III - 7.11 - Policy on Graduate Assistantship

I. Purpose and Scope

A. Graduate Assistantships at Bowie State University (BSU): The purpose of the graduate assistantship program at Bowie State University is to support graduate students who are awarded the assistantships by:

1. Advancing the student's graduate education through practicum-based experiences, including the development and application of teaching, research and other skills, while also advancing the mission of the university.

2. Providing financial support, including stipends and tuition assistance, to aid degree-seeking students enrolled in master's level or doctoral programs at the university and appointed as graduate assistants in the pursuit of their graduate degrees.

B. Policy Goal: This policy is intended to establish baseline standards for the administration of graduate assistantships, with a commitment to continuous improvement in the status of graduate assistants.

C. Institution Policies and Procedures: BSU will develop a graduate assistant handbook that will include policies and procedures, and graduate assistantship application processes, as well as duties and responsibilities of graduate assistants.

II. Appointments

A. Length: Appointment of graduate assistants may last for two years for all master's degree graduate assistants, except in counseling program, where the length of the assistantship may extend to three years and four years for a doctoral student.

B. Time Commitment: A BSU graduate assistant shall serve on a full-time basis. For the purpose of this policy, such time commitment is as follows:

1. Full-time Assistantship: A graduate assistantship shall require a full-time commitment of 20 hours per work week. Exceptions must be submitted in writing by the graduate assistant's supervisor; approved the student's advisor and department chairperson, and submitted to the dean for approval before any work any additional time is allotted.

2. Graduate assistants on full-time assistantships at BSU are not allowed to work in any other capacity at the university.

C. Renewal of Appointments: An appointed graduate student shall be re-appointed after the end of each academic year based on the following criteria:

1. Satisfactory academic performance and progress toward degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA;

2. Satisfactory performance of assigned assistantship responsibilities and duties as defined by the various departments;

3. Availability of funds;

4. Limitation of length of appointment has not expired;

5. Student's adherence to the university code of conduct, observance of state or federal law, and compliance with general university regulations; and

6. Specific departmental needs, as identified by the program chair and graduate school coordinator.

D. Notice of Appointments: Except under justifiable circumstances, graduate assistants whose appointments are more than one term will be notified of their appointments, and of decisions not to renew appointments, at least 60 days before the date upon which the appointment is to begin.

1. If a decision to renew an appointment cannot be made within that time line, the graduate assistant will be informed at least 60 days in advance of the assistantship's start date of an estimated date for the renewal decision.

2. Circumstances that may justify fewer than 60 days notice include but are not limited to, uncertainty in departmental funding and course enrollments.

3. Nothing in this section shall prevent the graduate school from making an appointment to a graduate assistant on short notice based on changed circumstances in class enrollments, the availability of resources, or other factors.

E. Appointment Letters: Upon appointment, each graduate assistant will receive an appointment letter that contains detailed information concerning the terms and expectations of the assistantship. The appointment letter shall include, at a minimum:

1. The length of the appointment;

2. The starting and ending dates of the appointment, including the dates during which the graduate assistant is expected to be on campus to perform the duties of the assistantship;

3. The average weekly time commitment of the assistantship;

4. The basic responsibilities of the assistantship;

5. The economic benefits of the assistantship, including stipend and tuition assistance amounts, and any access to health and other benefits;

6. The department or office to which the student will report, including the name of the faculty member or other individual who will supervise the assistantship, when feasible;

7. An affirmation that the provisions of the graduate assistant handbook apply to the assistantship;

8. Any special requirements of the assistantship related to summer and winter class scheduling, or other terms (e.g., coverage over breaks, summer/winter classes and weather emergencies) that may vary from the provisions of the university's graduate assistant handbook; and

9. Contact information where the graduate assistant may obtain additional information and advice concerning the appointment, the provisions of the handbook, and graduate assistant grievance rights and processes.

F. Assignments: To the extent feasible, graduate assistants shall be given a written description of their teaching, research or other assignments, duties, and responsibilities at least two weeks before the beginning of the semester. However, departments retain the flexibility to adjust assignments as necessary due to loss of funding, course enrollment fluctuations, or other unanticipated events, even after the semester has begun.

G. Termination of Assistantships: An assistantship may be terminated within the term of the appointment under unusual and compelling conditions, for causes specified in the BSU graduate assistant handbook.

III. Due Process Protections

A. Informal Resolution of Concerns: Graduate assistants are strongly encouraged to attempt to resolve grievances informally with their mentor(s) and/or supervisor(s). BSU shall establish a mediation process or an ombudsperson function to facilitate informal resolution of graduate assistant grievances.

B. Grievance Policy: To address concerns that cannot be resolved informally, BSU shall develop a formal, written graduate assistant grievance policy that provides the graduate assistant with the opportunity to present grievances to:

1. The student's department chair/unit head or the specific graduate program coordinator will form a grievance panel:

a. The panel will consist of a graduate student, as well as faculty members or administrators, who have no direct relationship with the department at issue or the individual parties to the grievance.
b. Either party to the grievance may request that a panel member substituted on the grounds that the panel member has a conflict of interest.

C. Content of Policy

BSU's grievance policy shall include fundamental due process protections and other minimum elements, including:

1. The opportunity for graduate assistants to provide the facts and evidence that support their grievances and to explain their positions to the grievance decision makers;

2. Any minimum information requirements and formats for presenting grievances, which shall not require adherence to complex procedures or evidentiary standards;

3. A clear statement that reprisals against graduate assistants for filing a grievance are prohibited;

4. Specific timelines for the phases of the grievance process;

5. The right to appeal any departmental chair/unit head decision to the dean of graduate school.

D. Application

1. The grievance policy will apply to disputes concerning:

a. Workload volume and scheduling;
b. Inappropriate work assignments;
c. Termination of a graduate assistantship within the term of appointment; and
d. Non-renewal of an assistantship for arbitrary or capricious reasons, including reprisal for filing a grievance.

2. The decision whether to renew an assistantship, except for the reason listed above, remains within the discretion of the department chair and is not subject to the grievance process. However, if a graduate assistant believes that an assistantship was not renewed because of unlawful discrimination or other unlawful grounds, the graduate assistant may pursue available institution processes, such as access to the campus Equal Employment Office (EEO).

3. Graduate assistants may raise concerns regarding suspected on-campus fraud or fiscal irregularities through the confidential University System of Maryland hot-line mechanisms established in USM Policy VIII - 7.10, "Policy on Reporting Suspected or Known Fiscal Irregularities," the university's fraud reporting policies, and any relevant state or federal "whistleblower" laws.

E. Access to Policy: BSU's graduate assistant grievance policy shall be published on the campus website and included in its graduate assistant handbook.

IV. Professional Development

A. Orientation and Information: BSU shall have a fall and spring orientation for graduate assistants each academic year. During the orientation, graduate assistants will be presented with various information regarding the assistantship program, which will include a description of their duties and responsibilities, eligibility requirements, duration of their assistantship and all relevant policies and procedures applicable to graduate assistantship program.

B. Professional Development Opportunities: Graduate assistants at BSU shall be invited to participate in various on-campus and external professional development programs, including professional conferences, educational and discipline-related seminars, as well as departmental, institutional, and other faculty development events.

C. Information for Graduate Assistant Supervisors: Faculty and staff who supervise graduate assistants shall be required to know and understand the university's policies and procedures for graduate assistants.

1. Each department chair, faculty member, or unit head who supervises a graduate assistant shall have access to the BSU graduate assistant handbook and shall receive a copy of the graduate assistant's appointment letter.

2. The Graduate School Dean shall hold department and unit heads who supervise graduate assistants accountable for adherence to the terms of the student's appointment letter and requirements of the graduate assistant handbook.

D. Changes to Policies and Procedures: Graduate assistants shall be apprised of any changes to relevant policies and procedures on a timely and ongoing basis.

V. Financial Assistance and Benefits

A. BSU shall seek to pay stipends at levels that are competitive with peer institutions, to the extent allowed by available fiscal resources.

B. BSU shall have the discretion to use a variable scale for the rate of pay for master's level and doctoral students.

C. Time Away from Duty: BSU shall provide paid "time away from duty" for graduate assistants as follows:

1. The minimum paid time away from duty for a full-time, graduate assistant is 20 hours per year. Such leave:

a. Is in addition to institution holidays and other days that the institution is closed; and 
b. May be scheduled, with the permission of the graduate assistant's supervisor, at times that do not conflict with the duties of the assistantship.

2. For graduate assistants with appointments of less than 12 months or 20 hours per week, the institution shall establish policies for time away from duty that may include breaks and holidays in the academic year, any specified total hour commitments in the graduate assistant's appointment letter, and other campus-specific factors.

3. Requests for paid time away from duty must be approved by the graduate assistant's supervisor and department chair or unit head with consideration given to the personal needs of the graduate assistant for such leave.

D. Leave for Illness and Emergencies: BSU's graduate assistant policies shall provide for collegial support for short-term illnesses and emergencies.

VI. Shared Governance Participation

A. Communication with Administration: BSU shall provide periodic, formal opportunities for graduate assistants to participate in shared governance through its Graduate Council which serves as policymaking and advisory body to the Graduate School Dean in consideration of all program matters and degree regulations and procedures at the graduate level.

B. Meetings with Administration: The graduate assistant representatives shall have the opportunity to meet with campus administration, including the university's graduate dean and vice presidents for academic affairs and administration and finance, at least twice annually.

C. Role of Graduate Assistant Representatives: As part of their participation in shared governance, the graduate assistant representatives will be:

1. Consulted in the development and implementation of institution policies and procedures related to the administration of assistantships; and

2. Invited to participate in university-wide graduate assistant orientations.

VII. Implementation

Upon recommendation and approval in accordance with Bowie State University Shared Governance Procedures, the provisions of this policy shall become effective and shall be implemented in the fall 2011 semester.

 

Effective Date: 09/01/2011