Student Officers

       When students provide instructional or research services at the University, they are nominated by deans and executive vice presidents, with the concurrence of the Provost, for appointments as student officers. Student officers may choose to be represented by the Student Workers of Columbia-United Automobile, Aerospace, and Agricultural Implement Workers of America Union (SWC-UAW). Details of the SWC-UAW contract may be found online.

       Most assignments as student officers of instruction and research are reserved for students enrolled in the University’s PhD programs, for whom instructional and research assignments are an integral part of their educational training. Students from Teachers College and Barnard College cannot be appointed or function as student officers of the University. Qualified students from Teachers College can be appointed as associate II and qualified students from Barnard College can be appointed as associate III (see Officers of Instruction Titles).

       Under no circumstances can students hold two appointments as student officers simultaneously. Students may hold an appointment as a student officer of instruction or a student officer of research, and only in one of the ranks described here. Under special circumstances that require the prior approval of the appropriate department chair, dean and/or executive vice president, and Provost, students may also take on additional instructional or research work under the following conditions: 1) the total number of hours they can work per week in both capacities must not exceed 20 hours; and 2) payment for their second responsibility must be paid as additional compensation. Student officers must not start any additional work until all of these approvals have been received. International students should check with the International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) to determine if the additional work is permitted by the terms of their visa.

       PhD students in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) who provide instructional services are appointed as teaching fellows or teaching assistants, with the exception of those teaching Contemporary Civilization and Literature Humanities who are appointed as preceptors. PhD students in other graduate and professional schools who provide instructional services are appointed as teaching assistants.

  • A teaching fellow teaches their own section of an introductory or upper-level course as the instructor of record under the supervision of an officer of higher rank (e.g., in courses in languages, introductory mathematics and science sections, courses with GSAS Teaching Scholars, and sections of Art Humanities, Music Humanities, and Undergraduate Writing in the Core Curriculum.) A teaching fellow must be a full-time candidate for a PhD degree in the University.  Candidates for the degree of Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) and Master of Fine Arts (MFA) may also be appointed as teaching fellows.
  • A teaching assistant directs recitation, discussion, or laboratory sessions related to courses offered by an officer of higher rank, and may grade written work.  A teaching assistant must be a full-time candidate for a PhD degree in the University.
  • A preceptor offers instruction in sections of Literature Humanities and Contemporary Civilization in the Core Curriculum under the supervision of an officer of higher rank  (Core Chairs). A preceptor must be a full-time candidate for a PhD degree in the University who has had their MPhil degree conferred.

       Other qualified graduate students at the University, including master’s students, non-PhD doctoral students, and students enrolled in a post-baccalaureate program are appointed in one of the following two grades when they provide instructional services:

  • A teaching assistant II directs recitation, discussion, or laboratory sessions related to courses offered by an officer of higher rank, and may grade written work.
  • A reader is responsible for grading written coursework under the direction and supervision of an officer of higher rank.

       Undergraduates enrolled as students in Columbia College, the School of General Studies, and The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, who provide instructional services may only be appointed as student officers in the grade of teaching assistant III:

  • A teaching assistant III directs recitation, discussion, or laboratory sessions related to courses offered by an officer of higher rank, and may grade written work.

       Full-time PhD students who are fully funded to provide research services are appointed as graduate research assistants.  Full-time PhD students may also be appointed as departmental research assistants to provide assistance to a department or school in conducting research.

       Qualified master’s students and non-PhD doctoral students may be appointed in the grade of departmental research assistant II to provide assistance to a department or school in conducting research. Departmental research assistant IIs must be paid from institutional funds.

       The policies governing the level of compensation of student officers of instruction and research are governed by the SWC-UAW contract. Student officers can also consult with their dean’s office or their school website for information on the terms of their appointment.

       Student officers generally are not eligible to participate in the University’s benefits programs for officers. Students should consult SWC-UAW contract for details about the benefits for which they are eligible.

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