TA/GA Grievance Committee

The agreement between the labor union that represents the teaching assistants, graduate assistants, and faculty at Rutgers University stipulates that there needs to be a protocol to follow when teaching assistants and graduate assistants take issue with reappointment procedures. This is outlined in Article XI of the agreement, “TEACHING ASSISTANT/GRADUATE ASSISTANT PERSONNEL GRIEVANCE PROCEDURE”. At any point when a TA or GA is not reappointed, they can complain to a department representative. If they do not feel the representative has been able to sufficiently resolve it (which, I imagine, would only be in the case when there is a simple filing error and not a flat-out rejection of reappointment), then the aggrieved party would submit a formal request in writing to a committee charged for this purpose on the campus. In this instance, this committee is called the “TA/GA Grievance Committee” and is a necessary step toward to resolution of a reappointment dispute.

The committee needs to convene and make a decision about whether or not to support or deny the claim from the spurned TA/GA. If necessary (meaning if someone asks), a meeting will be held with the TA/GA to hear the case in full. Afterwards, the committee has ~20 days to render a decision about whether to reject or accept the TA/GA’s request. At that point, it is handed up to the Dean of the Graduate School to make a final decision based on their opinion of the matter and the opinion of the committee.

The TA/GA committee is selected by the EVPAA in the New Brunswick campus of Rutgers University and consists of of 3 faculty members and 2 TA/GA members. The pool is selected from the nominees of department chairs whom select internally from their own department one faculty and one TA/GA.

My department asked if I would be willing to serve on the committee and I said I would. Honestly, it is something that interests me; it is useful to see how TA/GA disputes might play out in the wild and I am vested in making sure that graduate students get the right treatment. Maybe it isn’t proper to say this, but graduate students are effectively a “vulnerable” population; we are entirely at the whim of our department and, even more so, our academic adviser.

The adviser holds so much power in a relationship that everything is tipped in their favor and they can get basically any outcome they want regarding their student. If for whatever reason the student and them part ways, the adviser can entirely submarine him or her without having to back it up. As such, being on a committee like this would allow me to bear more witness to that. My relationship with my adviser is not like this at all and I don’t expect it to be, but I’ve borne witness to bad situations with fellow graduate students and their advisers enough to know that I would like to help if I can (AND, most importantly, if it is appropriate!) The graduate student is not always in the right, but I am merely saying that they are at a disadvantage >80% of the time). But I suppose a further expose on a subject like this warrants a different blog post so I digress.

So two issues remain, I guess:
1) The Dean doesn’t have to follow the recommendation of the committee. Not knowing anyone else who has served on this, faculty or otherwise, I cannot say what the usual outcome is. I imagine the Dean will select whatever option they want or best serves the university. I honestly feel that a graduate student appealing a reappointment is forever at a disadvantage and I would be surprised if they ever got reappointed. And then, I sincerely doubt they would be appointed again after that. Most likely they are persona non grata in their department after such a kabuki show.

2) I am not yet on the committee, I would need to be selected from the pool of applicants. Maybe if I just contact the EVPAA directly expressing interest to be on it, they would place me on it after keeling over in shock that someone forcefully volunteered to be on a committee that may only exist to placate a scorned graduate student before their final beheading (academically speaking).

It is interesting to be nominated, though! I consider it a great honor and would happily engage in committee activities. It’s a nice outlet from research and good practice for if I ever become faculty somewhere else, where committee membership is a more important credential of keeping your job than research.