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Graduate Appointments Policies and Procedures

This document incorporates policies and procedures established by the University Trustees, campus administration, and those set forth in the negotiated collective bargaining agreement between the University and the Graduate Employee Organization (GEO). These supersede previous procedures and guidelines as well as previous policies on these matters. Specific questions should be addressed to the Assistantship Office, 517 Goodell Building.

Types of Graduate Assistantships

General Conditions for Employment for Graduate Assistants Stipend
Tuition Waiver Scholarships

Teaching Assistantship

A Teaching Assistant (TA) has one or more of the following responsibilities in courses for which he or she does not have primary responsibility:
(1) coordinate, lead, or assist in the instructional process in preparation and direct interaction with students in lab, discussion, quiz, or problem sessions; (2) meet with students and teach during office hours; (3) grade papers; (4) grade and proctor exams; (5) supervise undergraduate interns; (6) counsel students; (7) administer colloquium programs. A TA may have additional, related duties as assigned.

In addition to positions in academic departments and the Division of Continuing Education, Teaching Assistants (and Teaching Associates) may be hired for instructional programming approved for and funded by non-academic departments. An example is the 3-credit Peer Sex Education course, designed and offered by the University Health Services and credited to the Public Health Department. Under no circumstance may a Teaching Assistant's responsibilities include duties that are unrelated to instructional effort, e.g., clerical, administrative, or even research type activities. A non-academic department must first have met institutional review requirements for an instructional program before it can appoint Teaching Assistants.

Teaching Associateship

A Teaching Associate (TO) is responsible for the teaching and grading of a course. Teaching Associate positions, like the TA, can be paid from any funding source.

Research Assistantship

A Research Assistant (RA) assists in conducting research of a scholarly nature, normally under faculty supervision. The work of a Research Assistant can include, but is not limited to, the gathering and analyses of data, the development of theoretical analyses and models, the production or publication of scholarly journals and research reports which is primarily for his or her own research, and is secondarily for the benefit of the University, faculty or academic staff supervisor, or granting agency.

Project Assistantship

A Project Assistant (PA) is similar to a Research Assistant, but a PA is a graduate student who performs work primarily for the benefit of the University, faculty or academic staff supervisor, and secondarily for the graduate student's own research. Similar to an RA, a PA must do work related to academic research.

Intern Assistantship

An Internship is an on-campus assistantship that is awarded to students who are gaining practical experience that directly augments their classroom studies. In some departments, Internships are required for graduation. Internships must be specifically designed to support and enrich a student's academic experience. Interns cannot fill regular staff positions or substitute for consulting services. Examples of acceptable Internships include:

  • A School of Management major designing a department’s or trust fund’s accounting system.
  • An Anthropology or Sociology major designing or implementing demographic analyses for the Office of Institutional Research and Planning.
  • A Computer Science or engineering student designing and implementing computer based applications to support academic, research, or administrative needs.
  • An Art major designing a patient waiting room for Health Services.
  • Examples of unacceptable Internships include:
  • Service activities such as cashiering, stock work, clerical work.
  • Employment of a student whose major is unrelated to the work: i.e., a French major designing a budget system, even if that French major has exceptional skills in budgeting.

Fellowship

An award made to assist a student in the pursuit of his/her studies or research, usually with no requirement for service or performance.

Traineeship

An award made to assist a student in the pursuit of his/her studies or research, sometimes with and sometimes without the requirement of service or performance, but usually limited to a specific discipline by the granting agency.

Assistant Residence Director (ARD)

A graduate student employed by Housing and who is required, as a condition of employment as an ARD to reside in University-assigned housing. The job duties and responsibilities of the ARD can be obtained from Housing Services, Berkshire House.

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General Conditions of Employment for Graduate Assistants

Stipend

Graduate Assistantships and Associateships are required to carry a stipend at a rate that is no less than the established minimum set for the campus. This amount may vary from year to year, depending on budgetary and contract considerations. The current (Fall 13) minimum stipend necessary to qualify for tuition and Curriculum fee waivers is $4,324.40 for a single semester and $8,648.80 for the full academic year.  For a complete list of these rates please see the 2013-2014 Assistantship Information sheet. Minimum earnings needed for a tuition waiver in a given semester may be met by combining any number of eligible appointments - see below "Minimum Earnings." Stipends are paid in bi-weekly installments over the length of the appointment.

Period of Appointment

Most commonly, graduate assistants and associates (GA's) are appointed from September through May. GA's may also be appointed for as long as 12 months from June through May or for periods of less than a semester with the exception of TAs and TOs. A GA may be re-appointed and serve for a second, a third, or even a fourth year. All graduate appointments shall automatically terminate at the end of the specified appointment period. No appointment or reappointment of a graduate student to an assistantship or associateship position commits the University to reappoint that same student at some later time.

To insure the timely receipt of the first bi-weekly paycheck, appointments of GA's should be made, and the completed fully signed appointment forms received by the Graduate School, at least 1week before the appointment is scheduled to begin. Retroactive appointments are not generally permitted and no graduate student employee should begin work until he or she has signed their Graduate Fellowship Assistantship Form (GFAF).

Workload

There are two policies governing the number of hours per week that a student may work on campus. The Human Resources and state regulations impose a maximum of 40 hours per week that a student may work for compensation on the campus. This includes the total from all job types: Assistantships, student hourly, Work-Study, etc. The second policy requires institutional responsibility to limit the pressure on students who hold multiple appointments and maintain a significant credit load. The student's academic progress and the quality of their classroom lecture delivery are both jeopardized under overload conditions. The Graduate School, therefore, also includes the course credit hours in the total permissible workload of 40 hours. A student, who, with the addition of credit hours, slightly exceeds the 40-hour maximum, can have the limit lifted with a letter from the Graduate Program Director or Department Head attesting to the student's capacity to handle the overload. Thesis and dissertation credits are not included in the total. Note that International students with F1 and J1 Visas may not work more than 20 hours per week while classes are in session. These students may work up to 40 hours in a week during Intersession and the through the summer.

Language Training

It is the responsibility of each academic department to determine that each graduate student who is employed in a GEO bargaining unit position with instructional responsibilities has appropriate oral proficiency in English. Instructional responsibilities extend to both classroom and laboratory settings. GAs shall be deemed to have the appropriate oral proficiency in English by meeting one of the following criteria:

  • S/he speaks English as a first language;
  • S/he has an undergraduate degree from a U.S. university;
  • S/he has submitted a Test of Spoken English (TSE) or a SPEAK test score of 50 or above.

GAs with instructional responsibilities and who have not met one (1) of the above criteria are required to take the SPEAK test upon arrival on campus.
The SPEAK test is administered by the Graduate School at no cost to graduate students. It is given three (3) times a year: Fall, Spring, and Summer.

Graduate student employees who are required to take the SPEAK test and who do not pass the test are required to either participate in the Communication Instruction classes offered by the Graduate School (at no cost to the student) or enroll in another program recommended by their Graduate Program Director. If the assistantship with instructional responsibilities has already begun, the test result will have no bearing on the funding for the duration of that appointment. However, graduate student employees may be reassigned responsibilities corresponding to their level of proficiency. Reappointment to an instructional position will not be made unless the SPEAK test has been passed.

International students should be advised that, because they will not be eligible to teach in the summer or winter session in Continuing and Professional Education until they have passed the SPEAK test, they should complete all testing requirements immediately after arrival on campus.

Preparation Time

Any time a graduate student employee spends in training required by his or her department before the semester begins, whether provided by the department or the University, shall be counted towards the total number of contracted hours for the employee for the subsequent contract period.

Summer Session Appointments

In addition to regular academic year appointments, graduate students, who have begun their academic course of study, may be appointed to assistantships in the summer. The rate of pay must meet the same minimum requirement established for the academic year and prorated for the length of the summer appointment.

Additional Compensation

A full or part-time Graduate Assistant or Associate may receive additional compensation from University sources in the form of other assistantships, student hourly, or fellowships as long as the hours worked are within the limits described under "Workload" above.

Non-Degree Students

Non-degree students may NOT receive tuition waivers under Board of Higher Education regulations. A non-degree student may be appointed to an assistantship only if the funding department is also willing to pay the student's tuition. Graduate assistants may not pay their own tuition.

Vacation, Additional Time Off, and Holidays

Graduate student employees in the GEO bargaining unit shall receive the following vacation, additional time off, and holiday benefits:

Vacation = 1 day per month (pro rated if less or more than 1 FTE) Example: For a 20 hour per week appointment, vacation time equals 4 hours per month. You can use the multiplier .0473 times the total number of hours to determine Vacation time. TAs and TOs must take vacation time during Winter break or Spring break unless agreement is reached with department head that an alternative schedule would be acceptable. RA’s and other graduate student employees may take vacation at any time, provided they obtain prior written approval for the supervisor. Vacation leave cannot be carried over beyond the contract period in which is earned.

Additional Time = 24 hrs. per semester for a FTE (fulltime) position or 17 hrs per 14-week summer session. For the academic year use the multiplier 0.63 times the total number of hours to determine Additional time during the semester. Example: For a 20 hr per week appointment, Additional Time equals: 20 hrs x 19 wk. X .063 = 24 hours/semester. For the summer session, use the multiplier .061 times the total number of hours to determine Additional Time during the summer. Example: 20 hr per week appointment during the summer, Additional Time equals: 20 hrs x 14 wk x .061 =17 hours/summer. Additional Time cannot be carried over beyond the academic year or summer session in which it is earned.

Holidays: TAs and TOs who normally work on a day when the University is closed due to a holiday shall not be required to work on that day and shall receive pay for that day. However, when class days are switched (e.g. Monday is on a Wednesday) workdays will be switched as well. RAs and other graduate student employees who are required by his/her supervisor to work on a University holiday shall receive compensatory time off unless such requirement is part of the graduate student employee’s job description. The following days are considered holidays:

  • New Year's Day
  • Washington's Birthday
  • Memorial Day
  • Labor Day
  • Veteran's Day
  • Christmas Day
  • Martin Luther King Day
  • Patriot's Day
  • Independence Day
  • Columbus Day
  • Thanksgiving Day

Emergency Closings

When University employees are released from work due to emergency conditions, graduate student employees shall also be released - this includes snow or other weather related emergencies.

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Tuition Waiver Scholarships

Graduate tuition waiver scholarships are given for different reasons, and fall into different categories accordingly. The various categories are discussed below in the order in which they are treated in Trustee Document T79-093B.

Tuition Waivers for Academic Excellence

A Tuition and Curriculum Fee waiver scholarship is granted to all students who have achieved a level of academic excellence established by departments and recognized by the awarding of a half-time or greater Graduate Assistantship, Associateship, Fellowship or Traineeship with a current (AY 13-14) minimum earnings of $4,324.40 for a single semester.

Eligible Appointment Types: A Graduate Assistantship or Associateship may take the form either of a Teaching Assistantship or Associateship, Research Assistantship, Project Assistantship, Assistant Resident Director, working or non-working Traineeship, working or non-working Fellowship or Intern Assistantship which serves as a learning experience directly associated with the student's academic discipline. Examples of these functions are given under "Types of Graduate Assistantships."

Sources of Funding: Graduate assistantships may be funded by extramural sources such as grants or contracts, from revenue based Trust Funds, or from State Funds.

Inappropriate Job Duties: Graduate students who perform "service" functions for remuneration must be hired on an hourly basis and do NOT receive tuition or curriculum fee scholarship waivers or health fee deferments. Examples of "service" functions are clerical duties or other work that does not professionally enhance and provide educational value towards the student's academic goals. On the other hand, graduate students with professional job duties must be hired on Graduate Assistantship Appointments. Student hourly appointments are processed on the Graduate Student Personnel Action forms through the Graduate Assistantship Office.

Active Status: Only students with "active" graduate status, including Continous Enrollment (Program Fee) and Provisional Status may qualify for tuition waivers for assistantships. Undergraduates, post baccalaureate students, non-degree students as well as students enrolled through Continuing Education are NOT eligible for tuition waivers in this category.

Minimum Earnings: Tuition waiver scholarships for assistantships are granted only to Assistants and Associates who receive a stipend equal to at least half the current minimum full-time (FTE) Assistantship stipend. For Academic Year 13-14, the minimum earnings necessary for a tuition waiver scholarship to cover both the fall 13 and spring 14 semesters is $8,648.80. This amount may be paid either over the two semesters or all in one semester. In practice, therefore, a stipend of $4,324.40 for one semester will suffice for that semester; a stipend of $8,648.80 for one semester (either fall or spring) will qualify for a waiver for BOTH fall and spring of this academic year. Tuition waivers can neither be applied retroactively to a previous academic year nor carried over to a subsequent academic year.

Summer Session Waivers: Waivers of tuition for summer session enrollment of thesis or dissertation credits are also granted to Graduate Assistants and Associates who earn at least (for AY 13-14) $3,186.40. during the summer in which the student is enrolled for thesis or dissertation credits. Or alternatively, if this summer qualifying amount ($3,186.40 for AY 13-14) is earned above and beyond the amount necessary for qualifying for a tuition waiver in one or both of the preceding academic semesters, then waivers of tuition for summer session enrollment of thesis or dissertation credits will be granted.

Tuition Waivers for International Students

The number of special tuition-only waivers for international students that may be granted is equal to a maximum of ten percent of the total number of international students currently enrolled on the Amherst campus. This ten percent does not include international students who have Graduate Assistantships or Associateships and therefore have waivers in the compensation category. Thus, if there are 1,000 international students enrolled on the campus at a given time, and 400 of these held Assistantships, the 100 authorized waivers would be available for the remaining 600. Tuition waivers for international students DO NOT include a waiver for Curriculum Fee or deferment of health fees.

The selection of international students to receive their tuition waivers is made by the International Programs Office.

Tuition Waivers for Non-Working Fellowships and Non-Working Traineeships

Tuition waivers for fellowship and traineeship recipients, who are not required to work, are not automatic and will be given only when the fellowship or traineeship terms do not include provisions to pay the tuition . The original award letter must be submitted to the Assistantship Office for determination of tuition waiver applicability.

Tuition Waivers for Externships

See Externship Policy and Procedures

Courtesy Tuition Waivers

The majority of graduate students entitled to waivers in this category are international students who are enrolled under reciprocal student exchanges, sponsored by recognized agencies, or other contractual agreements.

Health Benefit

Only eligible graduate student employees in the GEO bargaining unit are provided with health fee exemptions for Basic Health, Student Health Benefit Plan (SHBP), and the Student Family Health Plan. All three health plans are administered over two plan periods: fall, which runs from August 1 through January 31 and spring, which runs February 1 through July 31. For the academic year 2013-2014, the minimum earnings necessary for health fee exemptions that cover the 12-month health plan period, August 1 through July 31, is $8,648.40. However, if a student earns a stipend of half that amount ($4,324.40), he or she will receive a full plan year of the SHBP fee exemption and a single plan period of the Basic (and Family, if elected) fee exemption. The semester in which the earnings take place will determine the plan period in which the Basic (and Family) fee exemption(s) take place. Earnings to qualify for health fee exemptions are cumulative beginning with the first payroll date of summer and ending with the last payroll date of the spring semester. Summer earnings must always be applied forward.

It is the responsibility of principal investigators of fellowship and training grants to provide the Graduate Assistantship Office with verification and description of duties of appointed students for consideration of Health Benefit eligibility. Without such verification, the Graduate Assistantship Office will assume that the fellowship or traineeship does not require work, and the student appointee will be coded "not eligible" for the Health Benefit.

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