Ziggaföss X. McFolson (zigme) wrote,
Ziggaföss X. McFolson

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Fucking Bureaucracy

Cast of characters*:

Alex - My advisor, professor in the college of education
Evan - Super helpful grad student wrangler (and drinking buddy)
Ira - Administrative coordinator in the school of teacher education
Olly - Manager of operations and support services (?) in the college of education
... and, of course, me.

My advisor Alex just recently signed a new contract at SDSU. One of the terms of the contract is that Alex gets a grad student paid through the university, namely me. (Up until now I have been paid through Foundation, which means I am basically paid from money given in a grant to the project I am working on with Alex.) This was good for Alex because it means our project would have more money and it was good for me because it meant I was still getting paid. This means my new title will be graduate assistant, or GA.

I jump through a lot of hurdles, get a boatload of paperwork signed by the right people, run forms all over campus; you know, the usual stuff. I finally get my contract and it all seems wrong. The first thing I notice is that I am now getting paid for only 10 months a year, not twelve. I bring this to Evan, who is always quite helpful in these things. It seems that I will still be getting my same annual salary, but it'll just be divided up 10 ways instead of 12. Evan says I should go see Ira and see if I could get it changed. Either way, it's no big deal, it's the same amount of money a year.

So, I go see Ira (because I had other things to hand in as well). I bring up the 10 v. 12 difference, just to see if I could get 12 instead to make my life easier. Ira doubts it, but will send an e-mail off to Olly (who I have never met) to see if it's possible.

Hi Olly,

Just fact finding for now: can we revise Zig's appointment to be paid over 12 months instead of 10?


Olly replied back (to both Ira and me):

GAs can work 10 month AY appointments and separate YRO appointments. The criteria stands for YRO (take so many units, keep up their GPA, etc, etc.) They do not "bridge" in the summer like student assistants.

Just in case I am misunderstanding your question, we do not spread out their 10 month pay over 12 months.


Okay, I think AY means "all year" and I have no clue what YRO means. Nonetheless, it seems that they can't do the 12 month thing. No big deal.

Here's where things get crazy. Ira has been a big help, and so I send her an e-mail asking her one more question (which I thought would be easy to answer).


Thanks for getting back to me so quickly. I have one more question for you. My contract is confusing. It says my appointment is from 09/01/2009 through 01/31/2010. I am supposed to be hired for the year. Will I just have to sign a new contract for the next semester? Also, it lists $250,000 under the salary column, but that doesn't make sense. Evan says we should be getting around $1,000,000**/year (whether we're paid 10 or 12 months).

I'm sorry to be such a pain. I just want to make sure that everything is kosher. Thanks for putting up with my questions. :^)

-ZIG (me)

Ira gets back to me rather quickly.

HI Zig,

The contract you have is for the fall only. You will receive another contract for the spring semester.

As for the salary question, here is what I know. The salary range is $93,368 to $132,315 per month. Most start at $93,368. GAs work in 5 hour increments: They are appointed for 5 (.12), 10 (.25), 15 (.38) or 20 (.50) hours per month. 20 hours is considered full time.

Don’t worry about asking too many questions, that is what I am here for.


I am used to getting paid $83,333 a month. I'm not sure now, though, if this means I'll be getting (at minimum) $93,368 a month or $46,684 a month (which I couldn't live off of). This also makes no connection to the mysterious $250,000 on my contract. I try asking Ira again.


I'm sorry about my confusion. I have just been getting a lot of different information from different people and I want to make sure I have the facts straight. :^)

Here's my (hopefully) last question to you then on this subject. (I just want to make sure I have this straight.) GAs start at $93,368 a month and their contracts are semester-based and there is no payment over the summer. Assuming that one has both a fall and spring appointment, one would make $933,680 for the year, since GAs are paid for 10 months, not 12, right? Then what does the $250,000 amount on my contract mean?

Sorry about all this. I just for some reason am finding it confusing. I sincerely appreciate you taking the time to try and explain it to me.

-ZIG (me)

Ira e-mails me back saying I should come by and bring my contract with me and we'll figure this out together. Okay, fine. The next day I am about to head into campus, contract in hand, when I get this e-mail from Ira.

HI Zig,

Below is an explanation of your contract. I know you are a math guy, but let me know if you need further explanation.


From: Olly
Sent: Wednesday, September 16, 2009 9:59 AM
To: Ira
Subject: RE: GA question


I reviewed his contract. His FTMS is $100,000. He is working 20 hours a week, so according to the Table of Fractional Equiv we should use ½ to compute his salary. GAs are 10 month employees and get paid for 5 months for each semester.

$100,000 x 1/2 x 5 months is $250,000 for the Fall semester. If his appointment is extended in the Spring he will receive another $250,000 for that semester.

His contract is correct.


No, wait, this is wrong. This means I'd get $500,000 a year, HALF of what I should get. Plus, what the hell is FTMS and what is this mystical "Table of Fractional Equiv"?! (I assume the 1/2 comes from me working the maximum 20 hours a week and a usual working week is 40 hours.) I try again.


Thank you for being so patient with me about this. I sincerely appreciate it. I just don't know what FTMS means. Also, does this mean that (for 10 months) I'd be taking home $500,000? If so, this means I'd be making half the amount I was told I should be expecting. Or is the 1/2 in there for other purposes and I'd actually be taking home the expected $1,000,000 for 10 months?

Again, sorry about all this. Thanks in advance.

-ZIG (me)

Ira wrote back:

Hi Zig,

FTMS means full time monthly salary. So.. $250,000/month/semester. There are 6 checks per semester.

I think the misunderstanding here is what is full time for a GA. I’ll get in touch with Alex.


Now I have no clue what is going on. What does "/month/semester" mean? And where did 6 checks come from? I e-mail Alex.


There's something wrong with my contract. Ira has been very nice and been trying to help me understand it, but it seems I'm going to be paid half of what Evan said I should be receiving. Up until now I've been making about $1,000,000 a year. It seems with the GAship, I'd be making half that amount.

Did something go wrong? I'm just very confused. Thanks.

-ZIG (me)

Alex wrote back:


Yes, there is something wrong. I called Ira. Ira asked not to be put in the middle of this, so I called Olly. Then I called Evan. The two of them will talk, and we'll get this straightened out. You'll be paid $1,000,000, one way or another. Don't sweat this.


Great, now I've made Ira upset, even though Alex and Evan said Ira was the one I should talk to about all this. I send Ira a message apologizing. Ira replies:

HI Zig,

I do not mind at all, and I’m glad you brought this up, because we can now set it up properly. I’m sorry to you for the hassle!


Good, things with her are okay. I then get a message from Evan:

As you'll have heard from Alex, we're working on it!
And think things are just about resolved even ..

Finally, around 5 o'clock today, I called Evan to see what was up. It turns out that I should be listed as a TA (teaching assistant), not a GA. TAs teach classes, do work with profs, that kind of thing; GAs photocopy, file paperwork, et cetera. (Who knew?) It looks like now I will be officially a "TA, AY, 2" ... whatever that means. After all this, I am glad I put up a stink and asked all these annoying questions. I also just don't understand how no one could tell me exactly how much I would be making in one year. If someone had said, "Zig, you'll be making $500,000 a year", I'd've known something was wrong. Instead, I kept getting cryptic messages with mysterious amounts that made no sense.

Alright, so to complain. It seems it'll work itself out now. I just got one last message from Evan:

Hey :-$
Don't :'( anymore, it'll all be :-P soon, so be 8-) and get some |-O !
Ciao :-)

[* - All names are (supposedly unisex) pseudonyms.
** - I CLEARLY don't make a million a year, but it's none of your business how little I make. Mathematically, all the numbers are in the right proportions to each other.]
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