The University will resume hiring computer science undergraduate and head teaching assistants for next fall, according to a Thursday email to the department from Tom Doeppner, director of CS undergraduate studies.
The decision comes after Doeppner informed teaching assistant applicants in an email Monday that the hiring process would be placed on hold “until sometime after” the Teaching Assistant Labor Organization’s March 2 workplace election. TALO is a proposed union of CS teaching assistants.
The CS department was “told by Brown's Office of Human Resources that, until the union vote takes place, we may not do anything towards hiring” undergraduate and head teaching assistants, according to Doeppner’s Monday email.
“The application and hiring process has been an area of discussion over the course of the last week, with a series of conversations underway among colleagues in Computer Science and University Human Resources,” University Spokesperson Brian Clark wrote in an email to The Herald. “The agreed-upon approach was to move forward with the application and hiring process as initially planned.”
Clark did not comment on the reason UHR told the CS department it had to postpone hiring, nor did he elaborate on why the University reversed its decision. Doeppner also declined to comment on the University’s decisions.
The hiring process for HTAs began in early February but was halted by the University. Despite already fielding applications, the CS department did not plan to schedule “interviews or (discuss) potential HTA positions with applicants until after the union vote,” Doeppner wrote in his email Monday.
Doeppner previously outlined the planned hiring process for the fall 2023 semester in a January email to the department reviewed by The Herald.
According to the email, professors were supposed to interview applicants for HTA positions over two weeks starting Feb. 13. MTAs would then have matched selected applicants to courses based on professor and applicant preferences, MTA Jiahua Chen ’24 explained.
Typically, HTAs are then onboarded to Workday and trained by MTAs to interview applicants for UTA positions, Chen added. In the initial hiring process timeline, professors, MTAs and HTAs would have interviewed UTA applicants starting March 1 and completed the process in early May, according to the January email.
The CS department has updated its hiring timeline in wake of the hiring restart, with several deadlines now pushed back by two or more days.
TALO is “pleased to hear that the University has reversed its unusual and unilateral decision to delay CS TA hiring, which threatened to increase TA workloads at a critical point in their semesters and disrupt course development timelines,” Colton Rusch ’23, a TALO organizer, wrote in a message to The Herald.
“We call upon the University to be transparent about the factors that led them to make” the decision to delay hiring, Rusch added.
For TALO, the hiring delay highlights why CS TAs want to organize, he said. TALO hopes to achieve an “environment where these really important decisions that have sweeping ramifications on working conditions are made collaboratively,” Rusch told The Herald in an interview before the delay reversal.
“TALO is all about us standing together and advocating for ourselves and getting more of a say in our workplace,” he added.
Ashley Cai is a Senior Staff Writer from Los Altos, California covering the staff and student labor beat. She is a Brown-RISD Dual Degree studying computer science, IAPA and graphic design. She is also a member of The Herald's Tech Team.
Sam Levine is a University News editor from Brooklyn, New York overseeing the staff and student labor and on-campus activism beats. He is a junior concentrating in International and Public Affairs.