GAU Bargaining Blog Update #5

November 30, 2018

Today’s session focused on two main topics: Clear job descriptions/offer letters, and workload.

Job Descriptions/Offer Letters: What is your job title? What are your responsibilities as a Grad Assistant in your department? When should you know what your responsibilities are, and how do you know when you’re successful in your duties? We spent the majority of our time in today’s negotiating session attempting to answer these basic questions about the nature of our work here at the University. We are looking for the University to clearly articulate the basics about your job in your offer letter so you have clear expectations for your performance as a Grad Assistant.

We believe that all GAs should know who our supervisor is before we start the job. We should definitely know what our benefits are and where we can find more information about them. And most importantly, we most certainly should know where we can go if we need help on any issues that may arise as a graduate employee, especially if our supervisor is… less than helpful (Hint: You can ALWAYS come to GAU!). We’re making progress, and look forward to future sessions that get us closer to agreement.

Workload: It should come as no surprise to you that Grad Assistantships vary…. a LOT. Some GAs hold “classic” Teaching Assistantships where they act as support for full time faculty members teaching large lectures by leading recitation sections, grading, meeting with students, and administering exams. Other Teaching Assistants are de facto instructors of record, designing their own syllabi, teaching a course on their own, grading, meeting with students, and acting as a member of the faculty. Some “administrative” assistants work to support their departments in an administrative capacity, others work in residence halls and are on call 24/7. Then there’s Research Assistants, who are often in the lab way beyond 20 hours a week working on both their assistantship and their academic research. How does one differentiate between reasonable expectations for a GA’s workload and overworking with such a wide variance in what is “normal” vs what is too much work? We worked on getting firmer guidelines for workload expectations, and tied this directly back to job descriptions. You should know what kind of hours your supervisor expects you to work.

Our next negotiating session is on December 20th. We’ll report back soon!