Teaching Assistant/Assistant Instructor Hiring Policy

Teaching Assistant/Assistant Instructor Hiring Policy


A decision to hire a graduate student as a teaching assistant or assistant instructor is complex, requiring consideration of many factors. The process by which decisions are made has not been and cannot be reduced to a simple formula or invariant ranking of criteria. This document attempts to explain the procedures that are followed and the criteria that are used in making these hiring decisions.

Each January, the Departmental Executive Assistant determines how many funding offers can be made. In making offers, the Chair seeks the input of the faculty in our three areas of Interpersonal Communication, Organizational Communication and Technology, and Rhetoric and Language Studies. Faculty in each area considers both new, incoming students and those already in residence, who do not already have a funding commitment. Based on each area's rankings, the Chair authorizes offers of employment as a Teaching Assistant or Assistant Instructor. Most first round offers have usually been made to incoming students.

The criteria used in making offers include the following:

  • To further the educational mission of the Department. Graduate students who can teach or assist with courses that need to be taught receive the highest priority. Course Directors, such as the Director of 306M, are sources of advice on this criterion. CMS is unlikely to extend an offer to even the strongest students who cannot meet our instructional needs.
  • To maintain a rough parity among the three areas of Interpersonal Communication, Organizational Communication and Technolgy, and Rhetoric and Language Studies.
  • To consider the fit between a student's academic preparation and interests and the interests of the departmental faculty.

In assigning Assistant Instructor and Teaching Assistants, we experience constraints imposed by either the College or the University including the following:

  • Funding available from the College in any given year
  • Assistant Instructors may not, by law, be the instructor of record for upper division courses. This restricts the courses that graduate assistants may teach. Programs at the University require many upper-division courses both as degree requirements and as electives. While we would like to offer as many teaching opportunities as we can to our qualified graduate instructors, the limitations on lower-division courses counted toward the degree restricts the number of lower-division courses we can reasonably offer. Most Assistant Instructor assignments each semester will be as instructor of record of CMS 306M, our basic public speaking course.

Retention and Continuation

In general, TAs/AIs are funded up to a maximum of four consecutive semesters as M.A. students and eight consecutive semesters as Ph.D. students (summer session appointments are excluded). Fellowship appointments secured through CMS/UT count as funded semesters.

If a graduate student with a funding commitment chooses to teach outside of CMS, however, the remaining years of commitment from CMS are null and void unless they have a written agreement from the Chair of the department to the contrary. CMS expects that departmental TA and AI assignment have priority over outside employment and social commitments.

Other factors include:

Academic success as indicated by several measures such as grades, publications and convention presentations, high standards of academic honesty and so forth. This includes being in good standing and making good progress toward a degree. The Graduate Advisor is a source of advice on this criterion.

Faculty preferences and requests for specific graduate students to teach or assist in courses.

Excellence in previous teaching experience, including evaluation scores, grade inflation/deflation, and supervisor evaluations. Directors of courses, such as the Director of 306M, are sources of advice on this criterion.

Good departmental citizenship, including volunteering for special projects, collegiality, service on the CMS graduate student organization, attendance at department functions and colloquia, and so forth.

Semester-long or One-year Commitments

TA/AI appointments are valuable experiences for future members of the professorate. The Department makes an effort to give every qualified doctoral student some teaching experiences. Students who are admitted to the program without the funding commitment described above may be appointed on a semester-by-semester or annual basis as assignments become available

Opportunities for a fifth year of funding for PhD students are occasionally available.

Reasons for Termination

It is Communication Studies Department policy that grounds for the immediate termination of employment of teaching assistants or assistant instructors include the determination, after due process, of academic dishonesty such as plagiarism, falsification of data, or gross violation of UT research protocols for research on human subjects--gross dereliction of assigned teaching and course-related duties--and conduct detrimental to the teaching, research, or service functions of the department.

Failure to comply with University Policies

Unsatisfactory course instructor evaluations for more than one semester, and/or continuing and multiple individual complaints about a TA/AI's performance of his or her duties are grounds for termination of appointment.

Affirmed by the Budget Council 2/12/2010