GAPP Policies and Procedures for Project (PA) Teaching (TA) and Research (RA) Assistants
Updated January 28, 2020
“Day” – A calendar day, unless otherwise specifically stated.
“Year” – Fiscal year (from July 1 through June 30), unless otherwise indicated.
“Employee” – A graduate student registered at the University, who is currently appointed as a teaching assistant, research assistant or project assistant (including reader/grader).
“University” – The University of Wisconsin–Madison and University of Wisconsin-Extension.
“Department” – Any administrative unit, center or institute which directly employs teaching, project assistants and/or research assistants.
“Graduate Program” – An academic program which has admitted the student to matriculated graduate study at UW–Madison.
“Work time” – Scheduled and Unscheduled work time.
“Scheduled work time” – That portion of work time which is normally scheduled by or at the direction of the University.
“Unscheduled work time” – That portion of work time which is flexible and normally self-scheduled by the employee.
“Project Assistant (PA)” – This title designates graduate students enrolled in UW–Madison who are employed to assist with research, training, administrative responsibilities or other academic programs or projects under the supervision of a member or members of the faculty or academic staff, as defined in s. 36.05(1) or (8), Wis. Stats. Work performed is primarily for the benefit of the University. This title does not include a graduate student who does work which is primarily for the benefit of the student’s own learning and research which is independent or self-directed.
“Teaching Assistant (TA) – Teaching Assistant -Senior” – This title is appropriate for graduate students enrolled at UW–Madison who have been assigned teaching or curriculum development responsibilities in an instructional department under the supervision of an academic staff or faculty member as defined in s 36.05(8), Wis. Stats who has instructional responsibilities for the course. The teaching assistant title should not be used for a graduate student who is responsible for teaching a course in lieu of a faculty member, and should not be used as a substitute for the lecturer (SA) title.
“Research Assistant (RA)” – A research assistant is a UW–Madison graduate student working towards a Master’s or Ph.D. degree. An appointment as a research assistant is appropriate if the activity performed by the research assistant is primarily for the benefit of the individual’s course of study and research and applicable to the individual’s thesis or dissertation. Tasks which are irrelevant to the appointee’s academic program or repetitive beyond that which is necessary to achieve excellence in the activity are not appropriate for an individual appointed as a research assistant. The appointee is required to register for the appropriate number of graduate courses and research credits to satisfy full-time enrollment. The appointee must maintain enrollment commensurate with their program requirements. A research assistant should be supported from research funds only if the activities of the research assistant are necessary for the research project objectives providing funding. Research assistants are defined as employees by s. 111.81(7)(gm) Wisc. Stats.
“Project Assistant-Grader/Reader” – This title designates graduate students enrolled at UW–Madison who are employed to assist with grading at the UW–Madison. These positions are paid a fixed hourly rate.
Table of Contents
- Personnel Lists
- Term of Appointment
- Employment Criteria
- Letters of Appointment
- Probationary Period
- Appointment Percentage for PAs and TAs
- Appointment Percentage for RAs
- Employment Information
- TA Course Assignments
- TA and PA Duties
- Research Assistant Activities
- Work Surroundings
- Orientation and Training
- Performance Evaluation
- Discrimination, Discriminatory Harassment and Retaliation
- Health and Safety
- Lactation Rooms
- Personnel File
- Travel and Lodging
- Grievance Procedure
Employees may make Public Records Requests for personnel and public directory information.
Public Records Law (Wisconsin state statute 19.31-39)
To make a Public Records Request send an email through the UW–Madison Public Records service mailbox: firstname.lastname@example.org
To view additional information about the Public Records Law, go to compliance.wisc.edu and click on the Public Records link. Fees are covered in the FAQs.
The Wisconsin Public Records Law allows the university to charge a requester the actual, necessary, and direct cost to locate responsive records. Wis. Stat.§ 19.35(3)(c). In addition, the university may require prepayment of any fees if the total amount exceeds $5.00. Wis. Stat.§ 19.35(3)(f).
As required by the public records law, the university responds to records requests as soon as is practicable and without delay.
To view an example of a Public Records Request for personnel information, see (include link to an example request such as the one below).
To request public directory information, see (include link when automated system becomes available).
Term of Appointment
An appointment of a Teaching, Project or Research Assistant within an employing department shall be for a specific period, up to one year. The academic admitting graduate program may make financial support guarantees to employees for a period longer than one year, and such guarantees may include a variety of appointments, including, but not limited to, teaching, research, and project assistantships. Satisfactory academic progress as defined by the Graduate School and the graduate program handbook is required for reappointment.
Departments or graduate programs that employ Teaching, Project or Research Assistants shall establish criteria for use in making appointments to these titles. These criteria may include but are not limited to such factors as academic record, letters of recommendation, previous relevant experience, and factors related to the academic and research missions of the department.
Copies of established criteria will be available on request to employees. Departments and graduate programs are strongly encouraged to also make this information available on their websites. It is important to note, the employing department is not necessarily the same as the graduate program.
Letters of Appointment
All newly appointed employees shall receive a letter of appointment from the employing department which specifies the supervisor, appointment title, experience classification (if any), appointment percentage, effective dates, salary or stipend level, length of probationary period (if any), hours of work or work assignment if known, and for eligible employees notification that insurance including health insurance and other benefits may be available and have deadlines for enrollment; the letter will also indicate a person or office to contact for information regarding benefits associated with the appointment. Letters of appointment shall be delivered to the employee before the start of employment.
In addition, reappointed employees shall receive a letter of appointment from the employing department which specifies the supervisor, appointment title, experience classification (if any), appointment percentage, effective dates, salary level, and hours of work or work assignment if known.
A. Except as indicated in B., a TA or PA shall serve a probationary period equivalent to one (1) academic semester in length for an academic semester length appointment or academic year appointment. Two (2) separate two (2) month summer session appointments for TAs will also satisfy the probationary period. All other appointments will be for a probationary period of six (6) months. A probationary period is the defined period of time during which the probationary employee may be terminated without recourse to the grievance procedure. The decision to terminate an employee’s appointment during the probationary period requires the approval of the chair/director of the department/unit (or designee). Where the employee is supervised directly by the chair/director, termination of an appointment during the probationary period requires the approval of the dean/director (or designee). An employee must be notified of termination in writing, during the probationary period, either delivered in person or electronically. No employee shall be required to serve more than one (1) probationary period in any one department.
For a TA or PA who receives a subsequent appointment involving a change in title or department, the appointing department may require a permissive probationary period of the same duration as described above. The employing department shall make a determination as to whether the appointee shall serve a permissive probationary period and shall notify that employee in the letter of appointment. The employing department may waive these permissive probationary periods at any time. The employee shall be notified by the University of the determination to waive such employee’s probationary period. The University shall include consideration of the employee’s performance in their prior appointment in determining whether or not to waive the probation. This waiver is not subject to the grievance procedure.
B. If an employee’s performance is deemed unsatisfactory during their probation the supervisor and appointing department may extend the employee’s probation to no more than double the original length of the probationary period. If a probation is extended, the employee must be notified in the same manner as probationary termination.
C. In the case of an employee whose performance is deemed unsatisfactory during their probation, the supervisor and appointing department may establish a remedial program. This program may be carried out during the original or extended probationary period, or during a period of non-appointment prior to a renewed appointment. Participation in a remedial program shall not be considered part of the employee’s work duties.
D. RAs should receive, at a minimum, annual feedback regarding their performance from their supervisor, in consultation with the employing department and graduate program. An RA should be notified in writing of where they are not making adequate progress and prepare a remedial plan to correct the deficiencies.
Appointment Percentage for Project and Teaching Assistants
During a semester in an academic year, employees who hold appointments as Teaching Assistants or Project Assistants shall have appointments at a level totaling at least one-third time (33.3%), except as provided below. Total appointments for employees may be less than one-third time with the agreement of the employee. Such appointments will require approval by the Department and Dean/Director.
Employees appointed on a temporary emergency basis and all hourly pay basis Project Assistants may be appointed at a level less than one-third time.
Appointment Percentage for Research Assistants
During a semester in an academic year, employees who hold appointments as Research Assistants shall have appointments at a level totaling at least one-half time (50%)1 except as provided below.
There may be extenuating reasons for RAs to be appointed less than 50%. Such appointments will require approval by the Department and Dean/Director.
The University will make information about openings and application procedures for Teaching Assistants or Project Assistantships available to ensure that all interested graduate students are given an opportunity to apply. Interested graduate students may follow up their interests at the department level.
Departments employing or anticipating the employment of Teaching Assistants or Project Assistants will maintain posted information as follows:
- Information about procedures for applying for Teaching and Project Assistantships including the name or location of an office where inquiries or applications may be made.
- A listing of courses that typically have Teaching Assistants assigned or are expected to have Teaching Assistants assigned. This list will be updated to include special course opportunities that may become available. A separate list of summer sessions course possibilities will be posted if applicable.
- Information about other Teaching or Project Assistantships that may become available.
Employment information will be posted electronically in a location designated by the department and easily accessible to graduate students. The University will maintain a web site on which open positions shall be posted. Open positions do not include: positions reserved for guarantees of support and/or recruiting offers; reappointments (continuing positions); and positions that must be filled within seven (7) days for emergency purposes.
Teaching Assistant Course Assignments
Teaching Assistants may request assignment to particular courses, and when in the department’s judgment the Teaching Assistant is qualified to teach the course, the course supervisor is agreeable to the assignment, and the department can staff its courses in a manner which it deems satisfactory, the Teaching Assistant’s request shall be granted.
Departments shall notify appointed Teaching Assistants of their tentative course assignments, if known, no later than August 1 for fall semester courses and December 1 for spring semester courses. Such notification does not guarantee the assignment.
Teaching Assistant and Project Assistant Duties
In assigning duties to Teaching Assistants or Project Assistants:
The department and supervising staff member shall establish the required duties of the employee and the supervising staff member shall discuss these duties with the employee at the beginning of the appointment period.
It is understood that Teaching Assistants and Project Assistants are engaged in professional activities of such a nature that the output produced or the result accomplished cannot be precisely measured in relation to a given period of time. In determining the amount of time expected for an employee assignment, consideration shall be given to such factors as type of instruction, number of students instructed, and all other factors, including those specific to the course or group of courses to which instructional duty expectations apply. Fluctuations above and below the hours reflected in the appointment level are expected, corresponding to individual distinctions such as experience. Recognizing that Teaching and Project Assistants are embarked on a program of career and professional development, employees are encouraged to discuss duties with the supervising staff member, at the outset of the appointment and as questions may arise during the appointment.
In the case of Teaching Assistants, each department shall provide the employee and their supervisor with an appointment worksheet with the appointment letter at least three (3) days before signed workload sheets are to be returned by the employee, prior to each term of appointment (Fall, Spring and Summer). Copies of these estimates shall be provided to course supervisors.
In addition, the employee and their supervisor will have an opportunity to review that worksheet at the commencement of the Teaching Assistant’s employment and throughout the semester. The worksheet shall indicate the approximate distribution of hours to be spent on the various duties required by the appointment and shall include hours for -mandated training time and for any training required by the University and deemed necessary for the performance of the employee’s duties.
The function of the aforementioned worksheet is advisory. Neither the specific distribution of hours among tasks on this worksheet, nor deviation from the apportionment of hours shall be construed as binding or grievable.
Departments are encouraged to establish workload committees consisting of faculty, staff and graduate students who are current or former Teaching Assistants or Project Assistants to review new and existing workloads for Teaching and Project Assistants annually, identify persistent workload problems and recommend remedies to the department. If a workload committee does not exist, one may be established at the request of a majority of the Departmental Teaching and Project Assistants.
The appointment level for Teaching Assistants or Project Assistants shall be based on the department’s determination of the amount of time it should normally take to perform the assigned duties including orientation and training. Satisfactory performance of these duties shall not require an effort exceeding three hundred and sixty (360) hours per semester for a halftime (50%) academic year pay basis appointment; one thousand and forty (1040) hours per year for a halftime (50%) annual pay basis appointment; eight hundred and sixty-seven (867) hours per ten-month period for a halftime (50%) ten-month pay basis appointment; or a proportional number of hours for other durations or percentages of appointment.
All Teaching Assistant or Project Assistant duties required by the supervising staff member or the department shall be fairly within the scope of employment and shall be included in the calculation of required hours.
The number of hours are stated for the full appointment period, but hours needed to carry out required duties may fluctuate over portions of the appointment period. As soon as the University becomes aware of substantial fluctuations which will occur the employee will be so notified. Except for full time (100%) appointments, if the University knew or should with the exercise of reasonable diligence have known of a substantial increase in the number of hours needed to carry out required duties during a particular period and did not so notify the employee, the employee shall not be required to work more than forty (40) hours in any one week.
Informal discussion between a supervisor and an employee is likely to be the most effective way to resolve problems in assignment of duties. An employee who finds that the assigned duties appear to require more time than is allocated should immediately notify, and consult with, the supervisor or Department Chair (or designee), who shall reconsider the factors used to determine the amount of time expected. The supervisor and the department may direct either an adjustment in the duties or, pending approval of funding, an adjustment in the appointment level.
An employee may submit to the supervisor or Department Chair (or designee) a written request that the duties required be revised. A response shall be made within one (1) week of the written request unless the employee and the department mutually agree to a longer period. If the employee is dissatisfied with the response or no response is forthcoming, the employee may file a grievance. No such grievance will be considered unless there has been a prior written request to make an adjustment.
A department or supervisor may establish reasonable prerequisites which a Teaching Assistant or Project Assistant must meet in order to hold a particular position and determine whether those prerequisites have been met before the Teaching or Project Assistant becomes eligible to perform those duties. Any prerequisites shall be posted along with the job opening. If a Teaching or Project Assistant requests to hold a position and has not met the prerequisites, the employee shall not be paid for time involved in meeting the prerequisites if the request is granted. If a Teaching or Project Assistant is assigned to a course which the employee has not requested and for which she or he does not meet the prerequisites, the employee shall be paid for the time which is necessary to satisfactorily meet those prerequisites.
Research Assistant Activities
In assigning activities to RAs, the nature of the work is different than TAs and PAs. RAs are typically not assigned specific duties2. RAs are working toward developing skills in their specific field, and therefore the nature of skills and rate of acquisition of these skills may vary greatly across disciplines and individuals. It is therefore not possible to establish blanket descriptions of duties for RAs that uniformly apply to all in the title.
The research assistant and supervising faculty/staff member shall collaboratively develop a research program plan. These research program plans are encouraged to be reviewed by the department chair, program chair, and/or thesis committee.
It is understood that RAs are engaged in professional activities of such a nature that the output produced or the result accomplished cannot be precisely measured in relation to a given period of time. Fluctuations above and below the hours reflected in the appointment level are expected. Recognizing that RAs are embarked on a program of educational, career and professional development, employees are encouraged to discuss both a plan of academic study as well as the research program plan with the supervising faculty/staff member, at the outset of the appointment and as questions arise during the appointment3.
The employee and their supervisor will have an opportunity to review expectations at the commencement of the RAs employment. The employee and their supervisor shall have periodic meetings to discuss research progress.
The function of the aforementioned expectation review is advisory. Neither the specific distribution of hours among tasks, nor deviation from the apportionment of effort shall be construed as binding or grievable.
Informal discussion between a supervisor and an employee is likely to be the most effective way to resolve problems. Employees are also encouraged to consult their academic program director, handbook and/or thesis committee for additional guidance. An employee who finds that the research plan appears to require more time, involves inappropriate work duties or duties incommensurate with the activities, should consult with the supervisor, who shall reconsider the factors used to determine the expectations. The supervisor and/or the department/unit may adjust the activities.
For RA appointments the grievance/appeal procedure regarding the assigned activities is documented by the admitting program’s graduate program handbook. Additional resources may be available based on your employing unit or college. In the event a satisfactory resolution is not achieved, the RA can utilize the Graduate School appeal process.
The Department will provide appropriate resources and an adequate and safe work environment necessary for the performance of job responsibilities including access to an office or shared workspace in which to conduct their work. Examples include but are not limited to: access to a printer and copier, access to a computer or laptop, office/instructional supplies, software necessary for instructional tasks / job duties, a departmental mailbox, personal protective equipment, and access to equipment operation manuals, records of equipment safety inspection reports, appropriate lockout/tag out procedures, and hazardous chemical Safety Data Sheets (SDSs). If an employee believes that additional resources or facilities are needed to perform such duties, then they are encouraged to contact their immediate supervisor for the purpose of discussing such needs.
Departments are encouraged to consult with a representative group of Teaching or Project Assistants to determine what resources may be necessary for the performance of TA/PA job responsibilities. If the matter is not resolved to the satisfaction of the employee in a reasonable amount of time, then they may bring their concerns directly to the department chair/director.
The University will make a good faith effort to provide resources and facilities commensurate with job expectations. Departments will not require employees to pay for resources that the Department has determined are essential for instruction, research or other assigned work.
The University of Wisconsin–Madison is committed to creating an accessible and inclusive campus experience for all members of the campus community.
Employees seeking information regarding accommodations in their workplace should contact the Campus Disability Coordinator:
Employees seeking information regarding accommodations in their studies should contact McBurney Disability Resources Center.
Orientation and Training
The University is responsible for orientation, training, and evaluation of employees. The University recognizes that the professional nature of Teaching, Project and Research Assistants means that these employees have effective contributions to make to their own working performance and environment and that of their colleagues. The parties encourage all schools and colleges, and/or programs, to hold training sessions.
The University orients and trains employees regarding appropriate safety and security precautions in a timely manner.
Departments and other appointing units are encouraged to review the training and orientation programs available to their Teaching, Project and Research Assistants, and to consult with employees in these groups about ways in which the effectiveness of these programs can be enhanced.
Teaching and Project Assistant Orientation and Training
Colleges, Schools and Divisions that employ Teaching Assistants or Project Assistants are encouraged to hold training sessions before the fall semester.
Each department that employs new Teaching Assistants in the fall and spring semesters shall provide training for them, either alone or in combination with other departments. The training shall consist of a minimum of eight (8) required hours designed to aid them in their teaching duties. At least two (2) of these hours of training must come during the semester. The content, design and emphasis of the training shall be determined by the department chair or designee(s). For the fall semester training, a written description of the program shall be available upon request. A Teaching Assistant may be exempted from attending these sessions by the decision of the department chair or designee(s), provided that the Teaching Assistant has previous post-secondary teaching experience. Departments may have more extensive training programs available for certain groups of Teaching Assistants.
The University conducts training workshops for Teaching and Project Assistants that will address diversity issues deemed by the University to be relevant to the activities of these employees within their employment with the University. These workshops will be developed in consultation with the campus Office of Equity and Diversity, Teaching Assistants and Project Assistants, and other appropriate offices. These workshops shall not count toward the eight (8) hours of training described above.
Teaching and Project Assistant Evaluations
Each employing unit shall establish an evaluation process to review performance of duties and ability. Employees shall be informed of the evaluation process and criteria for evaluation at the start of the period for which they are being evaluated.
Teaching Assistant evaluations may include input from the following sources, but should not consist solely of student evaluations:
- Individual student evaluation of the teaching performance of a Teaching Assistant in a course in which the student is enrolled.
- Faculty and staff review of employee performance. If such a review includes an assessment of a Teaching Assistant’s laboratory or classroom performance, the assessment shall include at least one (1) visit by a faculty or staff member. A Teaching Assistant will be given at least twenty-four (24) hours’ notice prior to the initial visit in a semester for this purpose. Prior notice is not required for faculty and/or staff visits for any other purpose, including subsequent visits for evaluation purposes.
- Self review.
- Peer Review.
Performance will be reviewed at least once during the term of the appointment. Copies of written performance evaluation reports will be provided to employees. A copy of this report and any written evaluations will be given to the employee who will have the right to make a written response to be placed in their personnel file. Departments are encouraged to provide supervision and evaluation throughout the appointment period.
In the event review of Teaching Assistant or Project Assistant teaching performance includes a committee, the committee shall have a faculty majority; its membership may include employee representatives chosen by employees and may include other staff and students.
If student evaluations are part of the Teaching or Project Assistant evaluation process, employees will be notified at least forty-eight hours prior to distribution of student evaluation forms. Student evaluations may be part of the Teaching or Project Assistant evaluation process, but shall not be the sole method for evaluating Teaching Assistants.
Research Assistant Evaluations
Research Assistant performance should be evaluated at least annually. These evaluations should include input from 1 and 2, and may also include, but may not be based solely upon, input from 3,
- Faculty/staff supervisor review of employee performance. If such a review includes an assessment of a RAs laboratory performance, the assessment shall include at least one (1) visit by a faculty/staff member.
- Thesis Committee Review.
- Self review and/or Individual Development Plan (IDP) Process.
If the evaluation process is implemented by a thesis committee, the composition of such committee shall be in accordance with established graduate program and Graduate School procedures.
Comments and data that evidence illegal discrimination shall be excluded from consideration, and the presence of such comments shall be considered in weighing the evaluation as a whole.
Since RA appointments involve a combined academic and employment experience, there may be a separate academic evaluation made by the supervisor and/or enrolling graduate program. The research assistant and their supervisor should have periodic and ongoing conversations to discuss research progress.
Discrimination, Discriminatory Harassment and Retaliation
The University of Wisconsin–Madison is committed to providing equal opportunity and equal access and to complying with all applicable federal and state laws and regulations and University of Wisconsin System and university non-discrimination policies and procedures, including Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability, and the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of age.
The University strives to provide a workplace and educational environment free from harassment. Towards that goal, departments shall take affirmative steps to create and maintain workplaces free from harassment. Click on the following link for policies that provide more detailed information about protected classes, as well as discriminatory harassment and what to do if you are experiencing harassment.
Equal Opportunity Complaint Investigation
Health and Safety
UW–Madison strives to provide a safe and healthy educational environment for faculty, staff, students, visitors, and persons utilizing UW programs and UW facilities. There are a variety of factors that impact the safety and health of employees, and include but are not limited to: mental health, emotional health, physical health, laboratory safety, and campus safety.
The following links for policies that provide more detailed information regarding workplace safety for all UW–Madison employees:
Environment, Health and Safety:
All laboratories and experiments in laboratories that involve bloodborne pathogens, proper chemical hygiene procedures (e.g. handling hydrofluoric (HF) acid), pesticides, hazmat shipping, and DEA controlled substances should follow procedures outlined in the policies of the Office of Environment, Health, and Safety.
Additionally, employees will have ready access to information conveying campus safety.
Environmental and Occupational Health:
Employees will have access to work environments that support their health and wellbeing. The Office of Environmental and Occupational Health details policies on how employees should have free, easy, and constant access to: safe air quality, reasonable food and lodging accommodations in the case of travel for purposes of an appointment, regular outside assessment of potential workplace hazards, information on procedures for animal contact, and ergonomic equipment for use during the course of an appointment.
The University will provide reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for 1 year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk. The University will provide a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.
Lactation Rooms – Office of Child Care and Family Resources
Section 7(r) of the Fair Labor Standards Act – Break Time for Nursing Mothers Provision
The employee’s official personnel file may be combined with an employee’s academic file; if so, only that portion of the file relating to employment shall be considered the official personnel file.
Upon written request, an employee shall, within a reasonable time, have an opportunity to review and copy their official personnel file. An employee may bring a personal representative to review this file. However, employees shall not be entitled to review or copy confidential letters and statements of recommendation. Additions to the official personnel file shall be limited to material directly related to the employee’s employment. The employee may make a written statement regarding their position on the material placed in their official personnel file and such statement shall be appended to the material which is the subject of the employee’s statement. No written material shall be used in any action adversely affecting an employee in their employment as a Teaching Assistant or Project Assistant unless a copy is provided or made accessible to the employee.
The University shall not disseminate any information from an employee’s official personnel file to any person, organization or non-University agency without written authorization from the employee except as provided by law.
Travel and Lodging
This is governed by Business Services, Accounting Services. Policy will direct Employees to these resources and associated policies.
Travel and Reimbursement – Division of Business Services
Teaching Assistant and Project Assistant wages are jointly determined by the Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration (VCFA) and Dean of the Graduate School and are not governed by these policies.
Minimum Stipend Levels for Teaching, Project and Research Assistants are jointly determined by the VCFA and Dean of the Graduate School and are not governed by these policies. Specific stipend rates are set by admitting graduate programs and reported to the Graduate School for review and approval.
Minimum Stipend Levels for Graduate Assistants: Graduate Assistantships
Health Insurance Benefits
The University provides State Group Health insurance for eligible employees, in the same manner as for faculty and other staff.
Health insurance rates and information are found: hr.wisc.edu/benefits
Medical Evacuation & Repatriation Insurance and Student Health Insurance Program (SHIP)
The University does not to require any employee to purchase Medical Evacuation & Repatriation Insurance that is not otherwise mandated by Federal Requirements.
The university does not to require any employee to participate in the Student Health Insurance program (SHIP) while that employee is the primary subscriber under a plan provided under s.40.52(3), Wis. Stats.
Tuition Remission is a benefit to graduate students holding at least a 33% Teaching Assistant, Project Assistant, or Research Assistant appointment, to help alleviate the cost of tuition. The tuition charges, although not segregated fees, are waived for eligible graduate students.
The University’s policy regarding payment of fees is administered by the Bursar’s office. Information regarding fees deduction can be found here:
Graduate Assistant Payment of Segregated Fees Policy
Sick Leave Credit Allocation
At the beginning of each appointment period Employees will be credited with an allocation of sick leave time, regardless of appointment percentage. The number of hours credited to an employee’s sick leave allocation depends on the length of the appointment period as follows:
- Employees appointed for an academic or calendar year will be credited with ninety-six (96) hours to their sick leave allocation;
- Employees appointed for one (1) semester will be credited with forty-eight (48) hours to their sick leave allocation;
- Employees who are appointed for other periods of time shall be credited with a sick leave allocation based on the formula of eight (8) hours of sick leave credit for each thirty (30) days (or portion thereof) of their appointment.
Unused sick leave shall accumulate as described below from appointment period to appointment period only within the same department and in the same title. Sick leave shall be used in 15-minute increments for project assistants, and in one-hour increments for teaching and research assistants. At the beginning of each appointment period, the number of sick leave hours credited to the employee’s sick leave credit bank under 1, 2, and 3, above, shall be supplemented to the following extent by unused sick leave carried over from the employee’s immediate previous appointment:
- At the beginning of an appointment period any combination of sick leave carry over and newly accredited sick leave shall not exceed ninety-six (96) hours.
- In the event that an individual has a break in appointments in the same department and title between one academic year and the next, or a break of less than two (2) weeks duration at other times during an academic year, sick leave carry over as outlined above shall be provided.
Sick Leave for Employees
Employees may use time in their sick leave bank for reasons including but not limited to: personal (physical or mental) illness, bodily injuries, maternity, or exposure to contagious disease: (1) which requires the employee’s confinement; or (2) which renders the employee unable to perform assigned duties; or (3) where performance of assigned duties would jeopardize the employee’s health or recovery. In the event the University has reason to believe that an employee is abusing the sick leave privilege or may not be physically fit to return to work, the University may require a medical certificate or other appropriate verification for absences covered by this Section.
Employees may use accrued sick leave for personal medical and dental appointments which cannot be scheduled at times other than during scheduled work hours. To qualify for use of sick leave under this Section, employees must give the University three (3) days advance notice of appointments except when emergency conditions prevail.
Sick Leave for Care of Family Member
Employees may use accrued sick leave for temporary emergency care of ill or injured members of the immediate family, or for other family emergencies, for a limited period of time to permit the employee to make other arrangements. Immediate family is defined as, and limited to: the spouse, the spouse equivalent residing in the household of the employee, parents, stepparents, grandparents, foster parents, children, stepchildren, grandchildren, foster children, brothers (and their spouses), and sisters (and their spouses) of the employee or spouse, and other relatives of the employee or spouse residing in the household of the employee. Use of sick leave for the purposes of this Section is limited to five (5) work days for any one illness or injury; however, the use of sick leave may be extended to cover unusual circumstances provided prior approval of the immediate supervisor is obtained.
Where death occurs in the Employee’s immediate family (as defined above), sick leave may be used to attend the funeral and/or make necessary arrangements. Sick leave shall normally be used during the seven (7) calendar day period immediately following the death. Where mitigating circumstances require a postponement in funeral arrangements, sick leave may be used at an appropriate later date for directly related purposes. Use of sick leave for death in the immediate family for the purposes of this Section is limited to a total of three (3) work days, plus required travel time not to exceed four (4) work days.
Use of Sick Leave Credits
An Employee’s sick leave bank will be charged for time that an employee does not perform their required duties for any of the reasons outlined in above, unless other acceptable arrangements are made including but not limited to:
- The Employee obtains unpaid peer substitute coverage acceptable to the employee’s immediate supervisor and the department chair; or
- The Employee makes arrangements with their immediate supervisor to fulfill the required duties through other acceptable means; or
- The Employee can fulfill the required duties at a different time and the employee’s immediate supervisor agrees to permit the employee to perform those duties at a different time.
In the event that an Employee fails to perform their required duties because of any of the reasons outlined above, and the employee has exhausted their sick leave allocation, any days missed shall result in the employee being removed from the payroll for such missed days.
Unused sick leave hours will not be paid out at the end of the appointment.
A Teaching Assistant or Project Assistant using sick leave under this section are not required to find substitutes for that time. The employee shall be responsible for notifying the Department as soon as possible after the need to use sick leave is determined.
Nothing in this section shall preclude the Department from asking the Teaching Assistant or Project Assistant for assistance in identifying a substitute.
Leave of Absence Without Pay
Upon written request to their immediate supervisor, Employees may be granted leave without pay at the sole discretion of the appointing Department/ Program and Dean/Director for any reason for a period of time not to exceed the employee’s unexpired term of appointment.
Parental Leaves Without Pay
Employees shall be granted leave without pay following childbirth or adoption as follows. A requesting employee shall submit written notification of the duration of the leave to their immediate supervisor at least four (4) weeks prior to the anticipated date of birth or adoption.
Employees on a semester or academic year appointment shall be granted leave without pay for any consecutive number of days up to the end of the semester or summer session in which the birth or adoption occurs. If the Employee’s appointment extends beyond the semester in which the birth or adoption occurs, they shall be granted, upon request, leave without pay for the entire next semester or that portion of the next semester which allows the employee a six-week period following childbirth or adoption during which the employee does not have work responsibilities. The Employee may take any additional part of the next semester as leave without pay subject to the review and approval of the appointing Department and Dean/Director.
Employees on an annual basis appointment shall be granted leave without pay for a period of time up to, but not exceeding, six (6) months, and not to extend beyond the duration of the appointment.
Family Medical Leave
The University recognizes the provisions of the Family Leave Act, s. 103.10, Wis. Stats., and the Federal (U.S.) Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, where applicable.
Return to Work
Employees on an unpaid leave of absence may return to work prior to the expiration of the leave only upon receiving the express approval of their immediate supervisor and the chair/director of the appointing Department and Dean/Director.
Such leaves shall not extend the duration of an Employee’s appointment.
Project and Research Assistants appointed on an annual pay (A-basis) appointment shall earn paid vacation pro-rated based on a full-time rate of one-hundred and eighty (180) hours per fiscal year4. The scheduling of vacation is subject to the approval of the supervisor and must be taken during the period of the appointment. If an employee voluntarily terminates their employment prior to the original end date of the appointment and has used anticipated vacation time, the employee may be given the option of reimbursing the University by working up to the number of hours taken that were not yet earned. The hours shall be worked before the employee terminates their appointment. If the employee chooses not to work these hours or is involuntarily terminated for cause, an adjustment shall be made in the employee’s final paycheck to reimburse the University for the time that was taken but not yet earned.
Vacation leave shall be used in 15-minute increments for project assistants, and in one-hour increments for research assistants.
Unused vacation hours will not be paid out at the end of the appointment.
An Employee who is absent from assigned duties because of selection for jury duty and who has not been excused by the court in order to meet their obligations, shall be paid their regular salary for the period of time they are required to serve and shall continue to receive full benefits. When not impaneled for actual service and only on call, the employee shall report to work unless authorized by the employee’s supervisor to be absent from their work assignment. During such absence there will be no loss of pay.
Employees shall notify their supervisor as soon as possible before an absence for jury duty. If a substitute is necessary, the Teaching or Project Assistant shall attempt to arrange for a University-paid substitute acceptable to the supervisor and the Director/Department chair. If the Teaching or Project Assistant is unable to find a substitute, the Department shall be responsible for finding and paying a substitute for the employee, while they serve as a juror.
Appearance as Witness in Legal Action
Where an employee is subpoenaed to testify in a legal action and the University determines that such subpoena resulted directly from the performance of the employee’s required duties, the University shall permit the employee to take time off without loss of pay to comply with the subpoena if required to appear during their regularly scheduled hours of employment; provided, however, that the employee shall turn over to the University any witness fee received.
State Legal Holidays
The University recognizes the importance of giving employees time off from work for state legal holidays, and therefore, Employees generally are not expected to work on those holidays. Where the operational needs of the University require the employee to work on a State legal holiday, the employee shall be given equivalent compensatory time off during the appointment period. This compensatory time off shall be scheduled by the employee, with the prior approval of the University, consistent with the operational needs of the department.
There are 9 legal holidays under HR Policy 16.02:
- January 1 (New Year’s Day)
- Third Monday in January (Martin Luther King Jr. Day)
- Last Monday in May (Memorial Day)
- July 4 (Independence Day)
- First Monday in September (Labor Day)
- Fourth Thursday in November (Thanksgiving Day)
- December 24 (Christmas Eve Day)
- December 25 (Christmas Day)
- December 31 (New Year’s Eve Day)
The University recognizes the importance of giving Employees time off for religious observances and recognizes that religious holidays do not always coincide with state legal holidays. Employees who face a conflict between a work requirement and any anticipated religious observance should be given an alternative means of meeting the work requirement, provided that the Employee notifies their supervisor in the first two weeks of the appointment period of the specific day or dates that will be needed for these observances. Where the appointment period includes two academic semesters, notice must be given within the first two (2) weeks of each semester. When the religious observance falls within the first two (2) weeks of an appointment period (including summer sessions), the Employee should give as much advance notice as possible to their supervisor. Supervisors may set reasonable limits on the total number of days granted for religious observances by any one (1) Employee, subject to Dean/Director approval.
Flexible Spending Account
The University offers Employees the opportunity to participate in the Employee-funded Flexible Spending Account program as administered under provisions of Chapter 40. Wis. Stats.
Any Employee who discusses, inquires about, or participates in the grievance procedure may do so openly and shall not be subject to intimidation, discipline, or retaliation because of such activity.
Definition and Procedure
A grievance is defined as, and limited to, a written complaint identifying an alleged violation of a specific employment provision(s) of the Graduate Assistant Policies and Procedures and remedy sought. Grievances may be filed by a Teaching, Project or Research Assistant. Academic-related grievances are pursued through processes described in graduate program handbooks with subsequent appeals following Graduate School policy. An employee who files a grievance is referred to as the grievant. A grievant is encouraged to discuss the complaint with their immediate supervisor as well as other campus resources (e.g. department chair, dean/director, human resources representative, etc.) prior to filing a grievance. The primary purpose of this procedure is to secure equitable solutions to the grievance(s) at the most immediate level possible.
The word “days” for the purpose of this article shall be working days and shall not include weekends, university holidays, spring recess or the period from the last day of exams of the fall semester to the first day of the next instructional period, or days in which the grievant is required to leave Madison for extended work-related purposes (e.g. field work or conferences). All time limits may be modified by mutual consent.
To the fullest extent possible, a grievance shall contain a clear and concise statement of the grievance and indicate the issue(s) involved, the relief sought, the date(s) the incident or violation took place and the specific policy section or sections involved. The grievance shall be signed and dated by the grievant(s) and representative (if any).
A grievant shall be notified of the ability to have the assistance of a personal representative. A grievant has the right to find representation of their choosing during the grievance process. The designated representative may change at any time during the process. If representation is chosen and the representative is an attorney, the grievant must alert the University. The grievant cannot be compelled to meet without their representative, however it is the grievant’s responsibility to find representation that can meet within the allotted time frame.
Meeting with Grievance Representatives. A grievant may consult with their representative regarding a grievance, or process a grievance, during working hours for a reasonable period of time, provided that this meeting does not interfere with scheduled work activities.
Grievances should be presented as soon as reasonably possible, typically no later than sixty (60) days from the date the grievant first became aware of, or should have become aware of with the exercise of reasonable diligence, the cause of such grievance.
Steps One and Two of the grievance procedure may be waived by mutual agreement.
The Grievant and representative (if chosen) shall have the right to file a grievance when any provision of these procedures are alleged to have been violated. Possible relief may include extending the grievance timeframe to ensure that these procedures are followed.
Grievances may continue after graduation or voluntary separation. In cases of involuntary termination, grievances may be filed by former employees, but must adhere to the relevant timeline(s).
Receipt of a grievance for purposes of meeting timeline requirements at each step is determined by the date stamp on the grievance form (if hand delivered), digital timestamp (if filed electronically), or envelope postmark (if delivered by U.S. Mail).
Grievances not answered by the employer within the designated time limits in any step of the grievance procedure may be appealed to the next step within ten (10) days of the expiration of the designated time limits.
Step One: The grievant must file a written statement with the appointing department/unit chair/director or their designee specifying the grievant’s name, a clear and concise statement of the grievance and the issue(s) involved, the date(s) the incident or violation took place and the specific policy section or sections involved, and the relief sought, The grievance shall be signed and dated by the grievant(s) and representative (if any).
Within twenty (20) days of receipt of the written grievance, the department chair/director or designee will meet with the grievant and their representative (if chosen) to hear the grievance and will return a written answer to the grievant and their representative (if chosen) no later than ten (10) days after this meeting. This answer will include a copy of the grievance procedure appeal process timeline, a list of resources and relevant contact information of personnel hearing future steps.
Step Two: If the decision in Step One is not accepted by the grievant, the grievant shall have 10 days from receipt of the answer in Step One to file an appeal with the appropriate appointing department/unit Dean/Director or designee. The Dean/Director or designee will meet with the grievant and their representative (if chosen) within twenty (20) days from receipt of the appeal of Step One and attempt to resolve the grievance. The Dean/Director or designee will provide the grievant and their representative (if chosen) with a written response to the grievance no later than ten (10) days after this meeting.
Step Three: If the decision in Step Two is not accepted by the grievant, the grievant shall have 10 days from the receipt of the answer in Step Two to file an appeal with the Office of Human Resources (OHR), specifically the Office of Workforce Relations (OWR). The OHR-OWR office will meet with the grievant and their representative (if chosen) within twenty (20) days from receipt of the appeal of Step Two.
The OHR-OWR will provide a written decision to the grievant and their representative (if chosen), no later than ten (10) days after this meeting.
Step Four: Grievances that are not resolved under the foregoing procedure may be appealed to the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission (WERC) by the grievant within twenty (20) days from the date of the answer in Step Three. If an unresolved grievance is not appealed to the WERC within twenty (20) days of the final resolution of Step Three, it shall be considered terminated on the basis of the Third Step answer of the responding party without prejudice or precedent in the resolution of future grievances. The issue as stated on the Third Step grievance and any amendments made thereon, in writing, at the Third Step grievance meeting shall constitute the sole and entire subject matter to be heard by the WERC hearing examiner, unless the parties agree to modify the scope of the hearing. The WERC hearing examiner will be selected by mutual consent of both parties. If the parties have utilized mediation, no reference to mediation shall be admitted as evidence in the hearing.
Where two (2) or more grievances are appealed to the WERC by the same individual or regarding a substantially similar matter, an effort will be made by the parties to have the grievances heard by the same hearing examiner.
The University will bear the cost of the WERC hearing fees.
The hearing examiner shall not have jurisdiction or authority to add to, amend, modify, nullify, or ignore in any way the provisions of University Policy.
The decision of the hearing examiner will be forwarded to the Chancellor or Chancellor’s designee for review. The Chancellor or Chancellor’s designee shall release a decision either accepting, rejecting, or modifying the hearing examiner’s decision. The Chancellor’s decision will be final and binding on both parties.
The decision of the Chancellor or Chancellor’s designee will be rendered within thirty (30) days from receipt of the WERC’s decision. If no decision is made by the Chancellor or Chancellor’s designee within thirty (30) days, then the decision of the WERC becomes final.
Retroactivity. Settlement of grievances may or may not be retroactive as the equities of particular cases may demand. In any case, the maximum period of retroactivity allowed shall be a date not earlier than sixty (60) days prior to the date of initiation of the written grievance in Step One unless the circumstances of the case made it impossible for the employee to know they had grounds for such claim prior to that date, in which case the retroactivity shall be limited to a period of ninety (90) days prior to the date the grievance was initiated in writing. Employees who voluntarily terminate their employment will have their grievances immediately withdrawn and will not benefit by any later settlement of a group grievance. Graduation shall not be considered voluntary termination for purposes of retroactivity.
Exclusive Procedure. The grievance procedure set out above shall be exclusive and shall replace any other grievance procedure for adjustment of any disputes arising from the application and interpretation of these policies and procedures.
Further, in a group grievance, only one (1) grievant shall be the spokesperson for the group. Group grievances must be so designated at each step of the grievance procedure and set forth a list of all employees covered by the grievance. No employees may be added to the list of group grievants after the second step hearing. Relief is restricted to those employees identified by name in the group grievance. Individual grievances which meet the definition of group grievances as contained herein shall be consolidated at each step of the grievance procedure whenever possible. Individual grievances which do not specifically meet the definition of group grievance, contained herein, may be consolidated by mutual agreement.
Discipline. The University has the ability to suspend, discharge or take other appropriate disciplinary action against employees for just cause (defined below). If any discipline is taken against an employee, the employee will receive a copy of this disciplinary action. An employee who alleges that such action was without just cause may appeal a suspension or discharge beginning with the second step of the grievance procedure. An employee shall be entitled to the presence of a grievance representative at an investigatory interview if he/she requests one and if the employee has reasonable grounds to believe that the interview may be used to support disciplinary action against him/her. Whenever it is appropriate, the Employer shall give the employee and the grievance representative advance notice of the Employer’s intent to hold an investigatory interview.
The basic elements of just cause have been reduced by arbitrator Carroll R. Daugherty to seven tests outlined below:
- NOTICE: Did the Employer give to the employee forewarning or foreknowledge of the possible or probable consequences of the employee’s disciplinary conduct?
- REASONABLE RULE OR ORDER: Was the Employer’s rules or managerial order reasonably related to (a) the orderly, efficient, and safe operation of the Employer’s business, and (b) the performance that the Employer might properly expect of the employee?
- INVESTIGATION: Did the Employer, before administering the discipline to an employee, make an effort to discover whether the employee did in fact violate or disobey a rule or order of management?
- FAIR INVESTIGATION: Was the Employer’s investigation conducted fairly and objectively?
- PROOF: At the investigation, did the “judge” obtain substantial evidence or proof that the employee was guilty as charged?
- EQUAL TREATMENT: Has the Employer applied its rules, orders and penalties evenhandedly and without discrimination to all employees?
- PENALTY: Was the degree of discipline administered by the Employer in a particular case reasonably related to (a) the seriousness of the employee’s proven offense, and (b) the record of the employee in his service of the Employer?
Exclusion of Probationary Employees. The release of probationary employees shall not be subject to the grievance procedure.
1Based on a 1.0 full-time equivalent (FTE) of 40 hours.
2As stated in the definition of a Research Assistant, an appointment as a research assistant is appropriate if the activity performed by the research assistant is primarily for the benefit of the individual’s course of study and research and applicable to the individual’s thesis or dissertation. Tasks which are irrelevant to the appointee’s academic program or repetitive beyond that which is necessary to achieve excellence in the activity are not appropriate for an individual appointed as a research assistant.
3 Sometimes research requires long and/or unusual hours to complete a task or to gain mastery of a technique.
4 For example, a Research Assistant appointed to an annual appointment at .50 FTE (or 50%) will earn 90 hours vacation per fiscal year.