Sunday, July 16, 2006

New Feature: Ask trillwing

Dear trillwing,

I'm starting a new job this year, and for the first time ever I'll have my own office. As I need to plan four new courses and publish at least two articles this coming year, I'd like to discourage students from return trips to my office hours. Have any decorating tips to help me with this goal?


DIY Dummy

Dear DD,

You've come to the right place. I've been keeping students guessing for seven long years, with nary a repeat visit.

Here's the key: it's all about the theme. You must decorate your office in a motif as distant from your area of study as possible.

Here are some fields and unrelated or inappropriate themes to get your creative juices flowing:

Area of study--Theme
Marine biology--Precious Moments figurines
Music theory--RUSH paraphernalia
Psychology--Pet rocks (at least 200 of them)
Technocultural studies--Angels
Asian-American literature--U.S. Presidential memorabilia
Veterinary studies--Dias de los Muertos shrines
Studio art--Thomas Kinkade canvas giclee
Women's studies--Velvet Elvii

For example, my MA in creative writing + my almost-Ph.D. in cultural studies means I'm a prime candidate for dinosaur art.

Once you have established your theme, it's important to be as inconsistent and inscrutable as possible in your aesthetic choices. With this principle in mind, I selected these prints from

Before you put up your posters, be sure to paint your walls a nice institutional gray. After awhile, you'll find it serene; students will find it depressing.

In addition, it's always a good idea to burn incense to the journal peer review gods. As far as scents go, I recommend Archival Paper, Perfect Binding Adhesive, and Brimstone. Avoid patchouli, as that attracts the dirty hippie students.

I hope you've found this tutorial useful. I'm always available for consultations.

Happy decorating!


Do you have a question, academic or otherwise, for trillwing? Put it in the comments or e-mail her at trillwing AT gmail DOT com. All reasonable questions will be answered, as well as some unreasonable ones.


phd me said...

Dear trillwing,

I will be sharing an office with a fellow asst prof when I start my first job this fall. Do you have any tips for managing such a situation while retaining the vestiges of my sanity?

phd me

(Oh, I'm laughing so hard my side hurts!)

Anonymous said...

I have found it useful to position a massive bookcase on one side of the door (as it swings open) and a trash can behind the door (to limit the arc of the door). This will constrict the door opening to a narrow sliver of access between the door and bookcase. If I were not a humanities professor I could calculate the ratio of door arc-to-student comfort.

What it means: I can leave my office door open to give my colleagues a sense of my "open door collegiality" (useful for tenure purposes) while simultaneously giving students the impression that I don't have room for them (literally and figuratively).

This is also helpful in that students who just want to drop in or stand in the doorway for a quick question do exactly that: the physical space does not allow them to linger too long at the threshold.

The trick, of course, is composing this physical arrangement of furniture without making it obviously anti-social.

An additional bonus: When I was highly stressed re:publications and tenure I shifted my office chair to a position right in front of a sunny window which made students stare into the window and reduced me to a shadow. For best results, schedule office hours for maximum daylight.

Is all this antithetical to the purpose of education? Sure, but there are periods of time when an assistant professor has to make research much more important than teaching.

Leslie M-B said...

meddling kids, that is hilarious! Thanks for the tip.