The Office, the new season

Things have been quiet around the ol’ blog lately because the new fall term is upon us with a vengeance, mostly because of the move back into the the remodeled but not completely done/sorted out yet Pray-Harrold.  Heck, it’s taken me a couple weeks just to write this little post!

If you were one of the three people who attended the panel I was on about “Pray-Harrold in Exile” in Atlanta at the CCCCs (or if you are one of the 100 or so people who saw this video on YouTube), or if you have read some of the posts and comments on EMUTalk.org about this, then you are aware that my department (and many others) were temporarily uprooted out of our previous office and teaching space, Pray-Harrold Hall, deposited in dorms and other odd places for about 16 months, and now reassembled in slightly different order back in our previous building.

It’s mostly good, with some bad and some frustrations thrown into the mix.  The old building features a lot of new fixtures:  new bathrooms; new flooring, walls, ceilings, lighting, windows, doors, and the like; new technology in the regular classrooms; and much better infrastructure in terms of the “guts” of the building, HVAC and electrical and the like.  The bad part of it all is it’s still the same old and huge building, and a compelling argument could be made that we should have torn this thing down and started over.  And there have been a ton of frustrations regarding little things like keys and pretty big things like not very good at all tech support and other problems.

But I don’t want to dwell on that.  I just want to contemplate the office.

Office View #3

On the floor that hosts (most) of the Department of English Language and Literature, there are “interior” offices that are small-ish (10 X 12 or so, maybe a little less) and that lack a window, and “exterior” offices that are close to twice as big and that have a window.  Now, in the pre-remodeling configuration of things, if as a faculty person in the department you wanted your own office, you got an interior one;  if you were willing to share (usually with a part-timer or lecturer), you got an exterior one.  This represented a certain balance in that there were obvious pros and cons to each choice.

Office view #2

For institutional/insider reasons not worth going into, this has changed.  Now exterior offices go to faculty based on being a program coordinator (which was the case before as well) and based on seniority, interior offices go to less senior faculty and full-time lecturers, and part-time instructors are in a different building entirely.  So, as the program coordinator for written communication, I get one of the larger and windowed exterior offices (the one pictured here) all to myself instead of my previous smaller and windowless office.

This has had the effect of both upsetting the previous pro/con, yin/yang balance of one’s office, and it has also meant that some folks have come out much better, a few (almost) exactly the same, and a few much worse.  If I weren’t the program coordinator right now, I would have had an interior office because I’m not quite there seniority-wise.  If enough people retire before I am finished being coordinator and nothing else changes, I’ll get to keep this larger, windowed office.  Maybe.
Office View #3There’s been some grumbling about this arrangement.  I have to say I have a certain amount of what I can only describe as “survivor guilt” about all this because I have definitely come out ahead in the office shuffle, while others have either come out about the same or even a little behind.  And there probably is a more robust way to decide who is in what office.  I know of at least one senior colleague in an exterior office who is never there, for example.  It seems a bit of a waste that this person gets one of the nicer, bigger offices, doesn’t it?

My own way of dealing with this is I am trying to make much more use of my office and I have once again shifted my scholarly/professional “stuff” into that space.  When I first came to EMU back in 1998, I had almost all of my stuff in my school office because we lived an apartment that wasn’t that big.  Then when we bought our house, Annette and I both set up offices in our basement, and over the next eight or so years, my stuff migrated back home and to different places in the house.  In fact, by the time I had to pack up for the move out of Pray-Harrold into Hoyt for our year in exile, there was really nothing in my office anymore I really needed.

So now, I’m circling back to the point where I started at EMU and have shifted everything back into Pray-Harrold.  I even bought some extra shelving.  I tell myself that I am trying to make a clearer division between “life” and “work,” with the work stuff staying up in Pray-Harrold; though I still have a home office and desk space too, and I am sure I will continue to do plenty of work here too.  But at this point in my career, I suspect I won’t be shelping all this stuff back home until I am completely done and retired.

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