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Graduate College Policy on Conflicts of Interest in the Admissions Process

The Graduate College recognizes that the graduate admissions process does not, and should not, operate “blindly.” Programs and faculty members frequently recruit students of whom they have direct knowledge. Furthermore, the admission process for a doctoral program will frequently take into account the “fit’ between a prospective graduate student’s interests and those of the faculty in the program. However, the admissions process should, and should be seen to, take into account only academic and programmatic considerations when admitting and recruiting students.


Program faculty participating in the graduate admissions process shall recuse themselves in any case where they have, or appear to have, a conflict of interest concerning the applicant.  A conflict of interest is present if the faculty may have an interest in the outcome (admission or rejection) other than the recruitment of the most qualified applicants. This includes, in particular, any situation where there is the possibility that a faculty member might employ a prospective graduate student in a non-university activity, such as a consulting firm, biotechnology company, etc. Particular care must be taken when voting on the admission of students whose qualifications are in any fashion marginal.

A conflict of interest could also be caused by faculty seeking to recruit students to work on grant supported projects, with the possibility that students would be recruited on the basis of their suitability to carry out a given function or functions on the project. This also falls under the heading “faculty may have an interest in the outcome (admission or rejection) other than the recruitment of the most qualified applicants”. To exclude principal investigators on grant supported projects would exclude the faculty with the most interest in the recruitment of excellent students. Nonetheless, faculty should be aware of the potential conflicts when evaluating students. One fundamental difference between the case of students being employed on campus and off campus is that the Graduate College has an ability to manage on campus relationships that it does not with off campus relationships.

*Approved by the Graduate College Executive Committee, December 2, 2011