information, go here.

Requirements for Completing the Degree
Degree candidates must complete an Application for Graduation early in the semester in which they plan to graduate. The online graduate application form is available at http://www.reg.msu.edu/StuForms/GradApp/GradApp.asp. For further instructions, see http://grad.msu.edu/graduation.

If a Committee Chair Leaves MSU
In the rare event that a graduate student’s guidance committee chair leaves MSU before that student completes her/his degree, the student will be required to find a new major professor–ideally, another member of the student’s committee who is familiar with his/her project. (In the case of PhD students, the departing faculty member may be retained as a fifth member of the committee.) In such events, all effort will be made to insure the student’s program proceed as smoothly and efficiently as possible.

Personal Leave Policy
This policy is designed to address leave from coursework and scholarly obligations required by the program. Graduate students, who also hold teaching assistantships, should consult Article 18 of the GEU Contract for policies governing them as employees of Michigan State University.

General Guidelines
If a student will miss a class period or two (for any of the allowable reasons referenced below), s/he should inform her/his guidance committee chair and all course instructors as promptly as possible so that arrangements for completing missed coursework may be made. Every effort will be made to assist the student in making up missed work, but the final responsibility for completing missed work in a timely fashion rests with the student.

If a student will be missing from the program for more than a week, s/he should also inform the program director and request a formal leave of absence from the program. In event of such a leave, the student shall have the right to return to the program, within the dates of the current appointment, at such time as s/he is able to resume the required program of study.

If a leave occurs while a student is taking a comprehensive examination, the student’s Guidance Committee chair should consult with the program director about how to best restart that component of the exam process.

Allowable Reasons for Leave
Illness, Injury, or Pregnancy: In the event that a graduate student is unable to attend courses because of illness, injury or pregnancy.

Religious Observance: It is university policy to allow graduate students to observe those holidays set aside by their chosen and practiced religious faith.

Professional Conferences: It is the policy of the program to encourage graduate students to attend professional and scholarly conferences.

Adoption & Parental Leave: In the event that a graduate student is unable to attend courses because s/he adopts a child or becomes a mother/father by birth.

Bereavement: In the event that a graduate student is unable to attend courses because s/he experiences a death in his/her immediate family.

Jury Duty: In the event that a graduate student is unable to attend courses because s/he is assigned jury duty or is subpoenaed to provide court testimony.

Military Service: In the event that a graduate student is unable to attend courses because s/he is called to do military service.

Research Leaves
Leaves of absence in order to pursue scholarship and research directly pertaining to a graduate student’s thesis or dissertation may be granted in some circumstances. Recommendations for such leaves originate in a request letter from the graduate student and a supporting letter from that student’s guidance committee chair. Leaves from the program do not generally extend for more than one year.

Outside Work for Pay
Graduate students who hold half-time graduate assistantships (either teaching assistantships or research assistantships) at MSU may not hold full-time employment elsewhere. At times, students may find it necessary to work additional hours beyond their assistantship assignments. TA and RA assignments typically require 20 hours of work per week. Working too many additional hours beyond the assistantship can interfere with progress toward the degree. For this reason, we strongly recommend that students limit the number of extra hours they work while they are holding an assistantship so as not to jeopardize their performance in courses or their progress toward the degree. As a general guideline, four to eight additional hours per week over and above assistantship duties is close to the maximum; anything over ten additional hours per week is probably too much.

Departmental Resources
WRAC provides the following support for TAs teaching courses in the department: assigned office space, a mailbox, a desk, and a desk chair, and access to a computer and software necessary for teaching. WRAC TAs have access to copying services to support their teaching assignment. The same is generally true for research assistants who are Rhetoric & Writing students. The graduate director also works with WRAC to provide space for those graduate students who hold AAGA Fellowships in the first year of their program, and for University Fellows in the first and final fellowship year of their doctoral program.