Understanding Your Graduate Experience
Dear Graduate Student,
Our fondest wish is for you to be successful in completing all the requirements for your chosen graduate certificate or degree. We recognize that this scholarly endeavor will require much time and energy from you over the next several years. Please be assured that we will be available to help you earn this most prestigious academic award from UCF.
The purpose of this handbook is to aid you in understanding the context of graduate education at UCF. The goal is to provide you with resources, information, practices, and polices that will help you in navigating the graduate experience.
While we have made every effort to include all of the requirements, policies, and procedures that relate to graduate study in this handbook, we also recognize that, from time to time, it will be necessary to revise, add, or delete certain of these items. Accordingly, while we believe that this handbook is both complete and accurate, any errors or omissions are subject to the appropriate University, college, or department policy, which take precedence over the language of this handbook. Further, we reserve the right make changes, as required and appropriate, through customary university governance procedures.
Finally, this handbook is not intended to be used in isolation, but rather in association with other university documents relevant to the completion of your certificate or degree. Another central resource for you is the Program Handbook for the degree or certificate you have enrolled and the Graduate Catalog.
We hope you enjoy and grow from this academic adventure.
Staff and Administration
UCF College of Graduate Studies
This Handbook is intended to familiarize graduate students with the procedures, policies, and expectations of the University of Central Florida Graduate programs from a general institutional perspective. Students should refer to their relevant Program Handbook for more specific graduate information. By reading, understanding, and adhering to the information provided in this document, students may be better equipped for success. This handbook is also designed to help you when you face challenges along your educational path.
Further and in support of the Mission Statement and the principles on which it is based, the University of Central Florida is committed to equal opportunity for all students, staff, and faculty and to nondiscrimination in the recruitment, admission, and retention of students and the recruitment, hiring, promotion, and retention of graduate faculty and staff. UCF reaffirms its commitment to personnel and educational policies that comply with the requirement applicable to equal opportunity/affirmative action laws, directives, executive orders, and regulations to the effect that no person at the University of Central Florida shall, on the basis of age, color, creed, disability, ethnic/national origin, gender, military status, pregnancy, race, religion, or any other class protected by applicable law, be excluded from participating in, or be denied benefits of, any employment or educational opportunity.
We also recognize differences among groups of people and individuals based on ethnicity, race, socioeconomic status, gender, exceptionalities, language, religion, sexual orientation, and geographical area. As an institution, we design, implement, and evaluate curriculum and provide experiences for graduate students to acquire and demonstrate the knowledge, skills, and professional dispositions necessary to help all students learn. This all happens through institutionalized shared governance infrastructures. It is through these shared governance procedures and through relevant institutional policies that we strive to maintain and achieve educational equality.
Role of the College of Graduate Studies
The College of Graduate Studies serves several major roles as it relates to graduate education at the University of Central Florida.
- Provide quality control and institutional oversight for all aspects of graduate education at UCF and establish policies and standards that define best practice in all graduate programs, high quality in curriculum, and excellence in student selection.
- Improve the quality of our programs through a variety of mechanisms, including providing funds to recruit the best and most diverse students, conducting regular reviews of programs, and giving special attention to the promotion of diversity and intellectual collegiality in each of our programs. We pay regular attention to the special needs and issues that pertain but are not limited to international students, students from underrepresented groups, and women in certain disciplines. The Graduate School also assumes an important role in promoting integrity in research and scholarship through courses in ethical conduct of research.
- Serve as the primary advocate for the need of graduate students to be students, so that any service roles they may serve in the university to obtain financial support will be treated as secondary to their need to have time and adequate resources to engage in graduate study. The Graduate School works hard to find the financial and intellectual resources that enable students to successfully complete their degree programs in a timely fashion.
- Play an active role in supporting all aspects of graduate student life, including those that are not precisely academic in nature. We recognize that the quality of a student’s overall life experience while in graduate school is critical to successful completion of graduate training and to a lifetime of work that can make good use of that training. The Graduate School works with student groups and support offices to promote the interests of graduate students in areas such as financial aid, health care, and counseling. The Graduate School also provides professional development opportunities to explore academic and nonacademic career prospects for recipients of graduate degrees.
- Serve as the main institutional body that oversees and approves all elements related to the matriculation of graduate students in their relevant programs of study. This includes such procedures as monitoring GPA standing, academic appeals, student conduct, and graduation clearance.
Commitment to Diversity
The College of Graduate Studies is dedicated to and benefits from a student population diverse in background, culture, socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, and work and life experiences that contribute to a fuller representation of perspectives within the academic life of the university. As part of a larger institutional commitment to promoting a diverse student body, we encourage applications from all sectors of society, including prospective graduate students whose life experiences may include the challenge of access due to a disability. In support of this graduate context, we are also actively working toward establishing and utilizing holistic review of all our graduate applicants. Research shows that this admissions practice increases the diversity of the graduate applicant pool.
As part of our long-standing commitment to increase the diversity and quality of our graduate student body as per our institutional missions, the College of Graduate Studies works to:
- Enroll a student population whose family income reflects the distribution of the region.
- Enroll a student population that reflects the demographic distribution of the region.
- Enroll students from traditionally underrepresented groups.
- Establish efforts through graduate education to solve significant community challenges such as hunger, homelessness, public health, or quality of life.
- Develop university activities and partnerships that can diversify the region’s economy.
- Provide students with sufficient funding to complete their graduate studies in a timely manner.
UCF also adheres to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), as amended by the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act of 2008, in prohibiting discrimination against any qualified individual with a disability. Any student with a disability may voluntarily self-report the nature of the disability and identify needed accommodations to the Office of Institutional Equity.
For detailed information regarding admission procedures and classifications, please refer to the Admissions material in the Graduate Catalog.
For detailed information regarding registration procedures and classifications, please refer to the Registration material in the Graduate Catalog.
Standards of Conduct and Responsibility
These standards of conduct cover expectations specific to The College of Graduate Studies. Graduate Students are also bound by a set of university-wide policies that are applicable to all academic communities within the University of Central Florida. Alleged violations of these policies by graduate students are addressed using procedures established by the College of Graduate Studies.
The University of Central Florida expects and will require the cooperation of all its students in developing and maintaining high standards of scholarship and conduct.
Students are expected to meet academic requirements and financial obligations in order to remain in good standing. Certain non-academic rules and regulations must also be observed. Failure to meet these requirements may result in summary dismissal by the appropriate officer of the university.
The university wishes to emphasize its policy that all students are subject to the rules and regulations of the university currently in effect or which, from time to time, are put into effect by the appropriate authorities of the university. By accepting admission, graduate students indicate their willingness to subscribe to and be governed by these rules and regulations and acknowledge the right of the university to take such disciplinary action, including suspension or expulsion, as may be deemed appropriate for failure to abide by such rules and regulations, or for conduct deemed unsatisfactory or detrimental to the university.
UCF, as a community of scholars, strongly relies upon the standard of academic integrity. Plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty represent a corruption of this integrity and, as such, cannot be tolerated. Ignorance of what constitutes academic dishonesty is no excuse for actions which violate the integrity of the community. In a community that builds on the notion of academic integrity, the threat of academic dishonesty represents an intolerable risk.
Students and organizations are responsible for the observation of all policies and rules. Students have a responsibility to keep informed of all rules, regulations, and procedures required by the program and the university, so please read this student handbook and the Graduate Catalog carefully to ensure you have a good experience at UCF.
Some of the basic responsibilities of a graduate student are of a more general nature and apply to all students at UCF and they are:
- Maintain appropriate student conduct as outlined in the Golden Rule.
- Comply with university regulations as established in the Golden Rule, the Graduate Catalog, and this handbook and in other university publications and local, state, and federal laws.
- Cooperate with university officials acting in an official capacity within established guidelines.
- Maintain ethics in the conduct of research.
- Do not download materials indiscriminately that avoids licensing fees.
- Maintain classroom decorum appropriate to the educational environment.
- Maintain a Knights Email account and use it often to officially communicate with the university. Also, notify the university of an emergency email address and cell phone number to be used in a campus crisis.
The following list describes some specific responsibilities for you as a graduate student.
- Provide honest information on the graduate application and in all resumes and other materials that reflect your history.
- Create a program of study by the second semester if you are a full-time master’s student and the third semester if a full-time doctoral student, or the equivalent time period for a part-time student.
- Meet regularly with your faculty adviser, if you are engaged in a research program.
- Take care of all transfer work by the first term in a new degree program.
- Make satisfactory academic progress by not delaying important exams.
- Comprehensive exams should be taken in the second year for master’s students. Most master’s students should graduate in 2 years if full-time and 3-4 years if part-time.
- Qualifying exams should be taken in the first year to year and a half for masters students. Candidacy exams should be taken in the third year for doctoral students. Most doctoral students should graduate in 4-5 years.
- Make up any incompletes in a timely manner.
- Let the university know if you are discontinuing your graduate program or are requiring a (non)medical leave of absence. Also, do not walk away from your courses in the middle of the semester. These courses will more than likely be recorded as “F” grades and this may haunt you if you should try to attend graduate school elsewhere or reenter graduate school here.
- Take responsibility for your education and your experiences. You want to receive the education that will prepare you to be the professional you aspire to and this means gaining the breadth and depth of knowledge in your discipline and related disciplines. It is important to get outside of your department, to talk with others, to network with professionals or those at other institutions that are interested in similar research. Take time to attend seminars, workshops, and other events. Be sure to present your research at appropriate venues. Be prepared and willing and able to discuss your research with other graduate students and faculty.
- If you plan to become a professor, then you must teach as part of your graduate education and you must learn to document your teaching experiences. You also need to learn to teach an online course and there is training available to do this through the Center for Distributed Learning.
- Maintain professional behavior as an instructor, avoiding harassment, favoritism, and conflict of interest and maintaining professional behavior with regard to student records.
- Behave with integrity and professionalism, including referencing work obtained from others. This is most problematic in your thesis or dissertation where failure to keep organized records of where you obtained information can lead to problems with citations when the time comes to write your work.
- Let the university know if you are leaving an assistantship earlier than the agreement period.
- Disclose to the Office of Research and Commercialization any original work that is potentially patentable made in the course of university-supported efforts.
The Graduate Catalog has a broader description of student conduct and information in the General University Polices.
Students should review the Golden Rule Student Handbook for information on conduct regulations and related procedures and resources. Published annually by the Office of Student Conduct, the Golden Rule Student Handbook describes university standards for students regarding their conduct in the university community and their rights and responsibilities.
And in particular, for graduate students, Appeals of Graduate Program Actions or Decisions (Regulation UCF-5.017) outlines academic performance and grievance procedures.
Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities
The UCF Creed is: Integrity, scholarship, community, creativity, and excellence are the core values that guide our conduct, performance, and decisions.
The Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities (OSRR) promotes a campus climate of integrity, civility, accountability and student well-being by providing a wide array of resources, education, and support services for the university community. The OSRR office is comprised of: Student Conduct, Integrity and Ethical Development and Student Care Services.
Student Care Services
Integrity and Ethical Development
The Graduate Environment: An Overview
A primary objective of graduate education at the University of Central Florida is to prepare the next generation of professional, scholarly, and educational leaders. In order to achieve this, we seek to instill in each student an understanding of and capacity for scholarship, independent critical judgment, academic rigor, and intellectual honesty. It is the joint responsibility of faculty and graduate students to work together to foster these ends through relationships that encourage freedom of inquiry, demonstrate personal and professional integrity, and foster mutual respect.
High-quality graduate education depends upon the professional and ethical conduct of both faculty and students. The graduate education to which we are committed, moreover, encompasses at least four separate components:
- Experience in a variety of learning opportunities relative to your program of study;
- Development of an individual research agenda or exposure to the research in your chosen field of study;
- Opportunities for professional career development; and
- Active participation in a disciplinary or professional community.
Each party in the graduate process – faculty, graduate students, your graduate department or program, and the College of Graduate Studies – has particular responsibilities in ensuring the achievement of these primary academic designs.
Graduate Faculty Members/Advisory Committees
Members of the graduate faculty serve a variety of critical roles as model teachers and researchers, as well as graduate student advisers and mentors. These faculty provide intellectual guidance in support of the scholarly and pedagogical efforts of graduate students, and are responsible for ongoing evaluation of graduate students’ performances in academic and research activities. As mentors and advisers, faculty are responsible for assisting graduate students to discover and participate in appropriate channels of scholarly, professional, and disciplinary exchange; and for helping students develop the professional research, teaching and networking skills that are required for a variety of career options, both within and outside academia.
Graduate students are responsible for working toward completion of their degree programs in a timely manner. It is expected that graduate students in all programs will gain expertise in a particular area of study and, especially in PhD programs, seek to expand the knowledge of that disciplinary field by discovering and pursuing a unique topic of scholarly research. As professionals-in-training, graduate students should learn how to impart disciplinary knowledge through appropriate forms of instruction and publication, and how to apply that knowledge to particular business, industrial, and social problems. Where appropriate for their career trajectories, graduate students should seek out and utilize in their own teaching the best pedagogical practices.
The Graduate Department/Degree Program
The graduate degree program bears primary responsibility for publicizing specific and accurate guidelines and procedures governing study in the discipline. It should
- provide all incoming and enrolled students with a clear structure of the expected stages of progress towards the degree(s);
- offer a curriculum and appropriate forms of instruction necessary to ensure timely completion of that degree;
- provide specific details regarding likely career opportunities for those seeking the degree; and
- provide students with accurate information about the costs they will incur in graduate study and realistic assessments of future prospects for institutional and other forms of financial support.
This information should be included in written guidelines that are given to all students in the program. These guidelines should also spell out normal departmental and university processes for dealing with student grievances, as well as processes for assessing students’ satisfactory progress toward the degree.
The Graduate School
The Graduate School is responsible for general oversight of graduate programs. It must
- maintain, through periodic review and assessment, the highest standards of quality in all degree programs;
- evaluate graduate curricula to assure that they are equipping students with the knowledge and skills required for a broad array of postgraduate careers;
- provide resources to attract the very best graduate applicants; and
- provide both financial and other mechanisms to ensure that graduate student life is not one of ongoing struggle, isolation, and penury.
In its efforts to ensure quality in all aspects of graduate education, the College of Graduate Studies should provide clear and appropriate avenues of redress wherever particular faculty or student experiences fall short of the expectations articulated in this document.
In the individual sections below, we have tried, in more itemized fashion, to specify particular expectations we believe appropriate for each component of the graduate community at the University of Central Florida. We have organized these expectations loosely under four general categories:
- Graduate research
- Graduate teaching and/or training
- Graduate students’ professional development/progress toward degree
- The academic community
Expectations of Graduate Faculty
- To provide intellectual guidance and rigor on students’ educational programs and specific research projects
- To provide students with knowledge of the current frontiers and opportunities in disciplinary and inter- or cross-disciplinary research
- To provide appropriate guidelines, including expected timetables, for completion of research projects, and to respect students’ research interests/goals and to assist students in pursuing/achieving them
Teaching and Training
- To encourage and assist students in developing teaching and presentation skills, including course development, lecture preparation, classroom communication, examining and grading
- To provide sound intellectual guidance on disciplinary research methods and the historical knowledge bases of the discipline or the profession
- To evaluate student progress and performance in a timely, regular, and constructive fashion
- To serve, when requested, as an informed academic adviser and a nurturing professional mentor to graduate students in training, and, where appropriate and desirable, in students’ post-Ph.D. careers
Professional Development and Program Progress
- To encourage student participation in scholarly activities, including conference presentations, publications, professional networking, grant writing, and applying for copyrights and patents
- To prepare students to enter the job market with requisite professional skills, with an appropriate range of professional contacts, and with a realistic view of the current state of that market, both within and outside of academy
- To assist students, where appropriate, in joining collaborative projects in accordance with the accepted norms of the discipline, and to provide TA’s and RA’s with meaningful professional experiences
- To avoid assignment of any duty or activity that is outside the graduate student’s academic responsibility or harmful to his or her timely completion of the degree
- To be fair, impartial, and professional in all dealings with graduate students in accordance with university policies governing nondiscrimination, harassment of all sorts, and normative standards of confidentiality
- To create, in the classroom or the laboratory, an ethos of collegiality so that learning takes place within a community of scholars
- To create an environment that openly discusses laboratory or departmental authorship policies and that prizes and acknowledges the individual contributions of all members of a research team in the publications or presentations of its research
- To avoid all situations that could put them or their students in positions of any conflicts of interest
Expectations of Graduate Students
- To work responsibly toward completion of the degree in a timely fashion
- To learn the research methods, ethical dimensions, and historical knowledge bases of the discipline
- To communicate regularly with faculty mentors and the masters/doctoral committees, especially in matters relating to research and progress within the degree program
- To discover and pursue a unique topic of research in order to participate in the construction of new knowledge in the chosen field and application of that knowledge to new problems/issues
- To exercise the highest integrity in all aspects of their work, especially in the tasks of collecting, analyzing, and presenting research data
- To obtain appropriate training, compensation, and evaluation for all instructional roles graduate students are asked to take on
- To acquire an appropriately sequenced variety of teaching opportunities relevant to their career expectations and likelihoods
- To devote the same seriousness to undergraduate or graduate instructional duties that they would expect from their own instructors
Professional Development and Program Progress
- To develop, to the extent possible, a broad network of professional relations
- To contribute, wherever possible, to the discourse of the scholarly discipline through conference presentations, publications, collaborative projects, and other means
- To seek out a range of faculty and peer mentors that can help them prepare for a variety of professional and career roles and responsibilities
- To take responsibility for keeping informed of regulations and policies governing their graduate studies and to complete all required paperwork and other degree obligations in a timely fashion
- To create, in their own classrooms and laboratories, an ethos of collegiality and collaboration
- To realize their responsibilities as individual and professional representatives of both the university as a whole and the department or program in which they are studying
- To assist graduate student peers in their own professional and scholarly development
Expectations of Graduate Departments and Programs
- To provide appropriate resources, both faculty and facilities, that allow students to complete their education and research in a timely and productive manner
- To ensure that faculty committees treat all students fairly and assess their work in thoughtful and informative ways consistent with the practice of the field
- To ensure the highest standards of academic quality in all aspects of the graduate program, from admission of new students to the quality of work accepted as fulfilling the requirements of the master’s or PhD degrees
Teaching and Training
- To provide pedagogical training appropriate to and regular assessment of the GTA assignments given to graduate students
- To provide clear expectations to students on their responsibilities as GTA’s or GRA’s
- To provide all students with a thorough description of the requirements and qualifications necessary for academic employment, training, or financial support at the university
- To provide all students with accurate information about the costs they will incur during the course of their graduate study and realistic assessments of future prospects for financial support
- To provide a range of teaching opportunities relevant to likely career prospects
- To provide, where necessary, appropriate mechanisms to help acculturate international students to academic life in this country and at this university
- To ensure that an appropriate range of introductory and advanced courses are offered at the graduate level for students in all disciplinary sub-specialties
- To ensure that degree regulations and procedures, including those pertaining to required course work; qualifying, preliminary, and final examinations; and thesis/dissertation guidelines, are regularly published and made available to all program students and faculty
- To ensure that graduate students receive periodic and constructive assessment of their progress toward degree. PhD students are required to receive an annual review of their progress toward degree completion
- To ensure that all prospective and currently enrolled students are informed of normative time to degree and attrition rates within the program
Professional Development and Program Progress
- To provide all students with a range of activities—colloquia, seminar, and guest lecture series, workshops, conference presentations, internships—that allow for their own professional development
- To provide constructive annual reports on the satisfactory progress of students toward the degree
- To provide all students with realistic and accurate statistics on placement of program graduates
- To encourage students in assessing career options and in preparing for a variety of job markets
- To ensure a collegial learning environment in which faculty and students work together in mutual respect and collaboration
- To ensure appropriate levels of academic support for graduate students and faculty
- To provide specific mechanisms for appeal or complaint when standards of collegiality or fairness may have been violated
Expectations of the Graduate School
- To facilitate, where possible, promotion and publication of graduate student research through research grants, conference travel grants, and other centrally administered mechanisms
- To serve as the institutional site of periodic review of all academic units, particularly of the research they conduct and the knowledge they contribute to the discipline
- To facilitate, wherever possible, development of interdisciplinary research and training programs that push the boundaries of current disciplinary fields and agendas
- To develop graduate training programs at both the Master’s and the Doctoral levels that best serve the interests of UCF faculty, prospective graduate students, and the needs of our communities at large
- To ensure that individual graduate programs offer a curriculum of graduate instruction that is both broad and deep enough to equip students with the knowledge and skills needed for the broad array of postgraduate careers they may wish to pursue
- To ensure that fair and reasonable guidelines are in place to regularize the assignment of graduate teaching and research assistantships
- To ensure that departmental recruitment and admissions policies are consistent with stated university goals of maintaining or improving the quality of graduate programs and increasing student diversity
- To ensure that appropriate mechanisms are in place, both centrally and within individual degree programs, to ensure successful acculturation of international students to academic life in this country and at this university
- To ensure, by tracking comparative data over time, that all aspects of the graduate programs conform to the highest academic standards and to provide mechanisms of redress when they fall below those standards
- To develop financial support systems that will assist students in their progress toward a degree and to ensure that this support does not involve more than a minimal amount of work that draws them away from their graduate programs, that is irrelevant to their likely career trajectories, or that does not progress to greater levels of responsibility and independence.
- To help develop support services—such as those offered by the UCF’s Pathways to Success program that enhance the professional, academic, and scholarly interests of graduate students
- To maintain and publicize comprehensive data on student completion rates, time to degree, placement in at least first professional employment, and attrition. The Graduate School should also conduct exit surveys of graduating Master’s and PhD recipients to assess the performance of graduate programs and to modify them as warranted
- To maintain a comprehensive description of the goals and expectations of individual graduate programs and to periodically compare these descriptions against graduate program data
- To develop specific avenues for faculty and student appeals of existing policies or regulation, of perceived breaches of institutional standards of fair and reasonable practice, or of violations of honor or ethical codes. These avenues should be published regularly and provided to all graduate students and faculty
Many of the rights that the university grants to you are detailed in the Golden Rule Student Handbook and Graduate Catalog (rights to privacy, assembly, appeals, etc.). All students have the right to due process. Students who believe they have been treated unfairly may initiate a grievance. The procedure provides several levels of review and is designed to provide an unbiased review of circumstances. Students should review the Golden Rule Student Handbook for information on conduct regulations and related procedures and resources.
Upon enrollment, students are entitled to the following freedoms and/or rights provided they comply with university procedures that do not result in disruption or disturbance as elsewhere described in the rules. Beyond this, the following represents some core rights you hold as a graduate student here at UCF.
- Participation in student government and its elective process.
- Membership in student organizations.
- Freedom of expression.
- Freedom to hold public forums.
- Freedom to hear, write, distribute and act upon a variety of thought and beliefs.
- Peaceful assembly.
- Fair and impartial hearing.
- Confidentiality of student records – For information about your privacy rights, please see Student Rights to Privacy (FERPA).
- Student grievances.
- Provisions for victims or survivors of acts of violence.
- Student’s rights during the judicial process.
However, there are some other rights as a graduate student you should be aware of. This section will talk about the other rights that you have that are not of a legal nature, but will improve your experiences if you are aware of them.
The Right to Change Advisers
Sometimes you may have difficulties working with your adviser. Most of the time conflict between students and their adviser stems from communication difficulties or differences in personality.
At your first meeting with your faculty adviser, you should ask how to best communicate with him/her and then always be sure to honor these preferences. Healthy debate about the field is expected and normal for your interactions with both your adviser and your advisory committee. However, sometimes differences in personality can make it difficult to accept advice or to formulate future plans for research. At this point, you may want to learn more about conflict resolution and use this approach to try to resolve the differences.
If the situation between you and your faculty advisory committee has to do with harassment or illegal matters, you must report this to your program director, the College of Graduate Studies, or the Equal Opportunities Office at once.
The most serious cases usually occur when you may seek to leave an adviser’s laboratory for another adviser, or leave the program in favor of another program, or leave the university. This scenario creates a conflict between your responsibility to your adviser or program, who may have invested time and money in you, and your right to seek a change if you become seriously disgruntled with the current arrangement.
You do have the right to change your adviser if there is an irresolvable conflict. In order to do this, please see your program director or the College of Graduate Studies for guidance on the appropriate steps to take. A problem that may arise is if you are supported by your current adviser and you require financial support to continue. Your program director can work with you to try to find alternative forms of financial support, although it is not guaranteed.
Often a student who has changed advisers goes on to do well in the program and to finish the degree.
The Right to Change Committee Members
Please see your faculty adviser or program director if you believe it necessary to change a dissertation or thesis advisory committee member.
The Right of Notice with Regard to a Graduate Assistantship
Adequate written warning must be sent to you if you are a graduate assistant and the program has already talked with you about terminating your assistantship because of incompetence or misconduct. If you have received notice in writing that your assistantship will be terminated due to these reasons, please consult with your program director about your options.
The Right to Request an Appeal
Under university rules, students may request exceptions to certain of the graduate policies. Should you wish to do so, please consult with your program director first to ascertain if an exception is allowed and if the program director will support this action. If the request is supportable and one where a petition is allowed, you may prepare the request to the Graduate Council Appeals Committee.
A general dissatisfaction with the Committee’s decision is not adequate grounds for an appeal. New information with supporting documentation that further illustrates your original explanation must be provided to the Committee for consideration. Thoroughness is extremely important to the appeal process. Be sure all additional and necessary facts are included as well as all possible sources of documentation.
The Right to Change Your Graduate Catalog Year
If you would like to change your catalog year from the time that you have entered your graduate program to a later year, please see your program director. There are usually pros and cons to this change, particularly if the program has made significant changes to the curriculum, so it is best to discuss this with your program director. Often you may want to take new courses with the new catalog year that would benefit your education experience. The university does not allow changes to the catalog year previous to the term of your enrollment.
The Right to Full Information about Financial Aid Programs
Students have the right to full information about the financial aid programs available at UCF, our application procedures and aid deadlines, and the criteria used to determine a financial aid package. Students have the right to appeal decisions made by the Office of Student Financial Assistance. Students have the right to equitable treatment of their financial assistance applications.
Although each student’s case is analyzed individually, eligibility standards are applied uniformly without regard to race, gender, religion, creed, national origin, or physical handicap. All students’ records are confidential. It is the student’s responsibility to review and understand all information and instructions, meet all deadlines, and provide all information and documentation accurately. Errors and omissions can cause delays and prevent students from receiving assistance. Misrepresentation is a violation of the law.
As much as the university tries to maintain a positive graduate education environment, there are times when challenges occur. If the need arises, students are to use the following procedures and practices to assist them in any appeal they may have.
Academic Appeals Policy
In accordance with the College of Graduate Studies Policy on Academic Appeals, the procedures outlined to ensure the protection of students’ rights and serves as a reference on procedures for graduate student academic appeals. It is the responsibility of graduate faculty and graduate administrators to ensure these policies are applied correctly. It is also the responsibility of the student, when appealing decisions based on these policies, to provide complete and accurate background information regarding each appeal. If not resolved at the respective college level, the final authority of graduate student appeals is the Dean of the College of Graduate Studies. Each appeal is reviewed individually and all decisions are based on the merits and the documentation provided.
This Policy on Academic Appeals and the appeal process described herein is to be used by graduate students for the sole purpose of appealing decisions that affect their matriculation through the graduate academic program. Non-academic disputes that do not directly affect matriculation and good standing are excluded from this process. All decisions and actions will coincide with University policy and sound academic policy governing graduate programs at UCF. Appeal procedures should not be taken lightly nor ignored. Graduate students can contact the College of Graduate Studies for any questions concerning the academic appeals process. In the end, the recommendation is to start with the least formal efforts at resolving the issues you are experiencing.
Academic Appeal Steps
It is very important when instigating an appeals process that students follow proper lines of communication. It is also strongly recommended that students keep relevant records, data, and/or correspondence that can help support you in your appeal.
For Course Grades
Step 1: Contact the course instructor.
Step 2: If the matter cannot be resolved through the course instructor, your next step is to contact the Department Chair.
Step 3: If the matter cannot be resolved through the Department Chair, your next step is to contact the Dean of the College which hosts your program.
Step 4: If the matter cannot be resolved through the Dean and his/her review committee, your next step is to contact the Dean of the College of Graduate Studies. The final decision will be made at this level.
For Dissertation or Programmatic Matters
Step1: Contact your program advisor or your dissertation committee chair.
Step 2: If the matter cannot be resolved through your program advisor or dissertation committee chair, your next step is to contact the relevant Doctoral Program Coordinator.
Step 3: If the matter cannot be resolved through the Doctoral Program Coordinator, your next step is to contact the Department Chair.
Step 4: If the matter cannot be resolved through the Department chair, your next step is to contact the Dean of your College.
Step 5: If the matter cannot be resolved through the Dean of the College, your next step is to contact the Dean of the College of Graduate Studies. The Graduate Student Appeals Committee will then adjudicate the matter.
Teaching and learning are collaborative endeavors. Just as any close relationship requires excellent communication and problem-solving skills, so do professional relationships. Every graduate candidate will inevitably encounter conflict during their preparation and should expect to encounter conflict in their professional career. Having the skills and the experience to successfully navigate conflict are an essential part of doctoral preparation. We coach students to apply “guiding principles” to a helpful “conflict resolution process” that starts with analyzing/defining the problem considering potential solutions and their affects and then deciding on a practical action.
The principles underlying conflict resolution are:
- Individuals filter experiences through personal lenses. A person’s standards or norms may be different from another person’s, resulting in different perceptions of a problem.
- Those who are in the situation can usually best solve the problem, not someone outside of the situation. If at all possible, individuals ought to talk to the person perceived to be a part of the problem, rather than to others. If needed, a person ought to first speak to an academic advisor who can offer coaching around language and ways to interact with the person.
- Most problems are best solved when addressed as soon as possible. Problems that fester are harder to solve. Consider setting up a private meeting that works well for the individuals involved.
- Most people act and talk with good intentions. Try to understand what the other person’s intentions might have been and/or assume that they may have been positive even if you did not perceive them that way. However part of problem solving includes analyzing whether intentions matched the action perceived by the other person.
- In approaching another person about a problem, it is usually helpful to be prepared to suggest several possible resolutions. In fact, a first idea may not always be the most satisfying to everyone involved.
- Individuals have a tendency to assume that the other person involved in problem solving has not listened when they do not agree. Although this is possible, it is not necessarily the case. When one feels that s/he has not been listened to, ask the other person to summarize what s/he has heard said. One may find that the person has listened but simply does not agree.
- Practice confidentiality! Resist the urge to share the issue with others not involved in the problem, including those in a university class or peers. Please know, though, that university faculty and the academic advisor are helpful mentors and “sounding boards”. They are always willing to help navigate conflict by coaching with this protocol!
- Avoid the tendency to make generalities regarding the situation (i.e.” everyone in our class feels this way”; “all of these students think and act alike”).
- When problems are well defined, resolutions follow more easily. To help define the problem consider the following process:
- Suspend judgment.
- Define the problem for yourself as clearly as you can at the point where you recognize that something is bothering you.
- Consider who/what is contributing to the problem. Consider your role in this issue.
- What is within your control and others’ control regarding the problem? If the problem is outside of yours and others’ control, practice acceptance.
- What do you suppose the other person’s interpretation of the problem is? Put yourself in the other person’s shoes.
- Now restate the problem. Are you ready to present the problem to those involved now?
UCF has provisions regarding retention of candidates in its programs. If a candidate exhibits questionable progress or behavior at any time during the Doctoral Program as determined by his/her Advisor or Dissertation Chair, his/her continued participation in the program may be in jeopardy. Examples of a candidate’s demonstration of questionable progress or behavior are:
- Being on academic probation due to having a GPA below 3.0 in the program over 9 credit hours of course work (university policy: exclusion from program).
- Failing the Candidacy Exam, Preprospectus, Prospectus, or Final Dissertation Defense after 2 attempts at each.
- Engaging in cheating, fabrication, and facilitation of academic dishonesty, plagiarism, or any other form of academic dishonesty or unacceptable student behavior at any time during the program.
- Noncompliance with Doctoral Program attendance expectations.
- Violation of Ethical Standards of the Doctoral Program or unprofessional behavior in a leadership position.
- Failure to comply with any University, College, Department, or Program standard or requirement.
The College of Graduate Studies reviews the performance and/or conduct of candidates whose continuation in the Doctoral Program is in jeopardy. The relevant program faculty will review the issue at hand and serves as an objective panel to study documents and information related to a candidate’s performance and/or conduct, and make recommendations related to the candidate’s continued participation based on the evidence submitted. The Doctoral Program Director will send a copy of written documentation of lack of progress to the candidate and invites the candidate to submit any evidence, either in person or in writing that he/she may have on the issue. If the candidate chooses to address the assigned program faculty in person, he/she may be accompanied by an advocate of his/her choice.
Recommendations by the relevant program faculty, in consultation with the candidate’s advisor and the Doctoral Program Director, may include, but are not limited to, any of the following actions:
- Remove the candidate from the program.
- Counsel the candidate to withdraw from the program.
- Suspend the candidate’s participation for a specified period of time.
- Monitor the candidate’s participation using specific measures recommended by the committee.
- Require the candidate to engage in some intervention/remediation measures, such as counseling, mentoring, remedial instruction.
- Take other action as determined appropriate by the committee.
Conflict of Interest and Commitment Statement
Conflicts of interest arise (1) when there is a divergence of an individual’s private, personal relationships or interests and his/her professional obligations to the university, or (2) when employers and employees work together but with unequal power in the relationship.
It is important to realize that as a graduate student you should not:
- Engage in an amorous relationship (consensual or otherwise) with a faculty member who is supervising you, teaching you, or likely to have academic responsibility for you at some time during your UCF tenure
- Engage in personal external activities for your employer or faculty advisor, if such involvement is coerced or presented as a quid pro quo or would conflict with your time commitments to the university
- Engage in an amorous relationship (consensual or otherwise) with a student that you may be instructing or teaching or evaluating as a graduate assistant
For the approved policy, see Conflicts of Interest on the Graduate Council website.
The National Science Foundation has now instituted a requirement that graduate students who engage in NSF- funded research must receive training and oversight in the responsible and ethical conduct of research and that this must be described in each request for funding. The National Institutes of Health have had this requirement for some time.
It is important to be familiar with what constitutes research misconduct. Since research will be a new experience for most of you, it may not be obvious or understandable in the beginning what misconduct is nor how to ensure that it does not happen to you, but it is essential that mistakes in this area are not made.
According to the National Science Foundation (www.nsf.gov/bfa/dias/policy/rcr.jsp),
Research misconduct means fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing or performing research funded by NSF, reviewing research proposals submitted to NSF, or in reporting research results funded by NSF.
Fabrication means making up data or results and recording or reporting them.
Falsification means manipulating research materials, equipment or processes, or changing or omitting data or results such that the research is not accurately represented in the research record.
Plagiarism means the appropriation of another person’s ideas, processes, results or words without giving appropriate credit.
Research, for purposes of this section, includes proposals submitted to NSF in all fields of science, engineering, mathematics, and education and results from such proposals. Research misconduct does not include honest error or differences of opinion.
Here are some other helpful sources on this topic:
Center for Engineering, Ethics, and Society
Office of Research Integrity, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Some important ideas to keep in mind are:
- Keep careful records of your data, including procedures and results, and ensure that your results are repeatable.
- Report any instance of research misconduct that you are aware of to your faculty adviser, program director or the Office of Research and Commercialization.
- Do not allow yourself or others to be listed as an author unless you have made an important contribution to the research publication.
- Always reference your sources, and particularly, when using the internet, be sure to keep the original file so that you can go back and ensure the correct reference of the source.
All fees must be paid by the Fee Payment Deadline. Graduate assistantship and fellowship students must be enrolled full time by the end of Add/Drop. The College of Graduate Studies reviews all assistantship and fellowship students for full-time enrollment requirements after Add/Drop closes and before the Payment Deadline and sends notices via e-mail to students who are not in compliance with university full-time enrollment requirements. In addition, the College of Graduate Studies continues to review assistantship and fellowship students throughout the semester to ensure they remain in compliance with university requirements to receive their financial support.
Students are responsible for completing any required assistantship hiring documents and fellowship award documents in order to assist the university in processing payments. They are also responsible for reviewing their university records (e.g., fee invoice, enrollment record, financial aid record) and reporting any discrepancies to their academic program office or the appropriate student services office.
If tuition remission (e.g., department or project payment, tuition waiver) is not recorded on a student’s Fee Invoice by the Payment Deadline, the student must pay all tuition and fees. If partial tuition remission is provided, the student must pay the remainder of the tuition owed by the Payment Deadline. Assistantship students who have questions about their tuition remission may e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and inquire about the status of their tuition remission. University fellowship students should contact email@example.com.
A student’s record may be placed on hold because of financial, academic, immunization forms or other obligations to the university. A hold will prevent the release of the student’s registration, grades, or transcripts until the student clears the obligation and the office that placed the hold removes the hold.
Each time that you enter myUCF at my.ucf.edu, the “Welcome” screen will list each of your current holds, the services that will be unavailable to you until you satisfy the hold requirements, and contact information for the office that has placed the hold. Students are strongly encouraged to work with the associated offices to resolve all holds before their registration and add/drop appointment times.
Nondegree-seeking students who are enrolled in nine or more graduate credit hours will have their records placed on a nine-hour hold. The reason for this hold is to inform you of the UCF graduate enrollment policy. If it is your intention to seek a graduate degree, you must Apply Online and be admitted to a specific graduate program.
Please visit the UCF College of Graduate Studies (Millican Hall 230) or your college/graduate program office to sign a Nine-Hour Hold Release Form.
The withdrawal period begins after late registration and add/drop ends. Students may withdraw from courses without penalty until the date noted in the UCF Academic Calendar. The official date of withdrawal is the date the withdrawal is received by the University.
Withdrawing from classes may have financial aid, NCAA eligibility, or International Visa consequences. Students should seek appropriate advisement before withdrawing from a class.
A student may withdraw from courses through myUCF at my.ucf.edu, or by visiting the Registrar’s Office (Millican Hall 161), the college advising offices, or an area campus records office.
Students may withdraw by fax at 407-823-5652. Faxed requests must be received by 5 p.m. on the last day to withdraw and must include the student’s identification number, the course(s) to be dropped and his or her signature.
Students also may send a written request to the Registrar’s Office by mail (to P.O. Box 160114, Orlando, FL 32816-0114). Requests received by mail are processed using the postmark as the official date of withdrawal.
Students who desire to withdraw in person must sign their request and show photo identification.
For further information regarding Residency matters – both initial and reclassification, please refer to the Admissions website.
Graduate Assistantships are essential to the success of the graduate programs at the University of Central Florida. The assistantship not only enables the student to complete their program of study in a timely fashion, but also affords the opportunity to be involved in full-time study at the university. Graduate assistants enliven the academic environment of the university by adding to the community of scholars within the institution. Such students further enliven the academic environment of the university by setting high standards for their fellow students and encouraging the best from their professors. The key reality is that a well-funded Graduate Assistantship program is an important component in the University’s efforts to attract high quality students.
UCF’s programs of study aim to provide students with a variety of opportunities for professional and scholarly development. Since graduate assistantships give students an opportunity to gain practical experience in teaching, research, or academic service under the guidance of a faculty member or institutional supervisor, these experiences can be a significant and challenging avenue for both professional and academic development. The central reality at UCF is that graduate assistantships are designed to reinforce and enhance their academic development. Thus, service as a graduate assistant presents a dual challenge: those who hold the position are both students and employees.
As Students – GA’s are expected to concentrate on their studies under the direction of faculty or other institutional supervisors and to make satisfactory progress toward their scholarly and professional objectives. The GA relationship should always keep this at the forefront. The GA workload should never become so cumbersome and time consuming that a student cannot excel in their program of study or the workload increases the time to degree completion. GA’s are also expected to perform well academically to retain the assistantship.
As Employees – GA’s are expected to perform their assigned responsibilities and to both progress and support the work of the unit or department in which the GA is assigned. GA’s should follow all the standard rules of professional conduct. This includes:
- being punctual and fulfilling the required work hours;
- dressing appropriately for the work of the unit;
- communicating with the supervisor and other members of the unit in a professional and courteous manner;
- making effective use of time while at work;
- following the employment policies of the university;
- completing assignments/responsibilities as given; and
- learning about departmental, college, or institutional regulations and follow them consistently.
At the University of Central Florida, our graduate programs are designed to transform the individual from student to a professional in their field of study. When a graduate assistantship is well conceived and executed, it should serve as an ideal activity to help facilitate this desired transformation. The primary goal of the assistantship is to facilitate progress toward the graduate degree. The GA process should not interfere or conflict with the student’s educational objective.
Since Graduate Assistants play an important role in the educational and work activities of the university, GA’s should be given assignments and supervision that will help them to grow academically and professionally. In this, their graduate studies and assistantship responsibilities should reinforce each other. Research projects, when possible, should work in concert with their thesis or dissertation. Teaching should give them greater insight into the content of their chosen area of study. Service responsibilities should provide an environment where the student learns more about working in a professional space. To this end, GA’s should not be asked or required to perform such tasks as getting coffee, picking up dry cleaning for their supervisor, or getting a faculty member’s kids from school. The best graduate experience will evolve from careful planning and monitoring to see that both the GA and the university benefit from the relationship.
Graduate Assistant Classifications
At the University of Central Florida, the term Graduate Assistant or GA is a general marker used to classify all the different categories of appointments available to graduate students. Note that Graduate Assistantships are only available to graduate students who have been regularly admitted to a graduate program of study. Students who have been Provisionally Admitted or are enrolled in a Certificate program are not eligible to hold a GA appointment.
Teaching Assistant (GTA)
A teaching assistantship is a graduate student who works under the direct supervision of regular faculty members and may be assigned only to duties related to instruction. These positions are classified as Graduate Teaching Associate, Graduate Teaching Assistant, and Graduate Teaching Grader (See Types of Assistantships). Some GTA’s may not have primary responsibility for a course or serve as the instructor of record, but may assist in the instructional process by serving as a discussion leader in breakout sections, grade papers, proctor exams, or assist the primary instructor of record in other ways. The department chair and graduate program director shall determine that the credentials of a student assigned a teaching assistantship to qualify the individual to assist in instruction activities.
Some teaching assistantships are for advanced graduate students who are given primary responsibility for teaching courses and may have autonomy for assigning grades and providing laboratory instruction/setup as part of a regularly scheduled course. These GTA’s must be under the supervision of a UCF faculty member that teaches in the discipline, but the student may be listed as the instructor of record. Students who have graduate teaching assignments are required to complete UCF GTA training before beginning their assistantships. International students who have graduate teaching associate or assistant positions will need to pass the SPEAK Test administered by the UCF English Language Institute before beginning their assistantships. Depending on their discipline or assignments, graduate research assistants may also have training requirements (for example, lab safety). See Graduate Teaching for more information. The department chair and graduate program director shall determine that the credentials of a student assigned as an instructor of record qualify the individual to undertake the assignment of instruction and must submit all required documentation to the College of Graduate Studies.
Research Assistant (GRA)
This assistant is a graduate student whose responsibilities fit directly within the research efforts of the assigned faculty member, program, or department. A GRA position is one that allows a graduate student to conduct research of a scholarly nature, normally under faculty supervision. Services provided by a research assistant may include, but are not limited to:
- regular maintenance and hygiene of the lab;
- the production and analysis of data;
- the development of theoretical analyses and models; and
- the production or publication of scholarly journals and research reports to develop his or her own research agenda and for the benefit of the University, Faculty, or academic staff supervisor or granting agency.
Graduate Assistant (GA)
This assistant is a graduate student who provides general administrative or service support to academic, non-academic, and administrative units within the University. The assigned duties to the GA should be relevant to the graduate program and the professional goals of the graduate student whenever possible. Work provided by the graduate assistant may include, but is not limited to:
- performing administrative assistant duties such as:
- taking meeting minutes for program level meetings
- organizing and ensuring the completion of essential program paperwork
- handling student inquiries about department degree programs
- organizing administrative details for faculty searches
- assisting program directors with the scheduling of courses for future terms
- helping a department chair with various departmental tasks
- supporting athletic programs/teams with various responsibilities
- providing key support for a variety of student services across the campus
- working for Campus Recreation and Intramurals in a variety of roles
- providing technical or graphic support to program websites or with social media
Term of Assistantship
Please note that it is essential that all university personnel follow proper procedures as it relates to the offers of Graduate Assistantships. Individuals, departments, or institutional units should NOT offer these awards verbally or in writing to a student, or tell the student that they have been recommended for a GA appointment until the student has been regularly admitted into a graduate program. Once formally admitted, an offer of assistantship may be made by the hiring unit or department.
Acceptance of an offer of financial support such as a graduate scholarship, fellowship, traineeship, or assistantship (excluding offers of admission) for the next academic year by a prospective or enrolled graduate student completes an agreement that both the student and the graduate school expect to honor. In that context, the conditions affecting such offers and their acceptance must be defined carefully and understood by all parties.
Students are under no obligation to respond to offers of financial support prior to April 15; earlier deadlines for acceptance of such offers violate the intent of this Resolution. In those instances in which a student accepts an offer before April 15, and subsequently desires to withdraw that acceptance, the student may submit in writing a resignation of the appointment at any time through April 15. However, an acceptance given or left in force after April 15 commits the student not to accept another offer without first obtaining a written release from the institution to which a commitment has been made. Similarly, an offer by an institution after April 15 is conditional on presentation by the student of the written release from any previously accepted offer. It is further agreed by the institutions and organizations subscribing to the above Resolution that a copy of this Resolution or a link to the URL should accompany every scholarship, fellowship, traineeship, and assistantship offer.
Assistantships are normally available during a given academic year meaning the Fall and Spring semesters. The standard starting date for a graduate assistant shall be one week before the first day of classes and run for 16 weeks total. The standard ending date shall be the last day of final exams.
It is noted that Graduate Assistantships are to provide an opportunity for graduate students to complete their degree in a timely manner. This is defined by a student progressing normally to degree completion based upon the standards set by the various graduate programs at the University of Central Florida. Normal progression to degree completion will vary by discipline and level of degree.
To this end, Graduate Assistants must meet full programmatic credit hour requirements during the semester in which the GA appointment is held to maintain a graduate assistantship. The specific graduate credit hour load requirement in a given semester will be defined by the program as the GA progresses through the various components of their program of study. For instance, during regular course work, a GA may need to be enrolled in nine (9) graduate credit hours in a given semester. Or during the writing of the dissertation document, a GA may need to be enrolled in three (3) graduate credit dissertation/thesis hours.
Graduate Assistantships are not meant as a support for maximum time frames to degree completion. They are awarded based on normal progression to degree completion. GA’s can contact the College of Graduate Studies regarding specifically how long Graduate Assistantships might be available for specific programs across campus.
Any exceptions to this policy such as it relates to internship requirements or extending time to degree completion standards in a given program to retain a GA appointment require a formal GA extension request to be submitted to the College of Graduate Studies.
International Graduate Assistants are mandated by Federal Law to a maximum of 20 hours of work per week. International GA’s cannot work more than 20 hours per week in the combination of the assistantship and hourly student employment.
Graduate Assistants in all their categories are required to work 20 hours (fulltime) or 10 hours (halftime) per week. Graduate Assistants should begin their work one week prior to the beginning of classes in a given semester. The appointment extends through the final exam week in both the Fall and Spring semesters. Graduate Assistants should not be asked to work during Thanksgiving Week and Spring Break Week. Graduate Assistants are also not required to work during the Winter Break. If supervisors need GA’s to work outside of these weeks, appropriate arrangements need to be made between the GA and Supervisor. Depending on the agreements, appropriate remuneration for the additional work should be addressed.
If a GA cannot work their assistantship hours for reasons out of their control, the student shall provide their supervisor – and a copy to the College of Graduate Studies – with written notice as soon as possible and when appropriate prior to the dates of the requested leave. Leave requests 20 hours and under have a greater potential of being granted. The notice needs to include the reason for the absence and the dates of the requested leave. When applicable, supporting documents should be provided. Please note that if the GA is requesting an extended leave, the GA risks losing the appointment. In these instances, the student may also incur all additional costs associated with losing the GA appointment. These matters will be decided on a case by case basis.
Jury Duty/Subpoenaed as a Witness – If a Graduate Assistant is called to serve on a jury or as a witness, and is not excused/released, the department must allow the GA to adjust his/her work schedule accordingly. Proof of jury duty services or subpoena showing dates and times of service will be required to turn into their supervisor and should be kept in the student’s personnel file in the department.
Military Service – If a Graduate Assistant is called to Active Military duty, the student is eligible for a withdrawal from the semester without academic penalty and without revocation of their tuition scholarship, if they have one. A copy of the student’s military orders will need to be provided to their supervisor and to the Graduate School in order to not have their assistantship revoked. The student would need to resign their Graduate Assistantship since they will no longer be enrolled and they are unable to fulfill their Graduate Assistantship duties.
National Guard – Supervisors/departments are expected to allow a GA to adjust his/her work schedule to accommodate National Guard duty/training.
FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) – Graduate Assistants do not meet the eligibility criteria for leave under the Family Medical Leave Act. However, students who must resign their graduate assistantship should contact the Graduate School and discuss these matters with their supervisor due to a documented FMLA-type circumstance.
Parental Support and Relief for Graduate Assistants – Graduate assistants who wish to suspend their academic responsibilities because of pregnancy, the birth, or adoption of a child may request parental support or relief during the semester in which the pregnancy, birth, or adoption occurs. This policy applies to graduate students who are current graduate assistants and who are/will be related to the child as mother or father, including domestic partners. If both parents are graduate assistants, this policy applies to both. This policy is not mandatory – if the graduate assistant chooses not to suspend academic responsibilities during the semester of the pregnancy, birth, or adoption of a child, no action is warranted.
Summary of Policy
- The Graduate Assistant must be currently enrolled in an academic program, and in good academic standing.
- The Graduate Assistant shall provide his/her supervisor with written notice not less than thirty (30) days prior to the date of the requested leave, if practicable. In the case of unforeseen/emergency circumstances only, to the extent reasonably possible the graduate assistant must give a verbal notice to his/her supervisor at least twenty-four hours prior to taking leave.
- The Graduate Assistant must provide medical or legal documentation of the birth or adoption to his/her supervisor.
- Prior to taking the leave, to the extent reasonably possible, the Graduate Assistant must make all arrangements with course instructors regarding making up coursework during the time of the leave.
- If a student takes a leave from their assistantship due to Parental Support leave, their stipend will be prorated based on the duration of their leave.
- Students who must resign their graduate assistantship before the end of the eighth week of classes due to Parental Support leave will not be counted as receiving a semester of support for the purposes of determining a number of semesters of support.
- If a student is receiving a tuition scholarship, the scholarship will be retained by the student, who will complete all course requirements as determined in item #4 above. If the student withdraws from courses, the student may be required to repay the scholarship amount, as described in current Graduate Assistantship policies.
- The graduate student who remains enrolled shall retain full access to library services, computing services including e-mail and myUCF, health center, sports and performing arts activities, and on-campus housing during the semester of leave, provided the necessary financial obligations are satisfied. If the student withdraws from all courses, the student will lose access to some of these services.
- All graduate students are responsible for determining the implications for eligibility of student loans and loan deferment privileges.
- All graduate assistants are responsible for discussing with their research advisor how a leave would affect time-sensitive research projects and reporting, and the feasibility of resuming the same research project on return from leave. A graduate student may not necessarily be able to resume the same research project after a leave, but will have the opportunity to engage in similar research projects on return.
- International graduate students are responsible for determining the implications of a leave for fulfilling visa requirements.
Supervisor and GA Relationship
Graduate assistants should work closely with their supervisor in carrying out assigned duties as specified in the student’s job description. At a minimum, this means having regular weekly contact. This regularly contact keeps lines of communication and expectations open. Addressing issues early through open communication allows for most problems to be solved easily. Many of the problems that come to the College of Graduate Studies could have been easily addressed by dealing with the issues when they were small and first appeared. It is hard for a GA or a Supervisor to fix a problem if they are not aware that a problem exists.
To get the most from this experience, both the graduate assistant and the supervisor should establish goals early during the term of appointment and work together to achieve them. This also means assessing work experience, in consultation with the supervisor, on a regular basis.
Performance Appraisals – Tracking Development
In the Supervisor and GA relationship, the College of Graduate Studies encourages units or departments to assist in developing essential work and academic skills in the Graduate Assistant. These will vary depending on the type of GA appointment and the unit in which the GA has been assigned.
Evaluation is a crucial part of the assistantship experience. It should be a supportive and constructive process that helps identify strengths as well as weaknesses and develops a plan for improvement.
All Graduate Assistants should receive a formal performance appraisal twice a semester by their supervisor. The first performance appraisal should be done three (3) weeks after the student’s start date and then another appraisal be done at the end of the semester. At any point during the semester, additional performance appraisals may be done at the request of the graduate assistant or their supervisor.
As a first step in the performance appraisal process, the student must be provided a job description and be given clear information by the supervisor about job expectations at the beginning of the employment period and must be informed of the ways in which progress will be measured.
The performance appraisal process involves the student and the supervisor discussing a written evaluation and is intended to be constructive and to serve as an aid to the graduate assistant in correcting any cited performance problems. Following the review, the performance appraisal form will be signed by the supervisor and the graduate assistant. The program coordinator or director needs to sign the form after the evaluation has been done and has been signed by the graduate assistant and their supervisor. Both the student and the supervisor share responsibility for ensuring that the evaluation process is carried out.
The performance evaluation should be kept in the Graduate Assistant’s personnel file in the department.
Whether working in a laboratory, classroom, office, or other setting, graduate assistants must maintain standards of academic honesty and integrity and report any violations of these to their supervisor. Students must also keep well informed of departmental, college, and institutional regulations and follow them consistently.
Graduate Assistants are also to be examples to their peers. As such, they should strive for academic excellence. GA’s are required to maintain a GPA of 3.0. Failure to remain in “Good Academic Standing” at UCF will result in the discontinuation of the Assistantship. The institutional policy is that graduate students have nine (9) graduate credit hours to get their GPA back to the minimum of 3.0 when placed on Academic Probation. GA’s who accomplish this requirement, can qualify for a new GA appointment. This would not be automatic nor guaranteed and would happen through the regular application process for all GA’s.
Resignation of a Graduate Assistantship
A graduate student may elect to resign their Graduate Assistantship. If students are carrying a full-time load in their program of study and are maintaining a 3.00 grade average or higher, they may retain their Graduate Tuition Waiver if they have passed the 8-week mark of the semester. GA’s cannot hold “Incomplete” grades in a course for more than one semester. Tuition Waivers awarded under an externally funded grant may be terminated as well, if required under the terms of the grant or by university policy.
If a student resigns from their Graduate Assistantship, they must provide written notice to the College of Graduate Studies and to the relevant department or institutional unit providing at least two weeks’ notice. Their stipend will terminate on the day the resignation is effective, or the last day worked if prior to resignation. Payroll will contact the student if any overpayment has been made to the student to work out repayment of these funds.
If the student is a non-resident and resigns from their Graduate Assistantship, they will be charged tuition at the non-resident rate.
If a GA resigns because they are dropping all classes or dropping below a full-time load in the program of study, the waiver will be revoked and the student will be required to pay all relevant tuition and mandatory fees.
As it relates to these matters, it is essential that GA’s have open communication with their Supervisor so that requests for resignation are only as a result of extreme situations.
Termination of a Graduate assistantship
Termination should be a last resort. The key thing is that a Graduate Assistantship is about developing the person both academically and professionally. Opportunities should be provided to develop the student before termination is considered. The Graduate Assistantship cannot be terminated without appropriate procedures.
Suspension or dismissal of a graduate student from the University for disciplinary reasons will terminate a student’s Graduate Assistantship.
Any member of the University who is found to have engaged in discrimination or harassment that violates University policy or the law will be subject to disciplinary action, including termination or dismissal. Faculty and graduate students should familiarize themselves with the University Discrimination and Harassment Policy under the Office of Institutional Equity. Suspension or dismissal of a graduate student from the University for violation of this policy will terminate a Graduate Assistantship. Other disciplinary actions against a graduate student resulting from a discrimination or harassment complaint may also lead to termination of a Graduate Assistantship.
A Graduate Assistantship may also be terminated for any one of the following reasons:
- their GPA falls below 3.00;
- failure of the comprehensive/qualifying examination;
- unsatisfactory or failing evaluation from a thesis or dissertation defense;
- the semester course load falls below the full programmatic requirement in the program of study in the relevant semester; or
- an allegation of academic or scientific misconduct such as cheating, plagiarism, or falsification of data, has been investigated and verified.
Along with the College of Graduate Studies, departments need to monitor the GPA and enrollment requirements closely. Early recognition of a problem could result in opportunities for professional growth before termination is a consideration.
In addition to the above reasons, a student’s Graduate Assistantship may be terminated when there is substantial written documentation that a student consistently has not carried out work assignments which fall within the description of the assistantship position. Students on Graduate Assistantships are employees of the University for the duration of their appointment. During the appointment period, they have similar protection against unlawful termination afforded other University employees. If a student holds a Graduate Assistantship, the failure to perform work assignments for the Graduate Assistantship can lead to termination of the Graduate Tuition Waiver. Assistantships awarded under an externally funded grant may also be terminated as well if required under the terms of the grant.
Before a department or institutional unit recommends termination, it must follow the appropriate procedures under the guidelines of progressive discipline depending on the nature of the offense. Generally,
- notify the student of the specific nature of the problem or problems, with documentation of non-performance of duties or poor performance of duties;
- allow the student a reasonable opportunity to be heard, whether the student wishes to respond orally or in writing;
- if possible, attempt an informal resolution to avoid termination; and
- give the student written notification of the department’s reasons for recommending termination if an informal resolution cannot be achieved.
After the above steps have been followed, the department shall forward its written recommendation, including the reasons leading to the recommendation, to the College of Graduate Studies for review. The Graduate School and the department or institutional unit to which the graduate student is assigned have a joint responsibility to ensure that appropriate procedures are followed before the termination. A department cannot terminate an award without the review of the Dean of the College of Graduate Studies, even if the funding is not provided by the Graduate College.
Any graduate assistant who holds or has held a graduate assistantship and who has a complaint or disagreement concerning his or her assistantship has the right to try to resolve it using the grievance procedure as outlined in this section. Such grievances are restricted to only interpretation or application of established policies and procedures governing assistantships; the grievance procedure does not apply to tuition waiver, stipend adjustments, or matters pertaining to academic performance such as poor grades.
To help the graduate assistant through the entire grievance procedure, two means of support are available at all times: 1) the Assistant Dean of Graduate Student Services is available for consultation, and 2) the graduate assistant may be accompanied by one representative of his or her choice. The College of Graduate Studies is responsible for monitoring the grievance procedures, both informal and formal; it is the Graduate School’s role, in part, to make sure the grievance procedures are followed based upon these policies. The Graduate School will then make recommendations to Human Resources for final decisions.
The important element in this process is that the Grievance Policy is not designed to encourage or provide for formal adjudication of differences or to create a bureaucracy of review. Instead, the policy is intended to provide a fair and uniform set of guidelines by which the grievances of graduate assistants may be heard and resolved. The policy is intended to create a space where grievances can be resolved at the lowest possible administrative level and in the most equitable way. While those seeking redress of grievances have the right of appeal at successive levels of administration, they should recognize that the more formal the review, the more certainly they must bear the burden of proof through appropriate documentation and relevant evidence.
Informal Grievance Procedure
The graduate assistant must seek initially to resolve the complaint or disagreement by informal means. Remember that the Assistant Dean of Graduate Student Services is available for consultation, not only with you but also with your supervisor to help resolve any problems. Resolutions of complaints and disagreements at the informal level are strongly encouraged.
Due to time constraints on the overall grievance procedure, the informal procedure should be pursued promptly. To leave enough time, should a formal grievance be deemed necessary, the informal procedure should be limited to no more than ten (10) working days from when the occurrence of the grievance is first noted.
Official Handling of Complaints
Both as a student and as a Graduate Assistant, you will need to familiarize yourself with two documents pertaining to conduct. The Golden Rule is the university’s policy regarding nonacademic discipline of students and limited academic grievance procedures for graduate (grade appeals in individual courses, not including thesis and dissertation courses) and undergraduate students. Information concerning The Golden Rule can be found at www.goldenrule.sdes.ucf.edu/. Section 11, “Student Academic Behavior,” addresses appeals of graduate program actions or decisions. As a GTA you could be the subject of an academic grievance filed by a student. The University-wide academic grievance procedures are found in the Golden Rule student handbook. If a student has a grievance, you should confer immediately with your department head, because there is already in place a system for handling such situations.
The University Ombuds Office provides all members of the university community (students, staff, faculty, and others) an informal, independent, confidential, neutral office that offers assistance and impartial advice regarding concerns related to the University. The University Ombuds Officer will listen to concerns and will facilitate resolution of problems. All proceedings in individual cases will be held confidential by the Ombuds Officer, unless authorized by the complainant or otherwise required by applicable law, including without limitation, Chapter 119, Florida Statutes. The Ombuds Office is located in Millican Hall, Suite 243, Room 247. The office phone number is 407-823-6440. The Ombuds can:
- Listen to your complaint
- Clarify university policy
- Answer questions concerning appropriate channels
- Assist with problems that have not been resolved by other offices
- Informally look into your complaint
- Make referrals to individuals who can address your concern
- Help define options that are available to you
- Recommend changes to university policy, rules, or procedures that are outdated, unclear, or ineffective
- Open avenues of communication; facilitate conversations
- Offer a SAFE place to discuss your concerns
Harassment and Discrimination
As it relates to matters of both Termination and Grievance, both parties must be considerate of issues of Harassment and Discrimination. Harassment based on protected class constitutes a violation of university policy and may also constitute a violation of civil rights laws. Such harassment will not be tolerated at the University of Central Florida. It subverts the mission of the university and threatens the careers, educational experience and well-being of students, faculty, and staff. Prohibited harassment includes harassment based on race, gender, age, religion, color, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, and veteran status.
Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination and is prohibited by federal regulation. Sexual harassment in academic settings and in the employment area where Graduate Assistants are involved is defined as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, graphic, or physical conduct of a sexual nature when (1) submission to such conduct may be explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of a GA’s academic success or employment; (2) submission to or rejection of such conduct may be used as the basis for employment or academic decisions affecting the GA and the GA’s total educational and/or work experience; or (3) such conduct has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with a GA’s employment or academic performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work or educational environment that is severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive. GA’s who are unsure or are unclear if they are facing harassment or discrimination, contact the Office of Institutional Equity to discuss their concerns.