Academic Rights and Responsibilities
LTI Policies for Graduate Students
There are significant differences between departments in philosophical approach, procedures, policies and regulations. Each department issues a handbook that informs graduate students of their program requirements and procedures and ensures that students have written access to the standard information outlined below. Copies of department handbooks are also available through the Hunt Library Reference Desk.
Please bear in mind that you are responsible for knowing and abiding by your department and college policies.
Reasonable Person Principle (RPP): One of the best traditions of the School of Computer Science is the "Reasonable Person Principle". Essentially, this says that we expect members of our community to act reasonably, and therefore we try to keep formal, written policies to a minimum (this handbook not withstanding!) The faculty tries not to burden the students with thousands of rules, and in return we expect the students to not try to find technical loopholes that violate the clear intent of these guidelines.
All LTI policies not explicitly described in this document conform to School of Computer Science (SCS), and/or university policies, as defined at the official University Policies website (including policies on cheating and graduate academic disciplinary actions).
For MASTERS Students - Achievement, timeline, and format requirements for the following:
(Please also see the description of the LTI Masters program.)
Course Requirements and Grades:
(For italicized course term definitions, see below.)
In order to complete the Masters in Language Technologies degree, a student must take (register for and pass) 120 or more course units at a senior or graduate level.
From these 120 units, six (6) courses must be LTI courses and two (2) other courses must be SCS courses; the remaining elective units may be any senior or graduate level courses.
In order to meet SCS-wide Masters Requirements, MLT students must also pass
For the remaining elective units, see On courses taken outside the department. Twelve of the remaining elective units may consist of 11-910 - Directed Research. (Until Spring 2001, there were course requirements regarding "LTI core courses". This distinction has been abolished, but there may be some old references to core courses in the LTI webpages. These should be considered obsolete, replaced by the current requirements. We have recently [May 2001] discovered that the new requirements are not strictly more liberal than the old ones; students who began under the "LTI core course" scheme are of course grandfathered, and may graduate under either set of requirements.)
Minimum Course Grade Policy: The LTI policy on class grades is that a grade of "C" is passing for Masters students; thus "C-" is not passing. Not passing (failing) a class means simply that the class does not count towards the student's degree. What effect failing a class has depends on the individual student's overall situation, as explained in the next point below. Note that (as of Fall 2006) any courses taken Pass/Fail, other than 11-910, will not count towards LTI graduation requirements.
Definition of a student being "in good standing": Following long-standing SCS tradition, the LTI does not have a fixed minimum grade-point average, or a fixed timeline for completion of the MLT degree, although two years is considered normal. Instead, we carry out a Student Evaluation at the end of each semester, typically at the time that final course grades are due. For each student, we write a letter indicating to them whether they are making "satisfactory progress" towards completing their degree. Students are in good standing as long as they are making satisfactory progress.
Optional Masters Thesis: Some MLT students wish to write a thesis as part of their Masters degree. To do this, an MLT student should follow the detailed description of the requirements for the Masters Thesis in the "Guidelines for the Optional LTI M.S. Thesis. Note in particular the October 31 proposal deadline. Each of the two courses described in the document counts towards 6 units of MLT-level LTI course credit; if the student goes on to an LTI Ph.D., the second course counts towards one Ph.D. lab requirement. Once the committee believes the thesis is finished, there will be a public defense. (Since the defense is public, the LTI graduate program administrator must receive all the information required for a public announcement at least one week before the defense.) Note that there is no strict timetable for the committee to approve the thesis; the student must therefore be prepared for the possibility of finishing and presenting the thesis during the summer, if the committee does not feel that it is ready at the end of the semester. The only format requirement for an LTI Masters Thesis is that the title page should be suitable to be issued as an LTI Technical Report.
Qualifying examinations and procedures: There are no qualifying examinations for the MLT degree.
Duration of Study: The timeline for the MLT track is 2 full years, or 24 months. Students should expect to graduate in August of the second year. Students are required to do 2 summers of research during this time in order to complete degree requirements.
Graduation and degree completion specifications and summary of requirements:
For PHD Students - Achievement, timeline, and format requirements for the following:
(Please also see the description of the LTI Ph.D. program.)
Course Requirements and Grades:
(For italicized course term definitions, see below.)
For the course-work part of the Ph.D. in Language and Information Technologies degree, a student must register for and pass six (6) LTI courses and two (2) SCS courses.
Of these eight courses, the student must take at least one from each of the LTI Focus Areas, and must take at least two (2) of the 6-unit lab courses. (These two labs must be in different research areas.)
Students are encouraged to consider taking additional elective courses beyond the eight required.
(Until Spring 2001, there were course requirements regarding "LTI core courses". This distinction has been abolished, but there may be some old references to core courses in the LTI webpages. These should be considered obsolete, replaced by the current requirements. We have recently [May 2001] discovered that the new requirements are not strictly more liberal than the old ones; students who began under the "LTI core course" scheme are of course grandfathered, and may graduate under either set of requirements.)
Maximum PhD Courseload: In order to encourage PhD students to focus on research, PhD students are normally only permitted to register for 24 units of actual coursework per semester.
Minimum Course Grade Policy: The LTI policy on class grades is that "B" is passing for PhD students; thus "B-" is not passing. Not passing (failing) a class means simply that the class does not count towards the student's degree. What effect failing a class has depends on the individual student's overall situation, as explained in the next point below. Note that (as of Fall 06) any courses taken Pass/Fail, other than 11-910, will not count towards LTI graduation requirements.
Definition of a student being "in good standing": Following long-standing SCS tradition, the LTI does not have a fixed minimum grade-point average, or a fixed timeline for completion of the PhD degree, although our target is five years. Instead, we carry out a Student Evaluation at the end of each semester, typically at the time that final course grades are due. For each student, we write a letter indicating to them whether they are making "satisfactory progress" towards completing their degree. Students are in good standing as long as they are making satisfactory progress.
Qualifying examinations and procedures (Proficiency requirements): An LTI PhD student must demonstrate proficiency in the following areas:
Teaching requirements: See the above Teaching proficiency requirement.
Thesis/Dissertation Proposal: The dissertation proposal, normally presented some time near the end of the third year, is a document specifying the problem being addressed (the "thesis"); the significance of this problem and expected scientific contributions; relevant other research, including competing approaches; the student's preliminary results; the specific work remaining to be done and evaluation metrics; and a projected timeline for completion. A dissertation committee consisting of the advisor, at least two other Carnegie Mellon SCS faculty working in Language Technologies, and at least one external member should be approved prior to the proposal. Note: University rules require that the time and place of the proposal presentation be publicly announced at least one week prior to the presentation. This should be coordinated with the Chair of the Graduate Programs. Note also that the primary purpose of the public thesis proposal is to protect the student, both in guaranteeing that their thesis is interesting to someone in addition to their advisor, and that if they successfully complete the work described in the proposal, they will indeed be finished. (It is however quite common for the resulting dissertation to differ substantially from the work originally proposed.)
Thesis Defense (and other public presentations/examinations): The dissertation itself, normally expected in the fifth year, should include a detailed description of all the work done, including a clear evaluation and a discussion of its scientific contributions. There are no fixed style or document length guidelines or requirements; the only format requirement is that the title page should be suitable to be issued as an LTI Technical Report. The dissertation defense is a public presentation and defense of the dissertation results. Note: University rules again require that the time and place of the dissertation defense be publicly announced at least one week prior to the defense. This should also be coordinated with the Chair of the Graduate Programs. At the time of the public announcement, a draft of the thesis document must be made available online.
Graduation and degree completion specifications and summary of requirements: To summarize, the requirements to receive the Ph.D. in Language and Information Technologies degree are:
For ALL students:
Course term definitions - For the purposes of this document:
Research Speaking Requirement: The LTI has established a Research Speaking requirement, in order to emphasize students' research activities, improve their public speaking skills, and increase awareness within the institute of local research work. The research speaking requirement will be met by a local, public, oral presentation, once per year for LTI M.S. and Ph.D. students, beginning with the F02 entering class. (The presentation will be optional for first-year M.S. students.) The presentation should consist of a 20-minute talk plus time for questions and discussion. The deadline each year for that year's talks is the end of May.
Each presentation must be attended by at least two LTI faculty members; the student's research advisor is generally expected to attend. The attending faculty members will convene briefly after the presentation, and will provide written comments on a standardized form. The attending faculty will sign and return this form to the Chair of the Graduate Programs, and a copy will be forwarded to the student. The feedback is intended to help students refine their speaking skills with respect to talk structure, content, and delivery.
The talk must be advertised to LTI mailing lists at least one week before the scheduled presentation, with the public invited to attend.
Semi-annual Student Evaluation: As mentioned above, the LTI faculty holds a Student Evaluation at the end of each semester, typically at the time that final course grades are due. Each student prepares a statement of their achievements in the current semester and their plans for the next semester using a standard form. The entire LTI faculty then meets and discusses the academic progress of each student. The student's advisor is expected to be the student's advocate in this process; this is one of many reasons why it is very important that your advisor knows what you are doing, and has a positive opinion of it. For each student, we write a letter indicating to them whether or not they are making "satisfactory progress" towards completing their degree. For Masters students, this evaluation is based solely on their coursework (including any Directed Research or Independent Studies). For PhD students, it is based on coursework, proficiencies, and research progress.
A good letter typically indicates that the student is making "satisfactory progress". If the student is doing exceptionally good work, a stronger adjective such as "excellent" might be used, but this is unusual.
If a student seems to be in trouble, the faculty determines whether it believes that this student can finish the degree in question, and tells the student what needs to be accomplished to get back on track. Thus a "bad letter" should be considered a wake-up call, and a warning. It is not a permanent "black mark" on the student's record; if the student begins making satisfactory progress again, there is no official record of the letter in the student's transcript.
(We wish to emphasize at this point that the faculty very much wants our students to succeed. At the time of admission, each student already represents a significant investment of faculty time and energy, due to the admissions and recruitment process. As time goes on, each student also represents a large investment of research funding. It is in the faculty's own interest that the students succeed! We do however have a duty to maintain the programs' standards.)
In the most serious cases, the faculty gives the student an "N-1 letter": this specifies a list of conditions that the student must satisfy by the next semester's evaluation, if they are to continue in the LTI graduate program. Failure to meet all of the specified conditions may result in the student's termination from the program (and loss of financial support). Due to this mechanism, it normally takes at least a semester to be removed from the program for poor performance. (In very unusual cases, e.g., severe ethical violations, a student may be removed from the program immediately.)
(The Semi-annual Student Evaluation is popularly called "Black Friday". This might be an unfortunate name, since it is needlessly ominous, but it is a long-standing SCS tradition that we are reluctant to try to suppress).
Support services for the student:
Procedure for written notification of "inadequate progress toward a degree": This is described under "Semi-Annual Student Evaluation", above.
Orientation and other professional development courses: Each Fall semester the LTI provides an "Immigration Course" for new students (and faculty), to familiarize them with the local environment, and to provide an opportunity for research projects to recruit new students. LTI students are strongly encouraged to make use of any SCS or university-wide professional development opportunities.
Explicit information about the requirements for the awarding of and expectations of continued funding: For all LTI Ph.D. students, full funding (tuition plus stipend) is guaranteed for their first year. This support is normally continued for at least 5 years (with possibility of further continuance), subject to continuing excellence in academic progress. The fellowship includes full tuition and a monthly Ph.D. stipend that is fixed across SCS. In addition, the LTI pays a dependency allowance of 10% of the student's monthly stipend to any student with a child, unless they have a spouse who earns more than $200 per month (this dollar limit current as of F2010). Typically Ph.D. support has been extended as long as satisfactory progress is maintained, as described above.
For LTI Masters students, funding (if any) is based on individual arrangements with specific research projects. However, if an LTI research project agrees to support an LTI Masters student, the project must give a two monthwarning before terminating support, as described below.
Note that all LTI students are required to inform us of any external fellowships that they receive; see other important information under "outside" fellowships, below.
Definition of the work required for various sorts of support (grading/teaching assistant/lecturer): The LTI's graduate students are typically supported as Research Assistants on LTI research projects. In return for full tuition and a stipend, we expect the student to work twenty (20) hours each week during the semester, and forty (40) hours each week during the summer. (Students can typically expect a two-week vacation in the summer, unless other arrangements are made with their project.)
In order to document the research done during the semesters, LTI students register for 11-910 - Directed Research (typically 24 units).
In order to document the fact that our students do research in the summers, they must also register for a summer research course.
Since coursework is generally easier at the beginning of the semester, and gets progressively more difficult through the final exams at the end of the semester, it is a good idea for students who are taking classes to try to accomplish more research early in the semester.
The normal LTI winter break policy is that we expect the student to work forty (40) hours per week for two weeks of the break, and to take vacation for the other two weeks.
Since Masters students' support is on a case-by-case basis, there may be additional requirements; these must be described in the hardcopy letter that is sent to the student when they are offered support.
In semesters when a Ph.D. student is TAing (serving as a Teaching Assistant for) a course, TAing for one course counts for one-third of the student's support, so they will be expected to work one-third less than usual for their research project if they are TAing one class.
Information on tax implications of financial support: It is our understanding that while the financial support provided by the LTI is Federally taxable, it is not subject to state taxes, but may be subject to city taxes, depending on where the student lives. This applies to both Ph.D. students and Masters students supported by LTI research projects.
Defined procedure for written notification of change in financial support and a stated minimum notice for such change: Since LTI Masters students are not guaranteed funding, and loss of funding can lead to a student dropping out of the program, the LTI has a policy that LTI research projects must warn a Masters student in writing two months in advance of any funding cut. The intent here is to give the student sufficient time either to improve performance (if termination is due to poor performance), or to arrange other means of support.
LTI Ph.D. students normally continue to receive financial support as long as they are making satisfactory progress for at least five years, as described under "Semi-annual Student Evaluation", above. As described there, Ph.D. students normally receive a one semester advance written warning of possible loss of good academic standing (and funding).
Information on recourses if funding is lost or reduced: If a Masters student loses their project funding, they are free to seek funding from other projects, or any other source.
Ph.D. students normally continue to receive support as long as they are making adequate academic progress. If a Ph.D. student loses funding as the result of the Student Evaluation process, their only recourse is to attempt to meet the requirements of their "N-1" letter, described above, and then petition the LTI faculty for readmission. In the unusual event of a Ph.D. student's funding source running out, they may seek to find a new advisor to support them.
Policies on "outside" employment/consulting: Students who are funded by LTI research projects are expected to work primarily for their projects. However, since consulting can be a useful educational professional experience, LTI students are generally permitted to consult at most 1 day per 7-day week, with their advisor's consent.
Policies on "outside" fellowships: If a student has been awarded an outside graduate fellowship (e.g., NSF, Fulbright or other), they are expected to accept it in place of our graduate fellowship. As an extra incentive to do so, we supplement the award so that the student receives full tuition and a combined stipend 10% higher than that of the standard LTI graduate fellowship. (If the stipend is already at least 10% higher than the LTI stipend, no extra supplement applies.) Note that all LTI students are required to inform us of any external fellowships that they receive.
A related issue is that of summer internships: Since the LTI, unlike some other SCS departments, guarantees summer support for its supported students, we expect that our students will in fact work here on project research during the summer. However, because we recognize that an "outside" internship can be a valuable educational experience, we have developed a policy to allow Ph.D. students in good standing to accept one (1) external internship during their Ph.D. studies here. The detailed policy is described below. It is important that students read this policy before negotiating an internship, and abide by its provisions. Note that unsupported students are of course free to do whatever they want. Finally, we caution all students to be aware of potential intellectual Property (IP) problems with internships, and review any IP agreements with their advisor before signing them. It is possible to lose control of ideas that you want to include in your thesis work!
Guidelines for LTI Ph.D. Student Internships
The LTI guarantees year round funding for its Ph.D.
students. As part of this arrangement, we expect the students to remain
at CMU during the summer. But since external internships can provide a
valuable learning experience, we have made the following provisions to
accomodate external internship.
Policies on the availability of summer employment: Unlike some other departments in the SCS, the LTI financial package includes summer support for all supported students. Students who are offered "outside" (external) summer internships should see the point immediately above.
Policies on attending conferences and seminars: This depends on a student's funding source. Policy for students who are funded by a research project is set by their project. For non-project-funded students, they will have a budget of $700 for a refereed paper, or $200/year without a paper (as of 1998).
Graduate Student Concerns & Grievances
In the LTI, graduate students who believe that they have been treated inappropriately are encouraged to discuss their concerns with the faculty member(s) involved, and their faculty advisor. If they wish, the Chair of the LTI graduate programs, his alternate, and the department head are also available at any stage of the process. All discussions will be considered confidential to the extent allowed by law.
Graduate students wishing to file a formal appeal or grievance should refer to the University procedures.
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