Sharing Is Caring

Annie's Office

At our little community college, with its small, mostly 1-2 storied, scattered multiuse (both offices and classrooms together) buildings over nearly 200 acres, the tradition is that full time instructors get private offices, while adjuncts must share. Yet, as is the sad state of academia nationally, while the number of full time instructors has remained stagnant for the last 15+ years, the number of part timers has increased dramatically. Thus, we have an office space issue: the offices (most at under 100 square feet) are too small to house 4-6 part time instructors at the same time.  And despite an increase of 7 new faculty offices by fall, we still expect to be short office space, particularly in our department, which has been tasked to add more classes (and thus more part time faculty) to meet increased demand. Hence the e-mail we all recently received with the treacly subject line “Sharing (Offices) Is Caring”:

FT instructors,

As I am sure you all know, we have a serious space crunch for offices around here. We are also in the process of trying to hire a few more instructors for this fall term since we are overwhelmed with enrollment growth. We are asking Full-Time instructors if they are willing to share an office with Part-Time/Adjunct. I know it’s not really anyone’s first choice but if you can work something out it would be extremely appreciated.

So far, no one has jumped on this opportunity. Keep in mind that unlike most university professors, we teach 15 hours a week, hold an additional 5 hours a week for office hours, attend at least one committee meeting a week, and many (though not all) of us use our offices to do prep and grading. So during prime hours (10am-4pm) most faculty are on campus, and in need of an office.

Many moons ago, before computers were part of the office décor, I was an adjunct. I believe I shared a large office (at least 150 square feet) with about 60 other part time instructors. I remember running from the subway to get there early enough (I taught evenings then as I continue to do now) to at least get a chair and a piece of a desk. I shared a single file drawer. I feel the pain of having shared office space. And  the 6 part time instructors who share the 90 square foot office next door to me now are crammed, rushed to make use of the ONE computer, and clearly unable to perform their jobs with the same comforts as I currently have.

So I’ve volunteered to share my office in the fall with a part timer, who happens to be my husband, who also happens to teach at the ungodly hour of 8am, well before I arrive.  That’s not exactly selfless of me I know, but I’m guessing some of you fellow academics understand?

7 responses to “Sharing Is Caring

  1. At my CC, full time faculty must share an office with one other full time person, so my first thought was envy when you mentioned having an office of your own. Some of ours are large, but others are not much bigger than yours. The load is the same as you mention. Adjuncts have a few office rooms and a lounge shared with all fac-staff in the building, but it is the chair+ space in file cabinet system, and no adjuncts really hang out or work in their offices. I don’t know… I can see that the college would want the adjuncts to have a place to put their things and to meet with students, but I can see all kinds of issues coming up with adjuncts demanding office space as a matter of course. I don’t think the request is going to result in many offers.

  2. Annie Em, you’re kind. And it’s nice that you’ll be able to share with your husband.

    At one place where I was an adjunct, they shoved us into offices that already held TWO full-time profs. We all three had office hours at the same time, and they were very kind and welcoming, but I felt incredibly awkward and intrusive in their space.

    At another school, we didn’t have assigned offices, but there was a big room with a number of desks for adjuncts to use. That was actually quite fun! Whenever students were there or if we wanted to work, we could, but we could also socialize a little bit in the meantime.

  3. Thanks for the comments, Ink and Chloe. And yes, I AM incredibly lucky to have had this private office as long as I have (well, it’s my 4th office in 14 years—I tend to be the first to volunteer).

    The interesting part of this dilemma for me, though, is that there are some adjuncts teaching 3/4’s of a tenured faculty load who are on campus much more than some tenured faculty: some faculty just prefer working on campus; some prefer working at home (or get this: holding “online” office hours via email instead of “live” office hours). If we had an office distribution system that allowed for that difference, it makes sense for some adjuncts to have office space. In my building alone, there is one full time instructor on leave–her office is not used at all this quarter. And two other full time faculty members who are truly in their offices for no more than the 5 hours a week required for office hours (if even that).

    Of course I know that this would require an office czar to oversee the distribution of office space by time spent on campus, but since the asking for volunteers system doesn’t seem to be working, that may be the next step (and no, I haven’t shared this idea with the admins;-)

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  5. Oooh. I don’t know. I think allocation of office space by time spent on campus is every administrator’s secret weapon, and would go down with faculty as well as a burr sandwich on dry toast. Unless an on leave faculty member will be making use of the office, though, it is extremely rare, especially at some very posh SLACs, for that faculty member’s office not to be used. Granted, at a SLAC, it’s a full time replacement who often moves in (and the on leave faculty member’s stuff stays put), but before your college gives its admin permission to deploy, perhaps a policy about offices of those on leave could go forward first.

  6. Thank you Bobba: I knew there was a flaw in my reasoning somewhere (a result of some bitterness, that many faculty with lovely, large offices are rarely on campus, whereas I practically live in my office)….thank you for pointing that out. I don’t need to add to any administrator’s arsenal at this point.

    And yes, unless there is a full time temp hired, a ft faculty member on sabbatical has full use of his or her office (and I did use mine during my sabbatical).

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