The Teaching Assistants’ Association sent a letter to the University of Wisconsin administration requesting UW increase COVID-19 relief efforts across campus.
TAA wrote in the letter that while they appreciate the university’s quick response efforts to the pandemic thus far, there are several areas in its aid the university needs to improve on. Over 900 members from TAA and other allies have signed the letter.
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TAA requested UW expand the pass/fail grading policy to all courses, waive segregated and International Student fees, offer pay continuation for all student hourly workers, provide funding for mental health to students who have left the state, suspend rent requirements for University Apartments and extend the course drop deadline to May 1.
TAA said they would like a response from the university outlining how they will address these issues by March 31.
“This letter is a direct expression of countless conversations and concerned messages, and the tremendous support it has received in a matter of days indicates the breadth and depth with which these demands are felt,” TAA wrote in an email to the Badger Herald.
TAA has created a Mutual Aid Fund to help graduate students in need during this time. TAA said though the fund and students’ willingness to help represent the strong sense of community felt on campus, the fund would not be necessary if their demands were met by the university.
“Since this pandemic began, the TAA has received a deluge of inquiries and stories from struggling grads expressing the ways in which the transition has impacted them — lost income, a partner’s loss of employment, increased mental stress, difficulty caring for elderly relatives or young children while conducting research,” TAA wrote in the email.
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The university released an expanded pass/fail option for many online classes — however, it does not cover all courses at this time. Students now have until May 22 to choose to replace the grade they received in a qualifying course with a pass/fail mark, according to the university’s statement.
UW has also offered pay continuation for the weeks of March 23 and March 30 to student hourly workers who cannot work remotely. Student hourly employees will receive $130 per week, and federal work-study students will receive their normal pay, according to the university’s statement.
The Office of Student Financial Aid offers emergency funds to students and lists other basic needs resources on their website.
Graduate School Dean William Karpus sent a response to TAA leadership March 30.
“While we do not have answers to all of your questions right now, we can offer some updates, let you know more information will be shared in the coming days, and point you to existing resources,” Karpus wrote.
Karpus wrote that the university cannot refund or suspend segregated fees because they support important campus services. Karpus said though these functions are at a reduced capacity, they were in use the rest of the semester and still have employees assigned to them that need to be paid.
Karpus also said details on a pass/fail policy for graduate students are in development.