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University Policy

The University of Wisconsin – Madison works not only because TAA members do, but because the many different individuals and groups that make up the UW community work together and for the betterment of the university. There are many university policies that affect TAA members and the UW community and TAA activists are often members of various university committees examining new issues and policies. If you would like to become active on university policy issues, contact the office.

One university policy in particular has a direct and deleterious impact on the TAA bargaining unit, the tuition remission surcharge. The TAA won full tuition remission for all bargaining members in 1997. TA’s and PA’s also took a pay cut to receive tuition remission, which has worked out well in the long run as in-state tuition has more than doubled during that time, and of course, our stipends haven’t gone up quite that much. The UW administration’s attempts to solve its financial problems (related to graduate employee tuition remission) include making it very expensive for departments to hire PAs and RAs: departments are now paying $8000 per year for each PA or RA they hire, with guaranteed increases in the coming years as tuition rises. This move has resulted in the loss of 16% of PA jobs already (and an undetermined amount of RA-ships too), and is expected to result in even more job losses this year. It’s bad not only for grad employees, but for the UW’s research, and especially for departments that rely on PA-ships for graduate student support. So TAA members, along with faculty and other interested organizations, have joined together to fight this plan as part of the Coalition for Affordable Public Education (CAPE).

CAPE is a collaboration between undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and other UW community members who are working to address the issues arising from the new fee. To learn more and to get involved, visit the CAPE website.

Overwork Issues

Are you feeling overworked? Read on below for an excerpt from the TAA Contract on overwork issues. Before reading, note that it is understood that hours worked may vary above and below the hours appointed via appointment. The total appointed hours are for the semester, and if you feel that your work hours will exceed your appointment level over the course of the semester, this next bit is for you.

TAA Contract Article V Section 8.E

“…An employee who finds that the assigned duties appear to require more time than is allocated should immediately notify, and consult with, the supervisor or Department Chair (or designee), who shall reconsider the factors used to determine the amount of time expected. The supervisor and the department may direct either an adjustment in the duties or, pending approval of funding, an adjustment in the appointment level.

“An employee may submit to the supervisor or Department Chair (or designee) a written request that the duties required be revised. A response shall be made within one (1) week of the written request unless the employee and the department mutually agree to a longer period. If the employee is dissatisfied with the response or no response is forthcoming, the employee may file a grievance under Article IV of this Agreement. No such grievance will be considered unless there has been a prior written request to make an adjustment.”

If you have further questions about overwork, contact Jennie Keohane here.

No New Seg Fees Campaign

On April 14, 2010 the students of UW-Madison voted down an increase in segregated fees to pay for a Natatorium renovation. The TAA endorsed a “No” vote and ran a strong campaign to stop the seg fee increases.

Here’s why we endorsed a no vote on the referendum in the Spring 2010 semester.

The Economic Impact

Back in the academic year starting in Fall 2003, full-time students paid $292 in seg fees for the semester. In the 2009-2010 school year, students have paid $509 each semester! That’s nearly twice as much.

The cost of seg fees has thus risen 42.5% in this time period — that’s more than tuition has gone up in the same period (38.5%), and far more than the rise in the cost of living during the same time period (about 13%).

With this high rate, seg fees now account for 9% of the average graduate employee’s salary. The average TA or PA has a 40% appointment. At the Standard rate for TAs (which is the same as that of a 9-month PA), this translates into an academic year salary of $11,270. Full-time grad students pay now pay $1018.08 per year in seg fees. For the largest number of TAs and PAs, then, that’s 9% of salary. This comes close to being a full month’s salary devoted to seg fees alone! It is much more than most pay for a month’s rent, too.

The Principles

We can’t afford a new gym when education is being cut back. We need to draw the line on spending via seg fee referenda. This is the third major referendum since 2004.

Union South

The process of “shared governance” when it comes to seg fees has been spotty at best. The largest jump in seg fees occurred a few years ago when the Wisconsin Union Directorate campaigned to raise funds for building a new facility where Union South once stood. In 2006, three elections were held to gauge student opinion on using seg fees to pay for the new Union South. The first two elections were held online, and students voted against raising seg fees in order to pay for Union South’s replacement. But both these elections were marred by technical glitches — glitches that would not have affected the outcome of the vote, as the DoIT workers who administered the election noted, but glitches that nevertheless “invalidated” the elections. Finally a third election — using paper ballots over two days, and involving only 6% of the eligible voting population — was held, and the referendum finally passed. After this dubious process, seg fees have gone up by $96/semester in order to pay for construction of the new Union. This fee alone accounts for nearly 19% of total seg fees this semester.