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Student teaching assistants will not be affected by the fiscal year 2021 hiring freeze. Credit: Ari Stonberg

The University-wide hiring freeze for the 2021 fiscal year will not affect the hiring and replacement of student teaching assistants, lecturers without tenure, and University of Pennsylvania Health System employees for the 2020-2021 academic year.

On Monday, Provost Wendell Pritchett and Executive Vice President Craig Carnaroli announced in an email that the University would enter a hiring freeze on all positions except grant-funded positions approved by the “highest level of the School/center” to reduce costs. Other efforts to reduce costs included a limited merit increase program which will prevent employees with salaries above $70,000 from an annual wage or stipend increases, restrictions on overtime work, and the elimination of mid-year salary adjustments.

The email also stated that the University will reduce costs for the 2021 fiscal year to preserve jobs and maintain salary continuity for current employees.

Penn Medicine’s Vice President for Public Affairs Patrick Norton wrote in an email to The Daily Pennsylvanian that the University of Pennsylvania Health System will continue to recruit employees “to ensure [Penn Med] can continue to meet our patient care mission.”

The University of Pennsylvania Health System includes the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, and Pennsylvania Hospital.

University spokesperson Stephen MacCarthy wrote in an email to the DP that student TAs and lecturers without tenure will still work and be paid under the hiring freeze for the next academic year.

"[If non-tenured faculty's contracts expire], there is not a guarantee of renewal, which is always the case and not new to this pandemic situation," MacCarthy wrote.

A faculty member who has received tenure has a continuous appointment that extends to retirement, according to the Penn Faculty Handbook.

Engineering and Wharton sophomore Robin Tan currently works as a TA for CIS 121: Programming Languages and Techniques II and will TA for the same course in fall 2020. Tan said he is glad to hear that all TAs will be able to assist professors and be paid next semester despite the hiring freeze.

“I’m grateful that resources are still being allocated to TAs, because they're an important part of [students'] learning process and the teaching process,” Tan said.

Harvard University, Yale University, Stanford University, Dartmouth College, Brown University, Cornell University, and Columbia University have also instituted hiring freezes to reduce costs due to financial uncertainty amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Last Tuesday, Computer and Information Science Professor Max Mintz sent an email to his advisees speculating that students would not be able to return to campus for classes in the fall due to the coronavirus pandemic. Later that day, Penn updated its Student FAQ on the University Coronavirus website informing students that the University is planning for every possibility for the University's operations in fall 2020.

Tan said that he assumes fall 2020 will be conducted in person but is preparing for the possibility of remote learning. He added that he has not received any guidance or instruction from his professor about how to proceed next semester as a TA if the University decides to move classes online. 

Since the transition to online classes, some TAs have urged the University to offer more support for those dealing with disrupted learning and teaching environments. Some TAs cited little guidance from their professors and encouraged the University to create guidelines for professors to adhere to when managing their TAs.