We're moving to a new building, soon, the first new academic building on our campus since the 70s, I'm told. And it's beautiful. For one thing, it's not built for riot control! And it's using all the technology to allow windows and light. So, yes, it's beautiful.
And it's built to ADA code, so people with wheelchairs should be able to use the restrooms and get down the hallways, even.
But the layout, boy oh boy, the layout feels like it was done by people who've never actually inhabited an office.
Here's the basic layout for instructors' offices (not to perfect scale):
We were all given basically the same office furniture, with a few choices optional (and thank dog one of the deanlings said that we actually needed more than a four foot tall single bookshelf available).
So, we could have a hutch on the top of the desk, which would only fit on the wall at the top of my picture, and would effectively block half the window. But EVERYONE had to have the same big L-shaped desk, and it has to be where it is.
Instead of the three bookshelves I've chosen, you could choose 2 bookshelves and a sideways file cabinet, or 1 bookshelf and two sideways file cabinets.
And you could choose an additional desk space sort of rounded off thing to make the desk into a horseshoe shape.
But other than that, it's all basically the same Ikea-style screwed together furniture, with the biggest difference being that every other office is the reverse of the ones next to it. (And some offices don't have the structural element my office does.) The chairs aren't in yet, but there will be (I'm told) two student chairs in the upper left space, and one rolling office chair for me.
So, yeah. I should be thrilled, right? It has a window, which is good. And I have an office, which is good. (And before anyone starts in, our adjuncts all have basically the same office, though some have skylights instead of windows because they're inside offices.)
We went in for a tour, and to tape down sticker things to show where we want our computer and such to go.
And I was almost crying.
I hate it. I shouldn't, but I do.
And I don't think this is just me being resistant to change or something. I think the office isn't well designed for my use.
1. There's no way to sit and work at the desk and either face the door or be, say, directly sideways to the door. It will always be behind me. Do you folks have those students who just walk into someone's office without any hesitation and loom over the space? We do. A lot. In my current office, I can see them coming. I have a feeling my office door is going to be closed all the time in this office. (Usually, I leave it fully open because I think it's a more friendly feeling to the building. But friendly be damned.)
2. There's a window, but there's no good way to, say, stand and look out, and mull. To get a good look out beyond the roof (we all look onto the roof of the floors below us), I'll have to sit on my desk.
3. The office has about 18 inches of file cabinet space (hung with a single regular drawer under the desk). Yes, I chose the three bookshelves option, because I teach literature and have a lot of books. My current office has three bookshelves, and they were pretty darned full. (I say "were" because we've been told to start packing, so I've packed most of the books I don't think I'll need before the beginning of the semester.) What the hell am I going to do with four file drawers of files? (We're required to keep all student work that isn't handed back for two years, so that's filling part of my file drawers, along with a full drawer for text teaching notes, and another drawer with course notes, and them stuffed in, advising and committee notes.) And the single desk drawer? That's gotta fit everything, the emergency tampons (because some of us are female humans, right?), the Tums, and so on, along with pens, stapler, index cards, etc.
4. There's no coat hook on the back of the door. I know this is a small thing, but think about it. This is the icy north, where we have some six months of serious coat weather, and not a single office has a place to hang coats. Who designs a building in the icy north without thinking about where to put big bulky coats? The same people who design academic office spaces without both book and file space.
I don't think they were purposefully trying to make the offices inutil, but rather that they're used to designing corporate type offices, and didn't talk to any people who actually inhabit academic offices about how we use them. Yes, some people really like desk space, and they should have been able to choose desk space options. I'm guessing digital humanities people will tend to need fewer bookshelves than lit type people. And some people won't keep paper files at all. And some people want to sit right next to the window to look out. And some people don't want to sit with their backs to the door. And so on.
The administrative types who like uniformity and "branding" are happy, though, because every single office looks alike on every floor. Each floor has it's "accent color" (ours is muddy brown, though they call it something that sounds more corporate), and everything will be uniform. All of us interchangeable cogs in the academic machinery will march along like factory workers, hoping they don't outsource us.
How soon can I retire?
One last thing: the hallway is interminably long, like the long of one of those nightmarish scenes in 60s movies where there's a long hallway of offices, all alike, and the workers all march in step to their place in the office.