College Policies

College-specific policies help ensure the education and training of our graduate students are a careful balance of academic and employment responsibilities.

The policies below are not comprehensive. Please also review the university’s policies for graduate students.

Academic Employment

Academic employment for students enrolled in CNS graduate programs is governed by the following principles. Exceptions are granted only rarely and must be approved in advance by the CNS Associate Dean for Graduate Education.

  • Each year, CNS establishes standard rates for Teaching Assistant (TA) and Assistant Instructor (AI) appointments. Individual programs may supplement these but may not appoint students below the standard rates.
  • Graduate Research Assistant (GRA) appointments must be at or above the standard CNS TA rate.
  • Student stipends should not decrease in years 1-5 of their PhD studies.
  • Students should not be required to work as TAs or AIs more than a maximum number of semesters set by their program in consultation with the College.
  • Effective Fall 2017, programs will ensure that all students appointed as TAs, AIs, or GRAs receive full (9 hours Fall/Spring, 3 hours Summer) tuition relief.

For details regarding the policies by which these principles are implemented, please see the CNS Grad Ed Wiki (restricted access, EID login required).


Any graduate student traveling internationally for University-related purposes must obtain prior authorization. Find detailed travel information for students from TEXAS Global.



    Graduate students have the right to seek redress for academic or nonacademic issues. Every effort should be made to resolve grievances informally with the assistance of the student’s Graduate Advisor, Graduate Studies Committee Chair, Program Director or Department Chair. If a grievance cannot be resolved informally, students have recourse to formal grievance procedures. Students filing grievances are protected against retaliation. Most issues fall into one of the following categories:

    Grade Disputes

    Grade disputes are governed by College and Department review policies. The order of review is course instructor, Graduate Advisor, Department Chair or Program Director, and Dean of the College. The decision of the Dean is final.

    Other Academic Grievances

    Other academic grievances (e.g., disputes related to a student’s academic responsibilities, thesis/dissertation research, or graduate degree requirements) are governed by Graduate School Grievance Procedures as outlined in the Handbook of Operating Procedures (HOP).

    Harassment or Discrimination

    Grievances involving any form of alleged harassment or discrimination should be submitted to either the University Title IX Office and/or the Center for Equity & Inclusion, following HOP rules for the Department of Investigation and Adjudication.


    In instances of alleged misconduct, general guidelines indicate that an internal resolution should be pursued whenever possible. If internal resolution fails, cases alleging student misconduct should be referred to the Office of the Dean of Students. Cases alleging faculty, staff or supervisor misconduct should be directed to the Department Chair or Program Director, the College Dean, and the Graduate School, in that order.

    Teaching Assistant Disputes

    Teaching Assistant or Assistant Instructor employment disputes are governed by University TA/AI Grievance Procedures.

    Graduate Research Assistant Disputes

    Graduate Research Assistant employment disputes are governed by University GRA Grievance Procedures.

    Parental Accommodations

    For graduate students who start or expand families during their time in our graduate programs, CNS offers four types of accommodations for graduate students with growing families. These accommodations are available to full-time students (enrolled for at least nine credit hours each long semester and three hours in summer). It is the responsibility of a graduate student anticipating a birth or adoption to inform their Graduate Advisor and/or GSC Chair, and their research supervisor of any anticipated accommodation needs as early as possible.

    Each department has identified a single faculty member, listed further down this page, to assist graduate students anticipating childbirth or adoption, and to submit appropriate accommodation documentation to the CNS Dean's Office.

    Get the Parental Accommodation Request form


    In cases of childbirth or adoption, graduate students in the College of Natural Sciences are allowed a one-semester extension in the completion of academic responsibilities required for their degree. Academic responsibilities include coursework, qualifying exams, committee meetings, presentations, or any other required academic milestones. The CNS Academic Accommodation Policy allows these responsibilities to be postponed either during or immediately following the semester in which the student’s child is born or adopted. After an accommodation period, students are expected to resume progress toward degree completion, and faculty are encouraged to remain flexible in their expectations so that students can meet the demands of graduate study while adjusting to new demands in their parental roles.


    The College strongly encourages departments to provide non-TA/AI support for graduate students during the semester in which a child is born or adopted. If this cannot be done, new parents may request to be appointed to TA positions whose duties can be done in flexible environments and on flexible schedules. (Examples of such duties include: generating or proofreading exams, homework sets, or exam review materials; preparing detailed solution keys to problems; grading or grade-book maintenance; and assisting students with course content through email correspondence.) Students should check with their program’s Graduate Advisor and Graduate Coordinator for information about available TA positions that may be appropriate for their particular situations. Flexibility regarding the distribution of specific TA duties within a semester is strongly encouraged for supervisors of students anticipating the birth or adoption of a child. The student and Graduate Advisor (or other supervisor) should agree to review these TA duties on a periodic schedule to ensure that work is being completed in a timely and satisfactory manner. A TA whose accommodations include performing at least some duties away from campus should review University guidelines regarding telecommuting and may be asked to sign a flexible work agreement.


    Some graduate students may be able to carry out modified research duties following the birth or adoption of a child – thereby continuing progress towards the goals of their research, meeting the requirements of the external funding agency, and remaining in compliance for reporting effort on federal grants, if appropriate. (Modified duties may include: scholarly research and literature compilations, data processing and analysis, scientific writing, or preparation of other scientific communication materials.) See Modified Research Duties for Graduate Research Assistants in CNS below for more information on eligibility and application requirements.


    In some cases, a complete break from all employment responsibilities may be most appropriate for new graduate student parents. Benefits-eligible graduate student employees who continue to meet eligibility requirements for employment are entitled to Parental Leave of up to twelve weeks following the birth of a child or an adoption or foster-care placement of a child under age three. This leave is unpaid, and – unless the student qualifies for leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) – employee health insurance premium sharing is unavailable for any full month of leave (see the Human Resources Parental Leave webpage).

    Students requesting Parental Leave may also request consideration by the College of Natural Sciences for Endowed Fellowship Funds from the Dean's Office to maintain stipend support and cover health insurance premiums for a portion of the semester in which a leave is granted. Please see your department’s Graduate Advisor, Graduate Coordinator, or Parental Accommodation faculty contact person for assistance. The CNS Director for Postgraduate Education will assist faculty contacts in determining the course of action that is most appropriate for individual graduate student parents. Students may also direct questions about Parental Leave and FMLA leave to the Human Resources Service Center at

    Notes about Parental Accommodations

    As with all academic employee appointments, future financial support is contingent upon satisfactory academic progress as defined by the student's GSC, and satisfactory job performance as defined by the employing unit.

    International students may have to satisfy additional obligations in cases (2)–(4) above; they should contact the International Office for further information.

    In the event that a student’s request for accommodation is denied, the student may appeal to the CNS Associate Dean for Graduate Studies, who will investigate the appeal in coordination with CNS Human Resources staff and the Parental Accommodation faculty contact person in the student’s supervising department.

    If medical conditions indicate that additional accommodations may be necessary, students should contact Services for Students with Disabilities and the Office for Inclusion and Equity to determine what additional accommodations are reasonable.

    Departmental Contacts for Students Seeking Parental Accommodations

    Department Contact
    Astronomy Dr. Stella Offner
    Chemistry Dr. Lauren Webb

    Computer Science

    Dr. Greg Plaxton
    Human Development and Family Sciences

    Dr. Su Yeong Kim

    Integrative Biology

    Dr. Michael Ryan
    Marine Science

    Dr. Deana Erdner


    Dr. Tim Perutz
    Molecular Biosciences

    Dr. Jason McClellan


    Dr. Jared Lewis-Peacock
    Nutritional Sciences

    Dr. Jaimie Davis


    Dr. Richard Fitzpatrick
    Statistics and Data Science

    Dr. Stephen Walker


    Modified Research Duties Policy 

    Graduate students who may apply for modified research/academic duties are those who are a parent of a newborn child or of a recently adopted child under age three. For graduate students who need to modify their research duties during a semester in which a child is born, adopted, or placed in foster care and who are CNS graduate students in good academic standing appointed as Graduate Research Assistants for 20 hours/week or more during a long-semester or summer session, and who have previously been appointed to a 20-hour/week graduate student position for at least 4.5 months:

    • The graduate student must submit a written request for a modification of research/academic duties to their Graduate Advisor and GSC chair. Whenever possible, the request should be submitted prior to the semester in which the modification is needed. The request must include the following, with a signature of approval from the faculty member serving as the student’s research supervisor:

      • A statement explaining the need for modified research responsibilities; and
      • A proposal describing the work to be done in place of the applicant’s standard research responsibilities. This work may involve scholarly research and literature compilations, data processing and analysis, scientific writing (manuscript or thesis writing, manuscript preparation), or the preparation of other scientific communication materials (e.g., lectures or poster presentations). The proposal must describe the work in detail, define a work product, and include a method for evaluation of the work by the research supervisor during the period where modified duties are granted. The research supervisor will be responsible for verifying that the proposed duties are within the scope of work outlined in the grant that funds the graduate student’s appointment.

    The Graduate Advisor and GSC chair will review the request for modified duties to determine that the graduate student is eligible to apply for modified research /academic duties; and that the request contains a sufficiently detailed description of the work to be done in place of the applicant’s normal research responsibilities, that it defines a reasonable work product, and that it states an adequate method for evaluation of the work by the research supervisor and Graduate Advisor during the leave period.

    Modifications to research/academic duties shall be for the period of one semester. Graduate students whose requests for modified research/academic duties are granted will continue to be funded through their GRA appointment throughout the duration of the designated time frame.