Separation and Probation
Though most Ph.D. students in the program never fall into bad standing, this event does happen on occasion. The purpose of this page is to list some of the more common causes of probation, loss of stipend or separation from the program.
Probation due to low grades:
If a graduate student earns a grade of a C or lower in any course that they are registered for, the university registrar will automatically put them on probation status for the following semester. If the student earns another grade of C or lower during this probational semester, then the dean of graduate studies will consult with the graduate committee of the mathematics department about whether the student should be separated from the program. If the student is otherwise in good standing with the department, the committee will usually ask that the student be given a second chance and the student will continue on probation for a second semester. Otherwise the student is separated from the program. If a student earns a C or lower during a second semester of probation, the student will often be separated from the program by the university registrar.
Loss of stipend due to failure to carry out teaching duties:
Students who are paid living stipends (currently 18k per year) by the mathematics department are expected to provide approximately 10 hours of teaching services (as an instructor, TA or grader) each week during the academic school year (September-May). Repeated failure to perform such assigned duties will usually result in a warning letter from either the math department TA-coordinator or the director of graduate studies. The student will be consulted and provided with a program to remedy any deficits in their performance. Failure to followup on these recommendations will result with probation the following semester and a required meeting at the beginning of the probationary semester. If the student is found not to be performing teaching duties at any point of the probationary semester, their stipend payments for that semester will be immediately cancelled. Once cancelled, the stipends will only be reinstated upon approval of the graduate committee which will only grant such approval if the student provides convincing evidence that they will perform their duties.
Note these cancellation of stipends are not due to poor student evaluations or similar metrics but only when a complete failure of performing duties (not showing up to class or recitation or not grading homework you are assigned to grade etc.) is willfully done, repeatedly.
Separation due to failure to complete preliminary requirements:
As detailed on the Ph.D. Program menu of these pages, there are 6 first year foundational courses with associated preliminary exams that a student must pass by the end of their 2nd year. If by the 2nd year, the student has not obtained the required 4 Ph.D. passes and 2 Masters passes in the 6 graduate prelims, and a passing grade in the 6 corresponding courses, then the graduate committee will meet to decide about their fate. If the student is relatively close to completing the preliminary requirements, they can be given an additional semester or year to finish these requirements. However if they are not close, they are usually separated from the Ph.D. program. In most such cases of separation, the student would have done enough work to leave with a Master's degree in Mathematics.
Loss of stipend due to loss of advisor support in the fifth or higher year:
Provided a student remains in good standing, Ph.D. students typically are guaranteed the living stipend (18k a year) for their first 4 years. In their 5th year and onward, students continue to get the stipend as long as their advisor confirms that they are making satisfactory progress towards their Ph.D. thesis. Though it is rare, occasionally the student's advisor will say their progress is unsatisfactory. If this notification happens within a month of the next academic semester, the student will be given one more probationary semester (in addition to the one when the graduate committee is notified of the advisor's assessment) to either find a new advisor who will vouch for them or to prepare to enter the job market. The graduate committee will often try to help the student find a new advisor if there is a reasonable chance the student can graduate within a reasonable timeframe. After this probationary semester, unless the 5th+ year student has found a new advisor and obtained an approval to continue from the graduate committee, the student's stipend will be stopped.