Graduate Assistantships are essential to the success of the graduate programs at the University of Central Florida. The assistantship not only enables the student to complete their program of study in a timely fashion, but also affords the opportunity to be involved in full-time study at the university. Graduate assistants enliven the academic environment of the university by adding to the community of scholars within the institution. Such students further enliven the academic environment of the university by setting high standards for their fellow students and encouraging the best from their professors. The key reality is that a well-funded Graduate Assistantship program is an important component in the University’s efforts to attract high-quality students.
UCF’s programs of study aim to provide students with a variety of opportunities for professional and scholarly development. Since graduate assistantships give students an opportunity to gain practical experience in teaching, research, or academic service under the guidance of a faculty member or institutional supervisor, these experiences can be a significant and challenging avenue for both professional and academic development. The central reality at UCF is that graduate assistantships are designed to reinforce and enhance their academic development. Thus, service as a graduate assistant presents a dual challenge: those who hold the position are both students and employees.
As Students – GA’s are expected to concentrate on their studies under the direction of faculty or other institutional supervisors and to make satisfactory progress toward their scholarly and professional objectives. The GA relationship should always keep this at the forefront. The GA workload should never become so cumbersome and time-consuming that a student cannot excel in their program of study or the workload increases the time to degree completion. GA’s are also expected to perform well academically to retain the assistantship.
As Employees – GA’s are expected to perform their assigned responsibilities and to both progress and support the work of the unit or department in which the GA is assigned. GA’s should follow all the standard rules of professional conduct. This includes:
- being punctual and fulfilling the required work hours;
- dressing appropriately for the work of the unit;
- communicating with the supervisor and other members of the unit in a professional and courteous manner;
- making effective use of time while at work;
- following the employment policies of the university;
- completing assignments/responsibilities as given; and
- learning about departmental, college, or institutional regulations and follow them consistently.
At the University of Central Florida, our graduate programs are designed to transform the individual from a student to a professional in their field of study. When a graduate assistantship is well-conceived and executed, it should serve as an ideal activity to help facilitate this desired transformation. The primary goal of the assistantship is to facilitate progress toward the graduate degree. The GA process should not interfere or conflict with the student’s educational objective.
Since Graduate Assistants play an important role in the educational and work activities of the university, GA’s should be given assignments and supervision that will help them to grow academically and professionally. In this, their graduate studies and assistantship responsibilities should reinforce each other. Research projects, when possible, should work in concert with their thesis or dissertation. Teaching should give them greater insight into the content of their chosen area of study. Service responsibilities should provide an environment where the student learns more about working in a professional space. To this end, GA’s should not be asked or required to perform such tasks as getting coffee, picking up dry cleaning for their supervisor, or getting a faculty member’s kids from school. The best graduate experience will evolve from careful planning and monitoring to see that both the GA and the university benefit from the relationship.
Graduate Assistant Classifications
At the University of Central Florida, the term Graduate Assistant or GA is a general marker used to classify all the different categories of appointments available to graduate students. Note that Graduate Assistantships are only available to graduate students who have been regularly admitted to a graduate program of study. Students who have been Provisionally Admitted or are enrolled in a Certificate program are not eligible to hold a GA appointment.
Teaching Assistant (GTA)
A teaching assistantship is a graduate student who works under the direct supervision of regular faculty members and may be assigned only to duties related to instruction. These positions are classified as Graduate Teaching Associate, Graduate Teaching Assistant, and Graduate Teaching Grader (See Types of Assistantships). Some GTA’s may not have primary responsibility for a course or serve as the instructor of record, but may assist in the instructional process by serving as a discussion leader in breakout sections, grade papers, proctor exams, or assist the primary instructor of record in other ways. The department chair and graduate program director shall determine that the credentials of a student assigned a teaching assistantship to qualify the individual to assist in instruction activities.
Some teaching assistantships are for advanced graduate students who are given primary responsibility for teaching courses and may have autonomy for assigning grades and providing laboratory instruction/setup as part of a regularly scheduled course. These GTA’s must be under the supervision of a UCF faculty member that teaches in the discipline, but the student may be listed as the instructor of record. Students who have graduate teaching assignments are required to complete UCF GTA training before beginning their assistantships. International students who have graduate teaching associate or assistant positions will need to pass the SPEAK Test administered by the UCF English Language Institute before beginning their assistantships. Depending on their discipline or assignments, graduate research assistants may also have training requirements (for example, lab safety). See Graduate Teaching for more information. The department chair and graduate program director shall determine that the credentials of a student assigned as an instructor of record qualify the individual to undertake the assignment of instruction and must submit all required documentation to the College of Graduate Studies.
Research Assistant (GRA)
This assistant is a graduate student whose responsibilities fit directly within the research efforts of the assigned faculty member, program, or department. A GRA position is one that allows a graduate student to conduct research of a scholarly nature, normally under faculty supervision. Services provided by a research assistant may include, but are not limited to:
- regular maintenance and hygiene of the lab;
- the production and analysis of data;
- the development of theoretical analyses and models; and
- the production or publication of scholarly journals and research reports to develop his or her own research agenda and for the benefit of the University, Faculty, or academic staff supervisor or granting agency.
Graduate Assistant (GA)
This assistant is a graduate student who provides general administrative or service support to academic, non-academic, and administrative units within the University. The assigned duties to the GA should be relevant to the graduate program and the professional goals of the graduate student whenever possible. Work provided by the graduate assistant may include, but is not limited to:
- performing administrative assistant duties such as:
- taking meeting minutes for program level meetings
- organizing and ensuring the completion of essential program paperwork
- handling student inquiries about department degree programs
- organizing administrative details for faculty searches
- assisting program directors with the scheduling of courses for future terms
- helping a department chair with various departmental tasks
- supporting athletic programs/teams with various responsibilities
- providing key support for a variety of student services across the campus
- working for Campus Recreation and Intramurals in a variety of roles
- providing technical or graphic support to program websites or with social media
Term of Assistantship
Please note that it is essential that all university personnel follow proper procedures as it relates to the offers of Graduate Assistantships. Individuals, departments, or institutional units should NOT offer these awards verbally or in writing to a student, or tell the student that they have been recommended for a GA appointment until the student has been regularly admitted into a graduate program. Once formally admitted, an offer of an assistantship may be made by the hiring unit or department.
Acceptance of an offer of financial support such as a graduate scholarship, fellowship, traineeship, or assistantship (excluding offers of admission) for the next academic year by a prospective or enrolled graduate student completes an agreement that both the student and the graduate school expect to honor. In that context, the conditions affecting such offers and their acceptance must be defined carefully and understood by all parties.
Students are under no obligation to respond to offers of financial support prior to April 15; earlier deadlines for acceptance of such offers violate the intent of this Resolution. In those instances in which a student accepts an offer before April 15, and subsequently desires to withdraw that acceptance, the student may submit in writing a resignation of the appointment at any time through April 15. However, an acceptance given or left in force after April 15 commits the student not to accept another offer without first obtaining a written release from the institution to which a commitment has been made. Similarly, an offer by an institution after April 15 is conditional on presentation by the student of the written release from any previously accepted offer. It is further agreed by the institutions and organizations subscribing to the above Resolution that a copy of this Resolution or a link to the URL should accompany every scholarship, fellowship, traineeship, and assistantship offer.
Assistantships are normally available during a given academic year meaning the Fall and Spring semesters. The standard starting date for a graduate assistant shall be one week before the first day of classes and run for 16 weeks total. The standard ending date shall be the last day of final exams.
It is noted that Graduate Assistantships are to provide an opportunity for graduate students to complete their degrees in a timely manner. This is defined by a student progressing normally to degree completion based upon the standards set by the various graduate programs at the University of Central Florida. Normal progression to degree completion will vary by discipline and level of degree.
To this end, Graduate Assistants must meet full programmatic credit hour requirements during the semester in which the GA appointment is held to maintain a graduate assistantship. The specific graduate credit hour load requirement in a given semester will be defined by the program as the GA progresses through the various components of their program of study. For instance, during regular course work, a GA may need to be enrolled in nine (9) graduate credit hours in a given semester. Or during the writing of the dissertation document, a GA may need to be enrolled in three (3) graduate credit dissertation/thesis hours.
Graduate Assistantships are not meant as a support for maximum time frames to degree completion. They are awarded based on normal progression to degree completion. GA’s can contact the College of Graduate Studies regarding specifically how long Graduate Assistantships might be available for specific programs across campus.
Any exceptions to this policy such as it relates to internship requirements or extending time to degree completion standards in a given program to retain a GA appointment require a formal GA extension request to be submitted to the College of Graduate Studies.
International Graduate Assistants are mandated by Federal Law to a maximum of 20 hours of work per week. International GA’s cannot work more than 20 hours per week in the combination of the assistantship and hourly student employment.
Graduate Assistants in all their categories are required to work 20 hours (fulltime) or 10 hours (halftime) per week. Graduate Assistants should begin their work one week prior to the beginning of classes in a given semester. The appointment extends through the final exam week in both the Fall and Spring semesters. Graduate Assistants should not be asked to work during Thanksgiving Week and Spring Break Week. Graduate Assistants are also not required to work during the Winter Break. If supervisors need GA’s to work outside of these weeks, appropriate arrangements need to be made between the GA and Supervisor. Depending on the agreements, appropriate remuneration for the additional work should be addressed.
If a GA cannot work their assistantship hours for reasons out of their control, the student shall provide their supervisor – and a copy to the College of Graduate Studies – with written notice as soon as possible and when appropriate prior to the dates of the requested leave. Leave requests 20 hours and under to have a greater potential of being granted. The notice needs to include the reason for the absence and the dates of the requested leave. When applicable, supporting documents should be provided. Please note that if the GA is requesting an extended leave, the GA risks losing the appointment. In these instances, the student may also incur all additional costs associated with losing the GA appointment. These matters will be decided on a case by case basis.
Jury Duty/Subpoenaed as a Witness – If a Graduate Assistant is called to serve on a jury or as a witness, and is not excused/released, the department must allow the GA to adjust his/her work schedule accordingly. Proof of jury duty services or subpoena showing dates and times of service will be required to turn into their supervisor and should be kept in the student’s personnel file in the department.
Military Service – If a Graduate Assistant is called to Active Military duty, the student is eligible for a withdrawal from the semester without academic penalty and without revocation of their tuition scholarship, if they have one. A copy of the student’s military orders will need to be provided to their supervisor and to the Graduate School in order to not have their assistantship revoked. The student would need to resign their Graduate Assistantship since they will no longer be enrolled and they are unable to fulfill their Graduate Assistantship duties.
National Guard – Supervisors/departments are expected to allow a GA to adjust his/her work schedule to accommodate National Guard duty/training.
FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) – Graduate Assistants do not meet the eligibility criteria for leave under the Family Medical Leave Act. However, students who must resign their graduate assistantship should contact the Graduate School and discuss these matters with their supervisor due to a documented FMLA-type circumstance.
Parental Support and Relief for Graduate Assistants – Graduate assistants who wish to suspend their academic responsibilities because of pregnancy, the birth, or adoption of a child may request parental support or relief during the semester in which the pregnancy, birth, or adoption occurs. This policy applies to graduate students who are current graduate assistants and who are/will be related to the child as mother or father, including domestic partners. If both parents are graduate assistants, this policy applies to both. This policy is not mandatory – if the graduate assistant chooses not to suspend academic responsibilities during the semester of the pregnancy, birth, or adoption of a child, no action is warranted.
Summary of Policy
- The Graduate Assistant must be currently enrolled in an academic program, and in good academic standing.
- The Graduate Assistant shall provide his/her supervisor with written notice not less than thirty (30) days prior to the date of the requested leave, if practicable. In the case of unforeseen/emergency circumstances only, to the extent reasonably possible the graduate assistant must give verbal notice to his/her supervisor at least twenty-four hours prior to taking leave.
- The Graduate Assistant must provide medical or legal documentation of the birth or adoption to his/her supervisor.
- Prior to taking the leave, to the extent reasonably possible, the Graduate Assistant must make all arrangements with course instructors regarding making up coursework during the time of the leave.
- If a student takes a leave from their assistantship due to Parental Support leave, their stipend will be prorated based on the duration of their leave.
- Students who must resign their graduate assistantship before the end of the eighth week of classes due to Parental Support leave will not be counted as receiving a semester of support for the purposes of determining the number of semesters of support.
- If a student is receiving a tuition scholarship, the scholarship will be retained by the student, who will complete all course requirements as determined in item #4 above. If the student withdraws from courses, the student may be required to repay the scholarship amount, as described in current Graduate Assistantship policies.
- The graduate student who remains enrolled shall retain full access to library services, computing services including e-mail and myUCF, health center, sports and performing arts activities, and on-campus housing during the semester of leave, provided the necessary financial obligations are satisfied. If the student withdraws from all courses, the student will lose access to some of these services.
- All graduate students are responsible for determining the implications for eligibility of student loans and loan deferment privileges.
- All graduate assistants are responsible for discussing with their research advisor how a leave would affect time-sensitive research projects and reporting, and the feasibility of resuming the same research project on return from leave. A graduate student may not necessarily be able to resume the same research project after a leave but will have the opportunity to engage in similar research projects on return.
- International graduate students are responsible for determining the implications of leave for fulfilling visa requirements.
Supervisor and GA Relationship
Graduate assistants should work closely with their supervisor in carrying out assigned duties as specified in the student’s job description. At a minimum, this means having regular weekly contact. This regular contact keeps lines of communication and expectations open. Addressing issues early through open communication allows for most problems to be solved easily. Many of the problems that come to the College of Graduate Studies could have been easily addressed by dealing with the issues when they were small and first appeared. It is hard for a GA or a Supervisor to fix a problem if they are not aware that a problem exists.
To get the most from this experience, both the graduate assistant and the supervisor should establish goals early during the term of appointment and work together to achieve them. This also means assessing work experience, in consultation with the supervisor, on a regular basis.
Performance Appraisals – Tracking Development
In the Supervisor and GA relationship, the College of Graduate Studies encourages units or departments to assist in developing essential work and academic skills in the Graduate Assistant. These will vary depending on the type of GA appointment and the unit in which the GA has been assigned.
Evaluation is a crucial part of the assistantship experience. It should be a supportive and constructive process that helps identify strengths as well as weaknesses and develops a plan for improvement.
All Graduate Assistants should receive a formal performance appraisal twice a semester by their supervisor. The first performance appraisal should be done three (3) weeks after the student’s start date and then another appraisal is done at the end of the semester. At any point during the semester, additional performance appraisals may be done at the request of the graduate assistant or their supervisor.
As a first step in the performance appraisal process, the student must be provided a job description and be given clear information by the supervisor about job expectations at the beginning of the employment period and must be informed of the ways in which progress will be measured.
The performance appraisal process involves the student and the supervisor discussing a written evaluation and is intended to be constructive and to serve as an aid to the graduate assistant in correcting any cited performance problems. Following the review, the performance appraisal form will be signed by the supervisor and the graduate assistant. The program coordinator or director needs to sign the form after the evaluation has been done and has been signed by the graduate assistant and their supervisor. Both the student and the supervisor share responsibility for ensuring that the evaluation process is carried out.
The performance evaluation should be kept in the Graduate Assistant’s personnel file in the department.
Whether working in a laboratory, classroom, office, or other setting, graduate assistants must maintain standards of academic honesty and integrity and report any violations of these to their supervisor. Students must also keep well informed of departmental, college, and institutional regulations and follow them consistently.
Graduate Assistants are also to be examples to their peers. As such, they should strive for academic excellence. GA’s are required to maintain a GPA of 3.0. Failure to remain in “Good Academic Standing” at UCF will result in the discontinuation of the Assistantship. The institutional policy is that graduate students have nine (9) graduate credit hours to get their GPA back to a minimum of 3.0 when placed on Academic Probation. GA’s who accomplish this requirement can qualify for a new GA appointment. This would not be automatic nor guaranteed and would happen through the regular application process for all GA’s.
Resignation of a Graduate Assistantship
A graduate student may elect to resign their Graduate Assistantship. If students are carrying a full-time load in their program of study and are maintaining a 3.00-grade average or higher, they may retain their Graduate Tuition Waiver if they have passed the 8-week mark of the semester. GA’s cannot hold “Incomplete” grades in a course for more than one semester. Tuition Waivers awarded under an externally funded grant may be terminated as well if required under the terms of the grant or by university policy.
If a student resigns from their Graduate Assistantship, they must provide written notice to the College of Graduate Studies and to the relevant department or institutional unit providing at least two weeks’ notice. Their stipend will terminate on the day the resignation is effective, or the last day worked if prior to resignation. Payroll will contact the student if any overpayment has been made to the student to work out the repayment of these funds.
If the student is a non-resident and resigns from their Graduate Assistantship, they will be charged tuition at the non-resident rate.
If a GA resigns because they are dropping all classes or dropping below a full-time load in the program of study, the waiver will be revoked and the student will be required to pay all relevant tuition and mandatory fees.
As it relates to these matters, it is essential that GA’s have open communication with their Supervisor so that requests for resignation are only as a result of extreme situations.
Termination of a Graduate assistantship
Termination should be the last resort. The key thing is that a Graduate Assistantship is about developing the person both academically and professionally. Opportunities should be provided to develop the student before termination is considered. The Graduate Assistantship cannot be terminated without appropriate procedures.
Suspension or dismissal of a graduate student from the University for disciplinary reasons will terminate a student’s Graduate Assistantship.
Any member of the University who is found to have engaged in discrimination or harassment that violates University policy or the law will be subject to disciplinary action, including termination or dismissal. Faculty and graduate students should familiarize themselves with the University Discrimination and Harassment Policy under the Office of Institutional Equity. Suspension or dismissal of a graduate student from the University for violation of this policy will terminate a Graduate Assistantship. Other disciplinary actions against a graduate student resulting from a discrimination or harassment complaint may also lead to termination of a Graduate Assistantship.
A Graduate Assistantship may also be terminated for any one of the following reasons:
- their GPA falls below 3.00;
- failure of the comprehensive/qualifying examination;
- unsatisfactory or failing evaluation from a thesis or dissertation defense;
- the semester course load falls below the full programmatic requirement in the program of study in the relevant semester; or
- an allegation of academic or scientific misconduct such as cheating, plagiarism, or falsification of data, has been investigated and verified.
Along with the College of Graduate Studies, departments need to monitor the GPA and enrollment requirements closely. Early recognition of a problem could result in opportunities for professional growth before termination is a consideration.
In addition to the above reasons, a student’s Graduate Assistantship may be terminated when there is substantial written documentation that a student consistently has not carried out work assignments that fall within the description of the assistantship position. Students on Graduate Assistantships are employees of the University for the duration of their appointment. During the appointment period, they have similar protection against unlawful termination afforded other University employees. If a student holds a Graduate Assistantship, the failure to perform work assignments for the Graduate Assistantship can lead to termination of the Graduate Tuition Waiver. Assistantships awarded under an externally funded grant may also be terminated as well if required under the terms of the grant.
Before a department or institutional unit recommends termination, it must follow the appropriate procedures under the guidelines of progressive discipline depending on the nature of the offense. Generally,
- notify the student of the specific nature of the problem or problems, with documentation of non-performance of duties or poor performance of duties;
- allow the student a reasonable opportunity to be heard, whether the student wishes to respond orally or in writing;
- if possible, attempt an informal resolution to avoid termination; and
- give the student written notification of the department’s reasons for recommending termination if an informal resolution cannot be achieved.
After the above steps have been followed, the department shall forward its written recommendation, including the reasons leading to the recommendation, to the College of Graduate Studies for review. The Graduate School and the department or institutional unit to which the graduate student is assigned to have a joint responsibility to ensure that appropriate procedures are followed before the termination. A department cannot terminate an award without the review of the Dean of the College of Graduate Studies, even if the funding is not provided by the Graduate College.
Any graduate assistant who holds or has held a graduate assistantship and who has a complaint or disagreement concerning his or her assistantship has the right to try to resolve it using the grievance procedure as outlined in this section. Such grievances are restricted to only interpretation or application of established policies and procedures governing assistantships; the grievance procedure does not apply to a tuition waiver, stipend adjustments, or matters pertaining to academic performance such as poor grades.
To help the graduate assistant through the entire grievance procedure, two means of support are available at all times: 1) the Assistant Dean of Graduate Student Services is available for consultation, and 2) the graduate assistant may be accompanied by one representative of his or her choice. The College of Graduate Studies is responsible for monitoring the grievance procedures, both informal and formal; it is the Graduate School’s role, in part, to make sure the grievance procedures are followed based upon these policies. The Graduate School will then make recommendations to Human Resources for final decisions.
The important element in this process is that the Grievance Policy is not designed to encourage or provide for formal adjudication of differences or to create a bureaucracy of review. Instead, the policy is intended to provide a fair and uniform set of guidelines by which the grievances of graduate assistants may be heard and resolved. The policy is intended to create a space where grievances can be resolved at the lowest possible administrative level and in the most equitable way. While those seeking redress of grievances have the right of appeal at successive levels of administration, they should recognize that the more formal the review, the more certainly they must bear the burden of proof through appropriate documentation and relevant evidence.
Informal Grievance Procedure
The graduate assistant must seek initially to resolve the complaint or disagreement by informal means. Remember that the Assistant Dean of Graduate Student Services is available for consultation, not only with you but also with your supervisor to help resolve any problems. Resolutions of complaints and disagreements at the informal level are strongly encouraged.
Due to time constraints on the overall grievance procedure, the informal procedure should be pursued promptly. To leave enough time, should a formal grievance be deemed necessary, the informal procedure should be limited to no more than ten (10) working days from when the occurrence of the grievance is first noted.
Official Handling of Complaints
Both as a student and as a Graduate Assistant, you will need to familiarize yourself with two documents pertaining to conduct. The Golden Rule is the university’s policy regarding non-academic discipline of students and limited academic grievance procedures for graduate (grade appeals in individual courses, not including thesis and dissertation courses) and undergraduate students. Information concerning The Golden Rule can be found at www.goldenrule.sdes.ucf.edu/. Section 11, “Student Academic Behavior,” addresses appeals of graduate program actions or decisions. As a GTA you could be the subject of an academic grievance filed by a student. The University-wide academic grievance procedures are found in the Golden Rule student handbook. If a student has a grievance, you should confer immediately with your department head, because there is already in place a system for handling such situations.
The University Ombuds Office provides all members of the university community (students, staff, faculty, and others) an informal, independent, confidential, neutral office that offers assistance and impartial advice regarding concerns related to the University. The University Ombuds Officer will listen to concerns and will facilitate the resolution of problems. All proceedings in individual cases will be held confidential by the Ombuds Officer, unless authorized by the complainant or otherwise required by applicable law, including without limitation, Chapter 119, Florida Statutes. The Ombuds Office is located in Millican Hall, Suite 243, Room 247. The office phone number is 407-823-6440. The Ombuds can:
- Listen to your complaint
- Clarify university policy
- Answer questions concerning appropriate channels
- Assist with problems that have not been resolved by other offices
- Informally look into your complaint
- Make referrals to individuals who can address your concern
- Help define options that are available to you
- Recommend changes to university policy, rules, or procedures that are outdated, unclear, or ineffective
- Open avenues of communication; facilitate conversations
- Offer a SAFE place to discuss your concerns
Harassment and Discrimination
As it relates to matters of both Termination and Grievance, both parties must be considerate of issues of Harassment and Discrimination. Harassment based on protected class constitutes a violation of university policy and may also constitute a violation of civil rights laws. Such harassment will not be tolerated at the University of Central Florida. It subverts the mission of the university and threatens the careers, educational experience and well-being of students, faculty, and staff. Prohibited harassment includes harassment based on race, gender, age, religion, color, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, and veteran status.
Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination and is prohibited by federal regulation. Sexual harassment in academic settings and in the employment area where Graduate Assistants are involved is defined as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, graphic, or physical conduct of a sexual nature when (1) submission to such conduct may be explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of a GA’s academic success or employment; (2) submission to or rejection of such conduct may be used as the basis for employment or academic decisions affecting the GA and the GA’s total educational and/or work experience; or (3) such conduct has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with a GA’s employment or academic performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work or educational environment that is severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive. GA’s who are unsure or are unclear if they are facing harassment or discrimination, contact the Office of Institutional Equity to discuss their concerns.