Monday, April 03, 2006

Office Doors

The offices in my department are mostly on one floor, laid out in a square, offices on the outside, then a hallway, then interior departmental offices and such inside. That means each instructor has a window to the world, though not necessarily a great view (my window looks out on the gravel roof of the next wing); still there's at least a view of some natural light, and I'm VERY grateful for that. The interior offices, where our admin assistants and student workers work, offer no such pleasure.

The department office door is nearly across from my office, nearer the building elevator doors. There's a huge window in the office, looking out to the hallway, which eases what might otherwise feel claustrophobic in there. And there's a large sign indicating that it's our department hanging into the hallway, but it seems that few people look up, because I often get someone walking into my office, asking if I'm the English department. My snide side wants to ask if I LOOK like a department, but usually I just point to the huge window and door and head them there. I really don't know why people miss that door as they walk by to ask me if I'm the department, but someone does it at least three or four times a week.

Our office doors have a fairly large window, a vertical opening from about midway to near the top of the door, about 6 inches in width (and yes, all jokes about women and judging distances apply, thanks).

Our general practice is to have office doors open when we're in the office; it's not a rule or anything, but that's how most people work. Or at least, that's how it seems. Because the other practice is that most of us cover the window in some way so that if we're in the office with the door closed, someone can't really look in. Choices for the covering are varied from art or wrapping paper to a street sign (positioned vertically), to just plain paper. The more talented amongst my colleagues manage to create enough privacy that you can't tell if the light's on or anybody's home. You can tell from outside if my light's on, pretty much, but there's sufficient privacy for my needs. (One the other hand, I'm not changing clothes in here if I can help it.)

Open doors allow some little natural light into the hallway during the day, making the whole floor seem more friendly and inviting, and less fluorescent. Open doors also give me a sense that people are around, which I like. On the inside of my office door, rarely seen, hangs my regalia in a nice dust cover thing, and also whatever jacket or coat and hat I may be wearing, depending on the season.

I like having my office door open when I'm in. For one thing, the office seems a lot larger with the door open. But I'm also weirdly picky. I don't like people to just walk in; in fact, the only people who really just walk on in are students. And oddly enough, some of them walk in if the office is open even if I'm not actually IN the office. Some even walk in when I'm in the office with someone, which seems most odd to me.

I usually have office hours with my doors open, unless we're discussing something that seems to need privacy. I think that's also true for most of my colleagues.

Some of my colleagues leave their doors slightly ajar when they're in, inviting a knock, but not a walk in, perhaps.

We have reasonably prominent office numbers, but no name plates or anything. Instead, we're asked to fill out a little, tiny, miniscule office hour form, which displays our name in 12 point type. A few people have put up bigger name plate things. Really, we all should have something that makes putting offices and people together easier for our students. I've rebelled against the miniscule office hour form, and gotten a big weekly time sheet (on regular sized US academic paper), and labeled and colored (with highlighters, though my ability to stay inside of lines lacks) in my schedule, mostly so that I can tell where I need to go next from across the room. Hey, if I can read it, so can people who want to find me, right?

One either side of my office are colleagues' offices. Well, duh. I like these two colleagues; both are friendly, nice, and so forth. Both also have voices that carry. Okay, to be honest, both have voices that you could hear distinctly on the far side of an open football stadium filled with cheering fans. Both also like to stand in the hall and carry on conversations with people at the far end of the hall. Sometimes, they stand just outside their own door and converse with each other.
That complicates the whole open door thing.

I've asked to move offices this summer, after one of my colleagues retires. I'll be in a much quieter area of the hall. I told another colleague this the other day, and she said that I'd be breaking up "Testosterone Alley." I hadn't thought about the all male-occupied side of the floor there, but I guess that's what they've called it. It cracked me up. At least it's a whole lot more quiet! (And no, we thought it through and there's no "Estrogen Alley"; mostly we're pretty gender mixed through the floor.)

So, in your world, open doors? Big prominent names? Conversational colleagues?


  1. I'm in the field of music, which means closed doors. Otherwise it's too hard to get anything done while the steel drum band is practicing one floor down, or a voice student is vocalising, or while the drama class is loudly rehearsing. Right. Outside. My. Door. (Gah!)

    We have name plates outside our offices, but several of them are incorrect and have remained incorrect for a year now. I finally used a label machine to fix a few of them after I got tired of people knocking on my door while looking for a colleague.

    No windows in our doors, unfortunately. With all the one-on-one time we spend with music students in lessons, it would be a wise choice to have a little less privacy than we do now, IMO.

    The frustrating thing about the doors-closed practice is that it's hard to be friendly with colleagues. It's rather isolating.

    But the worst? When a collague teaches a drama class with her doors open. And then comes over and asks the music faculty to be quiet, even when our doors are shut.

  2. Closed. So closed. Or else how would I get anything done?

    Unless it's office hours. And then open. So open. I think closed doors and undergrads don't mix.

  3. My office door is always open. If the door is open and the office is empty, people know that I am on campus somewhere. If the door is closed, they know that I am working at home that day.

    We have tiny little name plates. So I have a printed up sign with my name in big letters and my office hours, my class schedule, my email, and my phone number.

    My office door is big, metal, and covered with homemade magnetic poetry words. So when students get bored, they come and write poems on my door.

    Since my office is the library on campus, students come by fairly often.

  4. I always leave my door open unless I am discussing something private, which given the work I do, is too often for my liking. This means that if the door is open, and a call comes in that is private, I have to get up, go around the desk to the door and close it. This is a pain in the neck. I need an automatic garage door opener for my office door, it would make my life a lot easier.

    I would much rather just leave the door open.

  5. Like hieronomo, open door means come in and/or office hours, closed door means I am working. The only person who regularly walked in was the chair, a friend, usually to gossip or chat or avoid work.

    My department was the only department on campus not in a building. Most of us were in a trailer (they called it a 'module' but it was the white-collar version of a double-wide, with no bathroom) and the 'most' were all women--12 of us. A few of us gathered in the hall or an office to vent, strategize, bitch, share student horror stories. Now, we never see each other and it sucks.

    After my first year, I started wearing earphones in my office while I worked and didn't answer the phone so no one outside would know I was in. I had a window. I felt privileged.

    Along with the trailer came only a number on your door, the gold and black kind you buy at Home Depot. I made a schedule on paper every semester with scheduled office hours, I-might-be-here hours and don't-try-it hours. Students, though, seemed to prefer asking ME or anyone else with an open or ajar door, what time (or, worse, 'where') Professor Q was. My answer was along the lines of How the hell should I know, did you look at her DOOR?

    I'd be happy to have those problems again. Rumor has it we may get to be in a building this time.

  6. vausey7:33 PM

    I wish I had a metal door so I could steal jo(e)'s idea of the homemade poetry kit -- that is so cool! I used to have my favorite Gary Larson cartoon about the Mongols on my door too, but I do not know what happened to it.

    All of us in my building have a nice-sized name plate on our doors thanks to the administrative goddess who runs my deparment.

    During office hours or other times I am available / want company my door is open. I am on a pretty busy hallway (classrooms and offices) so we get decent traffic.

    Best wishes on getting a building g bitch. Hope y'all and your campus has been recovering.

  7. Closed for working, open for office hours. The lounge area outside my office is noisy, but if I closed the door more than I do, who would the students turn to for their "do you have a stapler?" crises?

  8. TD - I imagine the noise issue is huge for performance arts. And yes, one of my colleagues next door has chided my students for quietly chatting in the hall while waiting for their turn in my office.

    Hieronimo - (After the Spanish Tragedy char?) - I totally agree, open doors with most students is so much more appropriate!

    Jo(e) - I'm so jealous of your metal poetry door!!! I have some poetry magnets, but really no place to put them for people to play with! DARN! (I wonder if I could get a magnetic board of some sort. It would add fun.)

    tbtam - my office is small enough that a quick roll gets me from desk to door. But dang, wouldn't it be fun to have a big old Rube Goldberg set up to close the door from across the room?

    g bitch - /consolations. How is the rebuilding or repair issue coming along these days? (Remind me not to whine about MY little home away from home!) I taught at a school where I had a trailer office with six other adjuncts. It was pretty tight quarters.

    vausey - oh, yeah, cartoons are important. I have a couple up, and an Avian flue alert about the symptoms of avian flu, ending with an irresistible urge to take a dump on someone's windshield.

    undine - I used to get tons of stapler and "where's my professor" requests at my old school, but not so much here. Thank goodness!

  9. I have a wooden door with a small window (covered with black construction paper but with a still from the German early horror film Nosferatu added to make it more interesting). I make a sign every semester with classes, office hours, etc. with a new photo on top each semester. It's typed and mounted on colored construction paper.

    I leave my door open during office hours, usually open or just cracked (to indicate busy, but open to important interruptions) when in, but closed when I really can't afford an interruption. I work in my office all day long, so sometimes I just need the solitude of the closed door.

    I love your blog, Bardiac. There's always something great to read. The high school reading post was terrific.