TA Hiring Policy
Traditionally, the hiring of teaching assistants and campus observers is the responsibility of the Associate Chair. Any questions, problems, complaints, or suggestions should be referred to him.
For the purpose of this hiring policy, the term “teaching assistant” will also cover and include “campus observer”.
This document is believed to be consistent with the collective agreement (dated May 13, 2002) between the Governing Council of the University of Toronto and the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Local 3902.
Teaching assistant positions are normally advertised in June of each year on departmental bulletin boards, by e-mail and by campus mail to all current astronomy graduate students (including those recently accepted into M.Sc. and Ph.D. programs in astronomy and not yet arrived on campus). Secondary postings are often made in November for unfilled winter-term positions and in April for unfilled summer-term positions. These postings include the name of each course where positions are expected to be available, the expected enrolment, the instructor, and an estimate of the number of positions in each course. It should be understood that announcements of vacancies are tentative and subject to final course determinations, enrolments, and budgets.
An application form is attached to the job listing distributed to all astronomy graduate students. This form asks for a priority list of desired positions as well as the number of such positions being applied for. The deadline for applications is normally August 15 with appointments made two or three weeks later.
Notice of Appointment
Applicants are advised in writing of the outcome of their applications as soon as possible, normally early September. Appointments are made either for one term or for a full academic session depending on the position being filled.
Preference in hiring is always given to astronomy graduate students. Only when there are an insufficient number of astronomy graduate students to fill available positions will people outside the department be hired. These may include fourth year undergraduates or even people who are not students if they have the appropriate experience and background. Ability, academic qualifications, and suitability for the position are important selection criteria in all cases. The final appointments are made by the Associate Chair in consultation with course instructors.
Ph.D. candidates are entitled to receive second and third appointments in the years following the initial appointment. These new positions will involve a number of hours at least equal to that allocated to the first appointment but will not exceed one academic session in length. The timing and nature of these subsequent appointments shall be determined by the Department of Astronomy in consultation with the teaching assistant. Students may receive appointments beyond the guaranteed second and third appointments if there are positions available after satisfying the conditions of the collective agreement.
Similarly, Master’s students who are eligible to receive the SGS II rate of pay (third or later year of a Master’s program) are entitled to receive one subsequent appointment following the initial appointment. The length, timing, and nature of the second appointment are determined in the same way as for Ph.D. students.
The rules governing subsequent appointments are, of course, subject to the student’s continued registration in the School of Graduate Studies at the University of Toronto.
Hours of Work
A regular load is one that requires an average of five hours per week for a total of 140 hours of work per academic session (i.e., two terms). This would normally consist of a position in two half courses. Work loads equivalent to those of a regular position may be compressed into a shorter time period in accordance with the needs of the department. Graduate students beyond their first year of study may carry a greater load than normal in a given year provided that positions are available.
Job Description and Duties
Each teaching assistant position in the department has a formal job description attached to it. This has been completed by the instructor or supervisor normally responsible for the position. This job description is provided to a new employee soon after his or her appointment and, in signing it, that person is agreeing to the duties and hours described therein.
All duties are included in the required number of hours for each appointment. These duties may include some or all of the following: teaching assistant training sessions, preparation for classes, invigilating exams and term tests, preparation of written or audio-visual materials, attending lectures, teaching, demonstrating telescopes and other equipment, leading discussions and supervising laboratories, rating students work, holding office hours, consulting with students, writing and grading tests, examinations and lab reports, grading essays and term papers, setting up experiments or equipment, administering observing schedules, maintaining equipment, conducting field trips to DDO, and conferring with the supervisor or professor in charge.
It is the responsibility of the supervisor to specify in appropriate detail the manner in which the assigned duties are to be performed and to ensure that the total hours of work as set out in the job description are not exceeded.
Short Term Leave
If it becomes necessary for a teaching assistant to be away from the department (for a telescope observing run, for example) and be unable to fulfil his or her regular responsibilities, then the assistant must arrange to exchange, substitute, or postpone duties. Approval for such leaves, exchanges, or substitutions should be requested as far in advance as possible from the appropriate job supervisor.