Section Seven: Responsibilities of the Assistant’s University Department

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Responsibilities of the Graduate Assistant’s University Unit

The graduate assistant’s university unit is responsible for reviewing graduate assistantship applications, interviewing qualified applicants, and recommending assistantship offers to the Graduate School. Graduate assistant appointments should be made as soon as possible so that both the graduate assistant and the university unit may plan effectively.

Graduate assistants are under the supervision of faculty who are experienced and knowledgeable in their field. Supervision of graduate assistants includes providing appropriate training prior to and during the assistant’s assumption of responsibility for assigned tasks. The immediate supervisor for each graduate assistant should be identified as early as possible. If there is more than one supervisor per graduate assistant, the specific tasks to be performed for each and the role of each supervisor should be identified.

Whenever possible, each university unit should provide an orientation or other on boarding for graduate assistants. Supervisors should assist graduate assistants in securing access to applicable resources and facilities. The university unit must also follow all health and safety laws and regulations and educate graduate assistants about them. The university unit is responsible for ensuring that the assigned assistantship duties and workload are academically appropriate.

The university unit is expected to extend to graduate assistants the respect and courtesy associated with being a professional in their chosen field of study.

Assignment of Duties and Responsibilities

Graduate studies and assistantship responsibilities should complement each other. Assistantships serve graduate students and the university when they are used as an integral part of graduate education. This extensive experience is a valuable part of the professional development of graduate students. Guidelines for determining assistantship duties and work assignments for graduate assistants include the following:

  1. Assistantships should not detract or distract a graduate student from pursuing his or her graduate education.
  2. Graduate assistant assignments are to enhance the graduate student’s education by exposing them to advanced professional activities and concerns of their discipline, involving them in university activities related to their academic and professional interests, and giving them opportunities to work closely with faculty and other university professionals.
  3. Receptionist, secretarial, and clerical work should not be the primary duties of graduate assistants.
  4. It is the responsibility of the graduate program adviser or immediate supervisor to provide  graduate assistants with careful directions regarding their assistantship assignment and responsibilities, as well as to monitor assistants’ performance.
  5. Program advisers or supervisors are not to expect a graduate assistant to exceed the number of hours of work stated on the assistantship award or to ask the assistant to perform tasks as part of an assistantship that are not appropriate.
  6. When shortcomings or weaknesses in performance are identified, graduate assistants will be immediately advised and recommendations for improvement will be provided. A record of this communication must be maintained by the supervisor.
  7. Graduate assistants must be notified in writing of all decisions pertaining to or affecting the status of their assistantship.
  8. Graduate assistants have the right to respond when concerns are raised.
  9. Graduate assistants should reference the Grievances section of this handbook to address issues that cannot be resolved through informal discussion, collegial interaction, and existing departmental structures and policies.
  10. Graduate assistants must receive as much advance notice of reappointment procedures as practicable.

Performance Evaluation

All university units with graduate assistants must have an active plan to evaluate their performance overseen by the supervising director of graduate studies (or commensurate position), who is responsible for ensuring the process is applied appropriately to all graduate assistants in the unit. Performance evaluation should be an ongoing process of documented communication between the graduate assistant and directing faculty. It is critical that both the graduate assistant and the university unit/directing faculty have a mutual understanding about expectations of the graduate assistant duties and responsibilities.

At a minimum, each unit is responsible for a process each semester that includes making sure:

  • Each graduate assistant schedules, at the beginning of each term, a meeting with their directing faculty to discuss the responsibilities, goals and communication expectations for the semester. When a student reports to two directing faculty, the student must be notified whether to schedule a separate or joint meeting, or if one directing faculty will be solely responsible for performance evaluation. When necessary, the supervising director of graduate studies will coordinate the student’s performance evaluation.   
  • Each graduate assistant sends a follow up email to the directing faculty, including the supervising director of graduate studies on the communication, detailing the responsibilities and goals discussed during that meeting.
  • Periodic check-ins are recommended between graduate assistants and their directing faculty.
  • Each graduate assistant schedules, after midterm, a meeting with their directing faculty (at an agreed-upon timeline) for a formal performance evaluation, using the Graduate School’s Graduate Assistant Performance Evaluation Form or a substantially parallel form, with those reporting to two directing faculty guided by the processes used at the beginning of the term to establish expectations.
  • Each department office maintaining a performance evaluation file as part of their graduate assistant records.
  • Each directing faculty submitting the performance evaluation form for inclusion in the department’s graduate assistant records within a week of the end of the term.

The Graduate School provides a Graduate Assistant Performance Evaluation Form for this process. Units are not required to use this form. Units are welcome to modify this form for their use, but if the form is modified, the performance of all graduate assistants in the unit must be evaluated with the same modified form.

These processes are the minimum standard for graduate assistant performance evaluation. Directing faculty and university units may choose to include processes in addition to this minimum, as long as those additional processes are applied to all graduate assistants in the unit. Assessment of the quality of performance is the sole responsibility of the university unit, based on academic and professional judgment. Graduate assistant performance evaluations are not conducted by Human Resources or the Graduate School, though the Graduate School may conduct periodic departmental audits of performance evaluation processes to ensure compliance.


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