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I am one of the teaching assistants for a course with multiple TAs. However, the professor keeps sending all the important information regarding the course, like when the exams are, information about assignments, and all other such things only to one specific TA. We, the other TAs, get to know about it only through them.

It might have been easier to understand if the course was offline and that specific TA was somehow more available. But in our case, the course is going on online, and it is just a matter of sending the same email to us also. I tried to ignore this at first, but it starts to get annoying when any information has to go through a middleman before it reaches us.

What might be the reason for professor doing this? Earlier, I was wondering if the professor was somehow annoyed at us, or if we did something wrong; but he seems fine, when I talked to him. What do you think we can do to address this problem?

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    Is this TA senior? Dec 2 '21 at 18:35
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    Does this TA make sure you get the information you need? If so, is there another practical problem resulting from the situation? Dec 2 '21 at 18:41
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    Often times there is a 'lead' TA who talks to the professor. But they also should be holding TA meetings to go over and discuss stuff...
    – Jon Custer
    Dec 2 '21 at 22:23
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    @Azor Ahai -him No, they are not senior to me.
    – Ron
    Dec 3 '21 at 12:26
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    @Snijderfrey Yes, they usually does make sure the information is passed on. The only problem is that, since there was no communication with the professor about this arrangement, it makes it a bit weird for me, atleast. Like, earlier I kept wondering if I did something wrong, and now, if I have to clarify something related to the course, say grading or something, I keep wondering whom I should ask, the other TA (in case they were informed of it earlier) or the professor.
    – Ron
    Dec 3 '21 at 12:33
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I don't find it especially unusual, but would interpret it as mere convenience for the professor. Perhaps he made an agreement with that person to interface with the larger group. A busy person might want such an "assistant".

He may also expect, or at least hope, that your questions will be filtered through this person also, with answers bounced back to everyone as needed.

I don't think there is anything to be done, unless you want to ask him why he does this. Or have a conversation with that "special" TA.

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  • Thanks! Yes, I think I might have been unnecessarily worrying about it. It might just be that the professor is busy, and thought it's more easier for him this way.
    – Ron
    Dec 3 '21 at 12:36
  • I think that the "your questions will be filtered through this person also" is key here (good answer, +1). Sending emails to 10 people carries the risk of receiving 7 answers, and out of these 4 are identical. Filtering through one person will reduce this. I would not say that this is very nice, but certainly very convenient.
    – WoJ
    Dec 3 '21 at 17:57
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At some institutions, it is common that one of the TAs (the senior one, usually) becomes "head TA" or "TA in charge", and their extra-job is to coordinate the other TAs, so that the professor would have a single point of contact. This makes things much easier for the professor.

I'd guess that either this is a common behavior in that institution (for courses with a large staff), or this is the way of the professor to make their life easier by dealing with only one TA instead of having the same conversations many times separately with each TA.

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What do you think we can do to address this problem?

Talk to the professor. Mention that the emails only go to one person and ask if the expectation is that they should forward them immediately to the group, or something else.

For all we know the professor is not that tech-literate and thinks they are on a group email chain or something. Just ask.

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  • And if you know how to do it, offer to set up a group email so the professor can just send everything to one email address and know that all the TAs will receive everything. A lot of non-technical people don't realize that is an option. Dec 3 '21 at 3:49
  • @usul Thank you for the answer. I think that offering to help the professor with the emailing might be a great idea.
    – Ron
    Dec 3 '21 at 12:47
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    As a description of how this could happen: perhaps there was a group list at one point and someone hit reply instead of reply-all once and it turned a group email into a conversation between two. Dec 3 '21 at 18:53

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