Graduate Assistants at the nation’s top universities almost universally receive funding packages sufficient to cover the expected lengths of their degrees.
URI is different. We have one-year contracts. Even those who have verbal agreements, or rely on common practice (e.g., funding for four years in some departments) have no recourse if their funding is unexpectedly cut off. And almost no PhD students are funded for the length of time it takes to complete their degrees.
As a result of our highly tenuous positions, many students are afraid to raise problems with their supervisors, PIs or major professors. Of the 40% who reported hesitating to voice concerns, the most common reason given, overwhelmingly, was fear of reprisal.
Many GAs reported working more than their contractual 20 hrs/wk, including over 1/4 of full-time GAs who reported working 30 hours or more per week as grad assistants. While a mechanism exists to compensate GAs for overtime work, it is rarely utilized. No one wants to “make waves” or “bite the hand that feeds them”.
UMich, UConn, Indiana U, and many other excellent public universities are able to provide funding packages to their grad assistants in spite of their dependence on state money. We think URI should follow in their venerable footsteps and do the same for their GAs.
Have you been affected by lack of job security? Have you lost your assistantship? Tell us about it!