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Support for Mandatory Mental Wellness Training for Teaching Assistants

October 8, 2020

To our campus community,

Although some graduate students are provided with teaching assistant (TA) training prior to becoming TAs at the University of Waterloo, an important gap exists: this training does not include sufficient mental wellness content. We, the Graduate Student Association of the University of Waterloo (GSA-UW), are concerned about the lack of such universalized training in our membership and believe that the introduction of a mandatory mental wellness training module will support our membership serving as TAs, and for all graduate students.

Over the last few months, we conducted a graduate student experience survey (“Vital Signs 2020”) and a COVID-19 Impact survey. Both surveys identified mental wellness as a key issue for graduate students and suggest that associated supports need to be improved. To that end, the GSA-UW prioritises the mental wellbeing of all graduate students and believes that the University of Waterloo should provide students with improved mental wellness supports and services.

Like professors and select administrative staff members, TAs are front line contacts for students. A mental wellness training module for TAs will provide a skills development platform to support their own wellbeing and the wellbeing of our broader student community.

The GSA-UW supports the implementation of a paid 1-2 hour online module for new TAs that is recorded as a milestone on transcripts. The GSA-UW supports equitable and fair compensation for time spent in training as graduate employees of UW and therefore requests that graduate TAs complete the module with pay. We are happy to pilot the mental wellness module with members of our Council, which has broad graduate student representation from across all faculties, prior to a full roll-out.

If you have any questions about this open letter, please contact us at

Yours respectfully,

David Billedeau, President
Cindy Hoi Ting Yeung, Vice President, Administration
Zabeen Khamisa, Vice President, Communications
Ashley Ryan, Student Wellness Coordinator
Matthew Robbins, Speaker of the GSA Council

Graduate Student Association - University of Waterloo

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Territorial Acknowledgement

We acknowledge that we work on the traditional territory of ‎ the Attawandaron (Neutral), Anishinaabeg and Haudenosaunee peoples. The University of Waterloo is situated on the Haldimand Tract, the land promised to the Six Nations that includes ten kilometers on each side of the Grand River. We acknowledge that we work on these territories as beneficiaries of settler colonialism. We also acknowledge that members of our UWaterloo community live on Indigenous territories around the world.

This statement is only a small step in the process of reconciliation. Decolonization requires systemic change. The GSA-UW is committed to this effort.

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