April 25, 2022
Dear Student Academic Appointees,
About 25 years ago, I arrived at IU Bloomington to pursue a PhD in speech and hearing sciences. I received an excellent education at IU, was motivated and inspired by accomplished faculty members and peers and had tremendous opportunities to grow as a researcher and educator. I also held a student academic appointment (as an Associate Instructor) and the tuition waiver, stipend, and benefits that I received were critical for me to complete my own program successfully. One of my goals as provost is to strive to provide the same quality of experience that I received to every graduate and professional student at IU Bloomington.
Over the last two months, I have heard from some of you that in specific areas of the graduate student experience, we are falling short of that goal right now. You have my commitment, and the commitment of your faculty members, department chairs, deans, campus, and university leaders including President Whitten, to continue improving our graduate and professional education and SAA positions.
To those of you who have sent me emails and letters, called my office, joined us at one of 15 listening sessions earlier this semester, and who have been rallying and demonstrating around campus the last two weeks— you have been heard. You have raised real, important, and wide-ranging issues that have built up over many years, and we have begun to address them.
Earlier this semester, after hearing your concerns about stipend levels and other substantive issues, I announced a 5% stipend increase for all SAAs, a new campus-wide minimum stipend rate of $18,000 for 0.50 FTE 10-month positions, and more flexibility in using your tuition waivers, all effective July 1, 2022. These three initiatives are our first steps to improving graduate education and SAA positions.
Last week, I announced the creation of a taskforce to examine the future of graduate education at IU. Members of the core committee will be announced later this week, and I have asked that SAAs be directly engaged in subgroups related to SAA positions. Your insights will help us develop plans to improve all aspects of your work and educational experience.
Later this week, I will have an opportunity to meet our newly elected Graduate and Professional Student Government president and vice president, and I look forward to working with them in the coming months. I also look forward to continuing to talk directly with you, our Student Academic Appointees. From May to August, I plan to meet with Research Assistants, Associate Instructors, and Graduate Assistants in units across campus to continue hearing about your experiences.
Be Part of Our Shared Governance
Graduate students, SAAs, faculty members, chairpersons, deans, vice provosts, university vice presidents, and all of us have been working together to make positive changes over many years. While this has improved things in many places, these improvements have not been consistent across various schools and departments at IU Bloomington. Now is the time to redouble our efforts to continue improving graduate and professional education.
The SAA positions will require dedicated attention from many existing governance committees and organizations including, but not limited to, the newly announced Graduate Education Task Force, Graduate and Professional Student Government (GPSG), Bloomington Faculty Council, and the Graduate Faculty Council. Graduate students are part of these committees and your voices in these discussions are critical.
Following input from GPSG, the Bloomington Faculty Council Executive Committee and I also endorse the reinstatement of the SAA Committee of the Bloomington Faculty Council. This committee is important to ensure that matters of concern to our SAAs are discussed within the BFC on a more regular basis, and that SAAs have the ability to engage directly in institutional priorities and shared governance.
The student Committee on Fee Review has the responsibility to review and recommend mandatory fees for all undergraduate and graduate students. This committee – which typically has 7-9 students – will need to review each fee carefully and make recommendations about any changes that may be needed, along with the impact it will have on all students. This committee will meet again in the 2022-23 academic year to make recommendations on mandatory fees.
As you may know, IU follows a decentralized budget model with many decisions made at the School/College or departmental level. This means, many school- and department-level policy committees, principal investigators and SAA supervisors, and many others will also need to be involved in addressing policies, practices, budgets, and changes for SAA positions. Many of these committees and organizations represent tables at which SAAs already have an important seat. And because we have a lot of work to do, we will need many of you to be actively engaged in these efforts. I hope you will join me and all of these colleagues who need your energy and ideas at each of these tables to bring about long-lasting change at IU.
Last Week of Classes
The end of the semester is always a difficult and demanding time, and I am especially grateful for those SAAs who are working tirelessly to ensure that your obligations, including holding classes and submitting grades on time, are met. To those of you who have chosen to stop work in the last few weeks, please consider your ethical and contractual obligations to your students and ensure that you complete your SAA responsibilities. You can do so confidently knowing that your voices have been heard, that your efforts have already resulted in substantive changes, and that you are helping all of us build new and better programs and initiatives at IU Bloomington. You have my personal commitment to continued support in the future.
Provost & Executive Vice President