Thank you for highlighting the UW's wonderful teaching assistants ("The Life of a Teaching Assistant," 11/22/2013). Yes, our work is hard, but our pay is perhaps not as low as it first appears.
You rightly noted that, in addition to an average salary of around $12,000 a year, TAs also receive tuition remission. For Wisconsin residents who take a typical load of six credits while TAing, this amounts to $8,921 a year; for out-of-state grad students, $18,916.16. These savings increase for TAs taking an extra class. With tuition remission, Wisconsin TAs can take three seminars and save $11,857.60, while out-of-state TAs with three courses save $25,184.48. When you add in our health insurance benefits, that $12,000 quickly multiplies by a factor of two or three for most of us.
All this, and we get to study the color of Abraham Lincoln's socks and the length of Walt Whitman's beard, activities that, while fascinating in and of themselves, require significant market distortions in order to support. Perhaps the taxpaying public will find the TAA's strident demands for even more money a bit less compelling when this fuller picture of the UW's generosity is taken into view.
Jason Morgan, out-of-state resident and teaching assistant