16

I am creating all homeworks, quizzes (two per week), exams (2x75 questions), review questions (2x75), projects, 20-page lecture notes (two per week), and answering all student e-mails, along with grading, every week for a large class.

The professor is new to this course and only has the lecture slides ready by Friday night so I am expected to prepare everything for the week within a few days. The professor has created no content for this course at all, and I put in at least 40 hours a week.

For context, I am a biotechnology graduate student at a large R1 US university. My contract says that I am paid $15/hr and set at 20 hours a week.

Is the professor allowed to have me doing this much work?

  • 1
    Also check your visa (if applicable) and pay. – Anonymous Physicist Sep 28 at 1:33
  • I was a TA as well, and when one course took me more time than it should, I repeately brought it up with the professor. His first answer was to "scale down quality" of my teaching/grading, so it takes less time. But eventually I could convince him to take down my load. – Lot Sep 28 at 9:06
33

The professor has created no content for this course at all, and I put in at least 40 hours a week. Is the professor allowed to have me doing this much work?

It depends on the individual university, but in practice almost certainly not. I a math professor in the United States, and by that standard this sounds absurd. From what I can tell, the professor's behavior is completely out of line.

When I was a TA, I was responsible for: running discussion sections, holding three office hours a week, grading, and answering emails. And, if I felt nice (which I generally did), running review sessions before exams. That's it. I was not responsible for creating any of the content for the course.

I would recommend making an immediate appointment with the graduate director, and asking what the expectations of your TA role are. Remember that, as a graduate TA, the graduate director is your boss, not the professor for whom you teach. If your graduate director tells you that writing exams or preparing lecture notes is not within the scope of your duties, then you can and should ignore any requests from the professor to do it anyway.

Good luck to you!

| improve this answer | |
  • 3
    I mean don't just start ignoring stuff without saying anything. If you just never wrote the midterm, it won't make your situation better for this jerk of a prof to find out. – Azor Ahai -him- Sep 28 at 2:48
  • 1
    I appreciate your response, especially because you are a professor. I did not consider who my actual boss was, thank you! – Stacy Sep 28 at 3:20
  • > When I was a TA, I was responsible for: running discussion sections, holding three office hours a week, grading, and answering emails. And, if I felt nice (which I generally did), running review sessions before exams. That's it. I was not responsible for creating any of the content for the course. That's exactly how I'm expected to act currently, as I typically TA for one graduate course per-year at a private, US-based institution. Thanks for the focus on leadership's role to set expectations. – Jason R Stevens CFA Sep 28 at 14:15
  • 1
    I think this is the only right answer, however as nothing was mentioned here: Did you talk to your professor and indicate that your workload is much higher than what you are paid for and that you never had to prepare such stuff previously? In case you have not I would talk to him instead of directly going to the director to see if he might not be aware of what he is causing? – JennyH Sep 29 at 12:18
14

In most institutions, a TA position comes with an associated number of hours per week the be expended. In some cases, the TAs are actually paid by the hour, required to file timecards. In other cases (like my own Ph.D. experience), the TAs are given a number of credit-hours, just as though being a TA is taking a course (and it often is effectively a course on how to teach).

In either case, you first need to find out from your employer (the department, not the instructor) what the actual expectation is. Typically this will be somewhere between 5 and 24 hours per week---the lower end tends to be "grader only" TAs, the upper end for more extensive responsibilities like yours. If you are regularly working a lot more than that (as it sounds like you are), then something is wrong. Maybe you are being given too much work, maybe you are not working efficiently---it is impossible to tell without knowing your far more about you and your situation.

What I would recommend, however, is to start by spending the next week or two documenting the actual hours you work on each task, and then bring that to the instructor for a discussion about how to address the issue. If they are not receptive, then the next step is your department leadership.

| improve this answer | |
  • 4
    My situation is unique. I was the TA for this course last semester, but the professor passed away 2 months before the start of this semester's course. The new professor has decided to bring in a new style to the course along with completely new information, which I respect, but as a TA it is hard to create content for a course I technically never took. I only graded and held tutor sessions in my previous TA positions. As a student working on my thesis and taking a full course load as well as being a TA for two courses, time management is my best friend, I truly did not expect this workload. – Stacy Sep 28 at 3:27
  • 3
    @Stacy You may want to add that information to the question as well - knowing the circumstances may not change the answer to "should I be doing this much work?" but it might change how folks suggest you proceed in doing something about your situation. Was the new professor planning to teach any sessions of this particular course this semester, or were they perhaps asked on short notice to cover a class that they didn't have any material prepared for? – A C Sep 28 at 19:33
1

The two salient points here are: "I put in at least 40 hours a week" and "I am paid ... 20 hours a week", which is a mismatch and you shouldn't be required to do so much.

The follow-up question is whether you are paid for 20h/wk annually and required to do extra during semester/term? Is the workload exceptionally high right now at the start of term, but will calm down in the coming weeks?

In either case you should talk to your professor first and explain that this is a very large amount of work to complete and goes well beyond your contracted hours (in the short term at the minimum). Listen to what they say in reply and what changes they propose and see if you can resolve it between yourselves. If you are unable to resolve it between yourselves after following up on the changes you agree then you can raise it higher within your department. I would personally avoid escalation before taking the chance to discuss it with your professor and ensuring it's not a simple misunderstanding or poor-estimate from their side.

| improve this answer | |

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.