The Graduate Assistant Policies and Procedures (GAPP) Committee met last week for the third time, and raised several serious threats to the operational structure of the TAA and its ability to represent the interests of all graduate student workers on campus.
The TAA and graduate student representatives were able to make some progress with the administration, specifically on the incorporation of language clearing defining each graduate student worker title into the graduate student handbook. However, the meeting represented a major setback for graduate students across campus. University administration declared they would not treat the TAA and graduate students differently from other groups on campus, negating the rights given to the TAA by Article II of the 2009 contract.
Despite compelling arguments from TAA representatives, the administration noted they were not willing to accept the TAA’s demands on a number of fronts. While the TAA noted that forums soliciting graduate student feedback were critical to the development of a document that protects the working rights of students, the administration stated it was not willing to hold forums for graduate student feedback until the committee has finished a draft of the new handbook. The administration was also unwilling to mandate that appointment letters be provided to prior to the start date of an appointment. This creates a potentially problematic situation for graduate students, as it makes it difficult for students to understand fully the expectations for their employment and introduces further complications if an appointment is revoked after work has started.
Finally, the administration was unwilling to mandate employment criteria be posted on department websites. The information is currently available by request, but the TAA argued that this system made it unnecessarily difficult to access information important to graduate students. Posting the information online creates a more transparent work environment, noted the TAA representatives, and easier for graduate student workers to understand their position.
While the majority of the meeting was tense, and featured much back and forth between the TAA representations and administration, the university did tentatively agree to new language defining each job title. This clarified the distinction between different appointments, and declared when it is not appropriate for a graduate assistant (GA) and a teaching assistant (TA). However, this language has yet to be officially adopted as part of the handbook, and while responsive, the administration appeared reluctant to include the language formally.
The next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, August 30 at 1:30 PM in Bascom Hall, Room 334. Meets are open to the public, and TAA members are strongly encouraged to attend. For more information, follow the TAA Facebook page. Read recaps of the first and second meeting here.