Procedures for student petitions to the Representative Assembly

[Advice to Divisional Chair Bruce Madewell  2/12/2004]

Chair Madewell sought the advice of CERJ with respect to the a case raised by Peter Rodman, Chair of the Faculty of the College of Letters and Science.  Rodman anticipated that a graduate student would

petition . . . the Assembly to reverse his disqualification and allow him to be readmitted to attempt to complete his degree. . . The petition will cite cause as defined in the Graduate Guide, . . . published on the Graduate Division's web site. The suggested course of action would be that the Executive Council consider appointing a special committee to review the case in order to inform, and possibly to make a recommendation, to the Representative Assembly so that when the petition appears on the agenda, the Representatives have a basis for a vote.

The bottom line is that the procedure that Professor Rodman proposes is perfectly acceptable.  In fact, as we note below, depending on what is actually requested in the petition, the Executive Council may be able to decide the matter.

That is the simple answer.  It may, however, be worth clarifying the issue somewhat further.  We have previously maintained that students under various Senate and Davis Division bylaws have a right to be heard before appropriate committees.  The Secretary on receiving a petition must decide to which committee it ought to be referred.  The Representative Assembly might be an appropriate committee (e.g., when the petitioner challenges the fairness of another committee), and there is a place in the Representative Assembly agenda for student petitions.  There is no right of action on a student petition, but a committee member or member of the Representative Assembly could always introduce motions aimed at securing an action.

The particular case that Rodman brings before us raises some special issues.  He proposes that the Executive Council form a subcommittee to investigate the students case and to report on it to the Representative Assembly.  CERJ believes that this is entirely appropriate.  Our view is reinforced by a provision of the Executive Council's bylaw that we have previously overlooked in commenting on this issue (relevant part in bold):

DDB 72.C.6:  To act on behalf of the Davis Division in recommending to the President of the University candidates for degrees and honors in a school, college or graduate division subject to the jurisdiction of the Davis Division. At its discretion, the Executive Council may recommend candidates under suspension of Divisional and Senate Regulations, provided that each such petition submitted by a candidate has been approved by the appropriate faculty or the Graduate Council. Such petitions may include those for the awarding of posthumous degrees. The committee, after forwarding its recommendations to the President, shall maintain in the Academic Senate Office a record of its actions, including separate lists of the names of candidates recommended under suspension of the Regulations.

Thus, the Executive with the concurrence of the Graduate Council could take a decision on the matter if the question came down to one of whether the normal regulations are to be suspended to grant the petitioner a degree.  This provision would appear to leave the matter hostage to the Graduate Council, but since all committees are answerable to the Representative Assembly, the Representative Assembly could overrule the Graduate Council on this.

We know from separate communication with Peter Rodman that he is concerned with the role of the Graduate Division and the Graduate Dean in deciding such a case . . . CERJ naturally believes that any evaluation needs to be made by people who are not parties to the complaint and who do not have any vested interest in the outcome.  . . . On the matter of principle, Professor Rodman pointed out the following entry on the Graduate Division webpage:

You may submit an appeal for reconsideration of disqualification for cause to the Administrative Committee of the Graduate Council via the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies. Appropriate causes include (a) procedural error, (b) judgments based upon non-academic criteria, (c) personal bias, or (d) specific mitigating circumstances contributing to your performance. Questions of academic judgment or evaluation will NOT be considered as appropriate basis for appeal. If the Associate Dean determines that the appeal is based on cause, the appeal will be submitted to the Administrative Committee of the Graduate Council. The Administrative Committee will make recommendation to the Dean who will make the final decision.

CERJ believes that the power over this matters rests in the Graduate Council and not with the Graduate Dean.  If the dean exercises power, he would do so as a service to the Graduate Council.  CERJ is, however, not convinced that the Davis Graduate Council can redelegate its authority to the Dean.  Academic Senate Bylaw 330.C permits a Graduate Council to redelegate its authority, but only as provided by divisional bylaws.  CERJ is unable to locate any provision in divisional bylaws that establishes any authority to redelegate.  Even were such authority established, Graduate Council can always reclaim it.

[Note:  subsequent to this advice, Graduate Dean Gibeling and Graduate Council Chair Alan Hastings cited Academic Senate Regulation 904 as granting power of dismissal of graduate students exclusively to the Graduate Dean.  CERJ, however, believes that ASR 904 is inconsistent with Senate Bylaws and has sought a legislative ruling confirming that interpretation from the University Committee on Rules and Jurisdiction.  UCRJ's ruling has not been issued as of 28 April 2006.]