The perks of being a GTF
An earlier version of this article did not clarify that the pay floor of $31,025 for Level I GTFs took tuition and fee waivers into account, and that GTF salaries are contingent both upon salary and FTE equivalency.
The article has been changed to better explain this.
It may be important to define what a Graduate Teaching Fellow is. GTFs are graduate students pursuing masters or doctoral degrees, also employed by the university as instructors, research assistants or administrative workers.
The GTFF 3544 serves as a representative union for GTFs at the University of Oregon, established in 1976. The GTFF website has more info on the history of the union.
Currently, there are about 1,500 GTFs employed by the university, most, but not all, of whom are unionized. They are employed at one of three pay levels. For example, entering masters students and those students who do not qualify to be at the second or third levels are employed at the GTF I level and fully enrolled doctoral students are employed at the GTF III level. As they progress through their degrees, students can move up through the levels.
GTFs qualify for a number of benefits, some of which vary depending on their level and some of which are consistent throughout the three levels.
The grad school website states that graduate students are employed on a range from .20 to .49 FTE, which means a percentage of a full-time equivalent employment. Essentially, the amount GTFs make is dependent both on their salary rate as well as their level of employment in terms of percentage of FTE. As of the last contract, GTFs making the minimum salary at the minimum FTE, combined with tuition and fee waivers, were receiving at least $31,025. On its website, the GTFF declares that GTFs making minimum salary at .49 FTE made less than what the University projects as the living costs for some graduate students, and this was one of the issues at hand associated with the strike.
As of the last GTFF contract, the pay floor for level I GTFs was $31,025. However, every salary is negotiated between GTFs and the department for which they work, usually resulting in a wage higher than the set floor. Acting Senior Vice President and Provost Frances Bronet explained in an interview with the Emerald that 68 percent of GTFs make above the floor.
The recent tentative agreement between the GTFF and UO administration includes a five percent retroactive increase to the minimum wages this year and a five percent increase for next year as well.
Health benefits are another part of the GTF package. Over the past few years, the GTFF has negotiated to reach a dental and vision plan of 95 percent coverage by the university. Now, with the new tentative agreement, a $150,000 Graduate Student Assistance Fund will also be in place to aid students in need of compensation for parental or medical leave.
Tuition is waived for up to 16 credit hours per term and all fees are covered by the university except the amount of $61 per term. The graduate school website also offers a comprehensive list of the salaries and benefits for GTFs.
Aside from the benefits, salary or tuition waivers, another significant motivator for grad students who choose to be GTFs: a genuine desire to teach. VP of Operations for the GTFF member Brianna Bertoglio, both a doctoral student and GTF in the education department, says she often has trouble setting boundaries as an instructor to provide for the time she needs as a student.
“I feel like I need to be available to people…I don’t want the one time I say ‘oh no, I can’t do that’ to be something that’s gonna really affect someone’s experience in college.”
More information on the appointment of GTFs can be found on the graduate school website.
Alexandria Cremer Contributed to this report
Follow Kaylee Tornay on Twitter @ka_tornay
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