Fall Quarter 2013 has been tough and not just because of an unusually heavy teaching load I gladly accepted to cover for a colleague on emergency leave. Since the quarter began, I’ve been rear-ended, sick, and sprawled flat in the campus parking, a victim of black ice. I have also learned that the new building promised as the future home of my college division has morphed into a multi-use building in direct response to faculty complaint.
Upon learning the completed design of “our” new building had no faculty offices, we voiced concern about privacy and productivity issues with cubicles and about a decision-making process that included zero input from those who will be using the building, namely faculty and students.
The administrative response to our complaint has been to change not the design of the building, but its designated use, thus allowing them to move those who choose not to be stuck in a cluster of cubicles into the vacated offices of those who are more creative and collaborative than we are. Another decision made in the same vacuum, behind the same closed administrative doors as the cubicle decision. Another slap in the face to those of us who have dedicated lifelong careers to the college.
On this day before Thanksgiving, I count my blessings. I’m grateful for mandatory car insurance and the science of antibiotics. I am grateful to the student who helped me off the icy pavement. And I am grateful to each and every one of the students from every corner of the world who I have worked with over the past three decades – even those who were less than happy with my teaching style – because from all I have learned to be a stronger teacher, a more aware world citizen, and a better human being. I am grateful to have a secure teaching position and wonderful colleagues across campus who stimulate my creativity. However, I am not grateful for a current administration that seems to define creativity and collaboration by the number of committee meetings a faculty member attends or how often he or she is seen walking across campus with a colleague from a different department.
Those of us who have been at the college longer than most administrators have witnessed the circular patterns of educational reform. We know that this current focus will fade as soon as another “new” idea comes along. The danger lies in designing and constructing a multimillion dollar building on the basis of limited and constantly changing trends in education. And in alienating a dedicated faculty in the process.