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Washington State University Graduate School

Chapter 12E: Graduate Student Rights and Responsibilities

This section describes procedures for directing graduate student complaints, grievances, and concerns to the appropriate faculty, staff and administrators for action. Whereas this section outlines the complaint process, students are encouraged to seek guidance and advice from the Graduate School staff and leadership on academic advancement and grievances that may arise at any point during their course of study at the University.

Student disciplinary proceedings for misconduct including plagiarism and cheating are covered by the policies and procedures in WAC 504-26-415. For disciplinary matters, please view the information at the following links:

1.  Students with Disabilities.

The Graduate School is committed to providing equal opportunity in its services, programs, and employment for individuals with disabilities. Reasonable accommodations are available for students with a documented disability. Students are responsible for initiating requests for reasonable accommodations and services that they need.

a. Requesting Reasonable Accommodations

Graduate students with identified disabilities should contact the Access Center before the semester that they plan to attend and initiate the accommodations process. Accommodations are unique for each individual and some require a significant amount of time to prepare for, so it is essential that students notify the Access Center as far in advance as possible. Students with a disability that is identified during the semester should contact the Access Center as soon as possible to arrange for an appointment and a review of their documentation by an Access advisor. All accommodations must be approved through the Access Center located on each campus. Contact information for the Access Center at each campus can be found at the following websites:

All students requesting reasonable accommodation must meet with the instructor prior to or during the first week of the course to review all proposed accommodations in relation to course content and requirements. Exceptions to this timeframe will be granted only upon a showing of good cause.

b. Working with the Access Centers

  • Submit documentation of disability online to the Access Center on your campus; if you have questions about what type of documentation is needed, please call to speak with an Access advisor
  • Schedule an appointment with the Access advisor following the submission and review of your documentation to determine appropriate accommodations.
  • Promptly notify the Access Center of any problems in receiving the agreed-upon accommodations.
  • Stop by at least once each semester to keep your registration with the Access Center and your accommodations current.

2. Complaints by and/or against Members of the University Faculty, Administration, or Students.

A graduate student who believes that there has been unlawful discrimination, including sexual harassment, is strongly encouraged to contact the Office of Compliance and Civil Rights Compliance (CCR, https://ccr.wsu.edu/). If the complaint involves discrimination or harassment by a student, a complaint may also be filed with the Center for Community Standards (https://communitystandards.wsu.edu/).

a. Discrimination and Harassment

Information on discrimination and harassment and the University’s policy prohibiting discrimination and sexual harassment can be found at https://ccr.wsu.edu/. All graduate students on assistantship are required to complete the Human Resource Services’ Discrimination, Sexual Harassment, and Sexual Misconduct Prevention Training.

b. Academic Integrity

Students and faculty share in the responsibility of upholding and protecting academic honesty standards within the University. At Washington State University, all cases of academic dishonesty or academic misconduct, including cases of plagiarism, will be handled according to the process in WAC 504-26-415. Through the academic integrity violation process (see https://handbook.wsu.edu/academic-integrityprocess/), the reported student will receive notice of the concerning information and will be given an opportunity to respond. The Standards of Conduct for Students covers cheating, plagiarism, or other forms of academic dishonesty including but not limited to the following:

  • unauthorized collaboration on assignments;
  • facilitation of dishonesty including not challenging academic integrity violations by others;
  • obtaining unauthorized knowledge of course assignments or exam materials;
  • unauthorized multiple submissions of the same work for different course assignments;
  • sabotage of another student’s work;
  • knowingly furnishing false information or data to any University official, faculty, or staff; and
  • forgery, alteration, or misuse of any University document, record, or form of personal identification.

For a complete definition of academic dishonesty, see WAC 504-26-415 (https://apps.leg.wa.gov/WAC/default.aspx?cite=504-26-010).

Given the accessibility of electronic information, further discussion of commonly observed examples of plagiarism is warranted. Examples may include:

  • copying material (e.g., copy and paste) from any source without proper citation;
  • copying homework solutions from online sources such as CHEGG, Bartleby, StackExchange, and solutions manuals; or
  • using an essay for hire service or copying material from another student

When submitting group projects, any example of plagiarism may result in the entire group facing disciplinary action. It is appropriate to ask professors for further clarification of proper protocol. In addition to increasing the availability of information, technology also provided enhanced methods for identifying copied work. Plagiarizing another’s work denies learning opportunities and does not advance one’s academic pursuits.

If a graduate student becomes aware of any incidents of academic dishonesty, the graduate student should report the incident to the appropriate faculty member. The faculty member is then responsible for contacting the reported student and for notifying the Center for Community Standards. Sanctions imposed by the faculty member may include failure of the assignment, test, or entire course. Sanctions may also lead to loss of one’s assistantship (see Chapter 9.G) and/or dismissal from the graduate program. The Center for Community Standards will assign additional educational outcomes to a student found responsible for an academic integrity violation. For more information about possible outcomes from the community standards process, please visit https://handbook.wsu.edu/violations-and-possible-sanctions/. If a student is uncomfortable reporting another student to a faculty member, other resources include the ombudsman, the Graduate School, and the Center for Community Standards.

3. Graduate and Professional Student Complaint and Grievance Procedures 

The graduate student complaint and formal grievance processes can involve several steps depending on the nature of the issue. There are many avenues available to Washington State University graduate students to resolve differences that might arise during the pursuit of an advanced degree. 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 principle 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 students should work with their major professor or advisor to resolve matters if possible. The next level would be the Program Director, Department Chair or School Director. If the complaint involves a complex or multi-campus issue, the dean of the College may get involved at this point in the process. There are cases, of course, where this is difficult. In these cases, graduate students should make an appointment with a member of the Graduate School leadership team 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 with the intent of helping the student continue in good academic standing.

a. Graduate Student Complaint Procedures

i. Students are encouraged to first consult with their faculty advisor.

ii. If the advisor is unable to resolve the problem, the student is encouraged to discuss the problem with the department/program chair, and/or an appropriate faculty liaison, such as the graduate program director or departmental ombudsman.

iii. If the complaint cannot be resolved at the department or program level, the student should contact a member of the Graduate School leadership team.

iv. The dean or the dean’s designee will review the complaint and will recommend possible actions for resolution to the student as well as to the department/program chair, director, college dean, and/or faculty liaison.

b. Graduate Student Formal Grievance Procedures

In some instances, such as those related to academic and employment issues (e.g., failed examinations, termination of assistantship, dismissal from program), the student may wish to appeal a specific decision made by the departmental or program faculty.

i. The student must make a formal grievance request to the dean of the Graduate School in writing, with signature. An email is not sufficient; however, an electronic version of the signed appeal sent from the student’s WSU email is acceptable. The student must submit documentation describing the grounds for a formal grievance to the dean. Formal grievances must be filed within 15 (fifteen) calendar days following a notice of decision. The dismissal will be held in abeyance until the university has rendered a final decision. However, progression through degree requirements (such as continued course enrollment, research activities, internships or clinical training activities) may be suspended.

ii. The dean may assign these formal grievances to one of the associate/assistant deans for full consideration and recommendation.

iii. If the dean deems it appropriate, the matter may be referred to an independent Committee on Graduate Student Rights and Responsibilities (CGSRR) for consideration and formulating recommendations of action to the dean of the Graduate School. The CGSRR will operate with due respect to the rights of graduate students, faculty, and administrators including the conduct of interviews, the right of all parties to review and address allegations, and the right to a fair hearing. The CGSRR will deliberate and render a recommendation to the dean of the Graduate School or the dean’s designee within 60 calendar days of being formed.

iv. Recommendations for resolution of formal grievances will be acted upon by the dean or the dean’s designee. The dean of the Graduate School will make a final decision. The decision made by the dean on academic matters is final.

c. Graduate Student Appeal Procedures

If the graduate student believes there was a procedural error or failure to follow WSU or Graduate School policy during the complaint or grievance process, an appeal of the decision made by the dean of the Graduate School can be made to the provost. The written appeal to the provost regarding procedural irregularities must be filed within fifteen (15) calendar days following the notice of the decision from the dean of the Graduate School in response to the formal grievance. The appeal must be copied to the dean of the Graduate School. If the dean of the Graduate School does not receive a copy of the appeal within fifteen (15) calendar days, the student’s right to appeal will be waived and the dean’s decision will be final. The provost will not reopen cases for the purpose of re-investigating the grievance.

d. Professional Student Grievance and Appeal Procedures

Professional students within the College of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M. program), the College of Pharmacy (Pharm. D. program), the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine (M.D. program), and the College of Business (M.B.A. programs) will follow College policies and procedures for grievances related to academic issues. Appeal of College level decisions can be made to the Graduate School if the professional student believes there was a procedural error or failure to follow WSU or College policies during the complaint or grievance process. The professional student must make a formal appeal request to the dean of the Graduate School in writing, with signature. An email is not sufficient; however, an electronic version of the signed appeal sent from the student’s WSU email is acceptable. Formal appeals must be filed within 15 (fifteen) calendar days following a notice of decision. The original dismissal decision will be held in abeyance while under appeal. However, progression through degree requirements (such as continued course enrollment, research activities, internships or clinical training activities) will be suspended. The dean of the Graduate School will not reopen cases for the purpose of re-investigating the grievance.

4. Satisfactory Progress towards Degree

Graduate students are expected to make satisfactory progress in their studies and are responsible for meeting the Graduate School’s continuous enrollment policy, general academic requirements, and the specific requirements associated with their degree. Programs may have additional requirements, and students are expected to contact their program director and/or faculty advisor for information on these requirements.

5. Scholarship and Research

The following is information regarding authorship and data that graduate students may collect during their research. (For Responsible Conduct of Research training, visit http://myresearch.wsu.edu).

a. Authorship

The Office of Research Guidelines for Authorship Determination can be found at https://research.wsu.edu/office-research/policies/authorship/.

b. Data Ownership
In general, all data collected at WSU is the property of WSU. It is useful to distinguish between grants and contracts. Data collected with grant funds remains under the control of WSU. Contracts typically require the researcher to deliver a product or service to the government or industry sponsor, and the product or service is then owned and controlled by the sponsor (government or industry). WSU and principal investigators have responsibilities and obligations regarding research funds and data collection.

i. Before data is collected, the principal investigator (PI) and project personnel must clearly understand who owns the data, who has the right to publish, and what requirements or obligations are imposed on the researcher or WSU.

ii. Whenever a graduate student or postdoc leaves the lab, a similar agreement shall be negotiated between the PI and the graduate student or postdoc.

iii. Collaborative research agreements regarding data ownership and use must be agreed to in writing prior to the collection of the data. In general, each member of the team should have continued access to the data/materials (unless a prior agreement was negotiated).

c. Data Collection
Data collection must be well-organized and detailed. The laboratory notebook (bound sequentially numbered pages, with signatures and dates) is often key to keeping daily records. Detailed records help establish good work practices, provide a history of students’ ideas, avoid fraud or misconduct charges, defend patents, and provide a valuable resource for a student’s own work.

d. Data Storage and Protection
Once data has been collected it must be stored and protected to be of future use. Data storage must be done in such a way that results and conclusions can be clearly discerned from the data and materials that have been archived. The data and materials must be protected so that research findings can be confirmed and/or reanalyzed by others. If data and materials are not properly stored and protected, it could significantly reduce the value of the research (or even render the research worthless).

For additional information on the Universities data policies see EP 8. http://www.wsu.edu/~forms/HTML/EPM/EP8_University_Data_Policies.htm.

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