April 20, 2017
From an Overworked TA
The class I am a TA for requires 12 hours of student interaction and about half a day of preparing materials. Every week. This is way more than the 20 hours/week that I am paid to do. The instructor knows this and had originally requested twice as many TAs as we have, but the department, being broke, only assigned two of us for this awful job. This particular class is known to be this way, as I have learned from talking to past sufferers. I have been TA-ing for two years now and have noticed a wild disparity in the workload for different classes. My question is: how is this fair? The department pays everyone the same amount, still how is it that some TAs get away with just 4 hours of work while others have to do upwards of 20? Since this is an issue of the department, I don’t know how to proceed. The officials in the department get very defensive when asked this. I don’t want to risk not being considered for future TA positions and am therefore not going to pursue the topic with them, but isn’t this just exploitation of us students by those in power? If the department has no money, they should figure out a better way to do this than exploit two students every quarter (yes, this class is taught every quarter). I am at a loss here and am losing my sanity not finding time to do anything else that actually matters for my Ph.D. Please help. –Anonymous
This week’s answer is provided after consultation from the Labor Relation’s Office.
Yikes. I’m sorry this TA-ship has been such a negative experience for you. Fortunately, you have resources at your disposal to help you resolve some of these issues.
You’ve said you do not wish to pursue these issues with your department. But you should know all academic staff employees are covered under a collective bargaining agreement by UAW Local Union 4121. If you do want to file a grievance against your department, the Union will help you do that. A Union representative urges Academic Student Employees to remember that addressing workplace concerns is time-sensitive under the Union contract.
Another resource available to you is the Office of the Ombud, which provides a space for members of the UW community to voice their concerns and develop plans for addressing difficult situations. The Ombud is easily accessible, with offices on all three campuses. Students contact the Ombud to discuss a range of issues including TA appointments. They are your go-to for addressing problems with the department’s culture. They’ll advise you on your situation without starting a formal complaint or grievance, and they won’t contact your department about the matter unless you ask them to do so.
Best of luck!
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I’m a member of the UAW 4121 Contract Enforcement Working Group and I’d strongly encourage you (and anyone in a similar situation) to get in touch with us! We have a ton of experience helping resolve workload issues, and we exist specifically to help make sure your rights are being upheld. You also have protections against retaliation, and having the support of a union rep around is really helpful for making sure those protections aren’t being ignored. We’ll never file a grievance or contact anyone in your department without your full go-ahead. I really hope you get in touch with us! Our email is firstname.lastname@example.org.Comment by Sam on April 21, 2017 at 3:45 pm