Sunday, October 02, 2005

Hitting the Ground Running....

One always hopes that a new year will flow smoothly. The university administration will have been working efficiently to ensure that classrooms are allocated to maximise the use of space and ease the new students into the institution. And incidentally help me and my colleagues focus on the intellectual tasks of educating our charges.

Were it so.

About 40 minutes before my first class of the year was due to start, I took a research proposal to the head of the school for signature before it was sent to the university research office. Another colleague with a nearby office to the head is in charge of the timetable: a most important duty. She told me that my allocated classroom had been changed. (Room bookings are handled centrally and so she didn't know until virtually the same time as me.) I didn't mind as the new room was smaller, on the same floor as my office, and would have a decent acoustic. The original room was a hall in which it was difficult to hear anyone. We didn't know if the students had been told. I put up notices to warn of the room change.

At the start time for class I found myself in a room with no windows, no air conditioning, and rather a lot of students for the size of room. Within 10 minutes we were all gasping for air. The door was jammed open with a table to let some air in. After another 5 minutes about 15 students attempted to pile into the room. There were no chairs and simply no space. None of this made sense--I had gone from a room with too much space to one that now had only half the required room.

Flashback to early summer: some point in the previous year saw the administration decide to put research methods over two semesters with most of the commercial and financial law masters students allocated to semester 2. I would do semester one with the remaining students and my colleague, Reza Banakar, would take the second.

Back in the classroom: a few questions later I discovered the incomers were financial law students who hadn't been told that they were a semester early. Once that was explained to them and they were evicted, we were down to a manageable dozen. There was at last more air to breathe but if the air conditioning isn't fixed, it's going to be hard to run a two-hour class in this room without air breaks every 20 minutes.

Somewhere over the rainbow is a university where the buildings are looked after properly, administrators think considerately about their academic colleagues...I know, it's an illusion, a fantasy, but can't I dream occasionally.
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