More undergraduate students in University teaching positions traditionally filled by graduate students have sparked concern among members of the Graduate Employees Organization on the University’s appointing students to assistant teaching jobs. Whether positions are given to more experienced applicants or cheaper applicants is the main issue of debate.
While undergraduate instructors, called Instructional Aides, are paid the same amount as Graduate Student Instructors, they do not receive benefits such as tuition wavers and health care.
GEO President Dan Shoup said more graduate students are being turned down for teaching positions in an effort by departments to cut costs.
“Our main concerns are that any instructor should be paid the same and that the best qualified should be teaching,” Shoup said. “Picking the cheaper teacher should not be a valid way to choose instructors.”
GEO is not against undergraduate students doing GSI work, however they push for the preference of graduate students, Shoup said.
Increasing numbers of Instructional Aides have been most noticeable in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science department, EECS GSI Anthony Nicholson said.
“Learning how to teach is part of the learning experience for graduate students. The lack of teaching positions also forces some (graduate students) to pay tuition out of pocket,” said Nicholson, who is working on a petition requesting the EECS department to give preference to graduate students when hiring.
EECS Administrative Manager Virginia Wait said Instructional Aides are very capable teachers.
“They may not be covered by the union but they keep a high quality of classroom support,” Wait said.
Shoup is also concerned that teaching positions are assigned to successful undergraduate students instead of publicly announcing open teaching positions.
Engineering junior Jason Hemak was asked to be an Instructional Aide three semesters ago and has been teaching ever since.
“While I don’t have the same benefits as a GSI, being an Instructional Aide is probably the best paying job I can get on campus,” Hemak said. “And sometimes undergraduates are better teachers because they really want to teach, not because they get benefits.”
GEO is in the process of planning the appropriate way to approach the issue by talking to the Instructional Aides.