I teach a popular topic that we might call String Theory for Ducks, a discipline that is frequently considered fluff, but, of course, isn't. Such a topic requires specific physical facilities in order to properly teach this subject, not mention this topic needs space to store all the technology used in the study and production of String Theory for Ducks. Alas, I have no such facility, unless you count my office. People ask, when they visit me, if my office is a storage room. I routinely knock things over, and to get things out, you have to move things out of the office.
To make matters worse, my classrooms are usually across campus, and in small lecture rooms. In order to teach this String Theory properly, I must drag the relevant equipment to the classroom. I have purchased a grocery cart for this activity, the sort of cart used by elderly people to carry groceries home. Sometimes, I am fortunate to have a band of students help me carry these items back and forth. Often, I am left trying to open a door, while pushing a cart and carrying a heavy tote bag.
Have I worked to acquire a dedicated space to teach String Theory for Ducks? Of course, I have. Was I promised a space when I was hired? Of course. Promises aplenty. Have I been working on Plan B? Yes. Do I have help from above? ....no. ( Plan C: find a new gig has been undermined by the economy and the slender # of String Theory For Ducks jobs out there.)
But, all that misery aside, the thing is there are two spaces available but I am not allowed to use them. They sit empty. Why?
Of course, the real problem is that very nature of my subject, which is seen as "fluffiness,"means it is not taken seriously. I cannot imagine the biology professor storing and carting around an entire lab. Or the drawing teacher carrying tables, easels, lights. Or the geology professor carrying rocks. Or the music professor carrying music stands, a piano, and so on around campus. Sure, we all store some equipment in our offices, but how many people store ALL the equipment for the entire department in their office? And drag it around looking like the Joads leaving Oklahoma?
How does this all look to the students? They routinely say, "You need a bigger office. Why don't they give a bigger space or a String Theory for Ducks bldg? "
Why don't they?
They can't help it. They're scorpions. It's their nature.ReplyDelete
My theory is that change won't happen until you start to inconvenience other people who can change things. If possible, have your work space spill over into the Chair's office or storage space...ReplyDelete
In answer to your question: those in the humanities cart around all their shit, but books are rarely considered a lot to cart around. You really deserve a lab. Can you set one up in the hallway with cones around it?Delete
Indeed. I worked at one institution where I was given NO OFFICE SPACE WHATSOEVER! I got so sick and tired of carting around people's unclaimed homework that one day I dropped all of it off at the Lost and Found at Public Safety.Delete
Students inquiring about homework that they hadn't bothered to pick up in 8 weeks were promptly directed to the Lost and Found.
Do fraternities, sororities, (actual) service organizations, and/or protesters periodically build shacks on your campus. Maybe you could commandeer one or two of those when they're done with them? Or perhaps buy a used FEMA trailer (preferably one that isn't toxic) and plunk it down in a parking lot somewhere? Mind you, I'm not suggesting that you should have to teach in either sort of space, just that such actions might get someone's attention. If it's possible to do string theory for ducks in visible locations that inconvenience or at least puzzle others, I'd certainly try that now and then.ReplyDelete
Just make sure to get some juicy dirt on the dean and make sure he knows that you know. Then inquire sweetly about some square feet behind a lock. Took me 3 years to figure out as a young professor, but it works like a charm.ReplyDelete
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