The Graduate Student Assembly recently released a set of guidelines for teaching fellows to help them in their non-academic interactions with students.

The assembly started working on this initiative last academic year and incorporated training on the new guidelines into the most recent mandatory training held for TFs last month. The Center for Teaching and Learning, Dean of Student Affairs Camille Lizarríbar and Head of Trumbull College Margaret Clark advised the assembly in crafting these guidelines, according to assembly leadership.

“I think TFs will often form closer relationships with their students than the students will with their professors, and then students may feel more comfortable reaching out to them for guidance,” said Stephen Gaughran GRD ’21, chair of the Graduate Student Assembly executive board. “As TFs, we haven’t been given any guidance on how to deal with students who may come to us for problems with a roommate, substance abuse or a whole range of issues.”

The guidelines instruct TFs on how to direct undergrads to University resources when students ask them for support in non-academic affairs. Lucy Armentano GRD ’21, chair of the academic and professional development committee within the assembly, said that the primary goal of the new set of guidelines is “to help TFs face issues they may not have been trained for.” Armentano explained that, for example, if a student comes to a TF’s office hours and starts talking about problems they have with their roommate, the guidelines will help TFs refer the students to the proper resources.

Gaughran said that undergraduates facing problems should feel comfortable reaching out to almost anyone and expect to get support from them.

“Of course we can’t be expected to be counselors or to form close personal relationships with undergrads,” Gaughran said. “A lot of graduate students are planning to become faculty members somewhere and undergrads should expect that professors will be understanding. It’s almost part of our professional development to get this kind of training now.”

Meghan Gupta ’21 said that an ideal relationship with a TF should be academic, but that students should still feel comfortable approaching TFs with concerns about “mental health issues and stuff that conflicts with our ability to do work.”

Still, Abby Lee ’21 said that if some students go to their TFs with “boyfriend problems” while others do not show up for office hours at all, TFs might not be able to maintain “an objective distance necessary to grade and run discussion sections with neutrality.”

The Graduate Student Assembly is an elected body of Yale graduate students that addresses issues pertaining to graduate student life and works with the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences administration to advise on administrative policy.

John Besche | john.besche@yale.edu