October 10, 2011

Guidelines set for PhD student, JHU relationship

Rights and responsibilities are laid out in new document

To bolster the already strong ties between the university and its PhD students, the newly instituted Doctor of Philosophy Board at Johns Hopkins has produced a statement of rights and responsibilities for all university PhD students.

The statement, released today, lays out a series of  common expectations for students, their faculty advisers and the JHU schools that grant PhD degrees.

While each PhD-granting school has specific policies that govern its students’ doctoral education, the statement will help ensure that all divisions’ policies are consistent. The principles described in the document will influence policies established by the schools.

In its preamble, the statement asserts that PhD education is fundamental to the university’s teaching and research mission. “For an intellectual community of scholars to flourish, it is important to acknowledge the principles that underlie the compact between PhD students, the faculty and other members of the university community,” it says.

The document focuses on basic tenets such as the PhD student’s right to education, supervision, training, and full and regular access to information about the degree requirements.

PhD students, the document reads, “have the right to receive, on a regular basis, written evaluation of their progress and to be informed of the criteria upon which the evaluation is based,” and should be provided with opportunities to discuss such evaluations with their adviser.

PhD students also have the right to academic freedom, which includes the right to express, without reprisal, independent opinions about scholarly issues, such as opinions regarding theoretical and methodological debates in their disciplines.

Brenda Rapp, chair of the Doctor of Philosophy Board, said that the statement of rights and responsibilities is both symbolic and practical.

“We want to acknowledge the significance of PhD studies here at Johns Hopkins. This statement of rights and responsibilities shows our commitment to preserving the stature of this level of study,” said Rapp, chair of the Department of Cognitive Science in the Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. “It also highlights the importance of the relationship between doctoral student, faculty and the university. From a practical point of view, it lays out the principles of this complex relationship.”

In terms of responsibilities, the statement says that PhD students should uphold the ethical responsibilities of their profession and discipline, dedicate the appropriate effort and time to meet degree requirements and treat all members of the university community respectfully and in a professional manner.

The statement also says that doctoral students have a responsibility to contribute to the intellectual life of the university and to the advancement of education and scholarship.

“This responsibility, which some might see as progressive, asks the PhD student to look beyond his or her research project and view his or her role to the greater community of scholarship,” Rapp said.

The Doctor of Philosophy Board is a standing committee of The Johns Hopkins University that reports to the provost and is responsible to the faculties of schools granting a Doctor of Philosophy degree.

In crafting the document, the board sought input from faculty, students and the academic councils that govern graduate study.

The board, formed in early 2010, consists of 10 distinguished faculty from the six schools currently granting a PhD degree: the schools of Arts and Sciences, Engineering, Public Health, Medicine, Nursing and Advanced International Studies. It also includes two student representatives.

The board advises the provost about universitywide issues pertaining to the PhD, approves new PhD degree programs and major changes to existing programs, and sets guidelines and policies that affect all PhD students. The board, in its mission statement, states that it “respects the strong tradition of local autonomy of the schools and seeks to enhance the visibility and prominence of doctoral education across the university.”

The board inherited all universitywide PhD policies previously approved by the Homewood Academic Council’s Graduate Board, which continues to administer the Homewood PhD programs.

To see the full statement of rights and responsibilities, and for more on the Doctor of Philosophy Board, go to web.jhu.edu/administration/provost/phdboard.html.