Meeting Notes 2/26/2016: Graduate Student orientation and TA training

Rachel H. started this week’s meeting with a quick introduction to the graduate student union’s concerns regarding the recently implemented UC policy on mandatory reporting of sexual harassment. Email Rachel for more information or to stay informed about this issue.

Following this, we discussed the Fall graduate student orientation and TA training, which usually lasts three days. This year, 2016, it’s reduced to two days since classes will start on Wednesday instead of Thursday. The orientation already contains a 90-minute presentation from the Harassment and Discrimination Assistance and Prevention Program. Professor Zieve suggested the possibility of adding additional training on topics such as implicit bias and stereotype threat. Professor Zieve is actively seeking recent studies making quantitative arguments demonstrating the effects of implicit bias and stereotype threat (here).

One suggestion for a useful activity to orient new grad students to implicit bias as it pertains not only to their teaching but to their interactions with their classmates was to allow space for anonymous questions to be asked and answered by an informed panel.

Grad students identified that the TA training overwhelms all other orientation, leading to the impression that teaching duties are more important than other grad student duties, like coursework and research. We ought to make it explicit during training that this is not the case in graduate school. We also ought to include more general orientation features, such as information about Davis and common grad school experiences. Perhaps a graduate-run orientation day before the start of the term could serve this purpose.

We also discussed the varying weights that research groups put on Preliminary Exam performance. Groups that emphasize first-time passing and high scores on the Preliminary Exam may be discounting highly capable graduate students who take longer to pass the exam.