Graduate students organized a rally to protest proposed Teaching Assistantship (TA) eliminations and shifts in the College of Liberal Arts (CLA) in front of Anderson and Gladfelter Halls Mon., April 19. They will meet with CLA Dean Susan Herbst Fri., April 30 to discuss the TA changes and their implications.
Although Herbst did say the CLA will undergo a shift in TA positions in the departments of Anthropology, African-American Studies, Spanish and Portuguese and Religion, she was unable to be specific about those changes.
“The College of Liberal Arts is undergoing great change to build academic excellence in our graduate student programs,” Herbst said. “The CLA does year-to-year program reviews and strategic planning that formulate a plan for us to achieve that excellence.”
That excellence, says Chris Johnson, a Ph.D. candidate in the African-American Studies department, will lead to decreased diversity at the university.
“A consequence of a cut in TAs is a decrease in diversity at Temple,” Johnson said. “The university is not hiring a diverse faculty and fewer TAs means that fewer people of color will be teaching here.”
Not true, Herbst said.
“Diversity will not decrease as a result of these TA shifts,” she said. “Diversity is incredibly important to us. There is no evidence that diversity will suffer as a result of these shifts.”
In addition, graduate students are also worried about other possible consequences of a cut in TAs, including larger undergraduate class sizes, the elimination of courses, fewer contact hours between students and teachers, and a decrease in the stability of instruction.
While Herbst did acknowledge that larger class sizes are in CLA’s future, so are smaller, more specific classes.
“We’re trying to make the CLA look like a college at any other large research university,” she said. “To do that, we need a mix of small and large classes. The larger classes make the smaller, more specialized classes possible.”
Shea Anderson, a graduate student in Anthropology, says regardless of class sizes, undergraduate students won’t be able to get the help they need if there aren’t enough TAs.
“TA eliminations also put a strain on the university’s resources,” Anderson said. “Fewer TAs reduces the number of contact hours you have with your teacher outside of class.”
Herbst says that graduate students will benefit from the TA shifts because they will lead to a decrease in graduate students’ workloads.
Now, many graduate students are the primary instructors of one or sometimes two classes. With these shifts, Herbst says, students will be able to work solely as TAs.
“Graduate students will be able to watch world-class faculty teach,” Herbst said. “This will prepare them to be excellent professors when they get jobs after graduation.”
When President David Adamany came to Temple a few years ago, he proposed program reviews in all colleges. After some preparation, the CLA performed their first program reviews last Fall and will continue to do them in additional departments through the next academic year.
“The program reviews are the reason why the departments are in a state of flux,” Herbst said. “You have to understand that while one department is getting cuts this year, they may very well be getting additional TA lines next year.”
Barbara J. Isenberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s Note: The Temple News will follow up on this story next Fall.