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TAs who are teaching recitation, lab, or discussion sections report that students frequently come to them with complaints they may have about the professor who is leading the lecture portion of the class. Such complaints put the TA in an awkward position. Experienced TAs serving on the 2002-2003 CTL TA Liaison Council generated the following list of suggestions on how to handle this situation.
Remember that it's not your job to SOLVE problems between students and professors; students and the professor need to solve these problems. However, there are some ways you can be helpful.
Listen respectfully and neutrally. Sometimes students just need to vent and don't expect or want you to do anything about their complaint.
If you think students have a legitimate complaint, it's important not to take sides. You don't want a statement like "Even the TA thinks this test is totally unfair" circulating through the class. Instead of siding with the students against the professor, help the students think of constructive ways to deal with the situation.
Encourage the student to talk with (or send an e-mail to) the professor. You can help him/her figure out ways of wording the issues in a constructive manner.
If the student doesn't feel that talking with the professor is an option, advise the student to (1) talk with the department chair or the director of undergraduate studies or (2) contact the Student Dispute Resolution Center.
If the student complaint involves issues such as discrimination or sexual harassment, tell the student to contact the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action.
NEXT semester you might ask the professor before the beginning of the semester how s/he could like you to handle any complaints or problems that students might confide in you.