Graduate Student Rights & Responsibilities


Graduate students play an integral part in the ability of the university campus to provide the breadth and quality of educational experiences expected of a Carnegie RU/HA (Research University with Higher Levels of Research Activity) institution. Graduate student supplement and complement the teaching and research activities of the faculty, and in doing so allow the faculty to engage more students in individualized instructional opportunities. They also provide the institution with an ability to more rapidly adjust the educational opportunities to meet student needs and preferences that can be accommodated for by the faculty alone. It is important that the campus community recognize and support the important role played by graduate students in enabling the campus to address its research, teaching, and outreach mission.

A major purpose of graduate education at The University of Memphis is to instill in each student an understanding of and capacity for scholarship, independent judgment, academic rigor, and intellectual honesty. Graduate education is an opportunity for the student to develop into a professional. Graduate research and teaching assistantships offer an "apprenticeship" experience in the academic profession as well as financial support. It is the joint responsibility of faculty and graduate students to work together to foster these ends through relationships that encourage freedom of inquiry, mentoring, demonstrate personal and professional integrity, and foster mutual respect. This shared responsibility with faculty extends to all of the endeavors of graduate students, as students and as members of the larger academic community.

Each right of an individual places a reciprocal duty upon others, the duty to permit the individual to exercise the right. The graduate student, as a member of the academic community, has both rights and duties. Within that community, the graduate student's most essential right is the right to learn. The University of Memphis has a duty to provide for the graduate student those privileges, opportunities, and protections which best promote the learning process in all its aspects. The graduate student also has duties to other members of the academic community, the most important of which is to refrain from interference with those rights of others which are equally essential to the purposes and processes of the University. While this document is not legally binding, violations of the standards contained within may serve as grounds for filing grievances through the existing University procedures. It is also acknowledged that situations may arise which this document is not able to foresee or prevent, and in such cases this document should be viewed as a guideline and as a set of minimum standards. Some of the standards contained within are already specified as rights or responsibilities of students in existing official university literature and are restated here to ensure that graduate students are aware of such standards.

The following principles illustrate what graduate students should expect from their programs and what programs should expect from their graduate students to help achieve this excellence:

I. Graduate Students Have the Right:

  • To be respected as individuals and as developing professionals.
  • To matriculate through the degree programs in a timely fashion.
  • To an advisor.
  • To be provided with clear degree requirements.
  • To have progress towards their degree objectively evaluated by the appropriate faculty members.
  • To reasonable confidentiality in communications with professors, defined as:
    • When the graduate student had an expectation of confidentiality AND
    • When a reasonable person in the same situation would have an expectation of confidentiality.
  • To only perform tasks that are related to their professional/academic development or within the confines of a contractual obligation or relevant assistantship duties.
  • Not be discriminated against on the basis of race, gender, disability, religion, socioeconomic status, age, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.
  • To due process regarding grade appeals, grievances, or issues before Judicial Affairs.
  • To student representation in decisions regarding curriculum and program development.
  • To be appropriately recognized for significant contributions to the research process and publications.
  • To sufficient supervision when appointed as a Graduate Teaching Assistant or Graduate Research Assistant.
  • To petition for a change in advisor/major professor or thesis/doctoral committee membership at any point in their academic career without incurring any undue future negative academic/social consequences as a result of this change, with the exception of academic scheduling.
  • To be informed in a timely fashion about a change in their advisor or committee members' status as it relates to their thesis/dissertation completion or research agenda.
  • To expect professional interaction from faculty, staff, and peers.

II. Graduate Students Have the Responsibility:

  • To read pertinent catalog/website information and college/departmental handbooks regarding successful completion of courses, forms (e.g., intent to graduate and candidacy), composition of masters and doctoral committees, comprehensive and qualifying examinations, and theses/dissertation defenses.
  • To acknowledge the contributions of faculty members in their scholarly presentations and publications.
  • To conduct themselves in a manner befitting their professional area of study
  • To matriculate with integrity through the degree in a timely fashion.
  • To take the initiative to ask questions and access information about degree requirements, program completion, and financial arrangements.
  • To inform appropriate faculty members in a timely fashion about any changes in program status, advisor, or committee membership.
  • To familiarize themselves with the university and college level student codes of conduct.
  • To follow all University policies and procedures when conducting research, including those specified by the Institutional Review Board and the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee.
  • To interact with faculty in a professional and civil manner.
  • To behave in a professional and appropriate manner in class.

Approved 03/04/05