Erik Green, a second-year graduate student in the education department, once heard an “urban legend” that the department had teaching assistant (TA) positions to spare five years ago. The current reality is that some graduate students are lucky to be granted one TAship a year.
Drastic budget cuts affect not only non-academic staff employment and faculty positions at UC Santa Cruz, but also graduate students. Green is just one of the many graduate students experiencing the ramifications of the elimination of over 100 teaching assistant positions.
“There are people in the department who want to teach, [but they] have not been able to,” Green said.
Like many graduate programs at UC Santa Cruz, a TAship is one of the degree requirements for the education department. Green tried to get a TAship for all three quarters of this academic year, but so far has only secured one.
In addition to fulfilling the education degree requirement, Green also needs the TAship for two other reasons: experience and funding.
“I want to become a university professor and it [is] vital to have teaching experience,” Green said.
Ideally, Green wants to TA for the education courses that he hopes to be teaching in the future.
Green, like other UCSC graduate students, depends on TAships as a source of funding. A fellowship supported Green’s first year at UCSC, but since it ended he is scrounging for funding opportunities, taking out student loans and trying to work in the department as a graduate student researcher.
“I’ve got bills to pay and having something secured on campus would be better than something off-campus that may or may not fit with schoolwork,” Green said.
If Green is unable to secure TAships for the rest of the academic year, he will apply for loans and look for opportunities teaching and tutoring off-campus.
In addition to the elimination of TA positions, Green said the lack of both research opportunities and funding for senior students contribute to the limited amount of TAships.
“People who have advanced to candidacy are still TAs,” Green said.
Green offered a few ideal scenarios for the future of TAships. If the money is there, Green would like to see funding go back to restoring TAships and providing TAships for all those who need them.
“Public education is a public good [we should] reinvest in,” he said. “Unfortunately, education is the first on the cutting board.”
More realistically, Green would like to see the university and the department work with students to help develop a comprehensive plan financing their careers.