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Regulations for Graduate Assistantships

I. Titles, Definitions, Duties, and Responsibilities

The graduate assistantship is a nine-month salaried appointment of a student enrolled full-time in a degree granting program in the Graduate School at Howard University . The appointment carries remission of tuition and requires performances by the student of specified duties for twelve to fifteen (12-15) hours each week, including preparation time.

Graduate Assistants may hold one of the following titles: teaching assistant, teaching fellow, research assistant, or administrative intern.

A. Teaching Assistant/Teaching Fellow

A teaching assistant or a teaching fellow works with students in a specific course to provide support for the faculty member in charge. His/her duties may include teaching; preparing instructional materials; preparing, proctoring, and grading examinations; critiquing student papers; reading and tutoring; and performing other duties as assigned.  Major responsibility for a class shall not be given to either a teaching assistant or teaching fellow.  The incumbent works under the supervision of an experienced faculty member. In consultation with the supervisor, the teaching assistant or the teaching fellow works to gain instructional skills and to enhance his/her grasp of the essentials of the academic discipline and the role and responsibilities of a faculty member.

B. Research Assistant

The duties of graduate research assistants vary according to the nature of the research project in which they participate and the source of the funding.  In general, research assistants help faculty members on research projects and perform such research and related duties that include participating in the conceptual aspects of the particular research process and utilizing techniques and procedures to obtain original data.  The research assistant shall, as appropriate, utilize the computer and related data-processing equipment in the treatment of research data, utilize statistical techniques related to research, assist in the preparation of reports and papers for in-house seminars and conferences as well as those destined for publication or presentation at national meetings, and aid in the maintenance of records.

In addition, research assistants may also perform, as appropriate, such teaching functions as proctoring examinations, placing books on library reserve and engaging in other bibliographic services relating to teaching. These duties are performed under the direction and supervision of a member of the faculty.

C. Administrative Intern

A graduate student may be appointed as an administrative intern to work with the administrative staff of a department, school, college or campus office to gather, organize, and analyze information. These duties should be relevant to both the graduate program and the professional goals of the student.  The student should be given the opportunity to use his/her academic training while learning new professional skills and broadening his or her perspective of the operation of the unit to which he or she is assigned.

II. Appointment Procedures

A. Departmental Recommendation

Graduate assistants are recommended by the Dean of the Graduate School to the Provost upon the recommendation of the department chair.  Such recommendations should be received in the Office of the Dean of the Graduate School no later than May 20th.

B. Letters of Appointment

Because the terms of individual appointments will vary, the department chair has the responsibility to make the offer of appointment in an official letter to the student as soon as the recommendation is approved by the Office of the Provost. The letter concerning the offer of appointment should indicate clearly that the offer is subject to the final approval of the President.  The letter should provide full information on the terms of the assistantship, including:

(1)         title, hours of work, and length of appointment;

(2)         salary level and remission of tuition;

(3)         minimum and maximum student course load required to hold appointment;

(4)         description of departmental duties;

(5)         name and position of supervisor;

(6)         performance evaluation procedures;

(7)         information about the procedures and basis for reappointment;

(8)         deadline for acceptance.

After a graduate student has accepted an assistantship, the department chair shall provide the student with a copy of the regulations for graduate assistantships which contains information on the rights and responsibilities of the graduate assistant as well as grievance procedures.  Specific departmental policies governing graduate assistants that are not covered in these regulations shall be given to the assistant in writing.  The student also should meet the faculty supervisor prior to assuming his/her assistantship duties.

III.  Criteria for Appointment, Reappointment, Tenure, and Termination

Each department is responsible for determining and communicating its own specific criteria, within the limits of University and Graduate School policy, and for assessing student qualification for appointment and reappointment to graduate assistantships.  As with all University faculty and staff positions, appointment and reappointment are contingent upon the availability of funds

A. Appointments

Graduate Assistants are appointed for a maximum of one academic year.  The nine-month period begins August 16th and ends May 15th.  The appointment may be for a shorter period. Second-and third-year doctoral students may receive two-month summer appointments.  All appointments are terminated automatically at the end of the period for which they are effective.  Graduate assistants may hold only the equivalent of one “full-time” appointment at a time.  Students are not expected to hold any other employment during the tenure as graduate assistants.

To be eligible for appointment as a graduate assistant, the student must:

(1)         be enrolled or accepted for enrollment as a regular degree-seeking student in the Graduate 
             School ;

(2)        have full-time status during the period of the assistantship. The student must either be 
            registered  for a minimum of nine (9) semester hours of course work or be working full-time on 
            thesis or dissertation; or completing a project for non-thesis option;

(3)         have a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.2 for all graduate study or, if enrolled in 
             Graduate School for the first time, have a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.0 in 
             the undergraduate major;

(4)         have satisfied all incomplete grades at the time of his/her appointment (thesis, dissertation, 
             practice, directed study, independent study, special problems and internship credits  

(5)         demonstrate proficiency in oral and written English if the native language is one other than
             English, show sufficient knowledge of the system of higher education in the United States, 
             have some sensitivity of intercultural communication, and have good interpersonal skills to the 
             satisfaction of the department or unit granting the assistantship.  

B.    Reappointment  

Graduate assistants who retain the minimum qualifications for remaining in their positions may be considered for reappointment. In addition to meeting the minimum criteria for the initial appointments, graduate assistants must also demonstrate satisfactory progress toward their degrees.  The crucial factors in final decisions to renew the appointments of graduate assistants are departmental needs and the availability of the requisite financial resources.  

C.  Tenure

Students who are studying for the master’s degree may hold an assistantship for a maximum of two years.  Those with the master’s degree and studying for the Ph.D. degree may hold the assistantship for a maximum of four years, and those studying for the Ph.D. degree, where the masters is not required, may hold the assistantship for a maximum of five years. 

IV.  Termination

The graduate assistantship appointment may be terminated on or before expiration of the specified  time under the following conditions:

(1)   incompetence or neglect of duty as determined by the faculty supervisor;
(2)   misconduct that is job-related as determined by the faculty supervisor;
(3)   delinquency in academic work as determined by the department
       and the Graduate School ;
(4)   chronic physical or mental ailment or condition which impairs and undermines the graduate
       assistant’s performance of required duties;
(5) resignation;
(6)   no longer satisfies the criteria for being eligible for appointment;
(7)   other employment during the tenure of the graduate assistantship.  

A.      Supervision and Special Conditions  

Graduate assistants may not teach courses carrying graduate credit or enroll in courses for which they are assigned assistantship responsibilities.  The faculty mentor is required to provide the graduate assistant with the necessary oral and written instructions that are essential to his/her effective performance of assigned duties.

Graduate assistants shall be assigned adequate space, equipment, and support needed to perform their duties satisfactorily.  Graduate teaching assistants shall be provided copies of textbooks for the course in which they are assisting.

Invitations may be extended to graduate assistants to serve on departmental committees related to their work assignments.  For example, a graduate teaching assistant may be invited to serve on textbook selection committees for lower-division courses, or on curriculum committees responsible for revising the undergraduate program.  They may also serve as mentors to new graduate student assistants.  Above all, the graduate assistants should be treated as a professional in the department or unit in which he/she holds an assistantship.

B.     Performance Evaluation

Evaluation is a crucial part of the assistantship experience.  There must be an ongoing process of two-way communication between the graduate assistant and the faculty supervisor.  At least one formal evaluation, in a manner equitable to the graduate assistant, shall occur each semester.  It must be a supportive process that helps the assistant identify strengths and weaknesses and to plan for improvement if needed.  The evaluation must also assure fairness in consideration for reappointment.  Excellence should be noted in an assistant’s record, as should inadequacies in performance.  A copy of the completed evaluation should be forwarded to the Dean of the Graduate School at the end of the semester.

C.    Adjudication of Grievances

The graduate assistant is expected to become thoroughly familiar with the grievance procedures of the Graduate School. Decisions that affect the student’s status as an assistant must be provided to him/her in writing, including advanced notification of evaluation procedures and a summary of the evaluation. 

If a problem arises, the graduate assistant must first inform his/her academic advisor of pertinent details about the matter(s) in question.  Then, if it becomes necessary, he/she shall appeal to the department chair to appoint a committee to conduct an informal investigation of the matters in question.  This informal attempt at adjudicating the problem must include a hearing for both the student and faculty supervisor and provide a climate conducive to an amicable and fair settlement of the dispute.