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Editorial: Teaching assistants deserve pay increase

Arizona Daily Wildcat,
December 3, 1999
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Last night, graduate teaching assistants presented their petition for increased benefits to UA President Peter Likins. They deserve a pay increase, but should not receive the additional benefits they ask for.

All told, the teaching assistants are asking for three major things. First, health care for their dependents. The teaching assistants themselves already receive health care, but they wish to extend these benefits to their wives and children. Second, university-sponsored or subsidized child care. Finally, an increase in pay.

If teaching assistants work less than 30 hours a week, no job in the marketplace would give them the benefits they ask for. Students, for the most part, already know this. How many people get child care for working at a fast food restaurant three shifts a week? Do clothing stores at the mall give health care to the dependents of their seasonal workers?

Of course, teaching assistants don't want to be treated like seasonal workers at the mall, they want, justly enough, to be treated more like professors.

Today, teaching assistants earn about $5,000 per semester. All told, this is not a poor salary. Ten thousand dollars per year for a part-time job is far better than most students manage to pull in.

Of course, the university doesn't give tuition waivers or reduced administrative fees to teaching assistants. Generally, these costs total around $1,200 per semester, reducing their net pay to around $3,800 per semester.

Giving teaching assistants free, or even subsidized child care, would cause more problems than it would solve. In recent years, students have petitioned the university for child care for students, and, largely, the university has responded by providing a very limited system. If they were to open up that system by admitting the children of grad students, administration would soon be forced to open it to all students.

As anyone with children knows, the costs of child care are very high. The best we can hope for is a subsidization of these costs.

Also, it would be unfair for us to give extra benefits to students because they have dependents. This would have the effect of penalizing students without dependents; something we certainly do not care to do. Thus, we should raise benefits for everyone equally, and the only way to do this is though a pay increase.

Many of these claims may be part of a negotiating tactic on the part of the teaching assistants. In business, one party routinely overstates its desires, expecting that they will not get everything they ask for. If this is the case, than the stance of the teaching assistants represents an acceptable starting point; but they must accept that they will not receive everything they are asking for.

Teaching assistants should receive an increase in pay to help them pay for child care or health care for their dependents. This could be accomplished through a waiver of tuition and fees. The $1,200 added to teaching assistant's paychecks per semester is the equivalent of $240 per month, a compromise that should be acceptable to everyone involved.

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