Thursday, November 17, 2005

Spare Us Your Token Gestures

This memo is compliments of gen paul via our comments section. It's so juicy, it deserves its own post!
November 16, 2005
To: FAS Chairs
From: Richard Foley, Matthew Santirocco, Catharine R. Stimpson
Re: A New Arts and Science Policy About Teaching Assistants and Stand-Alone Courses
cc: George Downs, Peter Lennie, Edward Sullivan

We’ve heard concerns from our students, chairs, and faculty that the amount and kinds of teaching that graduate students do in language, writing, and literature courses interferes with their academic progress and the goal of their teaching being an occasion for their development as teachers.

As a result, we are proposing a new policy that will be Arts and Science-wide, but will primarily affect our languages and literature programs. The new policy is intended to align more precisely the teaching done by graduate students with their professional development. The University has committed the resources necessary to make this policy work. It consists of three main points:

1. As of Spring 2006, GSAS-wide, the teaching load for teaching assistants doing stand-alone courses will be one course per semester. Departments will design plans to staff courses that will no longer be covered by teaching assistants.

2. Departments that mount language, writing, and literature courses will work to enhance their mentoring programs for teaching assistants. Such programs should be compatible with the work of the GSAS Educational Development Program, should be implemented in consultation with faculty and more experienced graduate student teachers, and should provide varied teaching experiences for assistants.

3. This new policy will not reduce the size of a program’s entering doctoral class.

We have also heard concerns about the responsibilities of teaching assistants in some departments other than languages and literature (for example, recitations in departmental and MAP courses). Once again, the nature of some of these teaching responsibilities may not be closely enough aligned with the professional development of students. Accordingly, we are asking the FAS Policy and Planning Committee to form a special task force of faculty and graduate students to work with departments and deans to make recommendations about the roles of teaching assistants in recitations.

All of us in the Faculty of Arts and Science----faculty, students, staff----care about creating the best possible graduate education. Doctoral education combines research, advanced course work, and learning how to teach. Ideally, MacCracken packages should find the right balance among all three.

You mean to tell me that it took a STRIKE to get the administration to take the quality of both graduate and undergraduate education seriously??? (For our thoughts on who really gives a hoot about the quality of education at NYU, see this previous post.) Would it be too obvious to respond to the deans by saying, um, a little too little, a little too late? Allow me rephrase what I think the administration is now graciously offering its GAs:

1. We won't overwork you anymore because, as it turns out, it's hindering your graduate education, and potentially compromising the quality of undergraduate instruction you're able to provide. Sorry 'bout that!

2. We'll now provide you with formal pedagogical training (the kind you've been asking us for for years) before we entrust you to teach entire classes on your own. It seems our current "sink or swim" method of teacher training isn't adequate. Woops!

3. We won't cut funding to your departments as a result of all this because we'll most likely exploit adjuncts to do the work we otherwise would have made you do for free. Yay, everybody wins!

Gee, thanks NYU. Now put it in writing, because if you really want to "coax" us back to work, try offering us a CONTRACT!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This new policy is capping language, writing, and literature TAs stand alone course load at 1 per semester? They have been doing MORE than 1 per semester?! And that's not working??? Gee thanks Dean Stimpson for looking out for us.

11/18/2005 8:10 AM  
Blogger specter of marx said...

I know, I learned a week or so ago that language TAs sometimes (usually?) teach 3 stand alone courses PER SEMESTER. Wow! This absolutely blows my mind. Soc grads never serve as instructors, TAs, or graders for more than 1 course a semester. It's hard enough to get your own work done with 1 TA assignment, but 3???

11/18/2005 8:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

in 2000-2001, it was 4 pr. year...and don't ask the TA's (now very disgruntled) in the French Department how teaching was prior to the new millenia....we're talking 3-2 or 3-3...That is 5-6 courses pr. year)....starting 7th-8th year with no end in sight by a damned adjunct job...

11/19/2005 4:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

to correct the record: TA's teach 3 stand alone courses a year. Instructors teach 5. (as of 2005-2006)

11/19/2005 4:09 PM  

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