Rights of Assistants

Graduate Assistants are a distinctive category of university employees, but they enjoy the basic rights accorded to all employees, such as equal opportunity and fair and respectful treatment as defined in the UWM Code of Conduct. However, each category of university employee also has differences, so distinct sets of rights and responsibilities can also apply.

Equal Opportunity

Like all students and employees at UWM, Graduate Assistants have the right to a working and learning environment free from all forms of discrimination. Campus policy SAAP 5-1 defines discrimination and the related processes for reporting, investigating, and disciplining discrimination.

Assistants who believe they have been the target of discrimination by race, color, religion, sexual orientation, sex, gender identity or expression, national origin, age, disability, veteran status, or other criteria are encouraged to report to UWM’s Equity/Diversity Services.

Contractual Rights and Obligations

Graduate Assistants sign employment contracts for their appointments, often referred to as a “Letter of Offer,” and typically for one semester or one academic year at a time. These Letters of Offer specify the basic requirements of employment for both parties, such as start dates, wage rates, and hours per week.  

Rights of Access

No Graduate Assistant’s employment should be contingent upon special fees that do not apply to all similarly situated graduate students (such as the usual segregated, graduation, transcript, or application fees). A supervisor cannot, for example, request a special payment from an admitted student to secure a teaching or research assistantship. This request on the part of the supervisor would constitute a form of fraud, and the student graduate assistant should email gs-assistanships@uwm.edu if this were to occur. 

Rights to Professional Boundaries

Graduate Assistants are never responsible for personal assistance to supervisors, such as childcare, driving, or shopping that is not part of the professional work of UWM. Nor should assistants be made to absorb costs associated with their responsibilities without reimbursement, such as travel for a supervisor’s research project or purchasing supplies or equipment for a lab.

Collective Bargaining Rights

Graduate Assistants do not currently have collective bargaining rights. Formerly, the Milwaukee Graduate Assistants Association (MGAA), affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), did represent assistants at UWM and negotiated Graduate Assistant compensation. However, in 2011 the Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill, commonly known as Act 10, severely limited collective bargaining for many public employees, including Graduate Assistants.