Graduate School

Ensuring Independence of Opinions in Evaluation of Graduate Students

Policy Statement

The University is committed to protecting the educational interests of students and maintaining an open and transparent environment in the evaluation of students. Faculty in close personal relationships (see definition below) should not be members of the same graduate student’s committee. If there are compelling reasons such that two (or more) faculty in a close personal relationship are recommended as members of a student’s committee, the relationship must be disclosed during committee formation (or when advisors are named if the co-advisors are the faculty in the relationship), a rationale for including these faculty on the committee must be included, and a management plan must be developed for the committee.

Policy Requirements

This policy applies to graduate students who require a committee to evaluate any portion of their academic work, including, but not limited to, their dissertation, thesis, report, practicum, qualifying examination, or research proposal examination.

The close, personal relationship must be disclosed at the time of committee formation or, if the faculty in the relationship are co-advisors, when advisors are named. When disclosure is made a rationale for including these faculty on the committee must be provided, and a management plan for the committee must be developed.  For an advisory committee, this information will be included on the Advisor and Committee Recommendation form.  For other committees, the program should follow their regular procedure for committee formation. The management plan will be filed with and approved by the Graduate School.

Graduate program directors, department chairs (if applicable), college deans (if applicable) and the Dean of the Graduate School (for advisory committees) will weigh both the rationale and management plan when making a decision as to whether to approve the formation of the committee.

Neither of the faculty in a close personal relationship may be the sole external member of the advisory committee.

Purpose

Evaluation of graduate students’ work is one of the most important responsibilities for a member of the graduate faculty. Considering this responsibility and the hierarchical nature of the faculty-student relationship, it is critically important that these evaluations be fair, independent, transparent, and free from conflict of interest. To that end, in any case in which Michigan Tech faculty members in close, personal relationships participate together on a student’s committee, care must be taken to ensure that there is no actual or perceived conflict of interest.

Scope

This policy applies to committees that evaluate graduate academic work.

Contacts

Nancy Byers Sprague             487-2755

Definitions

Close, personal relationships include (but are not limited to) marriage, domestic partnership, parent-child, and siblings.

A committee in this policy is any committee formed to evaluate graduate student academic work. This includes, work such as their dissertation, thesis, report, practicum, qualifying examination, or research proposal examination.

The advisory committee provides guidance as a student conducts an original research project.

The purpose of the management plan is to ensure that students are not negatively impacted. It describes potential conflicts that may arise and the arrangement for handling any such conflicts that do arise.  In drafting a management plan, items that could be considered (this is not an exhaustive list) include who the primary advisor is, how to resolve conflicts between the student and committee members, how students will register for research credits/courses, and/or who will be responsible for providing timely written feedback to the student.

Responsibilities, Procedures

Graduate students must be aware of this policy when considering committee members.

Faculty serving on committees must be aware of this policy and must disclose close, personal relationships when the committee is formed.  They must also develop a rationale for the committee selection and a management plan for the committee.

Graduate program directors must be aware of this policy and will review prospective committees to ensure that close, personal relationships are disclosed, the rationale is appropriate, and a reasonable management plan has been developed. Graduate program directors are responsible for approving advisory committee recommendations.

Department chairs and college deans must be aware of this policy and will review prospective committees (where appropriate for the unit’s procedure) to ensure that close, personal relationships are disclosed, the rationale is appropriate, and a reasonable management plan has been developed.  This individual, or designee, is responsible for ensuring that the management plan is followed.

The Dean of the Graduate School, or designee, is responsible for being aware of this policy, answering questions about implementation of this policy, and reviewing and approving prospective advisory committee recommendations.

History

Effective date: July 1, 2020

Approved by Graduate Faculty Council: January 14, 2020