College of Liberal Arts

Graduate Student TA Task Force Issues Final Report

Thu, Jan 29, 2015

January 29, 2015 

The Teaching Assistant Task Force has issued its final report.

From the executive summary:

"This report represents the findings of the College of Liberal Arts TA Task Force, which has been conducting research on graduate student affairs in the College since the beginning of Fall 2014. Although the Task Force was convened to examine graduate teaching assistant affairs holistically, many graduate students have understood our primary task to be retroactively investigating the College’s recent decision to reduce the total number of semesters that graduate students are eligible for employment from fourteen semesters to twelve. Since this rule was in the process of being implemented before the Task Force convened, and was ongoing during our proceedings, our report does not contain any research (or recommendations) specific to the twelve semester rule. However, we view the creation of our task force as an appropriate and much-needed commitment from COLA to thoroughly investigate proposed policy changes and to solicit feedback from its graduate students."

The full report is available here.


From Associate Dean Raizen's Desk: Graduate Student TA Task Force

October 15,  2014

The College of Liberal Arts Graduate Student TA Task Force, convened in the fall of 2014, is organized in six sub-committees that look at current TA assignment, training, and supervision practices. Since these practices vary greatly across the College, more information about them is needed in order for us to develop a strategic approach to TAships while responding to the needs of our undergraduate instructional mission and optimizing our plans for graduate-student training and support.  In establishing the Task Force we seek to expand our knowledge of current practices and build graduate-student input into a set of best practices that can be applied across the College.

The work of the Task Force fits into a broader initiative that involves moving the teaching experience of graduate students to the forefront of the College’s professionalization efforts, with the understanding that the majority of our graduating doctoral students go into jobs where teaching constitutes their primary work activity. Within this initiative the College created, in collaboration with the Graduate School, the Graduate Teaching Fellowships to allow ABDs to teach their own upper-division seminars (nine fellows since 2011). The College has also collaborated with The Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) on TA Fundamentals, GRS 097, a training course for first-time TAs (39 participants so far).

In a recruitment message sent to all Liberal Arts chairs and directors on August 6, 2014, I requested that each graduate-degree granting program nominate or elect one graduate student representative to the Task Force, noting that representatives should have served as teaching assistants at some point during their course of study and should be able to speak on behalf of their fellow students.  The Task Force currently has 23 representatives from Liberal Arts graduate-degree-granting units and three additional representatives from the CTL, the Liberal Arts Council, and the Senate of College Councils.

Over the last two years we have made attempts to assemble a standing graduate student council for the College. We had several substantive meetings, but were unable to generate sustained interest. Our hope is that a task-based approach will engage a body of students who will form the nucleus of a graduate student council in Liberal Arts and lead to increased involvement of Liberal Arts graduate students in existing student government bodies like the Graduate Student Assembly (GSA). 

The college is moving forward with its plan to increase TA/AI stipends to match the cost of attendance and, for a small number of recruits, to a level that will be competitive with that of peer institutions. In order to increase TA and AI stipends, by 2016-17 we will need to decrease the number of TA and AI appointments by approximately 10%. Our success in achieving such a reduction with minimal impact on our teaching mission and graduate-student training greatly depends on input from faculty and students and maximum buy-in within our units. By convening the TA Task Force we are ensuring that our strategic decisions take into account graduate students’ recommendations and address their concerns as we move toward smaller cohorts and fewer TA/AI appointments.

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