assistant

David Huenlich, Germanic studies assistant instructor, speaks Wednesday night about a role-playing game he designed to help students learn language in an interactive way.
Photo Credit: Graeme Hamilton | Daily Texan Staff

Two Germanic studies assistant instructors have designed a “Dungeons and Dragons”-style course that will facilitate language learning.

The course would have students role play the historical events surrounding the Meuseback-Comanche Treaty in 1847, which solidified collaboration between early German settlers in Texas and the Comanche tribe.

The course model aims to maximize intermediate-level language students’ interaction with the German culture and encourage the creative use of grammatical structures and vocabulary that have been taught previously, according to the course designers who spoke Wednesday at a talk the Texas Language Center hosted.

The desire for a more interactive classroom environment arose because assessments took up significant amount of class time, and the existing model did not foster cultural learning in a natural way, according to David Huenlich, Germanic studies assistant instructor and co-creater.

“We found that we spend a whole week of class time on mostly written assessments, which was too much for our taste,” Huenlich said.
“Another thing we noticed was that, although we loved bringing in culture into the classroom, the topics jumped from one day to other. We would talk about Opernhaus one day and the Berlin Wall on another day.” 

The students would go through two weeks of introductory material that would cover the rules of the game and relevant vocabulary, followed by 10 weeks of role-playing in which students would think and act as their assigned historical character.

Huenlich said the innovative classroom environment immerses students in the historical scenario and makes sure the students interact with the language and learn cultural concepts thoroughly.

Contextualizing a role-playing game to a historical narrative allows instructors to bring primary sources into the classroom, according to Germanic studies lecturer James Kearney.

“There are actually readings from primary texts from the historical figures of German immigration,” Kearney said. “The texts are wonderful — not too difficult in German and include important grammatical concepts, like subjunctives, that could be used in the class.”

The role-playing class structure does not need to be limited to German classrooms because it can be easily tweaked according to the target language, said Adams LaBorde, Germanic studies assistant lecturer and course co-creator. 

“The actual game mechanics do not really care about what language they are in, so it would be easy to apply the French Revolution or the Cultural Revolution in China or the end of the samurai era in Japan to the model,” LaBorde said. “It is very universal.”

Photo Credit: Charlie Pearce | Daily Texan Staff

The College of Liberal Arts’ TA Task Force released its official report last week. The document addresses issues facing teaching assistants and assistant instructors in the Graduate School including murky definitions of TA responsibilities, excessive grading requirements and fears of poor job security.

The report does a decent job of formulating solutions to these problems, but it is more remarkable for what it leaves out: a thoroughgoing discussion of the problems with the current stipend structure for TAs and AIs.

Yes, the report, which is based on a survey completed by 681 current and former TAs and AIs, indicates that 64 percent of respondents are dissatisfied with their compensation based on their typical workload. However, the solutions it proposes to this problem are like Band-Aids on a gushing wound. The report suggests “creat[ing] a ‘clearinghouse’ web portal to expedite interdepartmental hiring,” “offer[ing] TAs the option to receive stipends over 9 or 12 months,” “offer[ing] additional TAships over the summer” and “accelerat[ing] receipt of 1st paycheck,” this last referring to the current University accounting practice of paying employees in arrears.

These are all fine, but they miss the key funding issue that is causing so many of the problems for teaching assistants.

As task force spokesman Justin Doran told the Texan, “As I understand it, there is a set budget for teaching assistants and assistant instructors, and that money hasn’t increased for many years.”

We understand the task force was ultimately not charged with offering budget proposals to increase TA funding, but at the very least it could have proposed a robust discussion about the funding problems and the reasons the college wanted to cut 10 percent of TA positions from future cohorts, for instance.

We hope, then, that the college and University administration will be amenable to a town hall discussion open to all students, perhaps facilitated by the Graduate Student Assembly, to discuss the real, underlying issues leading to TA dissatisfaction. We have continually heard from people as high up as Esther Raizen, the college’s associate dean for research and graduate studies, that the college simply “[doesn’t] have money,” but the entire student body deserves to hear more about why.

And to make it easier for the administration, the Texan will gladly host.

COLA TA Task Force

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

The College of Liberal Arts TA task force released recommendations Thursday addressing issues concerning graduate TAs and assistant instructors (AIs). The recommendations include defining TA responsibilities more clearly, alleviating the amount of grading and increasing job security. 

The task force distributed a survey to 1,300 current or former TAs and AIs assessing their satisfaction with current job policies. The task force received 681 survey responses.   

Based on the responses, the task force put together a report of recommendations, which will be passed off to chair members and committees for consideration, according to Esther Raizen, COLA associate dean for research and graduate studies. 

“The College is committed, from the dean down, to making sure their recommendations are seriously considered and implemented to the degree that it’s possible,” Raizen said. 

The recommendations included both a contract between the TA and the professor and a TA handbook. Justin Doran, task force member and spokesman, said both measures are intended to decrease confusion about job responsibilities and to protect TAs from excessive amounts of work. According to the report, 26 percent of survey respondents work more than 20 hours a week.

“One of the things that we found is that [a majority of the] time of graduate teaching assistants is spent on grading,” Doran said. “Grading is a chore. It’s extremely time consuming because it increases linearly with the number of students you have.”

Doran said he hopes initiatives, such as the contract, will help avoid unnecessary amounts of grading. The task force will reconvene at the end of the semester to review their recommendations.

The Graduate Student Assembly will look at the issue of TA rights in its upcoming Graduate Student Bill of Rights legislation, according to Elizabeth Cozzolino, GSA student affairs director. She said both the task force and GSA might face problems enforcing the recommendations.

“Even if the recommendations are expected by the college, there is no enforcement mechanism,” Cozzolino said.

The goal is to get TAs to work only 20 hours a week, Doran said, but that may mean increasing the number of TAs and decreasing their pay.

“We would love it if there were more graduate TAs, but as I understand it, there is a set budget for teaching assistants and assistant instructors, and that money hasn’t increased for many years,” Doran said.  

The survey found 64 percent of students surveyed were dissatisfied with their current TA compensation based on their typical workload.

As a result of increased living expenses, TA stipends are approximately $3,500 less than the cost of attending the University, according to Raizen. She said the number of TAs decreased by 12 percent between 2008 and 2013.

“Over time, Austin also has become so expensive that the cost of living here has skyrocketed, and we have not kept up,” Raizen said.

The task force proposed the option for TAs to receive stipends over a 12-month period, as opposed to the current 9 months.  

“We don’t have money, and there’s no question that we want to increase TA stipends, because [TAs] don’t meet the cost of attendance,” Raizen said. “If we reduce the number of TAs at some point, we’ll get to the point where we will not be able to do what we [need] in terms of instruction. There needs to be some new thinking about resources that we can apply.”

Photo Credit: Callie Richmond | Guest Contributor

Editor’s Note: This is one of a series of interviews with the deans of the 18 schools and colleges of the University. Social Work Dean Luis Zayas was appointed in 2012. This interview has been condensed.

The Daily Texan: So could you start by telling us a little bit about your plans and goals for the School of Social Work as well as some of the successes you’ve had since you were appointed dean in 2012?

Luis Zayas: What I had encountered when I first arrived was that it was top heavy at the full professor and associate professor ranks, and at the time when I arrived, there were only two assistant professors in a faculty of 30-something. So, to me that’s not good succession planning. Over the past three years, I’ve been able to fill in more assistant professor level positions and now we are up to seven assistant professors and a dozen each of the other two. Our school really needs new infrastructure, a new building or a well renovated one. Especially if we are to compete with the elite schools of social work. 

DT: How have you been lobbying for a new building?

Zayas: One of the things we’ve done has been an architectural assessment of our building and they poked it and prodded it an lifted it and looked up the hood, poked the tires, that sort of thing. We hear that it has strong bones but the organs are failing. Lobbying is a good word. It’s helping others to understand our needs and where we should best be positioned.

DT: Speaking of the new medical school, how do you see the School of Social Work collaborating with them?

Zayas: We’ve already started. One of the things I’ve done in my administration is to appoint an assistant dean for health affairs, Dr. Barbara Jones… One of the things we are doing a lot, and nursing and pharmacy are deeply involved as well, is inter-professional education. How do we get our students talking to each other as professionals early on? You know, you ask any physician who they need on the team and most often they’ll say a social worker.

DT: Like certain other programs, including nursing, the School of Social Work has a low male enrollment. What is it trying to do to increase the number of male students? 

Zayas: One of the things we need to do is reach out to the average undergraduate male and help them understand what social work is and what we do.

DT: Can you say a little bit about the newly established dual-degree program between the School of Social Work and Latin American Studies?

Zayas: The students will come in and they’ll do half and half at the schools… A student doesn’t just go into [Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies] or social work and then the second year bounce back. Rather, we integrate them early on so that they have a foot in both schools all along the way. In their field work placements, most of them will start out in local field internships, in organizations that serve large numbers of Latinos. In their fourth semester for the master’s student, they will then do a block placement in a Latin American country…The advantage for the student is that for those that want to work in Latin America will go with two terrific degrees to work there.

Photo Credit: Griffin Smith | Daily Texan Staff

More than 140 physics graduate students have signed a petition voicing their opposition to a possible cut in the department’s teaching assistant positions.

According to Rebecca Roycroft, physics graduate student and TA, the opposition is in response to a proposed plan that was announced at a Nov. 21 physics faculty meeting, which the physics graduate welfare committee, a group of graduate students that serve as a liaison between faculty, administration and students, attended. According to Roycroft, someone suggested at the meeting that about 40 of the approximately 120 teaching assistant positions be cut and transferred to students with bachelor’s degrees. She said the plan is not definite, but it has caused concern in the department. 

“They were pretty alarmed by that and immediately emailed the rest of the grad reps to tell us about it,” said Roycroft, who is also a member of the welfare committee.   

Roycroft said the plan was proposed as a way to increase the stipend of TAs in the department.

“It’s accompanied by a small pay raise and some other incentives — things that are supposed to be good for grad students — but I think those benefits pale in comparison to the fact that they are proposing to cut 40 TA positions,” Roycroft said. 

Dan Knopf, associate dean for graduate education in the College of Natural Sciences, could not say whether this plan was being considered but said the College of Natural Sciences would not take any action that would negatively impact graduate students or the quality of undergraduate classes.

“I can’t speak to what physics is considering, but I cannot imagine any scenario in which graduate students would lose support or undergraduate classes would go unstaffed,” Knopf said.

The petition is worded, “We the physics graduate students oppose any plan that would result in loss of funding for continuing graduate students,” according to Frank Male, physics graduate research assistant and member of the welfare committee.

“It’s basically saying that leaving graduate students without funding in the middle of their program is a terrible, terrible idea that we don’t support,” Male said in an email.

Male said a lot of the student concern about the potential cuts stems from the financial support it offers to students. He said most graduate students in the physics department are offered a TA position or research assistant position as a way to pay for their degree. Knopf said many students are offered these types of positions as a source of income to stipend their education across all natural sciences.

“The way that physics works is that all students get through without having to pay,” Male said. “They are either given research assistantships or teaching assistantships. The teaching assistantships also provide help for professors, so they’re kind of necessary for fulfilling the actual teaching mission of the University and of the department.”

According to Roycroft, there is also student concern that, if the TA positions were cut, the department as a whole could decrease in size over time.

“Less money for TAs means either kicking current students out or recruiting fewer students in the future,” Roycroft said. “So that would sort of necessitate fewer grad students overall.”

Robert Stevens, physics graduate student and TA, said that, if the cuts were to happen, he thinks graduate students in their third year or higher would be impacted the most in terms of job loss.

“That plan is troubling because the department has contracts signed with incoming students that they are guaranteed employment for the first two years,” Stevens said. “So all the cuts will have to be absorbed by students that are third year or higher.”

Graduate students and TAs are waiting to find out whether these cuts will be implemented.

“All we know is nothing is definite,” Stevens said. “Nothing has been decided.”

Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of Alex Marin Photography | Daily Texan Staff

Editor’s Note: This is part of a series of Q-and-A’s with the deans of the University’s 18 schools and colleges. John Dalton was appointed assistant dean of graduate studies in 2006. Dean Judith Langlois was unavailable. This interview has been condensed to fit space requirements. 

 

The Daily Texan: Could you tell us about the graduate school’s goals?

 

John Dalton: Our main objective is to recruit and support the very best graduate students, and that means a lot of things. It means financial support; it means services for graduate students of all sorts. Two of the main things that we have been focusing on over the last couple of years, one of them is graduate student housing. We have a lot of graduate students on campus, and we don’t have a lot of opportunities for them to have housing either that is owned by the University or subsidized by the University. The other issue that we’ve moved the needle on, I think significantly, is career services for graduate students, particularly PhD students. If you’re a non-professional student, like if you’re an MBA student or at the LBJ school or even in engineering, your career services actually does a very good job of helping you facilitate interactions with potential employers, setting you up, but if you’re in a non-professional school, like the College of Liberal Arts or the College of Natural Sciences, two or three years ago, there just literally weren’t services for graduate students, and I didn’t know this until we did our climate study and one of the things that came back was we need more career services. 

 

DT: How are you planning on addressing the issue of low availability of graduate student housing?

 

Dalton: Most [graduate housing] is done on Lake Austin Boulevard... and the wait list is several hundred students long. There’s a large international student population there. There are a lot of families there. That’s also part of that Brackenridge track which is very valuable to the University. It’s part of the municipal golf course, so there are lots of conversations going on about what’s going to happen to that down the road. We have been working with the Graduate Student Assembly and various administrators and the president to talk about a new facility for graduate students, and we’re in the preliminary stages of that discussion, but it seems to be going really well. I think within the next six to nine months, the campus will see a proposal for a new facility, and we’re not sure of the location yet, but we’re focusing our efforts on east Austin. 

 

DT: Is it normal for a university to have one graduate school that encompasses all of the different graduate programs?

 

Dalton: The way our administrative structure is set up is very typical across the U.S…. Everything about the graduate student experience is very different than the undergraduate experience. The department makes [admissions decisions], and students become a part of that department. They work with individual faculty. Administratively, the graduate school supports and just oversees the different processes as graduate students move through their programs... We handle all the incoming [admission] applications and distribute those out to the programs to make those decisions and then we verify those decisions, and then at the end we certify the degree, but in the middle, there’s lots of things that happen. We handle everything from late registration petitions to grievances from graduate students who are having either employment issues or academic issues.

 

DT: What kinds of challenges does this type of structure pose?

 

Dalton: We have a very large student population: 12,000 students. The graduate school staff in the graduate school is about 30 staff. It’s a lot of services to provide with few staff. We count the graduate coordinators as an extension of our staff; there are over 100 of those, and they’re located in each of the departments. We couldn’t do our jobs without the graduate coordinators. One of the challenges is the diversity of needs. You can’t say something’s going to work for all graduate students. Very rarely will one solution work for everybody. So we’re always talking about the differences between the sciences and the humanities and trying to figure out what their needs are, even in career services, very different needs going into preparation for the job market... We’re getting ready, I think next fall, to engage in a series of conversations about graduate education, and we’re going to ask really basic questions like, “What is a dissertation?” We expect a different answer from every college and school.

 

DT: How are graduate student stipends looking?

 

Dalton: Stipends are really paramount in supporting graduate students. That is one of the key factors... It is one of the major factors students use in deciding where they are going to go for their graduate work. To get the very best students, you’ve got to have competitive stipends. Every college in the school has a different stipend amount. They range across the board, low to high, just depending on market forces, depending on the source of funds, so we are always thinking about how to find more money to support graduate students. The graduate school can do some of that. We can work on providing those stipends, but a lot of that money from the stipends comes from external to the University, so in the sciences and the STEM fields, most of that money that is paid to graduate research assistants, or GRA’s, comes from external sources like grants from the federal government. Faculty are getting those grants, and those students will be paid off of that grant and not out of the University coffers. We have lots of conversations with college deans about the levels of stipends. We’re always looking at our budgets and trying to figure out how we can increase stipends.

Alfonso Gonzales, assistant professor in the Department of Mexican-American and Latina/o Studies, answers questions in the College of Liberal Arts Building on Thursday about obstacles faced by Latin Americans seeking asylum.

Photo Credit: Graeme Hamilton | Daily Texan Staff

On the same night President Obama announced an executive action to address illegal immigration, Alfonso Gonzales and Michael Rivera, assistant professors in the Department of Mexican-American and Latina/o Studies, spoke in the George I. Sánchez Memorial Lecture in the Social Sciences and Education about different issues surrounding immigration. 

Speaking at the College of Liberal Arts Building, Gonzales talked about immigrants seeking asylum. Gonzales said he found that the U.S. refuses asylum requests for a majority of applicants from Mexico and Central America, whereas granting them at a higher rate to refugees from other nations.

“I don’t assume that this just happens naturally and by accident because, if we look at Venezuelan asylum claims, almost 40 percent of Venezuelans won their claims,” Gonzales said. “Almost 100 percent of Cubans win their claims, so there’s something going on in particular with Mexican and Central American cases that we need to look at.” 

Gonzales said this inequality led him to question the quality of modern democracy in the U.S. 

“What does it mean to deny people asylum when you hold yourself to be the bastion of democracy worldwide and you criticize other countries for their human rights practices?” Gonzales said. “What does that say about our democracy?” 

Gonzales said he would study the trials and proceedings of immigrants who go to court to seek asylum. 

“I plan to go to immigration courtrooms, and I have been in many immigration courtrooms as an expert witness in asylum claims and as a consultant,” Gonzales said. “I want [to] look at the type of ideological rationale, or legal reasoning, that judges give about these cases.” 

Rivera, who is also an assistant professor in the government department, spoke about his studies regarding the types of bills that state legislatures pass with regard to immigration.

Rivera said the Texas Legislature passed a measure in 2013 that would honor the life of Cesar Chavez, who was a farm worker, labor leader and civil rights activist. 

“Yes, this is important to recognize the cultural contributions of this group and of this individual, but this policy, you could say, does not have any teeth,” Rivera said. 

Rivera examined the difference between bills that actually benefit immigrants and bills that merely appear to benefit immigrants.

“Pro-immigrant bills are those bills that expand access to public benefits or services for immigrants, assist with incorporation into society and those policies that help facilitate commerce,” Rivera said. 

Domino Perez, director of the Center for Mexican American Studies, said the center has made the memorial lecture into a tradition as a way of celebrating the faculty. 

“The idea was that new faculty to the department or to the center would share their work with a larger, wider community as a way of welcoming them to the intellectual community of UT,” Perez said. “We also invite faculty who are newly promoted either to the rank of associate professor or full professor to share their work through these lecture series as a way of informing the larger community of new projects they’ve initiated and new ideas that they’ve been working on.”

It’s like Shared Services all over again.

It’s even being brought before students at the same time of year, in the warm, bonhomous glow of the early fall. Former animus has supposedly been washed away, or at least papered over, and replaced with a clean slate. 

When Shared Services was brought before students last year, administrators feigned interest in their opinions about the elimination of staff jobs.

This time around, though, their indifference will likely hit much closer to home as most of the jobs likely to be cut will be students’.

The College of Liberal Arts’ TA Task Force, which has been charged with examining issues that affect graduate students, including compensation, workload and assignment, will be meeting throughout the semester, having done so twice already. 

Among the many topics under consideration will be the reduction of the total cohort of TAs and assistant instructors across the college.

Underlying these initiatives is a well-founded concern among administrators that the college is struggling to remain competitive with peer institutions with its low stipends. And because funding for the college hasn’t changed significantly in recent years, that means cuts to the student workforce. As it stands, the college pays most of its TAs with bachelor’s degrees around $5,500 less (if one looks at the total amount they receive rather than the base stipend) than the $26,500 the University recognizes as the annual combined tuition and living expenses for an in-state graduate student. (It’s more expensive for out-of-state students, but many of those get in-state tuition as part of their benefit packages, which can many times include a benefit to defray that cost as well.) 

This is a serious issue. If enacted, the cuts could eliminate a large number of jobs. But at this point we don’t know how many or how quickly those jobs will be slashed — for a number of reasons. First, the college has been inconsistent in its own numbers. In an email sent out Aug. 6, Esther Raizen, the college’s associate dean for research, said that “we will need to decrease the number of our TA/AI appointments by 10 percent or so by 2016-17.” In a more recent email, however, dated Sept. 9, Raizen’s assistant, Lauren Bairnsfather, said the reductions would need to be made by next year. Second, the college’s stated goal of decreasing appointments by 10 percent doesn’t match the target of 700 appointments that one member of the task force said was being aimed for. (The college currently has more than 800 teaching assistants and assistant instructors.) And third, after last week’s meeting, which was open to the public, the college has decided to close all future proceedings to potentially prying eyes. 

Those meetings, which will lead to the creation of a draft report to be presented to Raizen, will likely determine much of the future course of events for the college. However, I fear that much of the course may already be set. 

At last week’s meeting, several non-members of the task force raised concerns about a number of issues, including how the college would be able to afford to increase TA/AI stipends to the necessary minimum by cutting appointments by 10 percent. 

Dean Randy Diehl, who led that meeting, admitted quite plainly that it wouldn’t. 

In other words, if the college truly wants to remain competitive with peer institutions, it will almost certainly have to make further cuts at a later date given that its funding has been stagnant in recent years. 

These are issues that deserve the full attention and access of the University community. While I understand the need for changes to the funding structure for TAs and AIs, these cuts could potentially yank away the livelihoods of more than 100 graduate students, people who already don’t get paid enough for the work they do. As the task force continues to meet, I hope administrators truly listen to what the student task force members tell them.

Brands is a linguistics senior from Austin. 

The College of Liberal Arts established a task force to meet this semester and discuss issues directly affecting teaching assistants and assistant instructors, such as compensation and workload.

At its second meeting Tuesday, the TA Task Force talked about the potential reduction of TA and assistant instructor positions and an increase of stipends.

The task force is composed of 22 students with TA experience in the college’s doctorate granting units and two undergraduate representatives. The group was created to give graduate students a say in administrative affairs such as workload, training, professionalization of graduate students and compensation of TAs, according to Lauren Apter Bairnsfather, executive assistant in the Office of the Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies.

In an email sent to the task force on Aug. 6, Esther Raizen, associate dean for the Office of the Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies, said the college needs to decrease the number of TAs and assistant instructors by about 10 percent in order make its stipend competitive with other institutions. Currently, the college hosts approximately 832 TAs and assistant instructors.

Bairnsfather said all solutions mentioned thus far are preliminary. She said the college is encouraging the task force to address and research the issues most important to them in order to increase student involvement in University decisions.

“The task force is here so they can be involved in defining what their role looks like at the University,” Bairnsfather said.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Tammi Stout, a linguistics representative on the task force and an associate instructor, said graduate students expressed concern about the increased workload this may entail.

“There’s concern that with less graduate students, less professors would have TAs, and, for right now, there are a lot of questions that are unanswered, and it is really preliminary,” Stout said. “They haven’t figured it all out, and that’s going to take time, to figure out how do this without increasing the workload for anyone.“

Additionally, as noted on the University website, the average pay for TAs, including tuition reduction benefits, is about $23,000 compared to the approximately $26,500 living cost for student with no dependents.

According to Bairnsfather, the task force was implemented to give students a say in addressing this gap and increasing stipends.

“We really want to try to get closer to addressing that difference between how much money they make and how much money they need to live,” Bairnsfather said.

Brian Wilkey, Graduate Student Assembly president, said the assembly has no opinion on the task force at this time.

“Obviously, protecting graduate students’ opportunities is something that the Graduate Student Assembly cares about, but we also want to work within the frame of the administration,” Wilkey said.

Throughout the semester, Bairnsfather said students will meet and research whatever student issues they deem most important.

“They will have a couple of months to do research and come up with a report for us and give recommendations,” Bairnsfather said. “At that point, we will have recommendations and will have suggestions. At this point, we’re just studying the situation of TAs across the college.” 

According to Stout, being on the task force has given her the opportunity to better understand the administration’s work and its intricacies.

“I think the reality is, it’s really complicated,” Stout said. “For graduate students, from my perspective, one of the benefits is seeing how all of this works. As a graduate student, I kind of get an inside look to ask questions and see how complicated it is.”

The Liberal Arts Building.

Photo Credit: Charlie Pearce | Daily Texan Staff

A proposed policy change in the College of Liberal Arts that is expected to be implemented during the 2014-2015 academic year will stop funding for graduate students in the college after their sixth year.

Currently, a graduate student may be employed as assistant instructors, graduate research assistants, academic assistants, assistants, teaching assistants and tutors for a maximum of 14 semesters. According to Lauren Apter Bairnsfather, a liberal arts college executive assistant, the college began pushing for quicker degree completion several years ago because there isn't any money coming into the college and the cost of attendance keeps rising.

“This would have the benefit of limiting the amount students have to borrow to attend graduate school and allow us to recruit more successfully and improve degree completion rates,” Bairnsfather said.

Along with stopping funding for graduate students after six years, Bairnsfather said the proposal would increase stipends for teaching assistants and assistant instructors.

“Some of our students are funded for seven and more years with amounts that, spread over a shorter time period, could provide for better stipends,” Bairnsfather said.

David Ochsner, liberal arts college spokesman, said the change would get graduate students out faster.

“I think more students finishing their terms on time will give us more resources to spend on more students and increase the level of stipends,” Ochsner said.

Sean Cashbaugh, an assistant instructor in the American studies department, said the department was informed of the changes through an email from department heads, but he has not seen an official change by the University.

“One of our major concerns is the lack of transparency,” Cashbaugh said. “This is a major change to policy as it currently stands.”

Cashbaugh said the policy change did not consider the unique situations of each student.

“Everybody does different types of work, and the College of Liberal Arts should be attune to that,” Cashbaugh said. “How much time we take to complete our degrees and write our dissertations is best judged by our advisers.”

Although the goal of the policy is to increase stipends for graduate students, Cashbaugh said an increase in the amount of money students are paid wouldn’t always help.

“Paying graduate students more over a short amount of time doesn’t necessarily guarantee they’ll finish faster,” Cashbaugh said.

 
David Villarreal, Graduate Student Assembly president, said GSA will be working all summer to help students fight the policy change.

"This is a pretty serious thing, at least for graduate students in the College of Liberal Arts, because it affects our livelihood," Villarreal said. "It affects whether we can afford to stay and study at the University."