Roles and Responsibilities

Jump to the following sections on this page to learn more about graduate program roles and responsibilities:

Good Standing in the Department

In order to remain in good standing in the department, each student must satisfy the requirements for their program by the dates specified. For PhD students, the 4-Year and 5-Year timelines below provide a summary of major due dates.

A student who is not in good standing may have their program of study terminated. A student who is not in good standing, even if she or he is allowed to continue in the program, is no longer guaranteed funding of any kind, not even tuition funding. A student who is not in good standing may become ineligible for certain fellowships, and will have the lowest priority for TA/RA positions and bursary assistance.

The School of Graduate Studies has its own discussion of good standing.

Noteworthy Duties of Faculty Members

Graduate Department policy stipulates various specific duties for faculty members, over and above their course duties and their duty to be generally available to students for consultation—especially students in one’s classes, or on whose Area Committee or Thesis Committee one serves.

Mandated Meetings for the Thesis

As the student writes her or his thesis, individual committee members should be available for regular consultation.

The department mandates, as a matter of policy, the following meetings between the student and the Thesis Committee as a whole:

  • The Thesis Committee is required to meet with the student to approve a topic and to advise on the proposed plan of research and timetable. The Committee completes a Thesis Committee Form, signed by all committee members and filed with the Graduate Office. If the Thesis Committee membership will remain the same and the chair will become the student’s supervisor after the Qualifying Exam, this form should be submitted along with the Qualifying Exam Certificate immediately following the oral exam. If the Thesis Committee will or may undergo changes after the Qualifying Exam, this form should be submitted within one month of the exam.
  • The Thesis committee is required to meet with the student at the beginning of each academic year, and no later than the end of September, until the thesis has been defended or the student’s candidacy in the department has elapsed, in order to consider the student’s progress on the thesis and to advise on the student’s research and professional development. At the conclusion of each meeting, the Thesis Committee must complete a Thesis Committee Report, which is to be signed by all committee members and filed with the Graduate Office by September 30.

It is the student’s responsibility to arrange these meetings, but it is each Thesis Committee member’s responsibility to be reasonably available for each meeting.

Principles for the Guidance of Supervisors and Readers

  • The supervisor should be both expert in and interested in the proposed area of research. A supervisor may lack antecedent expertise, but may wish to acquire it and may find the necessary stimulus in supervision. A prospective supervisor should refuse a request to supervise where this condition is not satisfied. That the prospective candidate wants to pursue a particular topic, and that no other supervisor is available, are not overriding considerations. A student does not have the right to choose a topic which does not correspond to available expertise and interest in the department.
  • It is the responsibility of the supervisor to ensure that the topic is well-defined and can be effectively researched and developed into a thesis within two years full-time work after the area examination. The desire of a candidate to write on a more ambitious topic is not a sufficient reason for approving such a topic. A thesis need not be, and usually is not, a magnum opus.
  • No faculty member should feel any obligation to supervise more than three students at a time. A faculty member who accepts more than three students should warn each not to expect the same closeness of supervision as would otherwise be available.
  • Since supervisors go on leave, provision for this should be made when supervision is first undertaken: either the supervisor should continue supervision while on leave, or an acting supervisor should be selected. A supervisor taking leave has an obligation to provide continuing supervision or arrange alternative supervision. This obligation diminishes if the supervisee does not complete work within two or three years after the area examination.
  • The role of a reader is to provide an additional opinion throughout thesis-writing. Thus a reader may read the candidate’s work but not to offer the same detailed direction and commentary as the supervisor. Unless heavily committed to supervisory duties, one of the readers should be willing to serve as acting supervisor while the supervisor is on leave. A reader who is on leave, however, has no obligation to the candidate.

Supervision Checklists

Graduate Governance

The Graduate Department of Philosophy consists mostly of undergraduate philosophy faculty at the University of Toronto’s three campuses: St. George, Mississauga, and Scarborough. There are also members from other units at U of T.

The department is led by a Graduate Chair, appointed by the School of Graduate Studies. The Graduate Chair appoints a Graduate Coordinator, who is responsible for the day-to-day running of the department’s graduate programs.

The normal policy-making body of the Graduate Department of Philosophy is the Graduate Executive Committee (GEC), which normally meets in the fall and the spring. The GEC has 15 members: six graduate student members, elected to one-year terms by the graduate students; six faculty members, elected to two-year terms by the graduate faculty (plus two faculty alternates); and three ex-officio members: the graduate chair, the graduate coordinator, and the placement officer.

A majority vote in the GEC will suffice to pass a motion, though if a majority of either the student GEC members or of the faculty GEC members present at a meeting request it, a vote on the motion will be postponed until it has been taken to the Graduate Plenary for consultation.

All faculty members of the department, and all students enrolled in degree programs within the department, are full members of the Graduate Plenary with the right to speak and to vote. If a motion has been sent from the GEC to the Graduate Plenary, then the motion will be decided by a majority vote at the plenary, unless the motion is opposed by 3/5 of the faculty members attending the meeting. No business can be raised at a meeting of the Plenary unless it has previously been discussed by the Executive Committee.

The Graduate Department also maintains a Graduate Department Academic Appeals Committee (GDAAC). The faculty members of the GDAAC will consist of the four senior elected members of the Graduate Executive Committee (GEC)—where seniority is determined by number of years at the University of Toronto, where the year of the PhD is used as a tie-breaker, and where a decision of the Graduate Chair breaks remaining ties as needed.

The Chair of the GDAAC will be the most senior faculty member. The remaining two faculty members of the GEC as well as the alternate members of the GEC will be the faculty alternates on the GDAAC. The student members of the GEC will recommend to the graduate chair one of themselves to be the student member of the GDAAC as well as one of themselves to be the alternate student member of the GDAAC.

In 2023-2024, the composition of the GDAAC is as follows: Jessica Wilson (chair), Michael Miller, Michael Rosenthal, Trevor Teitel, and Joshua Brecka.

If a student wishes to dispute a matter, such as a grade, and if informal mediation is unsuccessful, then the student may make a formal appeal to the GDAAC. For further information, see the School of Graduate Studies’s policy on academic appeals.