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Michel X.

To be honest, I'm not entirely comfortable with the notion of cutting slack. My preference, if it's within my control, is to offer students the opportunity to adjust to my expectations and demands, either by allowing them to rewrite their papers in light of my comments, or by having them complete a fairly large number of assignments (so that no one assignment is particularly deadly on its own). As a TA, however, one doesn't often have much in the way of input on the methods of evaluation.

To address your own question, Marcus, I think that graduate degree-granting departments have more significant (or perhaps merely more direct/clearer) obligations towards their graduate students. And I think they get these by virtue of the fact that they actively recruit graduate (but not really undergraduate) students, and offer them employment.

I don't think these obligations necessarily extend to cutting their students slack, but I do think that they extend to providing a pretty thorough framework for their education, complete with a number of interventions on the part of faculty (with respect to providing regular and timely feedback on coursework as well as the dissertation, helping polish writing and presentation skills, regular conversations with supervisors, especially about the dissertation topic, etc.).

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