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Guidance on PhD program bylaws/rules

PhD program bylaws/rules are expected to address the following elements:

  • A statement about the nature of the program (departmental vs interdepartmental) and whether extra-departmental faculty are subject to the same set of rules and expectations.

  • A process for faculty selection, periodic faculty review and faculty removal that takes the quality of mentorship provided to students into consideration. In particular for interdepartmental programs, it is strongly suggested that the faculty review mechanism includes an expectation of faculty participation in program activities (i.e. teaching, mentoring, service in committees, etc). Moreover, inclusion of a plan for the remediation of mentorship problems (e.g., participation in mentorship workshops, “down time” for faculty, mandatory co-mentors, etc) is expected.

  • Clearly defined leadership and administrative structures. The bylaws should also describe the specific roles of the Graduate Program Director and Graduate Program Coordinator/Administrator and potential faculty committees, as well as the procedures to change program rules. When feasible, it is strongly suggested for programs to involve student-elected representatives in all administrative structures.

  • Clearly defined procedures for conflict resolution. These can include internal structures (i.e., a program grievance committee) but should also include procedures by which faculty and students can seek impartial arbitration or advice, including intra-programmatic and extra-programmatic (e.g. the Graduate Student Advocate, Ombudsperson). Please ensure compliance with the Graduate School policy for Grievance and Appeals.

  • The responsibilities (and expectations) of students and faculty should be explicitly described. These could include professional behavior, mentorship standards, participation in mandatory program activities, etc. A general plan of study should be available to all students with expected timelines for major graduation milestones (e.g. preliminary examinations, qualifying examinations).

  • The bylaws/rules should comply with and reference current Graduate School regulations. The following statement is suggested:

    The XXX program is subject to all the policies and regulations of the Graduate School. The current regulations and policies can be found at


Suggested Additional Elements

  • Diversity statement
  • Requirements for advancement to candidacy
  • Procedures to change level between masters and doctoral degrees
  • Vacation policy and notification procedures
  • Financial structure, expectations to maintain support and performance review period
  • Procedures for switching advisors
  • Formation of mentorship committees
  • Individual Development Plan Formation and Review
  • Programs are strongly encouraged to require mentoring faculty to participate in mentor training


Additional Program Requirements

As expected by SUNY, NYSED and Middle States, programs should have an assessment plan that addresses both whether students regularly achieve learning outcomes as well as other program goals that should, at a minimum, include time to degree, completion rates, gender and ethnic diversity, quality of mentorship, and the professional outcomes of students after graduation. The plan should also delineate a mechanism to lead to program modification and improvement. Each graduate course should have a syllabus that meets SUNY/NYSED syllabi requirements and indicates the course learning objectives and how the learning objectives will be used within the program assessment plan. Please refer to NYSED for current syllabi requirements.