Opinions from Graduate Assistants Wanted

I’m a grad assistant. This means I am assigned to one department (not my major department, although I’m being reassigned there this fall), where I do what I’m told. I do not teach classes, per se. The most I can do is to show a video or proctor an exam; I can’t lecture or otherwise provide any sort of instruction. (If I were in my major department, the rules would be a good bit looser because I’ve taken the courses and have the necessary skill set to at least answer questions.)

After some unpleasant experiences, I thought a handbook for GAs would be a good idea; I think it’d be great to have a resource to address situations that are unique to GAs. I proposed this to my advisor, who is the department representative to the faculty graduate-school council. My suggestion has made its way to the graduate dean, who is interested and wants to talk to me about it.

So far, I’ve got the following ideas for content:

[li]Grievance procedures, including those for harassment[/li][li]Payroll procedures[/li][li]Financial aid implications, such as the possibility of reduced or eliminated aid because the assistantship covers tuition[/li][li]General duties of GAs (specific duties are defined when the appointment is made)[/li][/ul]

I’m putting the question to you, my fellow current and former GAs. Is there anything else you can think of that should be covered in a university-wide handbook?


What are the perqs at your school for GAs?

*Grad students received special health insurance and got healthcare & meds provided at the school clinic when I was at NC State. The details could be a little confusing, though.

*Do GAs get a special deal at the school gym? Does the special deal extend to family members?

*Do GAs qualify for any student meal plans?

*Do GAs get better treatment at the library? (Longer loans, freebies?)

*Do GAs get any deals on parking?

Those are the ones that come to mind at the moment. It’s been 7 years, and the brain blots out painful memories, or so it’s said…

Some random thoughts:

I’d include a special section for international students, as there usually are different rules governing them.

Differences between types of common assistantships, if any. (As in, are there any differences besides typical duties between a research assistant and a teaching assistant.)

Under what circumstances is tution covered, and how much. (As an example, normally Summer assistantships where I was at do not cover tution for Summer courses.)

Related to the above, are students expected to use their stipend to pay for their books or does the tuition coverage also cover books. (And if so, how much.)

Are there any different rules if the funding for your assistantship comes from the department versus outside sources?

General graduation procedures: what needs to be done, when, and by whom? You may not want to include specific dates unless it won’t be a hassle to update them every semester, but at least say where current deadlines can be found and when typical deadlines are. (“Intent to graduate cards are normally due the semester before…” or the like.)

I see on preview Ivorybill mentions perks. I’d pay special attention to health insurance: are GAs required to have it, etc.

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I haven’t started my assistantship yet, but my university has professional development seminars to help graduate students develop teaching skills. Any relevant skill-building resources would be good to include.

You may want to put in a plug for any student organizations especially targeted for graduate students. Also, many graduate assistants are developing public speaking skills, so you could mention Toastmasters www.toastmasters.org

Also, discussions of how to apply for various types of funding, or at least point students to existing resources for that.

Information about how residency is determined, if it is a state university.

Good luck with your project!

The bad things about my uni’s GA program are that we don’t really get perqs unless they’re part of a specific assistantship, and that GAs don’t teach.

The rest of the ideas are good ones, and I’ll bring them up Thursday.


Here are some sample guides…








The idea is to not reinvent the wheel: do a “literature search/survey”, focusing on graduate assistant guides, and take the best for your template.

Great idea!

How about conduct and professionalism (including your school’s rules about having sex with undergrads in the classes you’re working with)? A surprising number of assistants I’ve worked with don’t have any idea that at our school, they fall into the “faculty” category when it comes to this stuff, nor does anyone seem to have reminded them that professional comportment may preclude wearing jeans and a jog bra to teach in, or tee shirts promoting illegal drugs or questionable sexual practices or obscenities, or discussing their piercings with their students, or even communicating with students while chewing an enormous smacky wad of gum at all times. I’ve seen everything in this list at least twice, plus various and sundry clueless behavior like coming to class late, taking phone calls in class, and not bringing a pen with them when they’re leading a section.