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Academic Affairs Policies
UMB Policy on Graduate Assistants
Academic Affairs | Approved August 31, 2011
Revised October 15, 2012
To comply with University System of Maryland Policy III-7.11, Policy on Graduate Assistantships
This Policy is designed to establish baseline standards for the University of Maryland Baltimore ("University"or "UMB") administration of graduate assistants with a commitment to continuous improvement in the status of graduate assistants.
I. Responsible Executive and Office:
Responsible Executive: Senior Vice President/Chief Academic and Research Officer (SVP/CARO)
Responsible Office: Office of Academic Affairs
II. Entities Affected by this Policy: Graduate Assistants in the Graduate School
A. Applicability: This policy applies only to Graduate Assistants.
B. Categories of Graduate Assistants
For the purposes of this policy, Graduate Assistants shall be designated as one of the following three categories: 1) Graduate Research Assistant (two types), 2) Graduate Teaching Assistant or 3) Graduate Research and Teaching Assistant:
- Graduate Research Assistant (GRA): A GRA is a graduate student whose primary focus is research related. GRA duties are performed under the direction and supervision of a principal investigator or other authorized University representative. Duties may include literature review, experimental design, experimentation, data collection and analysis, patient interviews and writing manuscripts. All GRA appointees, regardless of funding source, are expected to devote 100 percent effort to his/her studies or research project. There are two types of GRAs:
- The GRA devotes 100 percent effort to his or her studies or research project. The GRA is paid at a minimum the standard university graduate assistant stipend and is eligible for other benefits.
- The GRA is assigned 20 hours per week (full-time) to a project not necessarily related to degree progression. The GRA is expected to devote 100 percent effort, after completion of the 20-hour work commitment, to his or her studies or research project.
- Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA): A GTA is a graduate student whose primary focus is assisting in a teaching program. GTA duties are performed under the direction and supervision of a principal investigator or other authorized University representative. A GTA is expected to devote 100 percent effort, after completion of the 20 hour per week (full time) teaching commitment, to his or her studies or research project. Duties of a GTA may include administration of community programs, workshops, assisting a faculty member in the grading, advising, proctoring, and administrative duties associated with a course or courses; teaching responsibility for a laboratory or discussion session of a course; or teaching responsibility for a classroom section if a multi-sectional course, under the close supervision of the course director.
- Graduate Research and Teaching Assistants (GRTA): A GRTA performs tasks of a GRA and a GTA, both research and teaching duties, in the same semester.
- Length:Graduate Assistants may be appointed for a 10-month or a 12-month period. Ten-month appointments begin with the fall semester and end June 30. Twelve-month appointments generally begin either July 1 or Sept. 1.
- Time Commitment: A Graduate Assistant appointment may only be full time (20 hours per week) or half time (10 hours per week).
- Renewal of Appointments: Students may be re‐appointed to assistantships for successive terms, but renewal is not automatic or guaranteed. Factors entering into a decision to reappoint a graduate assistant may include:
- Satisfactory academic performance and progress toward degree;
- Satisfactory performance of assigned assistantship responsibilities and duties;
- Availability of funds;
- Departmental or institutional limits on the number of years for which an assistantship may be held; and
- Specific departmental needs, constraints and policies, including efforts to allow a large number of qualified students to benefit from assistantships.
- Notice of Appointments: Except under justifiable circumstances, Graduate Assistants will be notified of re-appointment at least 60 days before the date upon which the appointment is to begin.
- If a decision to renew an appointment cannot be made within that time line, the graduate assistant will be informed at least 60 days in advance of the assistantship’s start date of an estimated date for the renewal decision.
- Circumstances which may justify fewer than 60 days notice include, but are not limited to, uncertainty in departmental funding and course enrollments.
- Nothing in this section shall prevent a department or unit from making an appointment to a Graduate Assistant on short notice based on changed circumstances in class enrollments, the availability of resources, or other factors.
- Appointment Letters: Upon appointment, each Graduate Assistant will receive an appointment letter from the School or Program that contains detailed information concerning the terms and expectations of the assistantship. The letter is an offer of an appointment and the student must sign, date and return the letter to the School or Program in order to accept the appointment. The appointment letter shall include, at a minimum:
- The length of the appointment;
- The starting and ending dates of the appointment, including the dates during which the graduate assistant is expected to be on campus to perform the duties of the assistantship;
- The average weekly time commitment of the assistantship;
- The basic responsibilities of the assistantship;
- The economic benefits of the assistantship, including stipend and tuition assistance amounts, and access to student health and other benefits;
- The department or program to which the student will report, including the name of the faculty member or other individual who will supervise the assistantship, when feasible;
- An affirmation that the provisions of the School’s Graduate Assistant Handbook apply to the assistantship;
- Any special requirements of the assistantship related to leave, scheduling, or other terms (e.g., coverage over breaks and weather emergencies) that may vary from the provisions of the Graduate School’s Graduate Assistant Handbook; and
- Contact information where the graduate assistant may obtain additional information and advice concerning the appointment, the provisions of the handbook, and graduate assistant grievance rights and processes.
- Assignments: To the extent feasible, Graduate Assistants shall be given a written description of their teaching, research or other assignments, duties, and responsibilities at least two weeks before the beginning of the semester. However, departments retain the flexibility to adjust assignments as necessary due to loss of funding, course enrollment fluctuations, or other unanticipated events, even after the semester has begun. Graduate Assistant duties shall be determined by the faculty member assigned to supervise the course, laboratory session, or research project in which the assistant is involved. The assigned duties of a Graduate Assistant shall be consistent with the teaching and research missions of the University. The assignment depends on the graduate program’s needs and the experience and qualifications of the assistant.
- Termination of Assistantships: An assistantship including stipend and benefits may be terminated within the term of the appointment under unusual and compelling conditions, for causes specified in the Graduate School’s Graduate Assistant Handbook. Except when there is good cause shown, such as an imminent health, safety or security concern, or, in the most egregious instances, the Graduate Assistant will receive written notice of termination at least two weeks before the effective date. Notice should include an explanation of the circumstances or conditions necessitating the termination. Supporting documentation should be retained by the program. A Graduate Assistant appointment may be terminated before expiration of the specified time under unusual and compelling conditions, such as:
- Incompetence, inefficiency, or neglect of duty;
- Misconduct that is job-related;
- Delinquency in academic work;
- Moral turpitude;
- Inability to perform all of the essential functions and required duties of the appointment, with or without reasonable accommodation;
- Academic misconduct;
- Violation of codes of conduct and policies, including those regarding rights and responsibilities for academic integrity;
- Voluntary mutual agreement; and
- Change in budgetary appropriations.
IV. Due Process Protections
The UMB Graduate Assistant Grievance Policy applies to Graduate Assistants at UMB.
V. Professional Development
- Orientation and Information: The Graduate School will provide Graduate Assistants with initial graduate assistant orientation and access to the Graduate School’s Graduate Assistant Handbook that contains all relevant policies and procedures applicable to graduate assistants.
- Professional Development Opportunities: The Graduate School will support professional development opportunities for Graduate Assistants, which may include special events for graduate assistants, and invitations to departmental, institutional, and other faculty development events.
- Information for Graduate Assistant Supervisors: Faculty and staff who supervise graduate assistants must be familiar with the University policies and procedures for graduate assistants.
A. Each department chair, faculty member or unit head who supervises a graduate assistant shall have access to the Graduate School’s Graduate Assistant Handbook and shall receive a copy of the graduate assistant’s appointment letter.
B. The University shall hold faculty members and unit heads who supervise graduate assistants accountable for adherence to the terms of the student’s appointment letter and the requirements of the Graduate School’s Graduate Assistant Handbook.
C. Changes to Policies and Procedures: Graduate Assistants shall be apprised by the Graduate School of any changes to relevant policies and procedures on a timely and ongoing basis.
VI. Financial Assistance and Benefits
A. Stipends: The University will seek to set stipends at levels that are competitive with peer institutions, to the extent allowed by available fiscal resources. Minimum stipend amounts will be set annually, with discretion to award stipends above the minimum level. Any stipend that exceeds the minimum by more than 15 percent must be approved by the Dean of the Graduate School.
B. Time Away from Duty: Each institution shall provide paid “time away from duty” for graduate assistants as follows:
- The minimum paid time away from duty for a full‐time, 12‐month Graduate Assistant is 20 hours per year.
- In addition, Graduate Assistants are not required to work on University holidays and other days that the University is closed unless the scheduled work is essential to the research project
- Time away from duty may be scheduled, with the permission of the Graduate Assistant’s supervisor, at times that do not conflict with the duties of the assistantship.
- For Graduate Assistants with appointments of less than 12 months or 20 hours per week, the time away from duty will be pro-rated.
- Requests for paid time away from duty must be approved by the Graduate Assistant’s supervisor and program director or unit head, with consideration given to the personal needs of the Graduate Assistant for such leave.
C. Leave for Illness and Emergencies: The Graduate School’s Graduate Assistant Handbook shall provide for a specific number of days or hours of maximum allowable collegial support for short-term illnesses and emergencies.
D. Other Benefits:
- Tuition Remission: Full-time Graduate Assistants (20 hours per week) receive 10 credit hours tuition remission in the fall and spring semesters. Half-time Graduate Assistants (10 hours per week) receive 5 credit hours tuition remission in the fall and spring semesters. Tuition remission is not available for winter or summer sessions. Dependents, spouses and partners are not eligible for tuition remission. Student fees are the responsibility of the graduate assistant.
- In-State Billing Status: Graduate Assistants are eligible for in-state billing during the performance of the assistantship. Upon termination of the assistantship, students are billed according to the residency status they had prior to the appointment. Additionally, the former Graduate Assistant may apply for re-classification in accordance with applicable University policy and procedures.
- Student Health Insurance: Full-time Graduate Assistants must have health insurance that is at least comparable to the coverage provided under the University’s student health insurance plan. Comparability is determined by Student Health. Graduate Assistants who do not have other equivalent coverage must enroll in the University student health insurance plan. The premiums for Graduate Assistants enrolled in the University student health insurance plan will be covered as a benefit of the Graduate Assistantship. Graduate Assistants may purchase family coverage and other benefits (for example, dental and vision coverage) at their own expense through the Office of Human Resources.
- Retirement and Social Security: Retirement and Social Security (FICA) taxes are not withheld from the salaries or stipends of graduate assistants, and students are not entitled to the benefits that accrue from such withholding.
- Credit Union: Graduate Assistants are eligible to join the State Employees Credit Union of Maryland (SECU).
- Other Benefits: Graduate Assistants may enroll in the following at their own expense through Human Resource Services: tax-deferred investment plans, long-term disability insurance, and group-term life insurance.
VII. Shared Governance Participation
A. The SVP/CARO will form a campus Graduate Advisory Committee, with Graduate Assistant Representatives (elected by the graduate assistants), to meet periodically with campus administration, including the Dean of the Graduate School, the Senior Vice President/Chief Academic and Research Officer, Vice President for Academic Affairs, and the Vice President for Administration and Finance, at least twice annually
B. Role of Graduate Assistant Representatives: As part of their participation in shared governance, the graduate assistant representatives will be:
- Consulted in the development and implementation of institution policies and procedures related to the administration of assistantships; and
- Invited to participate in graduate assistant orientations.
C. Meet and Confer Option: Graduate Assistants may elect to engage an external representative, which may be a labor organization, to assist them in “meet and confer” discussions with administration over issues of concern including compensation, benefits, and terms of employment. The University will give serious consideration to the information, views, and suggestions gained from the meet and confer process in any relevant policy decisions regarding Graduate Assistants. Agreements reached during the process that are amenable to formalization as policy may be adopted as such through appropriate decisional processes of the University; the President retains final authority over all such decisions. Communications between Graduate Assistants and the University’s administration are based upon the free and candid expression of views. The adoption of a meet and confer process by Graduate Assistants does not limit or constrain the role, function, or processes of institutional shared governance. Shared governance bodies and other groups of Graduate Assistants remain free to confer with administrators regarding matters of concern to those groups, and Graduate Assistants members may participate in institutional shared governance bodies, consistent with institution policies.
A. Graduate Assistant means a student enrolled and registered as a full-time student of the University who is:
- enrolled in a Graduate School degree program;
- registered for courses that lead to the degree;
- making satisfactory progress toward the degree and in good standing;
- engaged in program-related academic endeavors and research as their top priorities;
- receiving financial support through classification to UMB HR class 04. (A Graduate Assistant may not be classified as an employee, including an employee receiving an hourly wage); and
- working under the supervision of the program offering the appointment.
B. USM means University System of Maryland.
C. School means Graduate School.
D. Program means a degree-offering subunit of the Graduate Schools