UA depts contend TA-ships awarded for merit, not race

By Hanh Quach

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Administrators at the UA have responded to Arizona Board of Regents' president-elect John Munger's fears that graduate teaching assistantships are awarded on the basis of race.

"Deans and departments appear to be hiring graduate assistants on the basis of race," Munger said after the forum at ASU, adding, "the problem is that we don't know how much of it is occurring at the departmental level."

In a random sampling of UA departments, faculty members are saying that TA-ships are awarded based on qualifications, not on race.

Professor of English Larry Evers said of the 113 teaching assistants hired by one of the four graduate programs in the English Department, 15 are minority students.

The criteria they must fulfill are highly competitive, but each specific program requirement is different, he said.

All need excellent achievement and satisfactory GRE scores, but "the most important element is the writing sample," Evers said.

Martha Gilliland, UA's Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, said, "Teaching assistantships are not awarded with race-based criteria. There is, however, an aggressive effort to recruit minorities."

Steven Brown, coordinator of instructional laboratories in the Chemistry Department, said there are 93 teaching assistants to instruct in the labs, but was not sure of the exact number of minority graduate assistants teaching.

He said the assistants chosen by the department are hired based on references and are required to have two years of lab experience.

Brown said he was not aware of minority hiring practices in the university, but said that the students within the Chemistry Department were hired on qualifications, not race.

Of the 29 teaching assistants in the Department for Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, none are minorities, said Joan Zokvic, administrative assistant.

There are two minority students in the EEB program, but although both were qualified for a graduate assistantship, both declined, Zokvic said.

"What is important is that we learn to live together and assist people on the basis of need, not on the basis of race," Munger said.

Munger also indicated that he was concerned about race-based scholarships, which occupy 3 percent of federal student financial aid.

Regent Judy Gignac said she has not heard much about the issue.

"What we need to do is agree that we are trying to reach a discrimination-free environment where everyone is accepted on the basis of ability and need rather than race," she said.

"We're continuing to address (Munger's) issues and recognize that he has an interest in looking at minority-targeted scholarships that are state-funded," she said.

During the 1994-1995 academic year, 20.7 percent of students at the university were minorities. In the graduate college, 12.5 percent were minorities, and graduate assistants stood at 9.34 percent.

Last year, there were 2,612 graduate assistants and associates at the UA. Separated by ethnic category, 65.1 percent, or 1,700, of the graduate assistants were Caucasian. Asian Pacific American students took the largest number of minority assistantships with 113 or 4.3 percent, followed by 89 Hispanic graduate assistants, 3.4 percent. African American students contribute 22 assistants, or less than one percent, to the overall program and Native American positions total 21 graduate assistants, also less than one percent. These numbers do not reflect International students assisting in the department.

Munger said he would like to see positions allocated to the person more qualified.

The regents recently voted to increase the number of under-represented groups of faculty in teaching areas with a lower number of ethnic minorities and women. Goals and policy are set to encourage that.

"The goals are not quotas, simply percentages that act as encouragement which suggest to departments to increase the numbers hired. If it's not measured, it's not going to be achieved," Gignac said.

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