Responsibilities, Rights, and Welfare of
Graduate Student Academic Employees Committee
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
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