Undergraduate teaching assistants a possibility for College of Liberal Arts

Nashwa Bawab

Liberal Arts Council will vote on legislation in support of creating an undergraduate teaching assistant program in the College of Liberal Arts on Tuesday.

According to the legislation, the College of Liberal Arts requires teaching assistants (TAs) to put in significant amounts of time and work, which could be alleviated with the help of undergraduate teaching assistants. The undergraduate assistants would help TAs with their work and would be responsible for tasks such as taking notes, taking attendance, meeting with students and grading. Liberal Arts Council is currently surveying liberal arts students about possible qualifications and pay of the undergraduate TA program. 

Austin Reynolds, English junior and president of the Liberal Arts Council, said he is confident that the bill will pass on Tuesday and if it does, he hopes implementation can start as soon as next year.

“The reason I think it would be beneficial is because Liberal Arts does have the worst professor to student ratio,” Reynolds said. “This just a better way of connecting students with administration and making sure they have help within each class.”

The council’s proposal would compensate for any lack of graduate TAs, said Esther Raizen, associate dean for research and associate professor in the College of Liberal Arts.

“We’re trying to reduce the number of teaching assistants in order to possibly increase the stipend that we pay to TAs, but we’re quickly running into the problem of not enough teaching assistants to cover the classes,” Raizen said.

This idea follows the creation of a task force last fall that discussed TA employment issues, according to Justin Doran, religious studies graduate student and spokesperson for the College of Liberal Arts TA taskforce.

“Originally, we were only going to be dealing with TA issues and employment issues but we kind of ended up dealing with all kinds of issues and the undergraduate assistant issue was one of them,” Doran said.

Some issues brought up by the taskforce included training, relationships between faculty members and graduate students and funding, Doran said.

Raizen said other departments within the College of Liberal Arts already have undergraduate TAs.

“In Middle Eastern studies, we’ve had undergraduates for at least two or three years in the Arabic classrooms,” Raizen said.  “Economics has had them longer than that.”

Overall, Raizen said she thinks having undergraduates would be a great idea because of the help they can bring and also the skills they can gain.

“Advanced undergraduates can do a fabulous job with this,” Raizen said. “It will never happen throughout the entire department, but if a department comes to me today and says, ‘We want to hire undergraduates for additional support,’ I’ll give them my blessing.”