Graduate students want their responsibilities in writing. Tired of what they claim is poor communication between professors and teaching assistants, the Graduate Student Associations Council is working to convince the School of Arts and Sciences to accept an informal, but written, agreement outlining teaching assistants' duties. The agreement, called the Graduate School Compact, was proposed last semester by GSAC in an attempt to clarify the responsibilities of both graduate students and faculty. Currently under revision, the Compact calls for faculty members and graduate students to formally discuss mutual responsibilities and compensation for the semester. After completed, the agreement would be signed by both student and professor. The agreement would be given to graduate teaching assistants, College of General Studies instructors, Writing Across the University fellows, and research assistants to fill out. Graduate students and faculty currently discuss mutual expectations informally. However, graduate students are often not aware of the benefits they should receive, GSAC President Michael Polgar said yesterday. "It is simply an explicit agreement about benefits and responsibilities," Polgar said. "Students and faculty would have something concrete to refer to." "The Compact is in response to a series of different problems that have come up," GSAC Vice President of Academic Affairs Gretchen Hackett said yesterday. "We're not doing any strong-arming. We're just trying to stabilize some exceptional problems," she added. According to Polgar, graduate students often have no recourse if they are upset over demands professors have placed on them. Executive members of GSAC met in December to discuss the Compact with outgoing School of Arts and Sciences Dean Hugo Sonnenschein and Associate Dean Donald Fitts. The document presented to the deans outlined specific demands, asking for information on the nature of the graduate student's job, office hours, and compensation, as well as other tasks expected of the students. According to Hackett, Sonnenschein encouraged the graduate students, although he felt this version of the Compact, which had fill-in blanks, was too rigid. "Sonnenschein would like to maintain a jovial academic community, a pie-in-the-sky view that no one takes advantage of anyone else," Hackett said yesterday. "I thought it was too rigid also and am perfectly happy to compromise." Although Sonnenschein said he is supportive of the graduate students, he maintains they should have an idea of their responsibilities before they come to the University. "I urge graduate students in the School of Arts and Sciences to have ideas when they are admitted, to have a good level of understanding of the level of duration, of the support, to have an understanding of a teaching assistant's responsibilities," Sonnenschein said last week. Sonnenschein said there should be a clear understanding between the teaching assistants and the professors but not as firm as in the Compact. "I think it is a mistake having every item written down," Sonnenschein said. "It would suggest the absence of any trusting relationship between the professor and teaching assistant." Staff Writer Damon Chetson contributed to this story.Comments powered by Disqus
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