This section covers appointment information for Graduate Student Research Assistantships, Graduate Student Assistants, Graduate Student Instructors, and Graduate Student Staff Assistants.
For more information, contact us.
Graduate Student Research Assistantship Program Reference for Appointing Departments
This information is intended to provide general information regarding Graduate Student Research Assistantships for departmental administrators.
References are made throughout this document to administrative units whose staff are available to respond to questions pertinent to their areas. Contact information for these units is available at the end of the document in the Contact List for GSRA Appointments.
Questions about GSRA appointments and related processes which are not addressed in this document should be directed to the appropriate administrator of the academic unit.
Note: Graduate Student Research Assistantships are not subject to the provisions of the university's collective bargaining agreement with the Graduate Employee's Organization (G.E.O.).
What is a Graduate Student Research Assistantship?
A Graduate Student Research Assistantship (GSRA) is an appointment which may be provided to a student in good standing in a University of Michigan graduate degree program who performs personal research (including thesis or dissertation preparation) or who assists others performing research that is relevant to his or her academic goals.
The Graduate Student Research Assistantship program is a vehicle to provide financial support for the academically-related research activities of active University of Michigan graduate students. Therefore, in order to hold the title "Graduate Student Research Assistant," an individual must be:
- Term I and II: In good standing as a student in a graduate degree program and registered for not less than six (6) credit hours each term or, with the written approval of the student's faculty advisor, not less than five (5) credit hours consisting of not less than two (2) courses relevant to the student's degree program.
- Term III: In good standing as a student in a graduate degree program with no specific enrollment requirement.
Period of Appointment
GSRA appointments will typically be made for periods coinciding with academic terms. An appointment end date must always be specified. Appointments may be structured to begin or end during the course of a term, as the result of unanticipated needs or variations in external grant or contract support. It should be noted, though, that appointments of less than a full term are not accompanied by some of the benefits described in this document.
In all cases, the appointment period should closely coincide with the period of personal research or services rendered.
Once a commitment has been made to provide a given level of funding for a specific period to a student, this support would not normally be reduced during a period of appointment nor would an appointment normally be terminated prior to the originally processed end date unless the appointee fails to meet the stated program enrollment requirements at the University of Michigan.
If it is determined that the appointee is not making satisfactory progress towards a degree, or when appointment performance is unsatisfactory (including cases involving misconduct) the appointment duties may be reduced and the appointment fraction and stipend may be reduced correspondingly, or the appointment may be terminated. Prior to initiating a termination, the matter should be discussed with the GSRA in an effort to correct the problem. The discussion should include the alleged misconduct or performance concerns and allow an opportunity for the GSRA to respond. Where efforts at correction are inappropriate or prove to be unproductive, the proposed termination of appointment and support should be reviewed and approved in advance by the department chairperson or an equivalent level of authority (in an Institute or Center) prior to proceeding. In addition, the Academic Human Resources Office should be made aware of the pending action.
The minimum amount for stipends associated with GSRA appointments is announced annually in a late-summer memorandum from the Office of Academic Human Resources to Deans, Directors, and Department Heads. While individual units may provide stipends exceeding the announced full-time equivalent minimum, it should be kept in mind that the FTE stipend amount of an individual in a department cannot be reduced in subsequent terms.
Grant or Contract Support
A stipend which is made available as a result of an externally-funded grant or contract may be contingent on continuation of that grant or contract and must be subject to all of its terms. A GSRA appointed under such circumstances should be made aware of this fact at the time of appointment. In the event that external sponsor support is reduced or terminated resulting in an impact on the funding of a Graduate Student Research Assistantship, the affected GSRA should be notified as soon as possible. In such cases, every effort should be made to maintain an equivalent amount of financial aid from other sources for not less than the stated period of appointment.
Stipend amounts shall be consistent with those announced annually for the Office of Academic Human Resources. In this connection, University proposals to prospective sponsors involving support of a GSRA should be consistent with the Graduate Student Research Assistantship Program. Note that, in developing proposals,GSRA tuition support is generally included in the stipend/salary category rather than indicated as a separate item on the budget.
Additional information regarding GSRA inclusion on sponsored projects is available from the Office of Research and Sponsored Projects (ORSP).
Fraction of Effort
In that appointment fractions represent a commitment on the part of the appointing unit to a given level of support for a graduate student, normally they will not change during the appointment period. Any changes proposed during the course of a previously processed appointment should be explained in an attachment.
Where GSRA activity is funded by external sponsors, it is particularly important to ensure that effort during the appointment periods is not less than indicated on the appointment. Effort certification may be required.
A GSRA should not normally be appointed at a fraction of 75 percent or higher during a term of academic enrollment. In no case should the appointment fraction of effort interfere with the progress towards a degree or exceed 100 percent. Fractions of 75 percent or higher during the Fall or Winter terms should have the approval of the involved academic department in which the student is enrolled.
For General questions about GSRA appointments contact Academic HR.
Questions regarding the preparation of proposals, or project budgets involving GSRA participation in general, should be directed to ORSP Project Representatives.
Group Health and Life Insurance
A GSRA with a one-quarter (25 percent) or greater appointment fraction for four or more continuous months are eligible to participate in the University's GradCare health insurance program and Group Life Insurance consistent with the terms of each plan. Coverage is not automatic. Application for GradCare should be made by the GSRA online using Benefits Self Service within thirty (30) days of the effective date of an eligible appointment or during the annual designated "open enrollment" period. Departments facilitate provision of this coverage by processing appointments on a timely basis (i.e. wherever possible, prior to the beginning of the term).
Group Dental coverage is effective with the beginning of a term in which an appointee has a 25 percent or greater appointment fraction for an appointment period of not less than 4 continuous months.
Retirement Savings Plans: 403(b) and 457(b)
A GSRA with a 1% or greater appointment may contribute to a 403(b) Supplemental Retirement Account or a 457(b) Deferred Compensation Plan on a pre-tax or after-tax Roth basis through TIAA or Fidelity Investments. Although there is no U-M contribution, there is no minimum to enroll and the contribution amount may be changed throughout the year. Both plans allow loans, in-service cash withdrawals in qualifying circumstances, and may be rolled over at any age once no longer employed at U-M. Please note that fellowships, scholarships, and stipends are not eligible to be contributed to these plans.
Travel Accident Insurance
Graduate Student Research Assistants who travel on university business (other than trips to and from their regular work site) are covered by the university's Travel Accident Insurance plan.
Summer Insurance Coverage
Individuals may be eligible for continued University contribution for premiums for health and Dental Insurance during the summer:
- Individuals who are appointed with a 25 percent or greater fraction during Term I and Term II of an academic year, or
- Individuals who are appointed during Term II of an academic year and who will be re-appointed with a 25 percent or greater fraction during Term I of the following academic year
In order to assure proper handling, the Benefits Office must be alerted to the Term I appointment by no later than April 10.
A Graduate Student Research Assistant who holds a 25 percent or greater appointment fraction throughout not less than an entire academic term is eligible for a tuition waiver which eliminates the appointee's responsibility for tuition payment for that term.
In the term that a graduate student finishes all the requirements of a Ph.D. program, eligibility for a tuition waiver will be based on the appointee holding a GSRA appointment at 25 percent or greater fraction of effort that is effective at the start of the academic term through either the date of final defense, or for a two month period, whichever is longer.
Charges to research accounts: When a GSRA is appointed on a non-general fund, externally sponsored project which charges no fees, a fixed rate, determined and announced each year, will normally be charged to the involved research account.
Taxation of tuition waivers: All questions regarding the taxability of tuition waivers under provisions of the Internal Revenue code should be directed to the Internal Revenue Service.
Vacation and Sick Leave
GSRA appointments do not provide for paid vacations or holidays. However, remuneration is not reduced during the term of the appointment for class recess or holidays. Graduate Student Research Assistants are eligible for sick pay not to exceed six (6) weeks in a consecutive twelve (12) month period, beginning on the first day of the initial appointment period when unable to meet appointment obligations because of personal illness or injury. Pay during such periods is subject to approval of the department chairperson, head of the research unit, or the GSRA's supervisor or mentor, as appropriate.
Leaves of Absence Without Salary (FMLA)
Leaves of Absence from an academic program are academic issues handled locally by each academic unit.
In general, due to the limited term nature of GSRA appointments, no leaves of absence are available during the course of the appointment period. However, if an individual has been appointed by the University, in any capacity, for 12 months or more and has worked at least 1250 hours during the 12 months immediately preceding the request for leave, a federally mandated Family Medical Leave may be available. In no case can an FMLA leave extend beyond the previously-processed appointment end date. The University complies fully with the Family Medical Leave Act.
A GSRA responding to a subpoena may serve on jury duty or as a witness without loss of compensation.
Other benefits include instructional staff library privileges and bereavement time.
Questions concerning benefits costs for GSRA to be factored into proposal budgets should be directed to the Benefits Office, (734) 615-2000.
Questions concerning the application of tuition waivers to specific student accounts and the generation of waiver charges to other accounts or funding sources should be directed to the Student Accounts section of Financial Operations (734) 764-7447.
Complaint and Grievance Resolution
A GSRA with questions or concerns about any aspect of his or her appointment should be encouraged to raise the concerns with his or her mentor, supervisor and/or department chairperson.
Staff of the Academic HR Services Office (734) 763-8938 are available to advise and assist students and departments in the resolution of non-academic issues which may arise relating to the terms and conditions of GSRA appointments.
Students or departments with questions about the resolution of non-academic issues relating to GSRA appointments, contact Academic HR.
The nature and definitions of GSI and GSSA positions, as well as other information about the terms and conditions of employment in such positions, are described in the University’s collective bargaining agreement between the University and the Graduate Employees Organization.
Current information about stipends and processing dates is available in the memorandum regarding “Processing Appointments for Graduate Student Assistants”.
When to Process Appointments
All appointments should be prepared and submitted prior to the beginning of the term or other period of appointment.
Late appointments: In this context, a ‘late appointment’ is one that is sent to Human Resources subsequent to the first pay date of the appointment period involved. Because the specific period of appointment for GSI’s and GSSA’s has numerous implications for the employee contractual rights and benefits, a written statement affirming that the activities involved in the appointment are, in fact, taking place throughout the designated period should accompany any late appointments. Even with proper documentation, the late processing of a GSI/GSSA appointment could have adverse impacts, such as:
- Wage payments can be delayed
- Insurance coverage, tuition waivers, and other benefits afforded to GSI’s / GSSA’s can be affected.
- The University could be subject to penalties if the Employment Eligibility Verification Form (I-9) is not processed on a timely basis.
Forms and Procedures for Appointment/Reappointment/Termination of GSI or GSSA
Process hires, rehires and additional appointments, including fraction calculation, using the online eRecruit system.
Access by going to Wolverine Access, click on the "Faculty & Staff" tab and select ”M-Pathways Student Administration & Human Resource Management System" under "University Business", then select “Recruiting” from the “Main Menu”.
For more information, reference materials are found in the eRecruit section of My LINC.
Alternate path: Go to Wolverine Access, click on the "Faculty & Staff" tab and select "My LINC (Learning & Information Center)" under "University Business." On My LINC, search "eRecruit" and select the document "eRecruit: User Resources."
The following forms must be completed:
All forms, with appropriate authorizing signatures, should be submitted directly to:
Phone: (734) 615-2000
For questions about the University’s collective bargaining agreement with GEO, contact Academic HR.
Frequently Asked Questions - GSA Background Checks
Prepared by Academic Human Resources, Staff Human Resources
The University of Michigan requires a pre-appointment background check for graduate students appointed as Graduate Student Instructors (GSIs), Graduate Student Staff Assistants (GSSAs) and Graduate Student Research Assistants (GSRAs) (collectively, “GSAs”). More information may be found in SPG 201.95, the University’s Policy on Background Screening. The following Frequently Asked Questions address questions from students regarding this policy.
- What is being reviewed in a background check?
- A background check is a pre-appointment review of your criminal conviction history (i.e., misdemeanor and felony convictions and pending felony charges), national sex offender registry screen, and social security verification.
- Additional review or verification may be required, based on the nature of the position sought.
- Why did the University begin conducting background checks?
- The University strives to maintain a safe academic and work environment for all members of its community. The background check of graduate students is intended to support making informed appointment decisions that assist the University in meeting its commitments to a safe and secure environment.
- Who conducts the pre-appointment background check?
- The University of Michigan has partnered with HireRight to conduct background checks on its behalf.
- How will I know if I need a background check?
- If your first offer of appointment as a GSA occurs after November 18, 2013, it is contingent on successfully completing a background check and you must successfully complete a background check prior to commencing the GSA appointment.
- If a background check is needed, you will receive an email from HireRight requesting that you provide your social security number, your date of birth, and your current and previous addresses. The message from HireRight is time-limited and it will expire (after 5 calendar days) so it is important that you respond to the email notice as soon as possible so that your appointment will not be delayed.
- Is the background check process different for international students?
- No. All graduate students applying for a first-time GSA appointment will be invited to complete the consent and disclosure form, which will request previous addresses. If you have never lived, worked or gone to school in the US, the email invitation directs you to contact University HR to provide your full name, date of birth, current address, department, and job title (if known).
- How will I know if I have successfully completed the background check?
- Questions regarding the status of your background check should be directed to your Graduate Program Coordinator.
- What if I have been a GSA previously, will I be subject to the pre-appointment background check requirements?
- A graduate student who was appointed as a GSA prior to November 18, 2013 and who has remained enrolled (or on an approved leave of absence from his/her academic program) as a graduate student each fall and winter semester since the GSA appointment is not subject to the background check requirement.
- What steps will be taken if the background check reveals a previous conviction or other relevant information?
- Information received as part of this standard screening will not in-and-of-itself disqualify you from receiving an offer of funding or an appointment as a GSA.
- Prior to making a final decision not to appoint you as a GSA, the University will inform you that the information received from your background check requires further review and you will be provided with an opportunity to provide input. Information will be reviewed on a case by case basis, consistent with University policy. The University has
- an interest in protecting your privacy. To that end, the results of your background screening will not be regularly shared with faculty in your department.
- With whom will the results of a background check be shared?
- Generally, designees from Academic Human Resources, Office of the General Counsel and Rackham will review each case in consultation with the appropriate parties in the school or college. The reported information will only be shared with those who need to be involved in the review process.
- What will be considered when reviewing information returned on the background check?
- With respect to criminal conviction history, the individualized assessment will consider, at minimum, the nature and gravity of the offense, the time elapsed since the offense or completion of the sentence, and its relevance to the particular position sought or the type of appointment typical in your program. For additional information, please refer to the SPG 201.95 procedures page (http://hr.umich.edu/procedures/spg201-95.html).
- If I cannot be appointed as a GSA as a result of the background check, can I apply for another GSA position?
- Disqualification from one GSA position does not necessarily disqualify the applicant from other GSA positions. A student who is not appointed to a GSA position because of a finding from the background check is allowed to apply for another position. The relationship between the nature of the responsibilities or duties of the position and the potentially relevant information or conviction history will be considered.
- If I don't have a GSA appointment (e.g., because I’m on a fellowship, training grant), will I need to undergo another background check before returning to a GSA appointment?
- No. A background check is required prior to the first GSA appointment only; so long as you remain enrolled (or on an approved leave of absence from your academic program during the Fall and Winter semesters), you will not need another background check, regardless of your funding source.
- What happens if I decline to submit the necessary information for a background check?
- As a part of the GSA appointment process, you are required to provide the needed information for a background check. If you choose not to do so, you cannot be appointed as a GSA. Furthermore, your graduate program will not be obligated to offer alternative forms of support (e.g., fellowship).
- May I begin working as a GSI (or GSRA or GSSA) before the background check is complete? Does the answer change if classes start before the check is complete?
- The answer is “No” to both questions. If a background check is required, the appointing unit cannot have you teach or perform any related tasks before the background check is completed. The same is true for GSSA and GSRA appointments. However, once the background check is successfully completed the GSA appointment will be effective with the start date indicated in the contingent offer (e.g. letter).
Referenced Departments Contact List for GSRA Appointments
Academic HR Services
2072 Administrative Services Building
1009 Greene Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1432
phone: (734) 763-8938
3003 South State Street
G405 Wolverine Tower
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1278
phone: (734) 615-2000, toll free (866) 647-7657
fax: (734) 763-0363
Office of Research and Sponsored Projects (OSRP)
3003 South State Street
1002 Wolverine Tower
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1274
phone: (734) 764-5500
fax: (734) 764-8510
3003 South State Street
G395 Wolverine Tower
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1279
phone: (734) 615-2000 option 2 prompt 1 locally, or call toll free (866) 647-7657 option 2 prompt 1
Fax (734) 647-3983
Student Financial Operations
2226 Student Activities Building
515 E. Jefferson
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1316
University Human Resources Administration
3003 South State Street
4005 Wolverine Tower
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1281
Dearborn Human Resources
4901 Evergreen Road
Dearborn, MI 48128-1491
Recruiting and Employment Services
3003 South State Street
G250 Wolverine Tower
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1281
Equity, Civil Rights, and Title IX Office
2072 Administrative Services
1009 Greene Street
Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-1432
(734) 763-0235 (V)
(734) 647-1388 (TTY)
(734) 936-8894 (Fax)
Flint Human Resources
303 East Kearsley
213 University Pavilion
Flint, MI 48502-2186
1000 Victors Way, 4th Floor
Ann Arbor, MI 48108
phone: (734) 764-7410
fax: (734) 936-2525
Michigan Medicine Human Resources
North Campus Administrative Complex
2901 Hubbard, Suite 1100
Ann Arbor, MI 48109/2435