By: Anonymous contributor
I never imagined that I would date my teaching assistant. I also never imagined that I would have a “W” on my transcript from dropping their class. Dating my TA was probably one of the worst decisions of my undergraduate degree.
When I got into a relationship with my TA last semester, I didn’t think it was too big of a deal. Dating your TA is much more socially-accepted than dating your professor or course instructor.
For one, the age differences between you and your TA aren’t always that big. My TA was two years older than me, but I’ve had TAs who were my age or younger. In that case, it’s hard to impose a ban against two consenting 20-somethings dating.
But what a lot of people don’t recognize is that there’s a power imbalance when dating your TA. Even when they’re the same age, or a bit older, there’s the fact that the TA is in a position that can strongly influence your academics and career.
When I had talked with my TA about our relationship, he told me that the department frowned upon student-TA relationships but there was no strict rule against them. While he was “required” to fill out a conflict-of-interest form, nobody forced him too. As long as he gave my assignments to another TA to grade, nobody batted an eye at our relationship.
I don’t think that’s enough. Especially in classes where TAs are asked to deliver lectures or hold review sessions, it’s not enough to require TAs in relationships with their students to not directly grade their work. Their presence alone influences their students’ marks.
Even when I got out of the relationship, I still felt ashamed and embarrassed every time I had to see him in tutorial or lecture. When I found out that he had marked my midterm, I was angry but didn’t know what to do. It’s difficult to tell your professor the reason you want to switch tutorials or have your test remarked is because you slept with your TA.
In the end, I ended up dropping the class and dodging questions from people asking me why. I still see my TA around campus, however, and I’m scared that I’ll be assigned to his class again. I’ve been so anxious that I’m even considering switching programs to avoid him.
A conflict of interest policy is not sufficient. I reviewed Mac’s conflict of interest policy for employees and there is a section that states that a conflict of interest is present when an employee of the university engages in an “intimate relationship with a person who relies upon them for opportunities to further their academic or employment career”.
However, the only actions an individual must take when this conflict arises is to report to their direct supervisor, who can then decide if the “conflict is confirmed”. If it is, then the case is moved to higher-ups who decide what sort of actions need to be taken to remove the conflict.
But by the time that decision is made, it’s probably too far into the semester to make any changes. In my case, my TA didn’t bother disclosing our relationship since he knew the only action that was required was that he didn’t grade my work.
Even though it states in the policy that failure to report will result in “appropriate disciplinary procedures”, I’m not confident that the university enforces this.
McMaster University should protect their students by banning student-TA, or any student-faculty, relationships altogether. These relationships have harmful power dynamics that blur the lines of consent, and can sometimes be considered sexual harassment or assault.
I’m not saying that all student-TA relationships end poorly. Sometimes it really is just bad timing when two people happen to meet. But if a relationship is meant to be, it can wait till the end of the semester to begin.
Dating your TA seems like a fun and sexy experience. In reality, this kind of relationship can be complicated, embarrassing and act as a huge stress on your academics and your mental health. Honestly, that cute TA isn’t worth it.
By Elliot Fung
In L.R. Wilson Hall on Oct. 26, McMaster staff and students listened to presenters such as Peter Mascher, vice-provost (International Affairs), and Sean Van Koughnett, associate vice-president (Students and Learning) and dean of students, speak about the status of the “McMaster Model for Global Engagement” implemented in 2017.
The model’s key focus is global engagement with ethical principles and the enhancement of McMaster’s presence on the international stage. One of the problems identified in the strategy document was the absence of a centralized location where people can get information about McMaster’s global engagement strategy. One of the university’s goals is to create a hub-like structure to bring together various aspects of global engagement.
As such, on Oct. 26, McMaster launched MacGlobal, an online hub for information about activities, support, services, opportunities, news and events relating to McMaster’s global engagement. Debates on the possibility of a physical location for a global hub are being held as the logistics are being worked out.
The number of first-year international undergraduate students is growing every year. Van Koughnett reports that the number of international undergrad students will almost double in the next few years. As a result, McMaster is looking at introducing more support for international students.
This year, McMaster is already looking at an array of new programs for international students. The Ignite pre-Welcome Week program, a new English as second language support service, and smaller initiatives such as an airport welcome, help to support incoming international students as they make their transition to McMaster.
Concerning international recruitment, increasing attention is being placed on increasing quality and diversity of applicants. To achieve diversity, student recruitment is targeting specific countries such as China, India, United Arab Emirates, the United States and Turkey.
Another aim is to increase the number of international career opportunities for students and reduce financial barriers. McMaster’s involvement in university networks such as U21 and 20 United Nations University and partnerships with universities abroad will help to support collaborative programs such as joint PhDs and dual master’s degrees.
In addition, collaboration between universities gives way to opportunities such as McMaster’s partnership with a university in Rome to provide students access to the resources of a world-class institution for classical studies. In return, students from Rome will have access to McMaster’s resources.
Scholarships such as the McCall MacBain International Fellowship are being introduced to reduce financial barriers with respect to student mobility. The fellowship provides 10 McMaster students with $23,500 towards academic and work experience abroad.
Despite these shiny initiatives, McMaster currently offers no scholarships that only international students can apply for. This may act as a deterrent for international students who are dependent on foreign government funding, such as the students from Saudi Arabia who were forced to leave McMaster amid a diplomatic dispute in September.
For now, it seems that the university’s model is still in the process of developing the framework and structures needed to enable McMaster’s global engagement. However, more lasting changes are on their way as the university introduces more student mobility funding, new support for international students and the launch of MacGlobal.