September 11, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 8  

Front Page >> News > Concern expressed over TAs, workload


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Concern expressed over TAs, workload

By Laura Katsirdakis
Gazette Staff

As class enrollment increases in first-year classes, the number of teaching assistants employed to handle tutorial sessions and mark assignments may not be rising accordingly. Yet, faculty may be forced to rely more heavily on their TAs if they are faced with larger class sizes and reduced opportunity for one-on-one contact with students.

"There are about 60 new [TA] positions this year. This is a little more than normal and it is not in line with the increase in students," stated Shawn Whitehead, president of the Graduate Teaching Assistance Union. The struggle to juggle graduate studies with TA duties will be worse this year, he said.

"Administration has not been very forthcoming or up front about how to deal with the [double cohort]," Whitehead said. Less than half of all graduate students have positions as TAs and Whitehead said "the University is not creating enough opportunity for all graduate students to be TAs."

Whitehead said his message to TAs is "to keep track of the hours they work and consult the GTA union if the workload is too much." He added "[administration] has not hired enough TAs to deal with the demand."

Marty Kreiswirth, Dean of Graduate Studies, said it is premature to make statements about student to TA ratios because the TA hiring process for this year is not finished. "The training sessions for TAs have just finished up this week and there was higher involvement in these sessions this year," he said. The training sessions are voluntary, he added.

It is not too late for professors to request more TAs if it is needed, Kreiswirth said.

"I don't have the data yet to know how many TAs [will be employed] this year. [The dean's office] is the advocate of grad students and would be pleased to talk to them if there are concerns," Kreiswirth said.

There is concern about the burden on TAs this year, said Daryl White, president of the Society of Graduate Students. "It's still very early to know if this will be a [major problem]," he said, noting the university has committed to hiring more TAs with the money provided by the provincial Quality Assurance Fund.

"There has been no increase in TAs this year, it is holding steady," said Keith Fleming, director of administrative and commercial studies and professor of ACS 020. Instead, the increasing enrollment will be dealt with by changing the structure of tutorials, he explained.

There are two kinds of TAs: graduate TAs (who are also pursuing graduate studies) and departmental TAs, Kreiswirth explained.



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