Monday, November 15, 2010

An Office of One's Own

All right, folks. Since most of my readers seem to have found my last post earnest enough to induce a diabetic coma (I yam what I yam, people, and make no apologies for it), I thought I'd post something brief in the more typical woe-is-me vein. So here it is: I'm fucking tired of sharing an office.

Now, office-sharing is typical when we're graduate TAs. Not great, but typical. My 10-by-10 grad office was shared with two other TAs, in the sub-basement of a "sick building" complete with asbestos, exploding plumbing, wildly canted floors and ceilings, and, ominously, a health survey sent out by campus lawyers a few years ago asking if any of us had experienced certain cancers or respiratory conditions. But at the risk of invoking the old "rank hath its privileges" thing, I assumed that I would have my own office when I got a tenure-track job.

Not so. I have shared my 8-by-12 office every year since I've been here.** None of my office-mates has been obnoxious, but one was a compulsive hoarder, and one semester I shared with two people, rather than the normal one. This year, my office-mate has a class schedule exactly the same as mine. So, with his mandatory student conferences this week, I find myself typing this post from an on-campus coffee shop, where I'm holding my regularly scheduled office hours. And the asbestos and capricious plumbing are still a part of my life -- though at least I have a window now. What makes it worse is that there are serious inequities in this respect. I'm not the only one sharing an office, but the way that the solo-office privilege is distributed seems to be utterly random, and sometimes downright weird.

Was I hopelessly naïve to think I'd get a room of my own once I hit the big time (that is, the tenure track)? How common is this?

And yes, I have mentioned it to my chair. And there have been noises, but nothing happens. On the other hand, part of the reason that it doesn't happen is me. For example, my chair offered to move my office-mate, but only when it was already the middle of the semester. I thought this would have been was unnecessarily burdensome to both instructor and students, so I gave it a pass. I think that was the right call, but I also think it may have given Chair the impression that, since that, I wasn't willing to evict my office-mate mid-semester, it wasn't that big a deal.

But it kind of is a big deal. If I could have an office of my own, it wouldn't solve all my problems. But it would be a start.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go: the coffee shop is filling up, and several students are eyeing my table.

**The only year I've had my own office was the year I was on fellowship leave. In other words, I had to get another university to give me an office. And let me tell you, it was amazing how much more work I got done.


clio's disciple said...

I have my own office, where I'm currently procrastinating by reading your blog post.

I had shared offices several times in my years as a contingent lecturer. Arranging hours of use and bookshelf space was often irritating. One year, though, the person I was sharing with never showed up, as far as I could tell, leaving me with a gigantic office space all to myself.

The worst was the year I did not have a key to my shared office, which had to be kept open at all times for reasons I did not understand. This left me with no secure place to put my belongings.

At any rate, I don't at all think it was out of line to expect a private office as a t-t professor. I too would have expected one.

Anonymous said...

not naive to expect that, I don't think - I thought it was bad enough at my first librarian position (where I was only considered staff, not faculty) that I had no door to close and a portion of my "office" functioned as other things in the library... (I was so happy when I took a T-T library position - office door! (that locks!) and a window! I'm in heaven!)

Ianqui said...

I have to say I'm pretty surprised that a tenure-track professor wouldn't get their own office. I'm at a place that regularly decries their space crunch, but I don't think they'd ever require TT faculty to share offices. I think I'd make a lot of noise and regularly if I didn't have my own office.

Comrade PhysioProf said...

For example, my chair offered to move my office-mate, but only when it was already the middle of the semester. I thought this would have been was unnecessarily burdensome to both instructor and students, so I gave it a pass. I think that was the right call, but I also think it may have given Chair the impression that, since that, I wasn't willing to evict my office-mate mid-semester, it wasn't that big a deal.

This was a big mistake. It's not your jobbe to make sure that your office-mate gets taken care of. And you proved to your chair that when push comes to shove, she can continue to fucke you over with impunity. The people who have their own offices are the ones who make it in the chair's own best interest to give them their own fucken offices.

In summary: Whose fucken side are you on, anyway?

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Well, some of you may be heartened to know that, immediately after posting this, I went to my chair and said, "We're still on track for me to have my own office next semester, right?" In other words, phrasing it as a foregone conclusion, rather than a request. And yes, if all goes according to plan, next semester the office will be mine.

Of course, right after that, I slammed my finger in my office's fireproof door. So I am forced to conclude that my office is mad at me.

Either that, or CPP is right and I'm just unwittingly self-destructive.

Susan said...

What CPP said. You need to advocate for yourself, and then the chair advocates for the department. "It is impossible for our faculty to do their jobs if they must share their offices."

Bardiac said...

Where I did my MA work, at least some of the English professors shared offices. I think that's how it is at some schools, especially poorer ones. (They've since moved into a new building, so maybe they don't share now?)

Notorious Ph.D. said...

"...especially the poorer ones." Yes, that seems to be the issue here. There was a grand plan to build us something new, but it's about iteration #4 of the Grand Plan. We get plans, architects, timetables... and then the money runs out. Ten years later, it starts again.

Janice said...

I'm sorry to hear about the office-sharing and finger-slamming.

If it makes you feel better, we have an articulation agreement that includes some faculty at a college campus in a quasi-distant city. Those poor folk -- the college thought we were outrageous in asking for an office for two full-time faculty to share.

The college's philosophy is to have one office for an entire department worth of adjuncts and full-timers. Office hours are apparently not part of the culture!

Historiann said...

You're 40 now, right? One of the awesome things about 40 for me was being freed of having to care for others (who if the tables were turned wouldn't have cared about me anyway.) Susan and CPP are right: the chair offered to evict someone from your office!!! All yo had to say was yes, of course.

Remember: whatever we ask for is *selfish*, so you might as well get what you want. I am spoiled b/c I have my own office @ the uni and at home. And I don't have to share!!! It's awesome.

Historiann said...

And, by the way: if a previous office mate was a horder, I think you've done your Nice Guy facetime in the department for the rest of your career there.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Yes, well. I wouldn't feel good about evicting mid-semester, b/c office-mate is a lecturer, and they have it hard enough, IMO. But it looks like things will be resolved by the beginning of next semester. First step when that happens: move the other desk OUT so there's not a standing invitation to stick someone else back in there. Then, I'm going to lick all the doorknobs.

Historiann said...

HEE-hee. Hilarious!

Maybe your hoarder office mate was just enacting a strategy for repelling office mates? I'm just sayin'.

Innisfree said...

If it makes you feel more bold, I'm only a lowly grad student and I have my own office this year. I'm the only one in my department with my own office and it is actually pretty strange because I can talk to my friend through the wall, but still. You should have your own office.

Belle said...

I've seen all kinds of office spaces for faculty, and I know I'm pretty lucky. My office is a good size, it's all mine, and there's no talk about sharing. Granted, my window looks onto the hallway and ladies' room door. So I painted self a view; I'm the only prof on campus with a view of the Pacific.

Anonymous said...

At this point I think I would be happy to have an office with a sign that had my name engraved on it, and not printed out on a piece of leftover office paper.

But thankfully I have my own office for my graduate position, though oddly I am the only person from my department in the whole building. So I don't bother them, and they don't bother me, a la a NY apt building - if a NY apt building had to share one fridge.