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TA's hope for additional funding

By Ayse Guner
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
June 28, 2000
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Arizona Summer Wildcat

Salary and workload issues require more than money, TA's

If the University of Arizona receives additional funding next fall, the labor conditions of graduate students will slightly improve, said Gary Pivo, Graduate College Dean.

The administration is also planning to decrease the workload of graduate students, pending the amount of funding received.

Graduate students have long been seeking improvements in their labor conditions. Some of the concerns they raised were low pay, working more hours than they were paid for, and workload discrepancies as well as limited benefits provided by the university.

"The problem is the most serious in the College of Humanities. We need to focus there," Pivo said.

In the fall of 1999, the Teaching Task Force conducted a university-wide survey on the working conditions and compensation of graduate teaching assistants at the UA. The survey was evaluated at May 12 Campus Advisory Council meeting and one of the task force's findings was that teaching assistants work for 30 hours while they are paid for 20 hours.

"Teaching workloads are too high, affecting teaching assistants' ability to make appropriate academic progress toward their own degrees," stated the report. "TA salaries are too low to permit adequate living support."

Although the survey didn't have high enough sample estimates, it has been very helpful by defining the teaching assistant's workload, Pivo said.

"Since the report, I have been working with the vice president of under graduate education and the dean of the College of Humanities to come up with plans to reduce the workload."

Pivo added that the solution is to find enough funding to hire more TA's or reduce the number of students enrolled in courses.

"This is the first step to reduce the workload, but needs funding. I will be working with others developing budget to address the workload in colleges," Pivo said.

Beginning in the fall semester, first year English graduate students will teach three courses a year instead of four, without a salary decrease.

"We wanted to do something immediately, so we tried to address the workload of the graduate students that never taught before," said Larry Evers, head of the English department.

There are 8,068 graduate and professional students enrolled at the UA and in the fall of 1999 there were 1,324 graduate student teaching assistants, according to the Teaching Assistant Survey results.

TA salaries for the College of Humanities - which houses the English department - range from $11,475 to $13,163, where as College of Science - where Chemistry is based - range from $14,408 to $16,067, the report stated.

Pivo said the discrepancies are more or less a response to the market.

"You can find similar differences in other universities. The important thing to look at is how the salary in a single department is with the peer institutions in the same department," he added

While crux of the matter is funding, some teaching assistants said they also think its an issue of appreciation.

"Value is measured by money nowadays. All should be valued, all are part of the university," said M.J. Braun, an English graduate student who works on the executive committee of the Coalition to Organize Graduate Students.

COGS formed two years ago to discuss the unfair labor practices within the university.

"Our purpose is to collectively bargain with the university and come to an agreement on what the workers will be doing," Braun said.

Braun said she thinks hiring more adjunct and TA's is not a victory for the graduate student issues.

"The exploitation is shifted from one group to another," she said. "They (TA's) are hired on the need basis, and they don't even know whether they will have a job next semester."

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