Socially Responsible Computing TA Program

Through the Socially Responsible Computing Teaching Assistant (STA) program, STAs are assigned to individual courses and work closely with course staff to develop content connecting the technical material in a class to its social context.

The goal of the STA program is to make critical thought about the social impact of technical systems an integral part of the design and development process. The purpose of embedding SRC content throughout the CS curriculum, rather than in a standalone course, is to repeatedly expose students to the social, political, and ethical aspects of computing and directly relate these issues to technical choices.

What goals does the program have for students?

  • Recognize that technology is not neutral, nor does it exist in a vacuum; it contains built-in biases that reflect the preferences, norms, and worldview of its creators.
  • Build with everyone in mind.
  • Understand and fulfill the responsibility to advocate against unethical product or research decisions.

How does the program work?

Each course that opts into the STA program is assigned 1-2 STAs. STAs work closely with course staff to develop content connecting the technical material of a class to its social context and consequences. Each course is expected to touch on responsible computing multiple times during the semester, at least once as part of a graded assignment, with coverage starting earlier in the semester (rather than as an add-on at the end). In the past, STAs have embedded content in lectures, written questions, reading assignments, labs, and larger technical projects. See the Course table below for more details.

Frequently Asked Questions

How did the STA program begin?

In 2019, the Brown CS department started the “Responsible CS” initiative to integrate ethics and social impact topics broadly across its curriculum. The STA program, formerly called the Ethics Teaching Assistant (ETA) program, was the first step in this initiative.

Why was the role renamed from Ethics TA to Socially Responsible TA?

Our focus on Socially-Responsible Computing is broader than ethics: we include a combination of understanding power and technology, making ethical design decisions, building accessible systems, and testing systems for (un)desirable impacts on various stakeholders. We want students to make decisions based on social, historical, and personal perspectives that are not necessarily part of traditional "ethics" frameworks.

How does the STA program interact with the courses and professors?

For each course that the program works with, one or more STAs work as members of the course staff to integrate ethics content into the curriculum. The work of integrating content is a collaborative effort between the STAs, professors, and rest of the course staff.

How can I get involved as an STA?

STA hiring occurs at the same time as regular TA hiring. The MTAs will send out an email the semester before with information about applying for both UTA and STA positions. Some STAs serve both as UTAs and STAs. You can find more information about the application process here.

How much are STAs paid?

The hourly wages for STAs are calculated with the same formula as regular TAs.