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Graduate Assistant Issues and Appointments

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1 Graduate Assistant Issues and Appointments
College of Letters and Science April 25, 2013 Brian Bubenzer, Assistant Dean for Graduate Education Welcome to the presentation “Graduate Assistant Issues and Appointments,” by Brian Bubenzer, Assistant Dean for Graduate Education. After you review a slide, click anywhere to advance the presentation. To exit the presentation at any time, press the Escape Key. To go back to a previous slide, press the Backspace Key. Click to begin the presentation. This presentation was given live on April 25, 2013, and was modified into a self-paced online presentation. It is part of a series coordinated by L&S Administration, intended to connect L&S faculty and staff with topics and information that may be helpful in their positions. More presentations and information about this series of trainings can be found on the L&S Administrative Gateway, at:

2 Presentation Agenda TA/PA personnel issues Appointments

3 TA/PA Appointments: Frequent Questions and Concerns

4 When problems arise… They most commonly relate to:
Performance issues (whatever the cause) Hiring process disputes Clashes between individuals Spoken-English proficiency Workload disputes Examples of performance issues could be a poor work ethic, personality conflicts, not showing up to assigned courses, poor teaching evaluations, etc.

5 Scenario: Trouble is Brewing…
It’s April, and you’re noticing problems with one of your TAs. Joe has missed sections, and he and Will, one of his fellow TAs don’t get along well and argue frequently and loudly in their shared office space. Digging deeper, you find that Joe got so-so student evaluations last semester, and his last supervisor didn’t think highly of him either. How might the department approach this situation? The following scenario is an example of performance issues that some of you may have seen…

6 Poor performance as a student or employee?
Poor performance as a TA shouldn’t be confused with poor performance as a graduate student; they are different roles, and the steps you would take to address performance are different as well. Employee Student On this side of the equation, consider only actions related to employee performance The employee can be fired, or probation extended The guarantee can be voided Work with South Hall, and document everything! Satisfactory progress and credit requirements are determined by the department Issues related to student performance should be communicated to the Graduate School. Touch base with Brian Bubenzer in South Hall if you are having these kinds of issues with a TA; he can provide you with guidance and information about policies. He’ll also encourage you to document your correspondence with the TA about the issues. Documentation will be helpful in cases of probation extension or termination. If you’re experiencing issues with a TA or PA, usually the first step is to have a conversation with the employee about those issues. The problem behaviors should be clearly identified, as well as what consequences will follow if they don’t stop. You should find out if the TA is still on probation. If so, and the problems persist, their probation should be extended before their contract ends for the semester. Otherwise, the probation term indicated in their TA letter is automatically lifted at the end of their contract. It is possible to fire a TA, just as with other types of employees. If a TA is fired, their guarantee may also be voided.

7 What if a grad asst. quits school?
If the TA quits school, this effectively ends any TA/PA appointment as well as any support guarantee. Department should confirm to student in writing. If the department wants to continue the appointment through the end of the semester, obtain approval to change the appointment to an FA (for teaching) or an appropriate academic staff title (for PA duties). Consequences of dropping out of school can be substantial. If you’re working with a student who is considering quitting school because of things like family or health issues, please encourage the student to slow down, and talk to other offices (South Hall, the Graduate School) to see if other accommodations could be made. TAs and PAs must be students. If student status changes mid-semester, their position title must be changed accordingly. (With the exception of completion of a degree mid-semester).

8 What if a TA or PA finishes her degree during the semester?
TAs and PAs remain as such through the current term, regardless of when they deposit their dissertation

9 Scenario: Out of Time Professor X comes into your office with a problem. It seems that Nathan, one of her four TAs, is reporting that he has used up 75% of his appointed hours, and we are only 50% of the way through the semester. What steps should be taken now? Check with other TAs teaching the class. Is this an issue with one TA, or are all of the TAs working more hours? If they all are, the course workload may not be aligned with the work required (and revising the course workload or the course should be considered). This situation can happen if the syllabus and instructors change through the years, but the course workload hasn’t been reconsidered. If the other TAs are working hours you expect, the situation should be addressed on an individual level. Talk with Nathan about how he is spending his time. If he is trying to do too much (aka being a “Super TA”) you should discuss expectations for the amount of work he should be doing, and that it aligns with the workload assigned.

10 TA workloads TAs must be provided with a worksheet outlining responsibilities and distribution of hours. TAs should sign and return a copy to the supervisor. The workload is the amount of time required by an AVERAGE TA to do an ADEQUATE job – actual hours may vary! TA workloads are based on 18 weeks while the instructional period is about 15 weeks. Workload is intentionally set up as an average, instead of as an hourly wage. Otherwise, TAs would be paid different amounts for teaching the same course. There is a general understanding that different TAs will put in different amounts of hours into the course. For example, a TA teaching the course for the fourth time will likely not work as many hours as a TA teaching a course for the first time. However, they will both be paid the same workload amount, which is the amount of time required by an average TA to do an adequate job.

11 TA Workloads, continued
Class size is NOT a specific part of the workload. It needs to be considered as part of the overall work. If you are departing significantly from past sizes, consult with Dean’s Office first. Attendance during Welcome Week can be required. Peers teaching/grading peers: avoid this wherever possible. If your department requires TAs to attend Welcome Week, flexibility may also be given in particular situations (for example, issues with visas). Please ensure that flexibility is extended equitably to all students in your department facing that particular issue.

12 TA Workloads, continued
Workload complaints: First, informal discussion. Employee must notify supervisor or chair. Duties can be amended or adjust appointment level. Need to consider what is required and what work is reasonable. Contact us as soon as you become aware of issues!

13 Scenario tweak… Just when you think you have Nathan’s situation figured out, he informs you that he has used so many hours because he has severe carpal tunnel syndrome and it takes him a long time to write comments on papers and blue books. What do you do with this information? Contact Brian Bubenzer in his role as Disability Representative for L&S TAs and PAs. In this case, Nathan isn’t trying to be a “Super TA” -- some tasks are take him much longer than average because of a medical issue.

14 The collective bargaining agreement is no longer in effect, but most policies and procedures remain in place. If you are ever in doubt, let us know!

15 Two things every TA needs from the department:
Appointment letter Workload And a syllabus sooner rather than later is a big help too!

16 Letter templates are available in the knowledge base
For TA, PA, Reader, and guarantee letters Password is ForwArd1848

17 Definitions TAs are grad students who have been assigned teaching and related responsibilities under the supervision of a faculty member or academic staff. TAs might also do curricular development for a specific class. PAs are grad students employed to assist with research, training, administrative responsibilities, or other academic support projects or programs Reader/graders are hourly PAs who are employed to assist with grading

18 Who can be a TA? Or a PA? Departments/programs determine eligibility for Teaching Assistantships and Project Assistantships. Students must be enrolled grad students to hold these titles. Establish hiring criteria and stick to your policy!

19 Scenario: Who gets the job?
You have one remaining TA slot to fill and three qualified candidates, none of whom are on guarantee: Gary is in sixth year, has used up guarantee with TA positions Sandy is new to your program, has never taught Freddy is from another department, with lots of teaching experience Departments should document and follow hiring criteria that outlines the process of who will be considered for TA positions, and in what priority order. Departments’ hiring criteria should guide them in who to hire in situations like this.

20 Appointment letter issues
All TA and PA appointments require a letter for each appointment Templates are provided in the Administrative Gateway; if you depart from the models, Dean’s Office approval is required Hiring departments should send a copy of the appointment letter to the student’s home academic department If you are hiring someone outside of your department, you need to notify his or her home department. This will help prevent overload issues – the home department might not otherwise be aware the student has been assigned the position! (This is truly of hourly appointments as well.)

21 What are the minimum appt levels for TAs and PAs?
Appointments of less than 33.4% during an academic year require Dean’s Office approval, UNLESS they are combined with another grad assistant appointment that brings the total to at least the one-third level. Approval of less than one-third time also requires agreement of employee; verify in writing. Will be part of Dean’s Office review. Summer appointments can be at any percentage. When hiring someone for an approved position that is less than one-third time, you must also notify the selected candidate that the position does not include benefits or tuition remission.

22 What are the maximum appointment levels for TAs and PAs?
TA and PA appointments may be up to a combined total of 75% during the academic year. Graduate School is quite strict about this – exceptions must be cleared by the College first, then the Grad School. Emergencies, unusual situations. International students may NOT carry appointments that total more than 50% (except during the summer). A temporary approval can be given for emergency or unusual situations, but a convincing case must be made. The specific situation will require approvals at the department, L&S, and Graduate School levels.

23 Do we need to post TA and PA positions?
Departments with TA positions are required to post (on a bulletin board accessible to grad students): Procedures for applying for TAships A listing of courses that typically have TAs assigned Information about PAships that may become available Hiring criteria must be available

24 Specific TA positions need not be posted UNLESS
You expect to hire from outside the department. In that case, post on the job center website (at least one week). This includes any program or unit that does not have its own graduate students. When in doubt, post

25 Posting PA positions PA positions should be posted, unless they are:
Used as part of recruitment or a support guarantee A reappointment An emergency hire

26 How many credits do TAs need to take?
The credit requirement is set by the student’s ACADEMIC department’s criteria for satisfactory progress. A copy of these criteria must be posted in the department. All grads who hold assistantships MUST register for at least 2 credits at the 300 level or higher (Grad School rule). Those on F1 and J1 visas must be registered for at least 8 grad credits; TAs are allowed to carry 4-6, depending on appt level.

27 FICA implications: TAs who enroll for less than a full-time credit load will have FICA deducted from their pay, unless they are in dissertator status. There may be other implications, including visa and fellowship restrictions

28 What are the experience levels for TAs?
TAs are either “standard” or “senior” Senior TAs are dissertators who have at least one and two-thirds semesters of experience, although they are not required to have completed diversity training. TAs don’t change status until the start of a new term. For example, if a student becomes a dissertator in the middle of the semester, their experience level will not change until the next term.

29 How is diversity training attendance enforced?
TAs may not be reappointed more than once if they have not attended diversity training It is up to departments to determine the diversity training required (subject to OED approval), and to monitor students’ completion of this requirement

30 Do TAs need to register in order to hold appointments in the summer?
Domestic graduate students who are new to the University and have fall admittance can be appointed in summer as a Project or Teaching Assistant International graduate students who are new to the University and have fall admittance cannot be appointed as a Project/Program or Teaching Assistant unless they have admittance for the summer term. Continuing grads may hold a summer TAship without being enrolled Students may hold TA appointments of up to 100% in the summer without special approval (assuming the student is not registered for more than 2 credits at any point in the summer)

31 Sick Leave or Colleague Coverage?
It’s Tuesday morning, and TA Tom wakes up with a high fever, a hoarse cough and suspicious spots all over his body. He calls the department office and tells Department Administrator Peter that he can’t teach his section that morning, what with the spots and all. Peter tells Tom to get well soon, and that he (Peter) will find someone to cover the section. Peter contacts TA Jodi, who agrees to cover the section. In this situation, Tom should report sick leave, and the department will pay Jodi to be a substitute instructor for the class Tom misses. Imagine a slightly different scenario: Tom calls to say he has arranged for Jodi to cover his class that morning, because he is ill. In return, he’s picking up one of her classes the following week. This situation is an example of colleague coverage, and sick leave does not need to be used.

32 PA appointment issues Any dates can be used for a PA appointment, but the dates have an effect on benefit eligibility. Thus, PA appointments must be at least one-third time, and either match the semester payroll dates or be at least six months in length. PA dates that match the semester dates should be created as C-Basis appointments

33 Do PAs get vacation time, and how do I calculate it?
C-Basis appointments do not earn vacation time. A-Basis PA appointments over 30 days in length (except for reader/graders) earn vacation. To calculate hours of service and vacation: Determine actual stipend (from payroll calc website) Divide actual stipend by full-time rate Multiply this result by 2,080 (this gives you hours of service) Multiply hours of service by .0865 Round to the nearest hour (this gives you vacation hours)

34 Student hourly for grads – be careful!
If the duties require graduate-level expertise, the student hourly title CANNOT be used, and the student must be appointed (in most cases) as a project assistant. Mistitled employees frequently turn up with requests for higher pay

35 Remind your TAs about FERPA
FERPA addresses: Access. An eligible student is permitted certain rights regarding his/her educational records: Right to inspect and review the records  Right to seek to have the records amended or corrected Right to control disclosure of certain portions of the records  Right to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education  Confidentiality. UW-Madison school officials must protect the privacy of student educational records and shall not disclose personally identifiable information about a student or permit inspection of the student’s records without his/her written consent unless such action is permitted by FERPA.

36 Any questions? Please let us know! Brian Bubenzer (for TA/PA/Grader questions) James Hovland (for STS questions)

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