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C-12 Committee on Responsibilities, Rights, and Welfare of Teaching Assistants and Assistant Instructors

The committee undertook several projects for the current year.

1.
Design and production of a web site for TAs and AIs that will provide useful information to them in three main areas: policies and procedures, campus resources for TAs and AIs, and campus resources for helping students taught by TAs and AIs. Starting from this site, TAs and AIs can easily get to the Handbook of Operating Procedures, the Graduate School Policy Manual, the Graduate Student Assembly home page, the Graduate and International Admissions Center page, and the pages for the Undergraduate Writing Center, the Dean of Students, etc. This site was the product of a lot of discussion and a lot of work particularly by our graduate student members. The result is an excellent site that has received favorable comment from those that use it. The URL for the site is http://www.utexas.edu/ogs/ta_ai/.
2.
We reviewed the results of a survey of incoming graduate students, as background to our general concern about the situation of TAs and AIs in their capacity as students. One general concern expressed by a number of the respondents was the communication made to them by their programs about program requirements, professional associations, and research opportunities. The committee did some thinking about how to encourage programs to do better with this, and concluded that it would be desirable to circulate information on the practices adopted by programs that are good at producing information like this.
3.
We had considerable discussion about the tuition benefit for TAs and AIs, focusing on the timing of the benefit and its taxability. We were considerably helped in this by Renee Wallace, director of Payroll Services, who attended a meeting of the committee to explain the procedures for distributing the benefit. We decided to focus on the taxability issue and the possibility of declaring our tuition benefit to be non-taxable and collected information on policies at other universities. This led to a meeting with Interim Dean Rodriguez, Provost Sheldon Ekland-Olson, Executive Vice Provost Stephen Monti, and Renee Wallace, at which the conclusion was that it would be desirable to move to a situation in which the tuition benefit was non-taxable, and that we should undertake further study to see whether this would be feasible, given that our stance to date has been that the benefit is taxable. The uncertain element here is the view that the IRS would take of this. One thing that is needed is additional information on the situation at Berkeley, which introduced a non-taxable benefit and was asked by the IRS for the justification of treating the benefit as non-taxable. We need to know more about how this worked out.

Many thanks are due to the Office of Graduate Studies’s Logan Wilson Intern Erik Malmberg, for his intelligent and energetic assistance in all the projects listed above.


John D. Dollard, chair


This document was posted on the Faculty Council Web site, www.utexas.edu/faculty/council/ on August 20, 2003. Paper copies are available on request from the Office of the General Faculty, FAC 22, F9500.