Saturday, November 1, 2008

See the professors teach! Watch the students learn! Discover the fascinating habits of scholars at their desks!

When I was in graduate school, the building that then housed the English department had a room we all called "The Fishbowl" because of its window overlooking a busy corridor. As if that weren't bad enough, many a comprehensive exam and dissertation defense was held in that room.

The Rust Belt U English department will soon be a department full of Fishbowls. Beginning Tuesday, we're moving into a brand new classroom and office building that has been constructed inside the edifice of one of the original WPA-constructed buildings on campus. I'm excited to be getting an office that's about 125% larger than the one I have now, and I'm psyched to have carpet that doesn't have a quarter century of god-knows-what embedded in it, as my current carpet does.

But I'm a little concerned about the fishbowl effect. You see, every single room in this building, including our individual offices, has windows that look out onto the hallways. There's some reason for this: because of the kind of building that's been re-purposed, many of these rooms are on interior hallways, without windows to the outside, so windows onto hallways will prevent us from feeling like we're in closets. But they also mean that we're constantly on display. I'll be putting up curtains across my window (thank god for tension rods) and only opening them when I have office hours. But when any of us teaches in that building, which we'll be doing most of the time, in many of the rooms we'll be facing not only our students, but also a big glass wall that looks out onto major corridors and places where people might congregate. It's going to take some getting used to, especially for those of us (me!) who are easily distracted.

Maybe I should change the pseudonym of our university to Rust Belt *Zoo*.


Anonymous said...

I'd have a lot of problem with the window on my office because I'd be visually distracted by all the passing-by at the very least. I hope you get some very opaque curtains to hang there.

Steve Muhlberger said...

When one of our newer wings was built in included a fishbowl office suite for our brand new VP Academic. That didn't last long...

Dr. Virago said...

Janice -- Well, at least my office is in a cul-de-sac office suite, so it won't get through-traffic.

Steve -- Yeah, I'm sure at least every office will soon have curtains, posters, or furniture covering the windows.

Thoroughly Educated said...

Could you get an attractive folding screen to set up in front of the glass? You could post things on the back (public side), and it would still let light in over the top when unfolded.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I didn't know that move was happening already. Or I guess I did, and I forgot.

But I'd actually miss the old building, carpet grime notwithstanding. To a kid born a few miles away, it always seemed like an Important place, a landmark.

...also: yesterday, in a parking lot some miles off, I was startled to walk by a bright red parked Harley Davidson--stenciled in white script Virago. Coincidence, perhaps, but makes a certain kind of sense. Everybody here can draw their own conclusions.