Graduate Student Academic Exceptions, Appeals, and Complaints

Graduate Student Academic Exception Request and Appeal Procedures 

The Office of Graduate Education understands that students may occasionally need an exception to university policy during their academic journey. For graduate students that wish to seek an exception to an academic policy, which always precedes a graduate academic appeal, all requests must begin within the student’s department/academic program. A request for exception to academic policy does not guarantee the request will be granted. A request for exception is not the process for grade appeals or to alter an Honor Committee decision.

 

All Academic Exception Requests (AERs) must first:

  1. Begin with the student's academic unit,
  2. Receive approval from the academic unit
  3. Receive approval from the college or school according to the college or school's policy exception review process.

Your school will have specific academic exception request submission guidelines publicly available.

Review your academic unit’s and college/school’s specific procedures for seeking an Academic Exception Request (AER).

Additional Approvals from the Associate Provost for Graduate Education

Certain AERs require an additional approval by the Associate Provost for Graduate Education or designee (APGE) once a College/School approves the request. In such a case, the approved request will be forwarded by the college/school to the APGE for review. 

AERs That Require an Additional Approval by 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; taking less than half of the total credits earned for the master’s at Mason.
  • 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. Extension of Time Limit to Complete Degree requests resulting from such requests.
  • Reduction of Credit requests when a master’s is earned at another institution while the student is pursuing a PhD at Mason and/or the student received a grade less than a B in the master’s level course.
  • Retroactive Graduation when certain changes to the academic record are 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 were taken while non-degree status outside of Mason and/or the student has not been re-enrolled at 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 Institutional Credits requirement and/or waiver of prohibition on transferring more than 12 credits taken in non-degree status at Mason to a degree program.

Considerations

The factors the APGE may consider when reviewing an AER for approval include, but are not limited to, the following:

  1. The college or school's decision or position
  2. The student's academic history at Mason
  3. Compelling unforeseen circumstances that prompted the student's request

The APGE will contact the college/school or student if additional information is required.

Appealing the Denial of an Academic Exception Request

If an Academic Exception Requests (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 Associate Provost for Graduate Education (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:

  1. 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);
  2. 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
  3. 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 first determines that there is clear and convincing evidence of one of the three aforementioned grounds, the APGE will then proceed to consider the policy exception request in its entirety.

The factors the APGE may consider when reviewing the request for approval include, but are not limited to, the following:

(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. 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 their 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 an additional approval by the APGE as described above.)

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:

  1. 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); and/or
  2. 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; and/or
  3. 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 the requisite additional approval of certain AERs by the APGE.

If the GAAC determines there is clear and convincing evidence of one or more of the three aforementioned grounds, only then will the GAAC proceed to consider the AER in its entirety using the criteria. 

The factors the GAAC may consider when reviewing the request for approval include, but are not limited to, the following:

(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 GAAC may grant or deny the AER. A minimum of three GAAC members are required to consider an appeal 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.

Process for Submitting an Appeal

Eligible graduate students who wish to appeal an adverse decision to the APGE or the GAAC, as applicable, must submit documentation supporting their case. Students may submit an appeal package to geappeal@gmu.edu unless directed otherwise.

The information must include:

  1. 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.
  2. Any supporting documentation that substantiates what is asserted in the letter including any new and material information that could not have been submitted before the issuance of the earlier adverse decision for the student, if that is a basis for the student’s appeal.

Note: Documents should be submitted in pdf format unless directed otherwise. 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 should be submitted to the Director of Graduate Academic and Student Affairs via email to geappeal@gmu.edu

Complaints Not Related to Academic Exceptions or Appeals

To report a complaint not related to graduate student academic policy and related procedures, a graduate student can choose from the following two options:

  1. Seeking an informal resolution: email provgrad@gmu.edu.
  2. Filing a formal written complaint: visit https://complaints.gmu.edu and select “Discrimination and Title IX” or “Other Written Complaints” as applicable.

In either case, a member of our staff will contact you to obtain any additional information that is needed to provide guidance for a resolution.

Students can also visit (https://complaints.gmu.edu) for student self-advocacy resources to help resolve an issue.