Sociology ETDs

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Since the post-war years of the late 1940's and early 50's, graduate teaching assistants have played an increasingly important role in public higher education. They are now an integral and essential part of undergraduate instruction of these institutions; but they are also important to the universities' obligations for research and public service. Where they are not directly responsible for instructional duties, they have relieved faculty members of most of the routine duties associated with teach­ing, freeing them for responsibilities which are considered more important for today's society.

Yet, even while assistants are performing many duties once reserved for faculty alone, they are still usually treated as students. They therefore have no legit­imate status equivalent to the extended functions of their assistantship. The result is a situation of conflict for the institution and the individual assistant. This thesis is an investigation of the conflict between the realities of working as a graduate assistant and the differing perceptions and expectations which assistants and the faculty/ administration have.

The case of the graduate assistant can only be understood within the context of higher education and as a moment in the evolutionary process of higher education itself. The first two chapters, therefore, are devoted to a basic overview of that institution and the role of the assistant in that setting. A case study of the University of New Mexico is then undertaken, based on comprehensive examination of the enrollment and instructional records of UNM and on a survey conducted of all categories of graduate employees. The results of that research fully

support the claims of exploitation and conflict which was the consensus of the literature reported in Chapter III. The case study also indicated an awareness among many grad­uate assistants of their common sentiments of exploitation and an unwillingness to accept their inferior status. While these prerequisites of interest group formation are evident at UNM, the crucial step of formal organization remains an unrealized goal in the process of constructive group conflict.

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First Committee Member (Chair)

Joseph Fashing

Second Committee Member

Patrick Hayes McNamara

Third Committee Member

Gil McCann



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