Commentary | AGSEM TAs clarify Provost Senate statements

An open letter to Anthony Masi

Dear Professor Masi,

We would like to raise concerns regarding your response to Professor John Galaty’s “Question Regarding the Implications of TA Reductions” during the September 22 McGill Senate meeting. Professor Galaty asked whether the “effects of the reduction in TA-ships on graduate financial support” were considered, in light of McGill’s stated priority of “increasing graduate enrolments.” He further enquired if it was “anticipated that the TA budget [would] be increased such that the same level of support for courses will be restored as was the case in 2010-11.”

The statistics cited in your response to Professor Galaty’s question lacked context. You stated that there was an increase in TA expenditures from $6.1 million in 2007-8 to $7.1 million in 2010; AGSEM’s dues lists confirm that TA expenditures were $6.1 million for the 2008 calendar year. But one must note that TAs were on strike for eleven weeks in 2008. Therefore, McGill’s total expenditures for TAs that year were abnormally low and are a poor baseline for comparison. One need only look to the expenditures of 2007, where the gross amount paid to TAs was $6.8 million, to see that the 2008 figure is exceptionally low.

We believe that the relevant metric to consider when discussing the issue raised by Galaty is not TA expenditures, but rather the number of TA hours per University year. This measure corrects for salary variability across the period discussed, and is more meaningful with respect to the quality of education provided at McGill. Over the last four years, the number of hours worked by TAs has actually declined.

TAs worked 305,114 hours overall in 2007. In 2010, TAs worked 302,523 hours, a decrease of 2,500 hours over four years. During this same period, degree-seeking undergraduate enrolment increased 8 per cent and graduate student enrolment increased 13 per cent. At the very least, TA hours should increase proportionally with undergraduate enrolment, so as to maintain the quality level of education provided at this university. We cordially request that in the future you will take these concerns into consideration when providing information regarding TAs to the McGill Community.

Signed by AGSEM – McGill’s Teaching Union. Cosigned by the Post Graduate Student Society (PGSS) and Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU).