Practical Guide for Faculty

The following Practical Guide has been put together primarily in order to provide faculty new to the Ph.D. Program in English at the CUNY Graduate Center an introduction to our policies and procedures. We hope that it will also serve as a useful reference tool for faculty more generally. The information in this Practical Guide is being updated throughout 2022-2023 in order to match changing conditions at the Graduate Center. If something in this guide no longer seems accurate, please alert the EOs and APO in English.

I. Program Administration

Professor Tanya Agathocleous
Acting Co-Executive Officer (EO) and Professor, English

Professor Talia Schaffer
Acting Co-Executive Officer (EO) and Professor, English; Professor, Women’s and Gender Studies

Professor Mario DiGangi
Acting Deputy Executive Officer (DEO) for Admissions and Professor, English; Professor, Global Early Modern Studies

Professor Mary McGlynn
Acting Deputy Executive Officer (DEO) for Placement and Professor, English

Radhika Kashyap
Assistant Program Officer (APO), English

II. Getting Started

The Graduate Center reimburses the home college of each faculty member teaching a course at the GC the equivalent of 1/6 of a full-time faculty member’s (average) salary. Most of our courses are 4-credit hours (even though they meet for just 2 hours per week). Some colleges let faculty members count a Graduate Center course as 4 hours of teaching toward their workload; others credit it as 3 hours. Technically, it’s the equivalent of 3.5 hours, since the college is being given 1/6 of a salary (1/6 times 21 hours = 3.5).

Courses taught at the Graduate Center count as part of your regular workload, and your teaching at your home campus should be reduced an appropriate amount that semester. The reimbursement of your campus by the GC happens in an automatic way, and you (or your department) don’t have to do anything to make that happen.

Each semester of registration for dissertation supervision or independent study is counted as 0.2 course units for each student.  Dissertation supervision for the same student can only be counted for a maximum of six semesters, or the equivalent of three years.

When five registrations accumulate to one course unit, the faculty member should request the appropriate released time from the department at the college. The release is to be used within two semesters of the accumulation. 

In addition, the Graduate Center gives credit in the Allocation System to the colleges for each semester a faculty member has a student registered for Dissertation Supervision (90000) or other one-to-one instructional activity, for example Advanced Individual Research/Independent Study (81000), to a maximum of one course per semester per faculty member.  Since released time is granted by the faculty member’s home college, faculty must receive prior authorization from the Chair at their college before undertaking teaching either dissertation supervision or independent study. It's up to the faculty member to keep track of dissertation supervisions and independent studies, and some colleges may require the Chair at the home college to approve them first.

Faculty members whose home campus is the Graduate Center itself do not participate in the Allocation System; their workload is calculated on a six-unit basis, with two units each year typically being devoted to Dissertation Supervision and Advanced Individual Research. When Graduate Center-appointed faculty teach a course at another CUNY campus that course counts as one workload unit.

The APO will assign you a shared office and will arrange for a key to that office. A key to the main office for after office hours access to the photocopier is available upon request. At that time you will also be given a mailbox (in room 4406).

The APO will provide you a memo to take to the Office of Public Safety (room 9117) to obtain a GC ID. With your GC ID you can get a library account at the Circulation Desk of the library. With your GC ID and a memo provided by the APO, you can activate your computer and email account at the IT Services (on the lower level of the library).

It is essential that the Program have current contact information for all appointed faculty. Preferred e-mail addresses and phone numbers will be published on the GC directory and on the faculty pages of the Program’s website. For internal use, we also need a current home address and phone number. Please provide this information and all updates to the Program’s College Assistant. The English Program does not require the use of a GC email address but does encourage faculty to check that email from time to time.

The primary way that Program information will be communicated is through email. The Program maintains a distribution list of faculty that is used to provide key information relevant to all faculty. Appointed faculty are automatically added to this distribution list. In addition, we maintain a Program wide listserv for announcements of interest to the wider English Program community. Appointed faculty are encouraged to join this listserv and can do so by sending an email to the APO requesting to be added. Students have their own ESA Listserv, and there is a Placement listserv for job market information.

III. Teaching

Most appointed faculty members teach 1 course a year at the Graduate Center. Course titles are often decided in communication with appropriate area groups and are submitted to the Program during the scheduling period (early Fall and early Spring for the following semester). Courses meet for 2 hours a week during the following timeslots: M-R 11:45-1:45; 2:00-4:00; 4:15-6:15; 6:30-8:30 and F 11:45-1:45; 2:00-4:00.

Our Program has only one required course: ENGL 79500 Theory and Practice of Literary Scholarship, which focuses on four main areas: (1) research and bibliography, (2) text/textuality, (3) the place of theory in the discipline, and (4) the history and current state of the discipline. This four credit course, offered each semester, is rotated among appointed faculty. In addition, we offer a zero credit Dissertation Workshop each semester for advanced students. Faculty are asked to consider teaching these courses in substitution for a seminar and should discuss their interest in doing so with the DEO for Scheduling.

The Graduate Center does not have a bookstore. Faculty arrange for books to be purchased through online booksellers or local bookstores. Books may also be placed on reserve in the library. The Program has a shared copier/scanner for faculty use. Course readings can be scanned by you in our office and made available to students through Blackboard, Library e-reserves, course website (where available). In limited circumstances hard copies can be made available by providing originals to the College Assistant who will send them to Graphic Arts. Expect a one week turnaround for hard copies.

Most seminar rooms are “smart rooms,” equipped with a computer with projector and DVD player. If your seminar room does not have this equipment or if you need assistance in using it, be in contact with the IT Audio Visual Department at 212-817-7330.

English Program students register for courses online and do not need permission to register for English courses. Students in other Programs at the GC may register for most of our courses, as well, without our approval (though they might require permission of their own Programs). Most English Program courses have an enrollment maximum of 12 and minimum of 5. Courses that are closed might get requests from students to “overtally.” Such requests are granted at the discretion of the faculty member and should be communicated to the APO via email. The APO will provide a registration override which will allow the student to register.

Faculty monitor their own course registration and obtain course rosters through CUNYfirst.

Students from other CUNY campuses are able to register for our courses at the discretion of the English Program, as are people interested in taking a course as a non-matriculated student. Such requests are at the discretion of the Program and should be directed to the APO.

The policy of the Graduate Center is not to allow unofficial auditors.

Most English Program courses are offered for 4 credits with a 2 credit pass/fail option. Advanced students may also register as auditors for most classes. You are requested to remind students in the first few class sessions to check their own registration to ensure that they are registered as they intended. Students may change the number of credits until the drop/add deadline.

Grading is done online through CUNYfirst and should be complete by the deadline. The following grades (and quality point values) may be given to students at the GC:








4.0 (not 4.3)







































































The following grades may be given in particular circumstances:








A P or an F must be assigned in any course taken for 2, rather than 4, credits.






Satisfactory progress



A grade that can be assigned only for students who enroll in English 90000 ("Dissertation Supervision"), and only when the supervisor has seen evidence of a student's continuing progress on a dissertation during the semester (without such evidence, supervisors may give a grade of " NRP" [No Record of Progress]).






No Record of Progress



A grade that can be assigned only for students enrolled in English 90000 (“Dissertation Supervision”) who have shown no evidence of making progress on their dissertations.






No grade recorded



This appears if no course grade has been received by the Registrar.









See below.









A grade that is assigned by the Registrar on the final grade roster for a student who has registered as an auditor for a seminar, with the professor's approval.






Withdrawal without academic penalty



A grade that is assigned by the Registrar on the final grade roster for a student who has appropriately requested a withdrawal between the fourth and the tenth week of the semester.






Never Attended



This grade is to be assigned by faculty if a student never attended a class. The grade is calculated into the GPA in the same way an “F” grade is calculated.


Students who are unable to complete their work for a course within the allotted time period may request a grade of incomplete ("INC"). Faculty are asked to consider each request for an INC individually and should the request be determined worthwhile come to an agreement with the student as to the expectation for completing the coursework.

Grade changes are done by completing a Grade Change Form. These forms are available in the English Program Office for pick-up by faculty (students are not allowed to handle grade change forms).

IV. Mentoring/Advising/Supervising

Faculty are expected to serve as mentors to entering students. Faculty responsibility as a mentor is to act as a liaison, to be available to answer questions, to offer general counsel and comfort, as it were, until the student chooses a dissertation supervisor. The Program tries to match the student’s interest to the faculty mentor’s area(s) of specialization, but in some instances this is not possible. You will be assigned a student mentee just prior to the start of the Fall semester and are requested to meet with that student within the first three weeks of the semester.

Students preparing for their Oral Exam choose three faculty members to be the examining committee, one of whom chairs the committee. Generally students approach faculty with whom they have taken a class or to whom they had been assigned as a mentor. Students also approach faculty who they might not know, but whose work is compelling to them. The Oral Exam is intended to move students forward, toward their dissertations, without being wholly focused on a narrow dissertation topic. It is also intended to provide students with the opportunity to become more expert in their major field(s) of interest, the field(s) within which the more narrowly defined research of the dissertation will take its place. The current basis for the Oral Exam – three reading lists that are distinct but that nonetheless complement each other – is meant to provide students with a flexible structure within which to explore their intellectual interests. Often, two of the lists will focus on a particular period of English/American/ Anglophone literature (e.g., Victorian poetry and the Victorian novel), while the third examines a particular theory or methodology of interest to the student (e.g., narratology), but this is not the only possible structure for the three lists.

Once the student has constituted a committee, he or she will generate, in consultation with the committee, the three lists of texts (one list per committee member) that form the basis for the examination and a rationale (of no more than 300 words) explaining how the 3 lists will contribute to preparation either for a dissertation project or a teaching career; the examination itself lasts two hours, and each list receives equal time (about 40 minutes each). These lists should be extensive enough so that, in reading the material listed, students are becoming experts in the field; they should not be so extensive as to provide an insuperable hurdle. Depending on the area of study, something in the range of 25-30 book-length works is a good estimate for the length of each individual list.

Each committee member should sign off on his or her field list and the rationale and agree upon a date and time for the examination at least six weeks prior to the exam. The exam lasts two hours; the student has the option of giving a 5 minute opening statement to begin the discussion. The three examiners then proceed to divide up the remaining time equally in an order of questioning chosen by the student in consultation with the chair of the examining committee. At the conclusion of the third section of the exam, the student will be asked to leave the room while the committee consults on the results of the exam (pass, pass with distinction, fail). The mark of distinction requires an outstanding performance on all the constituent parts; a notation of this honor appears on the student's official transcript. A student who fails the examination, or one part of it, must retake the relevant section(s) with the same field lists and examiners(s). When a decision is reached the student is invited back in to discuss the results. The chair indicates the results on the Orals Contract, signs, and submits the paperwork to the APO.

The dissertation prospectus is a ten-page proposal for the dissertation that students, having completed all other requirements for the Ph.D., must write and submit for official review to the English Program. The ten-page length limit is strictly enforced. (In addition, the prospectus should include a full working bibliography, the length of which is unlimited.)

Students preparing to write their prospectus will approach a faculty member to serve as Dissertation Supervisor. This faculty member is usually one with whom the student will have established a good working relationship at an earlier stage of their doctoral work. Often but not always the Dissertation Supervisor has already served as the chair of the oral exam. In consultation with the Supervisor, the student names two faculty members to serve as readers of the prospectus. The student contacts these faculty members to discuss the emerging prospectus and timeline (these committee members may be but are not necessarily those who will read the student's dissertation and examine the student in a formal defense). When the supervisor judges that the prospectus warrants approval, he or she signs off on the prospectus review form and the student submits it along with the prospectus to the APO for EO approval. At this time the EO assigns an outside reader, usually a faculty member in a different field or area group but whose expertise would be valuable to the student, and the APO distributes the prospectus via e-mail to all readers — the two committee members and the outside reader, chosen by the EO. As a reader, you should consider the feasibility of the project, its originality, any signs of problems or potential roadblocks to effective progress on the dissertation that you might identify, and the adequacy of the research and bibliography.

Faculty readers have three weeks to review the prospectus and to submit an evaluation of at least one paragraph with a recommendation to approve, revise, or not approve. Evaluations should include a clear indication of approval (or a clear recommendation to revise or not approve); a brief assessment of the project’s strengths and promise; and as detailed an account as possible of recommendations for improving the project’s argument, design, and scope; any gaps in the research underlying the project should also be noted. See appendix for sample evaluations. Readers e-mail their evaluations to the APO for EO review and determination of result. Results are then communicated, along with copies of the three evaluations, to the student and dissertation supervisor.

The dissertation committee consists of a supervisor and two committee members, all of whom must be GC doctoral faculty. (A fourth, non-GC-appointed faculty member can be added to the committee given the approval of the EO and may be appointed as temporary adjunct faculty while involved with the student's committee.) Students approach faculty to serve on their committees with whom they have established good working relationships and/or those whose work is compelling to them. When approached, faculty are expected to discuss the emerging dissertation, timeline, and expectations for feedback with the student and make a thoughtful decision as to whether they will serve on the committee. While the level of engagement of committee members should be negotiated with students, it is expected that committee members will take an active role in the shaping of the dissertation and participate fully in the defense.

V. Program Involvement

Faculty and courses are organized by Area Groups guided by an appointed Convener and meet regularly to plan courses and events. Current Area Groups are: Medieval, Early Modern, Restoration/18th Century, Romantics, Victorians, American to 1900, 20th Century, Literary Theory, African American, Bibliographical/Textual, Composition/Rhetoric, Gender and Sexuality, and Postcolonial.

There are 15 Program committees: Executive, Elections, Curriculum, Faculty Membership, Admissions and Financial Aid, Recruitment, Placement, Fundraising, Library, Examinations, Language Examinations, Website, Friday Forum, Course Assessment, and Alumni. Executive Committee members are elected by the faculty to serve a three year term. All other committee members are appointed by the EO. A list of committee assignments is distributed toward the end of the Spring term for the next academic year. Students also serve on most of these committees with equal voting rights.

Each week the English Program sponsors a Friday Forum, which brings to the GC internationally recognized scholars, writers, and publishers to discuss a wide variety of literary and cultural topics. Some Forums are devoted to special issues of student/faculty concern, such as financial aid, adjunct teaching, curricular changes, and the education job market. Forums generally take place at 4 p.m. on Fridays, but many occur in conjunction with all-day conferences and interdisciplinary events. When in person, Forums are followed by a reception with food and wine and provide an opportunity for the English Program community to engage with one another. The Program sends out a full schedule at the beginning of every semester. The first Forum of the Fall Semester is generally an orientation session for new students in the Program, and the last one of each semester, the Winter/Spring Revels. Faculty should make an effort to attend these events and encourage their students to do so as well.

In addition to workshops as part of the Friday Forum series, the Program holds mock interviews for students/recent graduates on the job market. Late in the Fall semester the DEO for Placement puts out a call to faculty to participate on interview panels. Students sign-up for a 45 minute session (which includes interview and feedback) and provide their CV and job letter in advance.

VI. Graduate Center Involvement

The governing body of the Graduate Center is the Graduate Council. The Graduate Council meets four times each year and is concerned with such matters as curriculum, degree requirements, standards of admission, academic performance, and program governance. Much of the work of the Graduate Council is done through its standing committees. Elections of faculty and student program representatives to the Graduate Council are required to be conducted every two years, before April 1, by an election committee in each Program. Other committees of the Graduate Center are the Academic Review Committee (composed of EOs), the Central Faculty Steering Committee (composed of Central Faculty), The Doctoral Faculty Policy Committee, The Interdisciplinary Studies Advisory Committee, The Committee on Committees, The Executive Committee of the Graduate Council, The Curriculum and Degree Requirements Committee, The Committee on Research, The Committee on Structure, The Committee on Student Services, Information Technology Committee, Library Committee, and Student Academic Appeals Committee. Graduate Center faculty also may serve as representatives to The University Faculty Senate.

Faculty are encouraged to become familiar with and to make themselves known to other Doctoral Programs, Masters Programs, and Certificate Programs and to Research Centers and Institutes at the Graduate Center.