The Professor Is In  recently started a new side-project called Classrooms of Shame , highlighting some of the terrible conditions we teach in, especially in the humanities. It has also expanded to include deplorable “office” spaces adjuncts (and even professors) are given. She is inviting people to submit pictures of descriptions, which will remain anonymous. This is an issue across the country (and, knowing colleagues in Canada, across North America), and my campus is no exception.
I’m writing this post in my new office. I am finally no longer in the “Faculty House” that isn’t even on a campus map and that was making me sick this summer. One fall, the basement had three feet of water in it for an undetermined length of time. The mold smell never really went away. Early this summer, there was a wasp infestation inside, and so there was now the added smell of insecticide. The roof first leaked, and then caved in upstairs. There were, before I moved, 7 English professors/instructors who had offices there.
I had put in a request to move my office over a year ago, and because of that, I thankfully got first choice on a couple of offices that were vacated. In the meantime, the university finally decided that the Faculty House wasn’t suitable for office space. My colleagues, as a result, are being relegated to graduate carrels in a converted classroom space for an indeterminate amount of time.
My new office is, largely, lovely. I had a window that overlooks the rolling hills on the horizon and the old trees on campus. I have an entire wall of bookshelves. I also only have one electrical outlet that doesn’t even have a three-pronged slot. In other words, even with a power bar, in case of a lightning storm, my university computer is toast. I’ve written before about the deferred maintenance issues  of the building where my office is now, and I can’t help but think this electrical issue will come back again.
Once again this semester, I’m teaching all of my classes in computer labs . These labs are centrally controlled and don’t necessarily have the best pedagogical foundations in their placement of the computers. Last semester, my students were hidden behind giant computer screens and miles apart from one another. This semester, same computer screen, but this time they are stuck together, so the students can’t see around their screens to see what’s going on at the front of the class. I stare at a sea of screens with eyes craning to see over the screens. I have no idea how we’re going to do effective presentations in this room.
In many ways, I’m lucky: I have an office, access to computer labs for my students and my teaching. But I don’t think that should be an excuse to accept less-than-optimal conditions for teaching and learning for ourselves and our students. We can do better, and we need to. Building new buildings is the sexier project, I know, but renovation should be just as, if not more, important.