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Faculty Roles and Responsibilities

The Faculty Member


Election of faculty to graduate program membership is governed by Graduate Council policy and the bylaws of the specific program. See the Policy on Membership in Graduate Programs. The bylaws of each department- or group-based program specify the detailed criteria for membership nomination, initial election, and periodic review of membership. Criteria generally considered are the individual’s academic title, research area, research accomplishments, and contributions to the program. Thus, academicians throughout the campus may be eligible for election to graduate program membership, provided they hold one of the appropriate academic titles: 

  • members of the Academic Senate of the University of California (including professors, lecturers, senior lecturers with security of employment, professors in residence, professors of clinical “__,” acting professor series);
  • professors emeritus/a, if specified in the graduate group bylaws;
  • research professors;
  • visiting professors;
  • certain members of the Academic Federation (clinical professors in Health Sciences [not volunteer series], adjunct professors, supervisors of physical education, Unit 18 lecturers, academic administrators [not academic coordinators]);
  • specialists in the Cooperative Extension who also hold a concurrent appointment as educator without salary;
  • academic researchers in the professional research series (including associate research ___ [not research associate or project scientist]) who also hold a concurrent appointment as educator without salary.

Appointees are expected to have an active program of research or scholarship commensurate with the expectations of the University of California. This criterion is essential if the faculty member is to provide appropriate research guidance to his/her graduate students. Academic staff members who have primary appointments as Cooperative Extension specialists or in the professional research series are not eligible to be members of graduate programs, unless they also hold an appropriate instructional title or educator without salary. Appointees to the title of educator without salary (with an appropriate concurrent research title) may mentor graduate students, serve on committees, join graduate groups, serve as graduate advisor, and serve as group chair, but they may not serve as Instructor of Record, unless they hold a concurrent instructional title. A program may specify that its membership is limited to Academic Senate titles only by including appropriate language in its bylaws. 

Rights and Privileges

Each elected member of a graduate program will generally have the full rights and privileges accorded to other members. However, members of department-based graduate programs who do not also hold academic appointments in that department may only participate in graduate matters. These members do not have voting rights regarding department personnel actions, department budget decisions, or undergraduate program matters. The Graduate Council has established a Policy on Quorum and Voting Rights & Responsibility (GC2011-04); the policy defines the minimum affirmative vote required for passage of a motion. Some graduate programs may define a more stringent policy. 


Graduate program members are expected to contribute to the program in order to maintain their membership status. Acceptable membership contributions may include:

  • teaching graduate courses in the program and mentoring students,
  • serving on administrative committees of the program, 
  • serving as a program administrative officer, 
  • serving as a graduate advisor, or
  • serving on advanced degree committees.

The Graduate Program Chair


The chair is the academic leader and administrative head of the graduate program. The chair automatically has signature authority on all forms and petitions related to the program.


In department-based graduate programs, the department chair is also the graduate program chair. The dean of a college nominates the department chair to the Chancellor, who then appoints the chair (APM 245A). The department chair may delegate day-to-day administrative oversight of the program to another faculty member (e.g., vice chair for graduate matters, the chair of a graduate affairs committee, etc.), but the department chair retains ultimate authority and responsibility for the graduate program. In group-based graduate programs, the Dean of Graduate Studies nominates the graduate group chair (based on procedures endorsed by the Graduate Council) to the Provost, who then appoints the chair (APM Section UCD-245B). The general period of chair appointments is three to five years with the possibility of renewal; acting chairs may be appointed for shorter terms. If a graduate group chair will be absent for a significant period of time (i.e., for a quarter or more), the graduate group must notify the Dean of Graduate Studies. An acting chair will be appointed during the chair’s absence according to the same procedures used to appoint the original chair. When a chair's absence will be of such limited duration that it is not feasible to appoint an acting chair (i.e., less than a quarter), the chair must ensure that appropriate oversight of the graduate group’s administrative affairs occurs during his/her absence.


Each fall, the Associate Dean of Graduate Programs for Graduate Studies welcomes new graduate program chairs to an orientation describing the role, authority and practices expected of them in their role as chair. The following topics are discussed in order to assure the success of the new chair and their graduate program:

  • Policies that govern graduate education
  • Student records and privacy rights associated with monitoring student progress and advising
  • Funding, tuition remission policies
  • Options and processes for student educational leaves
  • Student disqualification procedures
  • Resources available to chairs to solve day-to-day and long-term planning issues

The Graduate Advisor


The graduate advisor addresses academic matters affecting graduate students and their academic programs. The role of a graduate advisor is distinct from that of the major professor. The major professor guides students’ research and usually serves as Dissertation Chair of the Thesis/Dissertation Committee. In all programs, a graduate advisor’s signature is the only signature (other than the chair’s) that Graduate Studies recognizes as an official signature.


At least one graduate advisor is officially appointed in accordance with the policies and procedures of Graduate Studies to a term of two years for each program. The chair of the department or graduate group is responsible for submitting to Graduate Studies his/her nominations for graduate advisor(s) by July 1 of every second year. To submit nominations, complete the Graduate Advisor Appointment Nomination (GS400) form. Each graduate program should have a sufficient number of graduate advisors to establish a student to advisor ratio of approximately 15:1. Given that only the chair and the graduate advisor’s signature is accepted by Graduate Studies, any requested change in graduate advisors during the academic year must be reported immediately to Graduate Studies.


In general, a graduate advisor acts as a student’s first source of academic information and provides assistance with the details of each student’s plan of study in the graduate program. In all of the matters listed below, the graduate advisor must evaluate whether student requests are permitted under existing policies and regulations. The following list outlines the primary responsibilities of the graduate advisor:

  • Every quarter, review and approve the program of study for each graduate student who has not advanced to candidacy.
  • Review and take action on each petition submitted by a graduate student to drop/add courses, or to take courses on an S/U basis, as well as make recommendations on petitions from graduate students who want to drop or add courses beyond the fifth week of classes.
  •  Review and approve student petitions for Planned Educational Leave (PELP) and then forward such petitions to Graduate Studies for approval


In the fall, the Associate Dean of Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Scholars for Graduate Studies invites faculty advisors to attend a presentation reviewing the scope of an advisor's authority and responsibility as advisors and mentors. The following topics and processes regarding the advisor's review and approval authority are discussed:

  • Individual students' programs of study
  • Students' petitions to add/drop courses
  • Academic holds, leaves, grade extensions, and change of degree objective
  • Advancement to candidacy and thesis, dissertation and QE committees
  • Requirement for annual progress reports
  • Student support services, mentoring guidelines, and retention activities
  • Student disqualification procedures and grievance and appeal processes
  • Petitions for Exception

The Admissions Advisor


Only the graduate admissions advisor (in addition to the program chair) has delegated signature authority for admissions, readmission, or change of major petitions for graduate students. The graduate admissions advisor may also have responsibility and signature authority for awarding graduate program fellowship allocation funds. In many programs, the graduate admissions advisor is chair of an admissions committee charged with reviewing program applications.


One graduate advisor in each program may be designated as the graduate admissions advisor. This person is nominated and appointed according to the same procedures noted above for graduate advisors.