Joshua Fincher GRD ’15 holds the title of “part-time acting instructor.” He spends Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings teaching undergraduates the Greek language in “Homer: An Introduction.” As a teaching fellow who leads his own course, Fincher will earn $10,250 this semester.
Next semester, that number will fall to $8,000.
In an attempt to streamline its TF allocation policy, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences is simplifying TF titles and modifying their compensation schemes. Instead of the former system — which included over 100 different types of teaching positions — student appointments will “most likely” fall into one of four categories: grader, discussion section leader, lab section leader or PTAI, Director of the Teaching Fellow Program Judith Hackman announced in a Thursday email to graduate and professional students. Previously, teaching fellows’ time commitments were evaluated and paid in increments of five hours. Now, the time commitments will be divided in just two categories: six to 10 hours or 15 to 20 hours each week. While this simplification will not affect all graduate students, they will result in pay cuts for students like Fincher.
“The announcement made by [Hackman] last week was the result of extensive efforts aimed at improving the Teaching Fellow Program,” Graduate School Dean Lynn Cooley said. “Students and faculty were frustrated with the process for assigning TFs to classes, which often required several communications with the Teaching Fellow office to find either students available to teach, or positions for students wishing to teach.”
Teaching fellows that are part of the Graduate School’s funding package will continue to receive their standard departmental stipend, which this year is $10,400, Dean of Strategic Initiatives for Yale College, the Graduate School and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Pamela Schirmeister explained. However, student teachers paid on a per course basis — including graduate students in the seventh year or above like Fincher, science graduate students who have already completed their teaching requirement and master’s and professional students — will see changed rates.
In the past, these students were paid about $2,500 per five hours of weekly teaching, for a potential total of roughly $10,000 for the maximum of 20 hours each semester, Schirmeister said. Now, students will be paid $4,000 per term for a position requiring six to 10 hours per week, and $8,000 per term for an assignment requiring 15 to 20 hours. For students teaching the maximum number of hours each week, this marks a significant decrease.
This announcement comes on the heels of the Graduate School’s recent decision to fund a sixth year of study for students in the humanities and social sciences. But in recent years, over half of the Graduate School’s Ph.D. candidates in the history department have taken more than seven years to complete their degrees.
Five graduate students interviewed said the funding policy is likely related to the guarantee of sixth year funding.
“It seems to me that the punishment for getting [sixth] year funding is a large pay cut if you don’t leave in that time,” Fincher said. “In that sense I think this policy announcement is rather insidious.”
Ankit Disa GRD ’16 said his initial reaction is that this change will mainly reduce the amount that TFs are paid across the board, though not by a huge amount. He does not find the current level system of TF assignments particularly confusing, he added.
However, Schirmeister said these per course rates are both “well above” market rate and correspond with what the University pays lecturers who do not yet have their Ph.D.s.
Other graduate students expressed mixed feelings on the changes.
“On one hand, I feel this is a good thing — to take out the [system’s] ambiguity,” Danti Chen GRD ’15 said. “Of course, there was a pay grade lowering that none of us expected.”
Mohit Agrawal GRD ’20 said that while the new system seems more manageable than the unnecessarily confusing former program, a lot of issues remain unresolved.
In the 2014–15 school year, there were 2,672 students enrolled in the Graduate School.