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Responsibilities, Rights, and Welfare of
Graduate Student Academic Employees

During the 2005-06 academic year, the Committee on the Responsibilities, Rights, and Welfare of Graduate Student Academic Employees reviewed several issues regarding recommended practices for selection, supervision, and evaluation of teaching assistants (TA); appointments of graduate research assistants (GRA) for less than 20 hours/week; tuition remission for GRAs; payment of medical insurance for fellowship holders; privacy issues for graduate student information on the UT Web site; and stipend levels for graduate student academic employees. Work done by the committee on these issues is detailed below.

Selection of TAs, Supervision of TAs, and Evaluation of TAs.
This issue was recommended for review by the C-12 committee from the previous academic year. Sample documents outlining procedures used by various departments were distributed to committee members before the first meeting of the committee. The procedures used by various departments were discussed during the meeting, but no particular concerns about these procedures were identified. The possibility of the committee generating general guidelines for these procedures was discussed but no action to do so was taken.

Appointment of GRAs for less than 20 hrs/wk to avoid fringe benefits charges.
A concern about appointing GRAs for less than 20 hrs/wk in order to avoid fringe benefits payments was brought forth by graduate students during the previous academic year. Several committee members reviewed practices in their departments or colleges, and no abuse of the system was found. Most all appointments were made for the standard 10 hr/wk or 20 hr/wk levels. In rare cases students were appointed to less than 20 hrs/wk because funds from the contract or grant were exhausted. No further action was taken on this issue.

Tuition remission for GRAs.
A concern that tuition and fees are paid for only some GRAs was also brought forth by graduate students during the previous academic year. This was researched by several committee members and was discussed during several meetings of the committee. A policy was established by the vice president of research in 2001 that “tuition remission is required for GRAs if allowed by the sponsor.” The committee discussed the fact that there are a number of agencies that do not allow tuition remission, and this might account for the perception that some faculty were arbitrarily not paying tuition. The committee also discussed the possibility that this policy could be circumvented. The conclusion of the committee was that the policy to pay tuition remission for GRAs when allowed by the contract or grant was probably not being abused.

Review of the 14-semester rule for support of TAs and GRAs.
There was some discussion in the committee about whether the committee should review the 14-semester rule. However, we determined that a review of the 14-semester rule was being done by the Graduate Assembly Administrative committee, and we decided that it was more appropriate for that committee to review the policy.

Student information in the UT directory.
A concern was brought to the committee about the students’ information in the UT Web directory. The concern was that students could elect to have their information in the directory or not, but could not selectively withhold from the directory only some elements of their personal information. Faculty and staff do have the option of withholding selected elements of their personal information. The registrar's office was contacted, and they were already running tests on the modified system which would enable students to suppress certain types of information.

Health coverage for students who have a full fellowship.
The issue of concern is the fact that students who are supported by fellowships, i.e., without a TA or GRA appointment, are not eligible for the regular insurance plan. This was discussed by the committee during a couple of meetings. Terry Kahn explained that the graduate school was very much in favor of doing this, but this matter was not within their control. Apparently the company that provides the health insurance limits the insurance to “employees of the university.” Terry Kahn indicated that the Graduate School will continue to pursue the possibility of including the fellowship holders in the group that qualifies for insurance.

Increased Stipends for Graduate Students.
Graduate student representatives to the C-12 committee identified low stipends for TAs as being one of the concerns of graduate students. This issue was discussed in several meetings. As this discussion evolved, the need for establishing where UT ranks with respect to its peer institutions with respect to graduate student stipends became evident. The committee feels that if a recommendation is to be made for increased TA funding from the provost’s office, this should be supported by quantifiable evidence that UT significantly lags its peer institutions. Obtaining this information should be a high priority for next year, and the committee recommends that the Graduate Student Assembly be asked to get involved in obtaining this information.

David G. Bogard, chair

  Updated 2006 August 29
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