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Washington State University Graduate School

Chapter One E: Graduate School Policy

1. Establishment of Policies

Graduate School policy is established and changed by action of the Dean of the Graduate School after review and approval by the Faculty Senate, with oversight by the Provost and the President. Periodic updates to these policies and procedures will be made in the spring prior to the fall semester in which they will become effective. Changes required by law will be made immediately with the appropriate notification to the Faculty Senate, Provost, and President. Please note: Recommendations for changes in policy should be addressed to the Dean of the Graduate School.

The graduation requirements of the Graduate School, which must be met for completion of a graduate degree program, are those published in the Policies and Procedures of the Graduate School in effect at the time of the student’s initial admission as a regular or provisional student. Departmental requirements are those in effect at the time the student files a program of study.

If a student is dropped from the University for failure to maintain continuous enrollment, the requirements of the Graduate School are those in effect at the time of re-admission to the Graduate School. Modification of certain aspects of Graduate School policy may be necessary to conform to legislation enacted by the State of Washington.

2. Exceptions to Policy, Petition Process, Accommodations

Any request for an exception to policy for an individual student should be submitted in writing through the major professor and director/chair of the major graduate program to the Dean of the Graduate School, who may then act upon the request. A petition process is available for a graduate student to petition for changes in course enrollment and academic calendar deadlines for his or her individual program. A petition form is available on the Graduate School forms website:

Graduate students with disabilities that may require reasonable accommodation to meet the requirements of their academic studies and assistantship duties are encouraged to contact the Access Center. The Access Center will work with the student, the graduate program, and the Graduate School to ensure that reasonable accommodation is provided. See Chapter 12, Graduate Student Rights and Responsibilities.

Examinations: A student, department chair, graduate program director, committee member, or any other concerned member of the WSU community may request an independent observer from the Graduate School for any graduate student examination. The name of the individual making the request will be held confidential. All such requests will be fulfilled by drawing on a member of the Graduate Mentor Academy, a group of faculty who have agreed to serve in this role and have received appropriate training. During the scheduling process, the Graduate School will notify the student, committee and department chair/program director if a Graduate Mentor has been assigned to an exam.

Examination (Preliminary and Final) Failure: In most cases of examination failure, the student is given an opportunity to take a second and final examination. In these cases, the Graduate School will send an official representative from the Graduate Mentor Academy to preside over the second examination to protect the rights of the student, faculty, and program and to ensure that the appropriate procedures are followed for a second examination.  The Graduate School’s examination procedures must be followed to schedule the second examination. If the student fails the examination a second time, he/she will be dismissed from the Graduate School. The student may appeal the decision by filing a formal grievance with the Graduate School.

After the first examination failure, a student will not be allowed to take a second and final examination when the following criteria are met: The first examination must have had a representative from the Graduate Mentor Academy (appointed by the Graduate School) present for the oral examination and/or balloting meeting (if no oral examination was given). If this representative confirms that the examination process was fair and proceeded according to Graduate School policy, and if the representative agrees with the faculty committee and program chair/director that a re-examination is not an appropriate disposition of the case, then the Dean of the Graduate School will review the case and make the final determination whether or not to re-examine the student. The student may appeal the decision by filing a formal grievance with the Graduate School.

3. Institutional Responsibility to Current Graduate Students

In the event that a degree program is discontinued, the university will make every effort to assist currently enrolled graduate degree aspirants to complete their degrees within a reasonable period of time (see the Educational Policies and Procedures at see section called “Currricula”). To facilitate this process, department and program chairs/directors (or the appropriate dean) may do the following:

  • Encourage students to complete requirements in a similar or related degree track.
  • Waive or substitute departmental degree requirements (except the minimum total hours required).
  • And/or permit students to take courses or conduct research at another institution when approved by the student’s graduate committee and the Graduate School.

All financial obligations are the responsibility of the individual student, except as otherwise noted in these Policies and Procedures.

4.  Civil Rights and Equal Opportunity

Washington State University subscribes to the principles and laws of the state of Washington and the federal government, including applicable executive orders, pertaining to civil rights, equal opportunity, and affirmative action. WSU’s policy statement prohibiting discrimination and sexual harassment can be found at

 5. Graduate and Professional Student Grievance and Appeal Processes

Typically for graduate students, conduct issues often involve academic issues, and academic issues often involve conduct issues. Programs and departments should contact the Graduate School for advice on the appropriate office(s) to contact and process to follow regarding graduate student issues. There is no grievance process for applicants who are denied admission to a graduate program.

Many avenues are available to Washington State University graduate students to resolve differences that may arise during the pursuit of an advanced degree. For issues related to academic progress and other complaints by current graduate students, the graduate student complaint and grievance processes may involve several steps depending on the nature of the issue. If a graduate program has its own grievance procedures, these procedures should be followed before utilizing the Graduate School’s grievance procedures. In general, the operational principal that should be followed is to maintain open communication at the most immediate point of access and to work upwards from there when appropriate. This means that the student should work with his/her major professor or advisor to resolve matters if possible. The next level would be the director/chair of the relevant graduate program. There are cases, of course, in which this is difficult. In these cases, graduate students should make an appointment with one of the Associate or Assistant Deans of the Graduate School for further advice. An important role of the Graduate School is to serve as an impartial arbitrator in these matters and to provide advice to both students and faculty that would result in the student continuing in good academic standing.

Professional students (D.V.M, M.B.A., M.D. and Pharm.D.) should follow the grievance process established by their college. They may appeal the dean of the college’s decision to the Dean of the Graduate School if they believe there were procedural or policy irregularities in the grievance process. The Dean of the Graduate School will consider only whether the college followed all procedural and policy requirements

Complaint, Grievance, and Appeal Procedures can be found in Chapter 12, Graduate Student Rights and Responsibilities.

6. Electronic Signatures on Graduate School Form

Electronic signatures are allowed by the Graduate School for the purpose of processing certain internal Graduate School student forms/processes. The use of any form of electronic signature as identified in section 6a below is binding for the individual signing the document and will be accepted by the Graduate School as such. The electronic signature must be connected to the approved action either by attaching the form requiring a signature to the electronic signature or by providing details of what is being authorized in the sender’s email (such as date, time, and place for an examination, as well as faculty member’s location during the exam).

Proxy signatures (someone signing for another individual) are not acceptable unless the proxy has a signed authorization from the individual for whom the proxy is signing. Such documentation must be attached to the form with the proxy signature. Electronic signatures are not accepted on the documents noted in section 6b below; there are no exceptions to this policy.

a. The electronic signature is a symbol, sign, or process associated with an electronic form or record that has been made with the intent to sign such form or record. Examples include the following:

  • A name typed at the end of an email message by the sender, sent from the sender’s account that requires an ID and password to access.
  • A click on an “I accept” or “Submit” button, or selecting and saving a status of “approved” from a dropdown menu, in a system that requires an ID and password (i.e. MyWSU).
  • Electronic signature processes associated with Adobe Acrobat files, such as EchoSign, which track the signature process.
  • A digitized or scanned image of an individual’s signature that the individual has placed on the form is acceptable as long as the image is used only by the individual whose signature it is and who has the authority and intent to sign the form. For scanned or digitized signatures, the electronically signed form must be sent as an attachment in an email message sent by the individual who signed the form, and this email must accompany the form when it is submitted. Departments that process forms with digitized or scanned signatures are responsible for verifying the authenticity of the signature via the email in which the form was sent.

b. Forms and documents that require an original signature in ink include the following:

  • Preliminary and final exam ballots and balloting memos, when not submitted via myWSU.
  • Memos requesting the dismissal (disenrollment) of a graduate student from a program
  • Memos denying reinstatement of a graduate student to a program
  • Correspondence to students regarding admission to or dismissal from a program
  • Formal grievances and appeal decisions
  • Medical documentation forms
  • Any form in which a current student waives his or her rights

NOTE: Scans and faxes of forms that contain original signatures are considered original signatures; however, the originating department or individual should keep the original form on file.

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