August 30, 2021
INFORMATIONAL: Hiring PhD students as Teaching Assistants


Dear Colleagues,

A note to let you know that the university and the Graduate Assistant Union, SEIU Local 509, have agreed to a new contract effective July 1, 2021. The full contract will be posted online as soon as the new language is integrated into the existing contract.  

All PhD students are members of this union when they work as Teaching Assistants or Teaching Fellows. The definitions of each role are included below. 

Teaching Assistant. Teaching Assistant duties may include, but are not limited to, assisting the professor with: course preparation before and during the semester; Latte maintenance; grading essays, exams, and homework; syllabus design; writing exam questions. Teaching Assistants may be required to attend classes on a regular basis. Teaching Assistants may also be responsible for some instructional duties, including the following: lead discussion sessions, labs and recitations and/or teach an occasional class. They may also be responsible for some student advising and may be required to hold office hours. Teaching Assistants are required to complete Title IX training. 

Teaching Fellow. Teaching Fellows, with Program and faculty leadership and oversight, are the Instructor of Record and are responsible for lesson planning and implementation, administration and grading of assessment tools, student advising and holding office hours. Teaching Fellows are required to complete Title IX training. 

As a result, PhD students cannot be hired as Teaching Assistants except through the union role, and using the negotiated rate of pay, which is paid via stipend. PhD students, regardless of where they are in their programs, are not eligible to be hired into hourly Teaching Assistant positions at the university. Roles other than Teaching Assistants and Teaching Fellows, such as Graders, Research Assistants and Course Assistants, remain non-union roles. If you have questions about this, please contact Liz Tierney (

Thank you,

Carol Fierke