Student Resources

  • Students and Mentors
  • Problem-Solving
  • Appeal Panel Guidelines

Students and Mentors

You and your PhD mentor share the responsibility for establishing a relationship that contributes to the successful pursuit of your graduate degree. Your mentoring relationship should reflect mutual respect, academic rigor, integrity and open communication. The following guidelines outline the ideal responsibilities of each party in the mentoring relationship.

The Ideal Mentor:

  • Reads and returns work promptly, with constructive comments
  • Develops with the student a list of short- and long-term research and professional goals
  • Clarifies expectations and policies
  • Communicates regularly about research progress,scheduling changes, and workshops or seminars that will aid in the student’s professional development
  • Provides students with opportunities to develop and practice professional skills required for research, teaching and service
  • Helps students develop an innovative dissertation topic
  • Helps students develop a marketable job dossier
  • Supports the variety of professional interests a student may have in research, industry, teaching and service
  • Facilitates networking
  • Knows course and milestone requirements
  • Treats students respectfully as future colleagues

Acknowledges that students have responsibilities outside the academy.

The Ideal Student:

  • Chooses his or her mentor thoughtfully and wisely by becoming familiar with the professor’s research and professional interests
  • Has developed short- and long-term professional and research goals, and shares these goals with his or her mentor
  • Is aware of his or her own strengths and weaknesses
  • Submits work promptly and comes to meetings prepared with specific goals, questions and tasks to be accomplished in that meeting
  • Communicates regularly with faculty about his or her progress, changes in focus, and professional needs


Certain issues, such as sexual harassment and violations of academic integrity must be handled by the appropriate USC individual or office. Examples include: Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention and Services (RSVP), USC Office of Equity and Diversity and USC Student Judicial Affairs and Community Standards

If a student has a problem or complaint regarding an appointment as a TA, RA, or AL, then the problem should be brought immediately to the attention of the supervising faculty or staff to whom the TA, RA, or AL is responsible. If a solution cannot be reached, then resolution should then be sought through the department or program chair, and then the Dean of the academic unit. Additional information can be found in the Handbook for Teaching Assistants (TAs), Research Assistants (RAs), and Graduate Assistant Lecturers (ALs)

Disputed academic evaluation and graduate student dismissal appeals policies and processes are outlined in SCampus, Part C – Academic Policies

In the event that an academic dispute results in the dismissal of a graduate student from his or her academic unit, and mediation is unsuccessful, The Graduate School will work with the student through a formal appeal of the academic evaluation. For more information, see the Disputed Academic Evaluation Procedures section of SCampus, the USC student handbook.

Appeal Panel Guidelines

An appeal panel is a formal hearing for issues which have resulted in dismissal from a degree program and which have not been resolved at the department or school level. For more information about the process, please see SCampus:

The appeal panel is composed of three members, the appeal panel chair and two members who are deans or dean designees drawn from schools other than that of the appellant. The hearing is chaired by either the Vice Provost for Graduate Programs or a designate. When the Vice Provost for Graduate Programs acts as chair, the panel is staffed by a non-voting Associate or Assistant Dean of the Graduate School or designee. Following the appeal hearing, the panel will deliberate in closed session and will issue a formal opinion and ruling. The decision of the panel will be final. There is no further appeal.


All materials that the appeal panel and appellant are to review must be submitted to the Graduate School at least 14 days in advance of the hearing, at which time such materials will be distributed to all parties to the appeal. Thereafter, if either of the parties wishes to have additional materials considered by members of the panel, those materials must be received by the Graduate School no later than 7 days in advance of the scheduled hearing date. The Graduate School will notify the other party of the submission of additional materials and will make a good faith effort to distribute the additional materials to the parties and the appeal panel prior to the hearing.

The Graduate School will pay for reasonable reproduction costs of the appellant's materials, up to a limit of 50 pages. The department which is the subject of the appeal is expected to provide 5 copies of its materials and to fund their own reproduction costs. If witnesses are to be called by either side, their names must be received in writing by the Graduate School at the beginning of the scheduling process. Presentation of the issues should be concise and relevant. The points of dispute or ambiguity may be summarized or illustrated by anecdote. Experience suggests that the best approach is to minimize formalized presentations and allow the panel members maximum time for questions.


An attorney is neither necessary nor recommended. The Graduate School appeal panel operates as an academic hearing, not a judicial proceeding. However, if the appellant elects to have counsel present, USC General Counsel will also be in attendance. Accordingly, at the beginning of the scheduling process, the appellant must notify the Graduate School, in writing, that s/he intends to bring an attorney. After an attorney has contacted the Graduate School on behalf of an appellant, all contact, both written and oral, will be routed through the Office of University General Counsel. The presence of counsel at the hearing does not change the proceeding. The attorney(s) will not be able to examine witnesses, ask questions, or otherwise take part in the proceedings, except in an unobtrusive manner, in an advisory capacity to the client.

Format of the appeal meeting

  1. Appeal panel chair's introduction, summary of issues and process overview
  2. Appellant's presentation of issues (15 minutes maximum)
  3. Department/School representative's presentation of issues (15 minutes maximum)
  4. Optional: Presentation by witnesses (limited to 3 per side and a maximum of 15 minutes total per side)
  5. Appellant's rebuttal (limited to 10 minutes)
  6. Questions by appeal panel members
  7. All presenters and witnesses are excused
  8. Deliberation by panel members
  9. Written opinion and ruling will be issued within 15 days, unless extended by the appeal panel chair, with written notice of the extension given to all parties

If you have questions about the process, or if you would like to request that an appeal panel be convened, please contact the Vice Provost for Graduate Programs.