George Mason University (“Mason”) strives to promote a collegial, transparent, and productive environment for our faculty and graduate students. Mason is committed to providing graduate students with a welcoming, safe, and professional environment in which to work and study that is free of exploitation, intimidation, and harassment.
Graduate students are members of a scholarly community. They should be treated in a civil, collegial, and respectful manner by faculty and staff and should likewise treat faculty and staff in the same way. This document provides guidance regarding the expectations for interactions between faculty and graduate students in order to work towards that goal.
Additionally, per University Policies 1201, 1202, and 1203, Mason is committed to preventing discrimination based on any of the protected classifications described in those policies. Nothing in this document shall be construed as being contrary to or inconsistent with Mason policies or procedures or applicable laws, nor does it create any legal rights. Colleges, Schools, and Departments may have additional guidelines to suit domain-specific needs.
For the purposes of this document, graduate students are defined as full-time or part-time students pursuing a Master’s degree or Doctoral degree, as well as students pursuing a postgraduate diploma or certificate.
I. Expectations of Graduate Students:
Graduate students are expected to:
- Adhere to all College/School and University policies and procedures.
- Treat Mason faculty, staff, and other students in a respectful and collegial manner.
- Devote an appropriate amount of time and effort, consistent with guidance from their local academic unit, toward completing the advanced degree within the allotted time.
- Uphold ethical norms in any research and scholarship undertaken and provide accurate and honest reporting of research results, research methodology, and scholarship in accordance with Mason policies on research integrity.
- Attend new student orientations offered through a student’s program, College/School and/or Mason.
- Proactively solicit academic and/or professional guidance from faculty and staff as needed.
- Proactively participate in any assigned mentor-graduate student relationship.
- Comply with the Code of Student Conduct and the Honor Code.
II. Expectations for Faculty and Graduate Program Administrators Working with Graduate Students
a. Educational Experience and Degree
Consistent with the Student Code of Conduct and DHRM policy 2.35, Civility in the workplace, civility is the responsibility of all members of the Mason community. Graduate students should be treated in a respectful and collegial manner by Mason administrators, staff, and faculty. Discussion of any student among academic colleagues should be of a professional nature, should focus on the student’s academic success and well-being, and should not be made in a discriminatory or derogatory manner.
Graduate program administrators should ensure that students are provided with the requirements of their respective academic or professional development program. Graduate students shall not be exploited or be coerced into performing tasks unrelated to the requirements of their individual academic or professional development program or those described in their assistantship/employment agreements. Graduate students may refuse to perform tasks unrelated to the requirements of their individual academic or professional development program or described in their assistantship/employment agreements without the fear of reprisal.
Graduate program administrators should inform graduate students (prospective and currently enrolled) at the outset of their program of the published time limit for degree completion, advancement to candidacy (as applicable), and the “average time to degree” for their respective program.
Graduate program administrators will publicly post information regarding generally available opportunities and financial support including grants, awards, scholarships, fellowships, assistantships, and their selection and eligibility criteria. It should be expected that local academic units may offer funding opportunities directly to graduate students upon program admission.
Graduate program administrators and faculty should respect graduate students’ religious beliefs and should commit not to violate such practices in the performance of their work in the graduate program.
Faculty should recognize graduate students as co-authors and co-owners of scholarly works and intellectual property to which they have made a substantial contribution of ideas or research work regardless of other benefits or compensation that may have been provided. Faculty should give graduate students due credit and recognition for innovation(s) and intellectual and/or creative ideas developed by the student.
Faculty should give graduate students due credit and recognition for curriculum developed by the student, including but not limited to instructor on record, acknowledgement on syllabi, and other accepted academic norms.
Faculty mentors are encouraged to provide any assigned doctoral and/or thesis advisees an academic evaluation at least once per year. All faculty are encouraged to provide feedback concerning a graduate student’s academic performance and progress towards an advanced degree as appropriate. Specifically:
- Although students are responsible for knowing Mason rules, regulations, requirements, administrative policies and Academic Policies, faculty are encouraged to notify graduate students of deficiencies in their academic performance. This notification may be provided through grades or other means. When appropriate and if remedial measures are possible, faculty and program administrators are encouraged to provide recommendations and requirements needed to remedy their deficiencies.
- It is encouraged that evaluations of student academic performance and progress be as factual and specific as possible and be shared with the graduate student within a reasonable period of time.
Faculty and/or graduate programs are encouraged to provide doctoral students a written evaluation of performance on qualifying and comprehensive examinations, upon unsatisfactory performance or upon request, when such exams are required by the degree program. In the event of major examination failure or other unsatisfactory performance, it is encouraged to provide reasoning for such assessment in a clear, written evaluation to the graduate student.
When a local academic unit intends to terminate a student from a graduate program for academic reasons, they must proceed in accordance with guidelines and policies established by Mason (including Graduate Policies, Academic Termination AP.6.6.2) and, if applicable, academic programs.
- Local academic units should have public guidelines for the termination of a graduate student from an academic program.
- Local academic units should make publicly available the description of the academic exception request and appeal process by which a graduate student may challenge the academic program termination.
b. Advising, Mentorship, and Guidance
Advising, mentorship, as well as academic and professional guidance, that is offered by faculty and/or graduate program administrators to graduate students is expected to be respectful.
- Academic advisors and mentors and those graduate students assigned to them are encouraged to coordinate to ensure that the students receive regular feedback and guidance concerning their academic performance and professional development through a mutually agreeable schedule of conferences.
- Graduate students should have their progress toward achieving an advanced degree evaluated through criteria that are understood by the graduate advisor and students. Guidance and feedback are encouraged to be factual and specific, and shared with the student within a reasonable period of time. For doctoral programs, as well as those master’s programs that require a thesis or capstone project, administrators and assigned mentors/advisors are encouraged to consider having annual written progress report(s) required of students with a response from the assigned mentor and advisor.
As applicable, graduate students should be provided with accurate information when selecting a committee/dissertation chair and other members of their thesis/dissertation committees. The process by which students select a chair and members of thesis/dissertation committees should be made publicly available to students.
If a graduate student wishes to change their committee or dissertation chair, then the local academic unit will work with them to find an appropriate alternative faculty member, if possible. Moreover, if a graduate student’s committee or dissertation chair leaves Mason once the student’s work is underway, the local academic unit will work with the student to find an appropriate alternative faculty member to serve as a new committee or dissertation chair.
III. If Expectations are Unmet
If a graduate student feels that another member of the university community is not meeting the above-described expectations, they are encouraged to first speak with their advisor, mentor, program director, local academic unit representative(s). If the student feels that the aforementioned persons cannot address their concerns then they may approach their Associate Dean for Graduate Academic Affairs regarding their concern(s). If a faculty member or graduate program administrator feels a graduate student is not meeting these expectations, they are encouraged to first speak with their Associate Dean for Graduate Academic Affairs or other appropriate office/position. If the faculty member or graduate program administrator feels that this office cannot address their concerns then they may approach the Office of the Provost regarding their concern(s).
If necessary, students, faculty, and/or graduate program administrators may utilize the appropriate university channels or formal procedures for reporting conduct that is inconsistent with University policies or this document, including:
- Program Directors or equivalent: all concerns related to program policies and degree requirements or conduct of other students
- Department Chairs or equivalent: all concerns related to course delivery, instructors, staff, and academic/research facilities
- Compliance, Diversity, and Ethics: issues relating to protected class discrimination (Title VII) or gender/sexual misconduct (Title IX and sexual or interpersonal misconduct report form)
- Disability Services: for reasonable accommodation due to a disability
- Employee Relations: treatment of a graduate teaching assistant, graduate research assistant, graduate professional assistant and graduate lecturer by faculty and staff
- Office of Research Integrity and Assurance: issues relating to research misconduct o Please refer to University Policy 4007 for issues related to research misconduct
- Contact firstname.lastname@example.org: For issues regarding online courses or programs
- For additional information regarding informal or formal complaint procedures at Mason, see University Policy 3016 or visit https://complaints.gmu.edu.