UH teaching assistant positions may be cut

UH teaching assistant positions may be cut
Published: Nov. 14, 2014 at 10:18 PM HST|Updated: Nov. 15, 2014 at 4:32 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Some University of Hawaii at Manoa graduate students who teach classes fear they'll lose their jobs, which could jeopardize their work toward a PhD and harm the undergraduate students they instruct.

"My job is to teach them. So if you cut my job, you cut their classes" TA Jonathan Whitney said.

There are 180 graduate students who are teaching assistants in the University of Hawaii at Manoa's College of Natural Sciences. They get a tuition waiver and $17,500 a year to teach an average of two classes per semester to about 25 students per class. Whitney and other TAs in the College of Natural Sciences said they have learned TA positions will be cut in the Spring and Fall semesters. He is in his last year and he's worried.

"This means I would have to drop out. And if the budget system doesn't improve, maybe never return," he said.

Biology professor Marguerite Butler said losing TAs would increase class sizes and force some classes to be cut, affecting undergraduates.

"This is going to be a lot of required courses for majors," she said. "That means that students won't be able to register and they'll have a delay in graduation."

Bill Ditto, Dean of the College of Natural Sciences, said a handful of TA positions will be lost in the Spring Semester when some TAs graduate and vacancies go unfilled. In the Fall, 18 of the 180 TA slots in his college could be downsized because of budget constraints.

"TAs are critical towards the undergraduate teaching mission. And so if we don't provide TAs to the students, then we need to provide even more creative ways that the students can interact with the faculty," he said.

Teaching assistant Elaine Luo is from Canada. She said if she loses her TA job she couldn't afford to stay.

"The deficit, I did the calculation, would come out to $9,000 per semester," she said.

Ditto said some TAs could get hired as research assistants. He said UH has had a flat budget the last five years, so ne needs to spend his money wisely.

"We need to look at being able to consolidate more classes, which means we'll need fewer TAs, which means there'll be fewer we would hire," he said.

But Butler said it doesn't add up. Tuition has increased, so where's the money?.

"So we want to know why they didn't plan ahead for it? And why is it being taken out on the students?" she said.

Whitney and other teaching assistants are asking the same question.

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