Policy 30 - Employment of Graduate Student Teaching Assistants

The policies found on the website of the Secretariat are compulsory rules for the university community. The authoritative copies of the policies are held by the Secretariat and bear the seal of the university. The online version accessible through the website of the Secretariat is available for information purposes only. In case of discrepancy between the online version and the authoritative copy held by the Secretariat , the authoritative copy shall prevail. Please contact the Secretariat for assistance if necessary.

Established: 1 May 2014
Revised: 13 December 2022
Supersedes: 1 May 2014
Class: Z
Responsible/Originating Department: Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs
Executive Contact: Associate Vice-President, Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs

Related Policies, Guidelines and Procedures:

Policy 33 – Ethical Behaviour
Policy 40 – The Chair
Policy 70 – Student Petitions and Grievances
Policy 71 – Student Discipline
Policy 72 – Student Appeals
Employment of Graduate Students – Special Arrangements
Graduate Studies Calendar committees:
Graduate Student Relations Committee
Graduate Studies Calendar guidelines on graduate student support
Graduate Studies Calendar guidelines on Resolution of disputes between TAs and instructors and RAs and supervisors

Capitalized terms used in this Policy and its appendices and not otherwise defined in this Policy have the meaning assigned to them in Appendix A.

1. Introduction 

Teaching Assistantships (TAs) are opportunities for academic, personal and professional development for graduate students that enhance the experiences of undergraduate students, complement the work of course instructors (Instructors), and help meet the academic mission, vision, and values of the University of Waterloo (the University). Given the contributions of Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) to the University’s goals, including supporting instructors and facilitating the attainment of the learning outcomes for students, financial compensation is provided for TAs.

Most importantly, TAs constitute a critical element of the University’s ability to deliver high quality classes and academic experiences to its students. As a result, TAs are bound by formal performance expectations, the satisfactory completion of which promotes positive outcomes for all stakeholders.

This Policy describes the terms and conditions that apply to the appointment of GTAs and the administration of TAs held by graduate students at the University. The Policy describes the processes for establishing GTA responsibilities, documenting these responsibilities in Agreements, and addressing Disputes over, or deviations from, the terms of the Agreements.

2. Scope

This Policy applies to:

  • currently registered graduate students at the University performing duties as GTAs in a TA;
  • instructors overseeing the work of the GTA in the TA; and
  • Faculty and staff members responsible for course and TA administration.

The Policy does not extend to any form of graduate funding other than TAs.

Students are encouraged to discuss with their supervisor(s), departments, or programs the possibility of and limits to holding a TA concurrent with other funding. If a conflict arises between this Policy and the requirements of a funding agency (e.g., Tri-Agency), the requirements of the funding agency will apply.

3. Legal Framework

In addition to the above-mentioned “Related Policies, Guidelines and Procedures”, the Policy will be construed in accordance with all applicable law, including:

  • Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005, S.O. 2005, c.11
  • Employment Standards Act, 2000, S.O. 2000, c. 41;
  • Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. F.31
  • Human Rights Code, R.S.O. 1990, c. H.19;
  • Occupational Health and Safety Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. O1;
  • Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997, S.O. 1997, c. 16.

If any applicable legal provisions are modified, abrogated, superseded, or added to, the Policy will be interpreted in accordance with the new legal framework.

4. Purpose

This Policy establishes:

  • the principles governing the administration of TAs and the relationship between Instructors and GTAs;
  • the roles and responsibilities of:
    • the University;
    • those responsible for the administration of TAs at the departmental level (typically the Chair or their delegate, commonly the Graduate Officer) or at the faculty level (typically a person delegated this responsibility by the Dean of the Faculty) (TA Administrators);
    • GTAs; and
    • Instructors;
  • the expectations of these stakeholders related to:
    • communicating TA opportunities;
    • selecting and appointing GTAs;
    • identifying necessary and recommended training and other steps required to prepare for a successful TA;
    • establishing and communicating expectations prior to the commencement of the TA through a formal Agreement;
    • fostering the bidirectional communication of feedback between GTAs and Instructors throughout the TA appointment on their respective performance and consistency with articulated expectations (GTA to Instructor; Instructor to GTA) during the GTA Appointment;
  • the process for resolving Disputes.

5. Principles

This Policy is guided by the following principles:

  • All members of the University community have a shared responsibility to create and to contribute to a healthy and safe working environment.
  • Collegial, frequent, and recurring communication is key to a successful TA, and includes constructive feedback from GTAs, Instructors, students and peers during and at the completion of the TA.
  • A reasonable amount of flexibility may be necessary to meet the needs of the GTA, the Instructor, and the University.
  • It is in the best interests of all parties to address Disputes arising in the TA informally and in a timely fashion, where possible.
  • A commitment to allowing difficult conversations to take place safely and with support from all appropriate stakeholders and ensuring due process in resolving Disputes, without fear of reprisal is beneficial to all parties.
  • Where good faith efforts for the informal resolution of Disputes are not successful, formal processes as described herein are available.

6. Roles and Responsibilities

6.1 The University

The University, through its various administrators and governance committees, has the following responsibilities:

  • to review minimum rates of pay for GTAs annually and publish those minimum rates;
  • to monitor the transparency and fairness of TA application and hiring processes;
  • to require, and where possible provide, the necessary training to support the development and advancement of GTAs in a manner that acknowledges the shared responsibility of GTAs and Instructors for delivering the academic courses and programs of the University;
  • to require transparency and fairness in the application and hiring processes for GTA activities;
  • to require that the terms of a graduate student’s appointment as a GTA including start and end dates, total hours of commitment, rate of pay, and other information specified in Appendix B, are communicated to the GTA in writing (the Letter of Appointment);
  • to require the development of clear and reasonable expectations and terms of agreement for each GTA assignment as specified in Appendix C (the Agreement);
  • to support and facilitate conversations related to the review of GTAs’ concerns about stakeholders’ activities, including those of TA Administrators and Instructors; and
  • to take necessary and appropriate actions to resolve students’ and GTAs’ concerns in ways that acknowledge the power imbalances that exist between stakeholder groups and protect students and GTAs from reprisal.

6.2 The TA Administrator

Administration of TAs occurs in various organizational units at the University, typically at the academic department level but in some instances by a body delegated at the Faculty level. The term TA Administrator applies to any individual or group with responsibilities for TA administration.

TA Administrators have the following responsibilities:

  • to communicate to students and Instructors the necessary qualifications for students to serve as a GTA, and, in some cases, provide the necessary training;
  • to ensure that GTAs have access to a suitable description of course content, ideally through a current course outline, previous Agreements, or through an articulation of course-specific GTA expectations before selection or appointment to a TA;
  • to make transparent to students and Instructors the criteria, primarily a matching of students’ knowledge, skills and competencies to those needed for course delivery, by which GTAs are evaluated and appointed to a TA;
  • to identify and, in some cases, arrange for necessary GTA training which may include mandatory health and safety training or academic elements unique to the delivery of the course;
  • to appoint a GTA whose knowledge, skills and competencies are appropriate for the course in which they will be assisting;
  • to ensure the completion and distribution of the required Letter of Appointment (Appendix B) and to retain that Letter of Appointment for the duration of the term; and
  • to oversee the conduct of end-of-term evaluations of GTA performance, to ensure that the results of those evaluations are communicated to the GTA, and to retain that evaluation for use in future TA appointment processes.

For the duration of the Agreement, the TA Administrator or their delegate has the following responsibilities:

  • to assist (in conjunction with the Instructor) GTAs in locating and accessing University resources and services most likely to help them improve their performance and meet Agreement expectations;
  • to help support the GTA in the development of a plan to improve their performance as a GTA when the evaluation warrants; and
  • to be the first point of contact for GTAs, Instructors and other course support personnel if conflicts or other issues involving the GTA arise, and when appropriate, to take further action under the appropriate University Policy.

6.3 Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs)

GTAs have the following responsibilities:

  • to have completed all training, as required, to qualify to serve as a GTA, including mandatory health and safety training or other academic elements necessary for course delivery;
  • to review the articulated course content, expectations and skills necessary for courses for which GTA opportunities exist, and to identify those TAs for which GTAs believe they are best suited to serve as a GTA;
  • to promptly identify and communicate to the Instructor and/or the TA Administrator potential gaps in their knowledge or skills which might interfere with meeting the expectations of the Agreement, allowing for the creation of a collectively agreed upon plan that articulates the responsibilities for acquiring the necessary knowledge or for arranging an alternative GTA appointment, if available;
  • to inform the Instructor at the earliest possible time (ideally, during the appointment process) of any planned absences during the term and assist the Instructor in ensuring that appropriate course support is available during those absences;
  • to fulfil the duties outlined in, and abide by all provisions of, the Letter of Appointment and the Agreement;
  • to seek feedback regularly on their performance from the Instructor and take steps necessary to improve;
  • to provide timely feedback to the Instructor related to the agreed upon expectations including time dedicated to completing GTA responsibilities;
  • to manage their time, balancing these responsibilities with sufficient attention to their own academic progression towards degree completion; and
  • to reflect upon and review their performance as a GTA and the feedback they have received and, when necessary, develop and implement strategies for improvement where necessary.

6.4 Instructors or Instructional Coordinators

Instructors or Instructional Coordinators have the following responsibilities:

  • in preparation of GTA selection or appointment, to provide a clear articulation of the course content, necessary knowledge and skills, and typical GTA expectations to the TA Administrator who will then make this information available to graduate students;
  • when considering the GTA appointment, to discuss with the GTA the specific expectations for the course, both academic and procedural, and ensure those expectations are documented in the Agreement (Appendix C);
  • to ensure that the GTA has sufficient resources to complete their duties;
  • to evaluate the GTA’s performance during the term, providing ongoing, timely, and constructive feedback; and
  • to provide a summative evaluation of the GTA’s performance at the end of the term.

7. Process of Appointing Graduate Teaching Assistants

7.1 Publishing TA Opportunities

TA Administrators shall make all reasonable efforts to provide students with the list of courses for which TAs will be available for the upcoming term, consistent with the requirements outlined in section 6, above. There is a benefit to students and Instructors to have the GTA appointment process completed as early as possible, and to this end a suggested timeline by which appointments should be made is included in Appendix D.

7.2 Appointing GTAs

TA Administrators are authorized by the offering unit’s Chair or Faculty Dean to appoint the GTA. Selection of GTAs is based on the following criteria:

  • the need to deliver courses as determined by the offering units;
  • matching GTA knowledge, skills and competencies to course requirements;
  • obligations to provide graduate student financial support;
  • graduate students’ academic obligations occurring in the term; e.g., comprehensive exams, field work, or conference presentations;
  • input from Instructors;
  • past performances as a GTA, including recurring or exceptional cases of previous unsatisfactory performance of GTAs, and including any contravention of University policy or procedures; and
  • other criteria consistent with the principles of this Policy that are clearly communicated to all stakeholders during the appointment process.

As noted in Section 1, TAs are key components of delivering high quality academic experiences for students. Acknowledging this, recurring or exceptional cases of unsatisfactory performance by a GTA can result in the GTA being precluded from serving as a GTA in subsequent terms, forfeiture of GTA funding, or loss of guaranteed minimum graduate student financial support. Unsatisfactory performance may invalidate commitments made to the student in their Offer of Admission.

The choice between appointing undergraduate or GTAs shall be made based on pedagogy, acknowledging that situations will arise in which an insufficient number of GTAs may be available or when undergraduate students may be best equipped pedagogically to serve as teaching assistants for the course.

7.3 Failure to Respond

A graduate student who does not respond to an offer of a GTA appointment within the time limits set by the offering unit is considered to have declined the appointment. This will be interpreted as the graduate student forgoing the funding opportunity. In cases where it is determined that a graduate student has foregone the funding opportunity, this outcome supersedes the funding commitment made to students in their Offer of Admission.

7.4 Declined Offers

Graduate students who are considering declining an offer of a TA should understand the financial implications of their decision. Declining a TA may be considered declining a funding opportunity that will result in a revision of the University’s funding commitment made initially in the student’s Offer of Admission. Graduate students declining a GTA shall convey their decisions in writing to the TA Administrator and to their Supervisor(s). Where declining a TA results in a revision to a student’s funding, that outcome shall be communicated in writing to the student.

7.5 Letter of Appointment

GTA appointments shall be communicated to the graduate student in writing. Required elements of the Letter of Appointment are included in Appendix B.

7.6 Alternate Arrangements

7.6.1 Reassignments

If a graduate student is appointed to a TA for which they believe themselves to be unsuited, the student will inform the TA Administrator in a timely manner. Given the joint purposes of GTA appointments (to provide learning opportunities for students and to help deliver the University’s academic mission), all parties shall engage in efforts to support the GTA in gaining the necessary skills and knowledge required for course delivery. If possible, reassignment of students to alternate TAs will be considered, at the discretion of the TA Administrator.

7.6.2 Declined or Discontinued Appointments, and TA Accommodations

In cases where a graduate student is not able to accept a TA or complete their TA duties during a term due to health issues, personal situations, or other reasons that warrant consideration from the TA Administrators and Instructors, the student may seek alternative arrangements including rescheduling a forthcoming TA Appointment, temporary leaves from an existing TA, or a discontinuation of an existing TA.

For health concerns or disabilities, and other circumstances that may warrant accommodation by the University, the student is encouraged to contact AccessAbility Services, if the situation affects the student’s academic role more generally, or Occupational Health, if the situation relates only to the student’s role as a GTA, to discuss the services available to support the student and plan their next steps including the submission of confidential medical documentation. The appropriate resolution of the student’s TA appointment will include collaboration between the GTA, the

GTA’s supervisor, the Instructor (if known), and the TA Administrator, considering the student’s well-being, their financial support, and their academic progression.

7.7 Recourse for GTAs

GTAs should seek the advice and support of the TA Administrator when they encounter problems or difficulties in their TA work. TA Administrators will use their discretion to determine if and how GTA concerns will be addressed.

Disputes between GTAs and Instructors are resolved through the dispute resolution process established in this Policy.

If a GTA believes that a decision of a University authority or the action of a faculty member or staff member of the University related to their TAs has been unfair or unreasonable, the GTA may file a grievance in accordance with the procedures set out in Policy 70 – Student Petitions and Grievances. Alternatively, if a GTA believes that they have extenuating circumstances that warrant exceptions from the decisions made in regard to the TA process, the GTA may petition that decision under Policy 70.

8. Content and Handling of the Agreement between a GTA and an Instructor

8.1 The Agreement

An Agreement (see Appendix C) shall be established and executed for all GTA appointments, to clearly define expectations of all parties in areas including time commitments, contributions to course delivery, and appropriate timeframes for responding to communications.

For each item contained in the Agreement, the Instructor and the GTA shall agree if the element is mandatory, recommended, or optional; and the Instructor and the GTA, when appropriate, shall establish estimated time requirements for each element. The content of the Agreement may change when necessary, but shall be discussed by the GTA and the Instructor before the changes become requirements.

Mandatory and recommended elements of the Agreement are listed in Appendix C. The Agreement will normally be drafted not later than five business days prior to the first course meeting and finalized not later than the first course meeting.

8.2 Hours

Unless otherwise specified in the Letter of Appointment, GTAs shall not be required to work more than 10 hours per week, on average, in the TA.

The Agreement will describe how to resolve situations when the GTA’s actual total time commitment is substantially less than or greater than 10 hours per week (or the time period specified in the Letter of Appointment). Options in the former case include identifying additional duties for the course or the offering unit (e.g., proctoring exams in courses other than the assigned course). In the latter case, the GTA will provide regular updates at agreed upon intervals to the Instructor on the time taken by the GTA to meet the Agreement expectations. If the GTA and the Instructor anticipate that the GTA may approach or will continue to exceed the maximum number of work hours per week, then possible resolutions may include reduced responsibilities for the GTA or increased financial support to match the actual number of hours worked, as agreed upon on a case-by-case basis. In these cases, the Instructor and the GTA are encouraged to consult with the TA Administrator.

8.3 Training

GTAs are often expected to engage in training or learning exercises to prepare for the TA. If the learning outcomes of these requirements have value beyond the TA, then the time taken for these activities shall not be considered part of the term allotment of TA hours. If the training or learning is unique to the TA and has limited value outside of the course, then the time required for these activities shall be considered part of the TA hour allotment.

Disagreements on the value of training and its eligibility for compensation between the GTA and the TA Administrator should be resolved collegially. Where this is not possible, the TA Administrator shall decide.

9. Dispute Resolution

Concerns between an Instructor and a GTA, including concerns raised by students enrolled in a class which are brought to the Instructor’s attention, may arise from misinformation or a lack of understanding, an action that has been based on incorrect facts, or an action/decision that is inappropriate and should be modified. Instances in which concerns between the Instructor and GTA arise and require resolution shall be considered a Dispute. In such cases, the University is committed to the following:

  • GTAs have the right to question decisions, in confidence and without reprisal or fear of reprisal.
  • Real and perceived power imbalances should be acknowledged and taken into account in all processes under this Policy.
  • Questions, concerns, and debate are healthy and encouraged.
  • Collegial and on-going communication is key to the success of the TA.
  • It is in the best interests of all to address concerns in good faith, informally, and in a timely manner.
  • Timeliness is especially important in circumstances that affect the present-time delivery of course offerings; however, longer term impacts of present decisions remain important considerations when resolving disputes.
  • A complainant has the right to proceed to a formal review of a Dispute if preliminary efforts at resolution prove unsuccessful or to bypass the preliminary stages and proceed directly to the formal stage.
  • The outcomes of this dispute resolution process may be grieved under Policy 70. See section 9.5.
  • Every person involved in a dispute resolution process will hold all matters in confidence and conduct themselves in a professional manner.
  • Resources are available to assist with the resolution of Disputes, including the mediation services of the Conflict Management and Human Rights Office.

The dispute resolution process is confidential, effective, and fair, and can include up to three steps or phases, if necessary:

  • The initial discussion phase, between the Instructor and the GTA, in which the parties can informally resolve Disputes arising from miscommunication, misunderstanding, misinformation, or actions/decisions that were inappropriate and should be modified;
  • The expanded discussion phase which includes the TA Administrator, if the initial discussions do not resolve the Dispute. This phase may also include input from the department Chair or their delegate (e.g., the Graduate Officer) when the Dispute concerns the actions of the Instructor.
  • The formal review phase, in which the case is heard and a resolution decided upon by the Dean of the Faculty or their delegate.

The GTA has the right to initiate a formal review at any stage and bypass the initial and expanded discussion phases.

9.1 Mediation

Involvement of a third-party mediator may be useful in reaching a resolution when agreed upon by the GTA and the Instructor. Trained mediators can be accessed through the Conflict Management and Human Rights Office and Human Resources. Possible outcomes from mediation are the same as those articulated in section 9.3.2.

9.2 Advice and Support

At any step of the dispute resolution process, the Instructor and/or GTA are entitled to receive the assistance of, and may be accompanied by, a support person of their choosing. The role of the support person is to provide moral and emotional support. For GTAs, the support person is typically a fellow student, a member of the Graduate Student Association (GSA), a friend, or family member. The support person has no official role or standing in the process.

The GSA can also provide advice, guidance and support to the GTA, and facilitate communication between the GTA and other stakeholders.

Lawyers may be consulted for advice, but lawyers will not play an active role in the dispute resolution process. Anyone has the right to start a legal action. However, if the GTA or Instructor starts legal action relating to the Dispute or takes the issue to an external agency (e.g., the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario), the dispute resolution process under this Policy may cease at the discretion of the University.

9.3 Dispute Resolution Phases

9.3.1 Initial Discussion between the GTA and the Instructor

Where a Dispute arises between the GTA and the Instructor, an informal resolution should be sought through a conversation between the parties, guided by the terms of the Agreement.

Possible outcomes of this informal stage are:

  • a resolution of the dispute to the satisfaction of the GTA and the Instructor that includes an updating of the Agreement to reflect revised future expectations; or
  • a conclusion that some other method of resolving the issue should be pursued (e.g., addressing the matter under another appropriate policy, or moving to the next phase of the dispute resolution process).

A TA appointment shall not be terminated as a result of this stage in the dispute resolution process.

If a resolution is not reached, or if this stage is bypassed, the TA Administrator should be engaged to assist with the efforts towards resolution, unless the GTA chooses to proceed to the formal review phase.

9.3.2 Expanded Discussion Including the TA Administrator

This phase is initiated by the GTA or Instructor informing the TA Administrator of the Dispute, and that the initial discussions between the GTA and the Instructor have not led to a resolution. If the Dispute involves actions of the Instructor, this phase may include input and direction from the person to whom the Instructor reports, normally the Chair (or their delegate (usually the Graduate Officer) from the unit offering the course. These communications may be oral or written and must relay the outcome of the initial discussions between the GTA and the Instructor.

The TA Administrator will meet with the GTA and Instructor to discuss the Dispute and attempt resolution. Possible outcomes of this informal stage are:

  • a resolution of the dispute to the satisfaction of the GTA and the Instructor that may include an updating of the Agreement with revised expectations;
  • an agreement that some other method of resolving the issue should be pursued; or
  • the termination of the TA appointment.

If the situation arises where an Instructor’s ability to deliver the course is negatively impacted by the dispute resolution process, the GTA’s responsibilities may be suspended, with pay, while a mediation or formal resolution takes place. The TA Administrator may appoint an interim GTA to support the course, as necessary.

9.3.3 Formal Review by the Dean or their Delegate

If the discussion phases and assistance of third-party mediators have not resolved the Dispute, or if the GTA has chosen to bypass these phases, the GTA or the Instructor has the right to request a formal review of the Dispute by the Dean of the Faculty offering the course, or their delegate, who will then be the Decision Maker resolving the Dispute. The formal review is informed by the principles of natural justice, ensuring fairness and due process and acknowledging the power differential between GTAs and Instructors. The GTA is assured that the formal review is confidential and there is no possibility of reprisal.

9.3.4 Time Limits

Timeliness is critical to the fair resolution of Disputes. The GTA or Instructor requesting a formal review (the complainant) must initiate this phase within 10 working days of either the event which is the basis of the Dispute or determination that the previous phase of dispute resolution has been unsuccessful.

The Decision Maker may alter any time limit established in this procedure. In deciding whether to grant an extension, the Decision Maker will consider the adequacy of the reasons given for the extension and any prejudice that may result from an extension. If an extension of time is granted to one party, the Decision Maker will inform the other party.

If a party is not able to deliver documents or other materials required for the formal review by the deadlines stipulated by the Decision Maker, the party may request an extension of time. The request will be made in writing to the Decision Maker prior to the deadline and will include the reasons for the requested extension and the length of the extension sought. If a party fails to submit documents and materials as required, a decision may be rendered without reviewing the documents/materials.

If the formal review timeline extends to the point of impeding the Instructor’s ability to deliver the course, the GTA’s responsibilities may be suspended with pay, pending the outcome. In these circumstances, the TA Administrator may appoint interim GTA(s) to support course instruction as necessary.

9.3.5 Submission of Documents

Documents required for the formal review may be delivered personally or by email and must include current and accurate contact information.

The complainant’s request to initiate the formal review must be accompanied by the delivery to the Decision Maker of all significant documents needed to understand the Dispute. These documents must include:

  • a copy of the Agreement;
  • an explanation of the event(s) leading to the Dispute;
  • the components of the Agreement, this Policy, or professional standards that are not being met;
  • a description of the preceding unsuccessful phases of the dispute resolution process, or an explanation of why the initial phases were not possible in this case;
  • the outcome sought;
  • the names of any potential witnesses and a summary of what they are expected to report;
  • the name of any accompanying support person; andall supporting documents/evidence available to assist the Decision Maker.

If the GTA’s health is of concern during the dispute resolution process, the GTA is encouraged to contact the University services and resources that can provide the support they need, along with confidential management of health documentation the GTA might wish to share with the Decision Maker.

Within five business days of the receipt of the above-noted documents and materials from the complainant, the Decision Maker will share the documents/materials with the responding party, unless there is a clear reason, as determined by the Decision Maker, why this would be inappropriate or would violate confidentiality (e.g., personal health information). The responding party will be asked to submit a reply which includes:

  • an explanation of event(s) leading to the Dispute;
  • the preferred outcome;
  • the names of any potential witnesses and a summary of what they are expected to report;
  • the name of any accompanying support person; and
  • the supporting documents/evidence available to assist the Decision Maker.

Within five business days of the receipt of the reply, the reply will be shared with the complainant.

Based on the information provided, the Decision Maker will either:

  • request additional information from the parties, the witnesses listed by the parties, or any other source, until the Decision Maker has sufficient information to resolve the Dispute; or
  • render a decision on an appropriate resolution of the Dispute.

Decisions (including reasons for the decision) will be sent to the parties and University departments with a legitimate need to know within ten days of the close of submissions.

9.3.6 Outcomes

In determining the most appropriate resolution of the Dispute, the Decision Maker will consider the following:

  • immediate needs, including those of the GTA, the Instructor, and the students in the course in question, among others;
  • long-term solutions to significant issues identified through the dispute resolution process; and
  • the importance of relationships in the TA environment, and reasonable efforts that should be made, where applicable and possible, to improve or repair relationships that may have been strained by the Dispute.

The Chair or TA Administrator may be consulted to assist in the determination of the best possible path forward in the circumstances, considering the needs of the department or offering unit.

Possible outcomes of the formal review are:

  • a resolution of the Dispute to the satisfaction of the GTA and the Instructor that may include updating the Agreement with revised expectations; or
  • the termination of the TA appointment.

9.4     Impacts of a Suspended or Terminated TA appointment

If a TA appointment is suspended during the dispute resolution process, the suspension will end in one of the following ways:

  • If the end date of the original appointment is reached (i.e., the academic term has completed) and the Dispute remains unresolved, then the funding support to the GTA shall be deemed to have been met. In this case, the dispute resolution process may also be terminated with the agreement of both the GTA and the Instructor. If either party wishes for the dispute resolution to continue, the process will be followed to completion.
  • If the Dispute is resolved before the end date of the appointment, and it is determined that the GTA has met the Agreement expectations:
    • The TA appointment will not be terminated;
    • The GTA is guaranteed the opportunity to receive the full amount of financial support recorded in the Letter of Appointment by:
      • Being reinstated to the current course at the discretion of the Instructor;
      • Being reassigned to alternative TA responsibilities by the TA Administrator; or
      • Receiving outstanding support without additional responsibilities.
    • The GTA’s end of term performance evaluation by the Instructor shall not mention the Dispute in a manner that could reasonably be considered prejudicial to the GTA, and potentially have a negative impact on their future TA opportunities.
  • If the Dispute is resolved after the end date of the appointment, and it is determined that the GTA has met the Agreement expectations:
    • The GTA will have received the full compensation articulated in the Letter of Appointment; and
    • The GTA’s end of term evaluation by the Instructor shall not reference elements of the Dispute in a manner that could reasonably be considered prejudicial to the GTA, and potentially have a negative impact their future TA opportunities.
  • If the dispute resolution process concludes with a finding that the GTA has failed to meet the expectations of the Agreement:
    • The Decision Maker will make a recommendation, informed by the considerations outlined in 9.3.3, to the TA Administrator as to whether the TA appointment should be terminated.
    • If the recommendation is received before the end date of the Appointment, the TA Administrator in consultation with the Instructor shall decide whether to terminate the TA appointment.
    • If the recommendation is received after the end date of the Appointment, the original Appointment will be considered complete (i.e., not terminated).
    • In both cases, the Instructor may provide summative feedback in the GTA’s performance evaluation related to the unmet expectations that may be considered in possible future appointments for the GTA.
    • If, in the judgement of the TA Administrator, the GTA’s performance or actions that led to termination of their appointment constitute a violation of University policy, or rise to a level of concern that makes them unfit for future appointments this decision shall be communicated in writing to the GTA and their supervisor within five days of the TA Administrator’s decision. This decision supersedes previous funding commitments including those in the student’s Offer of Admission.

10. Petitions and Grievances

As noted in section 7.7 (“Recourse for GTAs”), if a GTA believes that a decision of a University authority or the action of a faculty member or staff member of the University related to the TA has been unfair or unreasonable, the GTA may file a grievance in accordance with the procedures set out in Policy 70 – Student Petitions and Grievances. Reinstatement to a TA that has been terminated through the formal process described above is not a potential outcome from a grievance, but other remedies may be available.

Appendix A


In this Policy, the following terms shall have the following meanings:

Agreement” means the agreement between the GTA and Instructor on the elements of the course that the GTA is responsible for and the hours that will be dedicated to each task (Appendix C).

Decision Maker” means the Dean of the Faculty (or delegate) in which the TA is based.

“Dispute” means a concern(s) between an Instructor and a GTA related to a TA.

Graduate Teaching Assistant” or GTA means a graduate student who has been appointed to be a teaching assistant for a course.

“Instructor” means the individual(s) who is responsible for leading the administration and delivery of course material. The Instructor establishes responsibilities for GTAs in ways that are consistent with the principles articulated in this Policy. Instructors can include regular faculty, sessional, as well as instructional and technical staff, as appropriate.

“Instructional Coordinators” are those who are responsible for leading the administration and delivery of courses with multiple Instructors, instructional support staff, and multiple GTAs, with diverse responsibilities.

Letter of Appointment” is the document from the TA Administrator to the GTA that specifies the course to which the GTA is assigned, the total hours allocated to the GTA for the term, the hourly rate of support, and other administrative items, as appropriate. See Appendix B.

Offer of Admission” means the document that a graduate student receives at the time of admission that specifies, among other items, the funding levels and methods that reflect the University’s commitments and the conditions under which those funding commitments may change.

TA Administrator” means the person responsible for the administration of teaching assistantships, including the issuance of the GTA Letter of Appointment, at the departmental level (typically the Chair or their delegate, commonly the Graduate Officer) or at the Faculty level (typically a person delegated this responsibility by the Dean of the Faculty).

“Teaching Assistantships” or TAs means a position typically provided to graduate students in recognition of their support in delivering the educational mission of the University, including course/laboratory/tutorial material. In some cases, TAs may be part of a student’s funding commitment from the University articulated in the Offer of Admission.

Appendix B

Elements in a Letter of Appointment The Letter of Appointment must contain the following information:

  • That Policy 30, which can be found at the Secretariat’s website, governs the TA.
  • The start and end dates of TA.
  • The hours expected per week for a TA, normally not to exceed 10 hours per week on average.
  • The financial support for the term resulting from the GTA.
  • The requirement that the Instructor meet and discuss with the GTA student to complete a Graduate Teaching Assistantship Agreement, which will form part of the teaching assistantship appointment.
  • The general criteria used in selecting graduate students as GTAs, should be either directly indicated in the letter or provided on a website with the appropriate link in the letter (see sections 6 and 7 of Policy 30).
  • That the TA offer is subject to the maintenance of satisfactory academic standing in the graduate program, as defined in the Graduate Studies Calendar, and on satisfactory completion of the assigned duties of the TA.
  • That the offer is expressly contingent upon the University receiving regular confirmation, if required by Service Canada, of the GTA’s continuing eligibility for employment in Canada. Loss of either “confirmation,” if required by Service Canada or Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) status (i.e., work permit and/or permanent residence) will render the appointment null and void.
  • Failure to engage in the TA by the appointment start date may result in its termination without further notification.
  • That the Centre for Teaching Excellence (CTE) is a resource for learning teaching strategies.
  • That the Graduate Student Association (GSA) is a support resource for GTAs.
  • The following text that addresses the University’s information and privacy practices:

Under the Authority of the University of Waterloo Act (1972), the University processes information – including personal information recorded about an identifiable individual – for the purposes of operating the programs and business functions of the University. This collection, use, disclosure, retention, and destruction of information is done in compliance with (1) applicable Ontario and Canadian federal privacy legislation (e.g., Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act,Personal Health InformationProtection Act,Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act), as well as in accordance with (2) University of Waterloo policy and guidelines regarding privacy (e.g., Policy 46,Notice of Collection, website privacy statement). Learn more about University of Waterloo Information and Privacy. For further information regarding the collection, use, and disclosure of personal information of a GPA, contact GraduateStudies and Postdoctoral Affairs. Questions about information and privacy more broadly at the University should be directed to the Privacy Officer at fippa@uwaterloo.ca.

Appendix C

Elements in a Graduate Teaching Assistant Agreement Between GTA and Instructor of the course

The following elements shall be contained in the Agreement:

  • Expectations regarding class attendance;
  • Expectations regarding delivering course content during regular course meetings;
  • Expectations regarding exam proctoring – including midterm(s) and finals;
  • An estimate of the number of elements that require marking, the extent and type of feedback to be provided, and the timeframe for completing the marking and communicating results to students;
  • Expectations for the timeliness of email responses, in-person communications, posting to discussion boards on e-platforms, etc.;
  • Expectations regarding meetings with the Instructor – frequency and duration of communications; and
  • Expectations around confidentiality and professional conduct.
  • The University’s commitment to allow difficult conversations to take place safely and with support, due process, with references to Policy 30.

The following elements are recommended for inclusion in the Agreement, as applicable to the nature of the course being delivered.

  • Expectations regarding leading or participating in tutorials – roles, number and duration;
  • Expectations regarding leading or attending labs – roles, number and duration;
  • Expectations regarding populating and monitoring online learning platforms – roles and responsibilities;
  • Expectations regarding supporting the Instructor in the development of assignments – solving/confirming/generating solutions;
  • Expectations regarding participation in field work or experiential learning support including timing and hazards; and
  • Other duties in support of the department/unit.

Expectations” include responsibilities assigned to the Graduate Teaching Assistant under section 6 and section 8 of the Policy.

Appendix D

Dates of Appointment:

The dates by which appointments are made shall be clearly communicated to students and will normally be guided by the completion of the undergraduate course selection periods. For continuing graduate students, the Letter of Appointment should be delivered as near to the following dates as possible:

15 August for Fall Term (September)

15 December for Winter Term (January)

15 April for Spring Term (May)

For newly admitted graduate students (those beginning their programs), academic units are encouraged to begin the appointment process as early as possible.