I am a graduate student here. There are two set of rules applying to the degree I am seeking:

  • rules from the university

  • rules from my department

Using the above sets of rules, you have to make a plan of study (POS) which would be the list of coursework you complete towards your degree.

I followed all those rules, but a few days ago the administrative assistant who’s in charge of all this suddenly said that I was not allowed to take courses from a certain department.

I asked them for the reason for this and got varying responses which included:

  1. The university office raised an objection.
  2. The department in question raised an objection.
  3. There was some new rule which has been in power since last year.

    (I found this hard to believe because as long as you follow the university and department rules to the letter, which I did, you're basically allowed to take whatever courses you want to fill in your additional requirements.)

After some digging in, it turns out there’s no such rule. In fact many people from my department have taken courses from that certain department this semester.

What should I do? I feel like I’m being singled out here. I feel this is also unfair if I’m the only one who’s forced to follow this non-existing rule.

This just happened:

I kept asking them about it and the reason for all this changed to the CSCI department again.

They denied singling me out, this was a lie, due to the reason highlighted below.

Finally, I revealed how other students in the my dept are also taking these courses and how people typically busy with research would only do so for courses which they can use towards their degree (so they were not taking them to fill in credits only).

In the end, get this, this person tells me that the whole ordeal was just a 'mistake' which also suggests that this would have gone unnoticed if I hadn't asked.

  • 1
    This is an issue for you to take with your department chair (and possibly up the line to your graduate dean.) It's really not possible to answer this question without specific knowledge of the rules of your institution. – Brian Borchers Jan 17 '18 at 0:01
  • Any idea why they would do this? Who do you think would have power to make the administrative assistant write this nonsense? – pong Jan 17 '18 at 0:03
  • My point is that I can't answer the question because I'm not familiar with the institution or its specific rules. You haven't provided enough context, and even if you did provide information about your degree program requirements, university requirements for the graduate degree, and the courses that you want to take, I couldn't determine whether or not such a rule had recently been added. – Brian Borchers Jan 17 '18 at 0:10
  • At my institution, for example, my graduate advisees can't take any course without my approval. I could clearly prevent you from taking a course from the department in question. – Brian Borchers Jan 17 '18 at 0:12
  • 4
    I'm not suggesting that at all, just giving you an example of a rule (at my institution) which might prevent a student from taking a course that he/she wants to take. – Brian Borchers Jan 17 '18 at 0:21

You seem to be good at looking up university policy and rules, and reading them carefully. So I suggest your next step would be to look up procedures for appealing academic decisions. Also, get to know your university hierarchy.

Universities vary in how decision making is done, so it’s impossible for me to be more specific about your university.

But I will give you a trick that I’ve had good success with in a variety of educational institutions: Phone or visit the secretary of the highest-level dean you can find that sits above your department, and ask his or her advice for where in the hierarchy to bring your problem. This secretary is often the most competent, knowledgeable person about university hierarchy in the whole institution.

And a general tip: Tell your story concisely and with a neutral tone of voice. Begin by stating the problem. Initially, leave out the numbered list of crazy reasons you were given (but be prepared to provide them if they ask you why the department rejected your proposal).

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