U of T's TAs bare all! All images by Bodi Bold

TAs lay bare terms of agreement for the newspaper!

Amy Applebottom
Current degree: MA
Research area: Private sector involvement in prison development (Ontario)
Undergraduate major: BScE Mathematics and Engineering
TA for Life Sciences

What is the best thing about being a TA?
Getting to know the students in my classes.

If you had 5 minutes alone with the Administration, what would you tell them?
All of the money and support the U of T Administration pays to TAs and Course Instructors makes up around 2.1 per cent of the entire U of T budget. Profoundly improving the working, learning, and living conditions for TAs and Course Instructors amounts to pennies for the Administration. Why won't you bargain with us?

When it comes to the Collective Agreement, what is your bottom line?
We need to see movement on all our priorities. Students, TAs and Course Instructors ARE the U of T; we deserve a say in how this university is governed!

What piece of advice can you offer to undergraduate students?
Get involved in student organizations that allow you to shape your education and the city you live in.

What's the best way for undergrads to support their TAs?
Phone Provost Cheryl Misak and Angela Hildyard (Vice President of Human Resources) and tell them how you feel. Tell your friends about what is happening. Then, join us on our picket lines!

Anna Conda (photographed above)
Current degree: PhD
Research area: Plants
Undergraduate major: Biology
TA for third year Geography (UTM)

What is the best thing about being a TA?
Office Hours! Helping students one-on-one; trying to explain and synthesize course material in a way that students can understand.

If you had 5 minutes alone with the Administration, what would you tell them?
Try living in my shoes a couple days, and I'm sure you'll realize why the issues CUPE is bargaining for are not grandiose requests, rather modest ones. We, graduate students, are simply asking for some security in our funding package and better working conditions (i.e., smaller class sizes)--it's not like we're asking you to pay us enough to break above the Toronto poverty line.

When it comes to the Collective Agreement, what is your bottom line?
Funding for upper years.

What piece of advice can you offer to undergraduate students?
It's not all about grades.

What's the best way for undergrads to support their TAs?
Stay positive for us.

Caitlin Cantcooloff
Current degree: PhD
Research area: Global migration of nurses
Undergraduate major: French and Geography
TA for third year Human Geography

What is the best thing about being a TA?
Talking to students. I LOVE when students come to office hours and talk through concepts or assignments, or when we have a vibrant debate in tutorial.

If you had 5 minutes alone with the Administration, what would you tell them?
You clearly don't like students, so why are you in this job?

When it comes to the Collective Agreement, what is your bottom line?
I want a contract that substantively improves the amount of TA-support students receive and ensures more financial security to the end of our degrees. What that looks like is less important; what matters is real solutions to the problems teaching assistants are facing.

What piece of advice can you offer to undergraduate students?
Always work on your writing. It will be one of the best and most useful skills you have no matter what your major or job.

What's the best way for undergrads to support their TAs?
Talk to your friends about what's going on, and, if we strike, join us on the picket lines!

James Joyfulheart
Current degree: PhD
Research area: Climate change, environmental politics, social movements.
Undergraduate major: International Development Studies and Environmental Science (at UTSC!)
TA for second and third year Geography and Centre for the Environment; first year Physical Sciences UTSC

What is the best thing about being a TA?
Challenging and being challenged by students. I teach using a back-and-forth type style, and so am constantly learning as I teach. I'm worried that this type of teaching style will become impossible if the Administration continues to let tutorials balloon in size.

If you had 5 minutes alone with the Administration, what would you tell them?
I would tell them that undergrads pay a lot of money to come to U of T and deserve smaller tutorials and labs. In terms of grad student research funding, we are only trying to get back to where we were three years ago before the Administration started exploiting a loophole in our Collective Agreement that has cost grads thousands of lost dollars they desperately need to pay for rent and student debt payments. I would ask them to listen to the hundreds of letters and emails from undergrads, the thousands of our members, and to the creative ideas we've proposed over the past seven months of negotiations, and to join us in finding solutions to these problems so that they do not force us out onto the street.

When it comes to the Collective Agreement, what is your bottom line?
A fair agreement that deals with the most pressing problems facing undergraduate and graduate students.

What piece of advice can you offer to undergraduate students?
You pay a lot for your education, so demand better from the Administration. Teaching assistants and lab demonstrators make a huge difference to helping undergrads learn and cost the Administration relatively little. So it's time to invest more into teaching and learning. Things are getting worse here at UofT and it's time to take a stand.

What's the best way for undergrads to support their TAs?
Send an email to the Provost Cheryl Misak in support of smaller tutorials and fair funding for graduate students. Visit www.boundlessutoronto.ca

Greg Gallant (photographed above)
Current degree: PhD
Research area: Quantitative and behavioural genetics
Undergraduate major: Honours Animal Biology
TA for third year Evolution and Ecology

What is the best thing about being a TA?
Access to ancient lab equipment I would not normally use

If you had 5 minutes alone with the Administration, what would you tell them?
Having a stipend at the poverty line for Toronto would make a big difference in my productivity.

When it comes to the Collective Agreement, what is your bottom line?
A realistic funding plan for upper year students, funding until 5th year and 8 months, closer to the average PhD completion time for U of T.

What piece of advice can you offer to undergraduate students?
Never take a course with a scantron multiple choice exam.

What's the best way for undergrads to support their TAs?
Let the administration know they are on notice, either voice support for CUPE 3902, or bring up your own issues.

Katie Kissalot
Current degree: PhD
Research area: The politics of work and citizenship in the Alberta oil sands. TA for Human Geography
Undergraduate major: BA Environment and Development

What is the best thing about being a TA?
Well, this photo shoot was pretty fun. But, overall, definitely working with students. It's too bad we don't have more contact time with our students, because the face-to-face time -- working on assignments and thinking through questions -- is the best part of being a TA. I always learn a lot from my students and feel like I am making a positive contribution to what can be a pretty alienating learning environment.

If you had 5 minutes alone with the Administration, what would you tell them?
I've come to inform you that you have been relieved of your duties. This university is now under the control of students and workers.

When it comes to the Collective Agreement, what is your bottom line?
I'm not really thinking about it like that. That's a decision we'll have to make as a membership. For now, we've got a clear set of priorities and I'm still focused on those.

What piece of advice can you offer to undergraduate students?
Get to know your TAs and instructors! We want to support you, and sometimes we even have useful advice. The experience of a huge institution like U of T will be better for all of us if we take the time to get to know each other and work more closely together.

What's the best way for undergrads to support their TAs?
Tell Provost Cheryl Misak what you think: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , 416-978-2122. Then (if we end up there) join us on the picket line. We will be so appreciative!

On February 16, students can join in support of their TAs for a rally in front of the Governing Council meeting, at 3:30 p.m. outside Simcoe Hall (King’s College Circle).

Additional Info

  • Subtitle: Teaching assistants send open message to students, the Administration
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