I started my CS PhD from 2013 and changed my advisor last semester. My new advisor is in the electrical department and has an affiliation with CS for advising CS PhD student.

Although I passed my WPE exam and "pass with reservation" in oral exam from my previous lab, the CS department told us to retake the WPE and Oral exam with new committee member if I wanted to switch my advisor.

I discussed this issue with my new advisor. Then my new advisor discussed this issue with the DGS(director of graduate study) in CS department and the DGS told him that he and I can assign new committee members and retake the WPE/Oral exam. By the way, I got an email from CS department that I could retake WPE/Oral exam in the condition with new advisor and committee members.

After we received the email, my new advisor and I agreed to retake the exam and moved forward to research together, based on what they said meaning DGS and graduate program coordinator.

However, yesterday the Graduate school contacted my new advisor that we can't reassign new committee members due to the university policy. My advisor then talked with CS department but they said they can't resolve this issue because of the university policy. The DGS that my advisor talked previously has been changed to new DGS.

I went to meet with the new DGS this afternoon hoping to solve my issue, but all he told me at the beginning of the meeting was to transfer to EE department or graduate with CS master degree. Obviously, there was a mistake between CS and graduate school, but nobody wants to take in charge of this mistake. After arguing their mistakes and telling him I will contact conflict center or dean's office, his attitude was changed. And he told me that he is going to find possible ways to resolve this issue.

I was so upset and thought this was unfair. I discussed this issue with my new advisor and he thinks that this is absolutely unfair to a student and they ignore your time in graduate school and should not tell me getting out of the graduate program. How can they suggest me to get a CS master degree and leave?

I am feeling awfully bad and really want to sue university because even if I stay here, I have to stay with the DGS and program coordinator.

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    That does sound like a terrible situation, but what is your question? – Austin Henley Oct 10 '15 at 5:06
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    K Doe: Asking for legal advice and not specifying your country is silly. In the US, a student suing a university for an academic issue is extremely unlikely to work. A university has no legal obligation to keep a student. Here is another question: what would you sue for? Money? (Why would the university owe you money?) The right to stay in the PhD program? Then -- assuming somehow that you are successful -- you would be in a program in which your presence is undesired by the local powers but legally mandated. This could be much more unpleasant than starting fresh in a new program. – Pete L. Clark Oct 10 '15 at 5:28
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    " But if I can sue them at the cheap price, I would be happy." You don't seem to be thinking very clearly. Losing a lawsuit against a university is going to have entirely negative consequences: on your finances, your time, your reputation and your future career. You were told by certain departmental officials that something could be done, and it turns out they made a mistake. The person who made the mistake no longer has the position (hmm....) but the new person in that position "is going to find possible ways to resolve this issue". So they are trying to fix the problem: why aren't you? – Pete L. Clark Oct 10 '15 at 7:08
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    Instead, you are going on the internet and asking how to do the least helpful thing possible. The idea that you are somehow legally entitled to continue as a PhD student in your program is a horrible one (unless you are in some country where the university is directly run by the government and the courts actually rule on university procedures). Are you not aware that students who do not make satisfactory progress cannot continue in the program? And that a "pass with reservation" means that your progress was formally recognized as being borderline? – Pete L. Clark Oct 10 '15 at 7:18
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    It is very likely that they absolutely have the right to kick you out of the program. Depending on the nuances of the situation, you may be right that doing so would not be kind or fair. So you should be appealing to the relevant parties' sense of kindness and fairness, not challenging them on their rights or spitefully trying to drag them through the mud. Most people who are kicked out of universities have negative things to say about the university that kicked them out. It is very, very rare that these negative sentiments actually damage the university. – Pete L. Clark Oct 10 '15 at 7:22

After arguing their mistakes and telling him I will contact conflict center or dean's office, his attitude was changed. And he told me that he is going to find possible ways to resolve this issue.

This suggests to me that your best move at the moment is to sit tight and see what the resolution turns out to be. This person is about to charge the bureaucracy on your behalf; let him do it!

Threatening a lawsuit is, for the many reasons listed in the comments to the OP, the thing to do if you are absolutely set on ruining your life as well as your academic career. Don't.

This is legitimately frustrating and you are legitimately angry about it. It's hard to think strategically in such a situation, yet that is precisely what you aren't doing at the moment -- but need to.

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  • Thank you for your answer but he told me that I need to submit the petition. It doesn't make sense at all. Why do I need to make it? In addition, I need to get the support letters from DGS and coordinator who want to hide something. Also the DGS wants to control the contents of petition so far. I don't know why they care this a lot like this. My advisor told me it is not going to work in graduate school. I don't know what to do. – K Doe Oct 10 '15 at 13:15
  • @KDoe The new DGS presumably knows more than you do about the relevant procedures and how best to get results. What do you have to lose by following their advice to the letter? – Patricia Shanahan Oct 10 '15 at 15:33
  • Patricia: thank you. It's so stressful. My concern is that at first, DGS and program coordinator told me like kicking out from the program. I am wondering what they will do for me. Its obvious that they are not working for students. – K Doe Oct 10 '15 at 16:17

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