Office Space

So, now that students are back, I figure it's time for the blog to become active again. I'll try, once again, to post on the weekends. The last two weekends in September might be a bit rough due to travel and life, but I'll try to get by. I've even started a new inspiration list! Here's my first blog during the 2012-2013 academic year on office life in academia.

Most days I really enjoy learning about the academic side of higher ed. I work with faculty, tenure-track, tenured, non-tenured, visiting, and adjunct, I work with support staff, administration, student services, and occasionally student affairs. I’ve learned that faculty work hard, mostly, and care about the students, mostly. I’ve learned that being a program/school/head chair is a lot of work and is similar to herding highly intelligent cats. I’ve learned some dispise meetings as a waste of time and other people love them because it gives them a forum. There are so many personalities that it’s hard to pinpoint just one thing I’ve learned from all of them.

One thing I haven’t learned how to deal with is my personal space. As support staff I sit in a pretty open office, where things get dropped off, stored, picked up, misplaced, temporarily, and sometimes disappear forever. My computer sits on an L-shaped desk, at an angle, facing me and the windows at my back. Many of the documents I’m working on face the door and my frequently used binders lean, neatly stacked, against each other next to the wall.

I work on confidential documents on a pretty regular basis. I look up student records, class rosters, and faculty information. I type confidential meeting notes and create emails only intended for specific recipients. I also keep several calendars for the chairs of the school’s departments. These calendars are very specific, and I’m only allowed to schedule some of them in certain allotted times. When I’m asked by a student “Can I please make an appointment with Prof. John Doe?” I’ll say “His office hours are...”. Many times students will come around my desk to look at the calendar I’m looking at, which isn’t good. The calendars contain confidential information, personal appointments, other student appointments, university ID numbers. I keep my computer facing me unless I need to share information. Also, open spots on the calendar doesn’t mean they are actually open; it might mean they’re in class or are off campus for that time of day.

But it’s not just students. Faculty and others will do the same. “I need to find a document Chelsea.” “Ok, not a problem, let me see if I can find it and I’ll email it to you/print it out/show you where to find it.” And they walk around my desk and stand behind me. First, if you’re going to do this, please get in the habit of brushing your teeth. Second, while this may be a public office, my computer is private and holds private data. What I look at or work on is probably not for your eyes, so please stay on the other side of the desk.

I’ve tried to rearrange my desk, but due to how the office is set up, it hasn’t worked. The best I’ve found is keeping my computer at the corner facing the back of my office. I guess personal space doesn’t matter, but I wish confidential and private information mattered at least a little. Especially to those who wish to be viewed as professional. And I know it’s tempting, I’ve tried to get a glimpse of a computer screen myself. But I’m giving you all of what you need, you don’t need to see it. If you do need to see it, just ask, I can always turn my monitor around if it’s appropriate to do so. (Would it make me seem like an old codger if I put a line of tape on the floor labeled "do not cross"?)


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