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An exception to any rule may be requested for cause by petition to the Faculty or to the Graduate School. Students should consult a faculty advisor who will present the petition to the faculty or route it appropriately. (Some petitions must be presented to a departmental committee (often, the Graduate Studies Committee) for a recommendation before going to the full faculty.)

Decisions made by individual faculty members or by committees may be appealed to the whole Department faculty. Normally, such petitions are brought to the faculty by the program advisor or by the Director of Graduate Studies.

Common petitions include the following:

  • to take an exam (M.S. Comprehensive, Ph.D. Oral, Ph.D. Qual) for the third time.
  • to be admitted to the Ph.D. program (if the student was not admitted at the time of the Ph.D. Qualifying Exam).
  • to be allowed to retake a program exam without the required three-month waiting period.

Petition Guidance

Petitioning for an exception to some rule is a fairly common occurrence, but it should not be undertaken lightly.

Be certain that you need to petition
Students may attempt program exams twice without any special procedures. After two attempts, the student must petition the Graduate School for permission to take the exam for the third time. Rules imposed by the department can be excepted by the department. Graduate School rules must be excepted by the Graduate School on recommendation of the department. The Director of Graduate Studies can help you to determine what action is required.

Be certain of your audience
Some petitions may be acted upon by the Director of Graduate Studies alone. Others require action farther up the channels of command: by the department’s Graduate Studies Committee, by the department’s Faculty, or by the Graduate School. Petitions normally follow that sequence until they reach the appropriate action level. At each stop on the way, the reviewer(s) make an evaluation and recommendation.

Put your best case forward the first time
The student should consult the academic advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies to discuss the grounds for a petition. The grounds for the petition should be clearly stated. It looks bad to have to come back again with the same petition but different grounds.

The Petition Letter
The student should write a letter addressed to The Faculty, Department of Computer Science (even petitions that must be acted on by the Graduate School: the Faculty must make a recommendation, and formally, the faculty talks to the Graduate School on your behalf if necessary). A letter petitioning to take an exam for the third time should be organized as follows (for other petitions, make appropriate modifications):


State when you took the exams, what your scores were, what the minimum passing scores were. Summarize your course grades by number of hours of H+, H, H-, etc. Do not count research team meeting seminars, 991, 992 or dissertation research hours.
Describe how you did on the exams you took. Was there a pattern to what you did wrong that you can identify and improve on a third attempt? Why did you not pass before, and why do you think you can do better next time?
State what you plan to do to prepare for the third attempt at the exam. This section should be specific, and it may overlap a bit with what you said under Analysis. We want to know specifically what you plan to do to enhance your chances of passing the exam on the third attempt.
Other Information
You may add here any other comments that might support your petition. The faculty’s decision will be based on your whole record: courses, research, and past exam performance. Include here any aspects of your record that the faculty might not already know or have documented.

Your petition will normally be presented to the faculty by the Director of Graduate Studies. The faculty will discuss your petition in closed session (student representatives and visitors will be excused) and vote on whether to support it. The Director of Graduate Studies will then write to you and the Graduate School stating whether the faculty support the petition.