Sometimes a student encounters an extraordinary obstacle while pursuing a graduate degree. If that happens, an exception to university academic policy can be requested.
Below is the procedure for seeking an Academic Exception Request. A request for exception does not guarantee the request will be granted. This is not the process to seek grade changes or to alter an Honor Committee decision.
Graduate Student Academic Exception Request Procedures
I. Requesting an Academic Exception
All requests for academic exceptions to university policy must begin within the student’s department/academic program. Requests must receive approval at the department/academic program level as well as the college level according to the college/school’s published academic policy exception review process. Review your department/academic program’s and college/school’s specific procedures for seeking an Academic Exception Request (AER). Certain AERs also require approval by the Associate Provost for Graduate Education or designee (APGE). If the Request requires approval by APGE and it is approved by the college/school, it will then be forwarded by the college/school to the APGE for review. The following AERs require approval by the APGE:
- Acceptance of more than 24 credits of 998 or 999 in one degree.
- Application of Advanced Standing coursework to apply toward a graduate degree for a BAM student when the student earned less than a B.
- Posthumous award of a degree.
- Bachelor’s/Accelerated Master’s Transition form when attempting to file after graduation from the bachelor’s degree program; take less than 18 credits in master’s degree status; and/or taking less than half of the total credits earned for the master’s at Mason.
- Conferral of secondary certificate or master’s in the same semester it is declared.
- Continuous Enrollment Waiver Request when a student hasn’t enrolled for a semester or more after advancement towards candidacy.
- Course Inclusion Request for Students Re-Admitted Post Termination, Resignation, or Dismissal when the requested courses were taken more than six years prior to the start of the re-admitted semester.
- Extension of Incomplete when requests for extension are beyond the last day of classes of the semester following that in which the course was taught (summers excepted).
- Program Resignation and Transfer when requests for transfer from PhD to master’s or PhD to certificate are submitted more than six years after first enrollment in the PhD program.
- Reduction of Credit requests when a master’s is earned at another institution while the student is pursuing a PhD at Mason and the student received a grade less than a B in the master’s level course.
- Retroactive Graduation when a request is made after the graduation deadline for the graduation term being requested.
- Termination Appeal when a college/school approves a student’s request for exception from the college/school’s termination eligibility policy.
- Extension of Time Limit to Complete Degree when requests are made for an extension of more than one year, or for an extension request after an initial extension has been granted. Note: Subsequent requests for an extension must be based on different circumstances than prior extensions.
- Transfer of Credit when requests are for graduate credit earned more than six years prior to first enrollment and/or the credits did not come from non-degree status courses and/or the student has not been re-admitted to Mason following two continuous semesters of non-enrollment.
- Voluntary Resignation when requests for resignation are for a term of more than one year prior to request.
- Waiver of continuous enrollment in thesis or dissertation requirement.
- Waiver of Residency when requests are for Certificate students to take fewer than 6 credits in residency, or for master’s/PhD students to take fewer than 15 credits in residency.
The factors the APGE may consider when reviewing an AER for approval include, but are not limited to: (1) the position of the unit; (2) the student’s academic history at Mason; and (3) whether there were compelling, unforeseen circumstances that prompted the student’s request. The APGE will contact the college/school or student if additional information is required.
II. Appealing the Denial of an Academic Exception Request
If an AER is denied, the student has the option to appeal that decision. The process for appeal depends on the stage at which it was denied. Only one level of appeal is permitted (i.e., the student may not appeal the appellate decision of the APGE).
Requests Denied by the College/School
If the student’s AER was denied by the college or school, the student may appeal that decision to the APGE. In the appeal, the burden rests on the student to demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that
- There were material and substantial procedural irregularities during the college/school’s review process (i.e., the college/school deviated from its documented academic policy exception review procedures in a material and substantial manner during the review of the request);
- New and material information arose after the college/school’s review that was not available for presentation to the college/school prior to the issuance of the decision; or
- The decision maker was biased, which had a material impact on the decision. Discontentment or disagreement with the decision of the college/school is not a valid basis for an appeal.
If the APGE affirms the decision of the college/school, that decision is final. If the APGE determines there is clear and convincing evidence of one of the three aforementioned grounds, the APGE will proceed to consider the policy exception request in its entirety using the criteria listed in Section I. The APGE may grant or deny the policy exception request. The APGE decision is final with no further option for appeal.
The APGE shall communicate any appeal and AER decisions before that office to the student, the college/school, and the Office of the University Registrar. The college/school shall remain responsible for communicating any other academic policy decisions, including academic program termination, to the student.
Submission of the appeal must be made within five business days of notification of denial by the college/school (see below for process for submitting an appeal). The APGE may extend this deadline at his/her discretion for extenuating circumstances. If no appeal is made, the college/school’s decision is final.
Requests Denied by the APGE (Note: This section applies only to AERs that require secondary approval by the APGE.)
If a student’s AER is approved by the college/school, but the APGE does not approve it, the student may appeal that decision to the Graduate Academic Appeals Committee (GAAC), a subcommittee of Graduate Council that consists of a minimum of five members of the graduate faculty, appointed by the Council Chair. In the appeal, the burden rests on the student to demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that:
- There were material and substantial procedural irregularities during the APGE’s review process (i.e., the APGE deviated from that office’s documented academic policy exception review procedures in a material and substantial manner during the review of the request);
- New and material information arose after the APGE review that was not available for presentation to APGE prior to the issuance of the adverse decision; or
- The decision maker was biased, which had a material impact on the decision. Discontentment or disagreement with the decision of the APGE is not a valid basis for an appeal.
The GAAC does not hear appeals of appeals decided by the APGE. The committee considers only appeals of denials of secondary approval by the APGE.
If the GAAC determines there is clear and convincing evidence of one of the three aforementioned grounds, the GAAC will proceed to consider the policy exception request in its entirety using the criteria listed in Section I. The GAAC may grant or deny the policy exception request. Should the Committee proceed with considering the case, a minimum of three GAAC members are required and a majority vote is required for any decision. The GAAC decision is final.
The GAAC shall communicate any appeal decision before it to the student, the APGE, the college/school, and the Office of the University Registrar. The college/school shall remain responsible for communicating any other academic policy decisions, including academic program termination, to the student.
Submission of the appeal must be made within five business days of notification of denial by the APGE (see below for process for submitting an appeal). The GAAC may extend this deadline at its discretion for extenuating circumstances. If no appeal is made, the APGE’s decision is final.
Students who wish to appeal an adverse decision to the APGE or the GAAC, as applicable, must submit documentation supporting their case. The information should include a letter explaining the circumstances of the student’s case, which of the three bases for an appeal the student is asserting, and why the appeal should be granted. It should also include any supporting documentation that substantiates what is asserted in the letter including any new information, if that is a basis for the appeal.
Note: No original documents should be submitted, and no documents will be returned to the student. We are unable to make copies for the student either for submission or for return.
All information the student feels is necessary to understand the case and make a decision must be included at the time of submission. Subsequent information will not be considered unless it has been requested by the reviewing entity.
Questions directed to the Associate Provost for Graduate Education should be submitted to the Director of Graduate Academic and Student Affairs via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Students eligible for an appeal to an adverse academic policy exception request decision may submit an appeal package to email@example.com unless directed otherwise.