Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0142.  Monday, 21 February 1994.
From:           Jim Swan <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Sunday, 20 Feb 1994 21:59:24 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Teaching Assistants and Workload
This isn't directly relevant to the focus of the LIST, but for any of us
who teach graduate students it's important:
The Graduate Student Employees Union (GSEU) won recognition last year as the
the bargaining unit for teaching assistants in the SUNY system.  A contract
has just been ratified and, in response, some administrators are acting
vindictively and punitively.  As if to say, "OK, so you won--now we're
going to show you what it means."
The war zone is *workload*, which the contract defines as 20 hours per
week.  In most units within the Faculty of Arts & Letters at SUNY/Buffalo
(where I serve as Associate Dean for Graduate Programs), the tradition has
been that a TA wholly responsible for a class (English Composition,
Beginning Spanish, Art Studio) fulfills the obligation of the
assistantship.  Now there's a move to quantify everything and to say that
teaching a class takes less than 20 hours, that a TA will have other duties
as well.  Personally, I find this repugnant--it's Taylorism on the march,
and it has no place in graduate education.
To bolster my argument I need information, and I would be grateful if you
would answer a few questions:
  1) At your institution, what are the duties of a TA?  How are
     they defined?  Are they quantified by the hour?  Or by the
  2) Are your teaching assistants unionized?
  3) What is the _net_ annual stipend paid to a full-time TA?  That
     is, net of fees, tuition, health insurance, etc.  Some
     institutions pay good stipends but then require students to pay
     for mandatory health insurance.  In fact, does your campus supply
     health insurance, or do students have to pay for it?
  4) Is workload a war zone for faculty too?  Are your faculty
I really need answers to the first question--it's the crucial one.  If you
have figures for the third one, so much the better.  But don't hesitate to
reply if you can't answer the third question.
Please circulate this message as widely as possible--to colleagues, to other
LISTs, wherever.
Jim Swan
English Department
306 Samuel Clemens Hall
State University of New York
Buffalo, NY 14260
Office:  (716) 645-2711
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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