My new building and the wrong

The Research Higher Degree students in my school have moved office space. There is no wireless internet in our new building and there is a bit of an old building smell about the place. However, I think it is a wonderful place to come and work. Windows open, the heating is via radiator (with each radiator having its own control so you can turn it off), and my room even has windows looking out onto a park.

Downstairs is mostly occupied by staff from a department responsible for applying for and reporting on large grants. I imagine that staff members are very familiar with the academic world, but their job also fits into the administrative side of a university. Maybe I am reading too much into things, but I feel systems within the university are predicated on a split between administrative and academic staff.

 

Combining staff working in semi-administrative roles with students on different floors in the same building is proving to be a bigger headache than I had anticipated. While we are ‘only students’, it seems as if our intrusion into their building is a much bigger imposition than it would be if we had come to share a building with high ranking professors. Academic staff and research students possibly use office space in a different way to staff with semi-administrative roles. Nobody really cares if we are not at our desks, while I imagine there is a very different expectation for other staff. Perhaps highly important staff would not be so annoyed by our presence because they would not even notice.

As it stands, other occupants in this building are hyper-conscious of our presence (although they also have an amazing for ignoring us if we walk through the tea room). We cannot use certain doors, corridors or stairs if they take us past the doors of other people’s offices. To go the wrong way is likely to result in somebody finding you to ask which way you came, followed by a phone call reporting the issue made to staff from our department. In these adjoining terrace houses with unusual floor plans of rooms and staircases splitting off in all sorts of directions, and where nearly all of the toilets are currently undergoing maintenance, it has proven rather easy to take a wrong turn or to take a short cut without fully anticipating the significance of this. Many of us, including me, have broken the rules multiple times without even realizing they are rules.

With my current pondering of Rancière’s work, I am quite amused by the illustrative potential of how things are playing out. Bodies, status and rules are distributed within this building, in a way that has been too complicated to instruct us in the email memos that are continually being sent out. An email can tell us not to use a certain door and a conversation in the hall way can be used to tell me not to use a certain stair case. However, nobody seems to be able to articulate a set of principles by which us students can determine which spaces we can move through. ‘Don’t go past their offices!’ could be an approximate rule, but it is not completely possible.

When us students are situated in the places we have been allocated, or appear in the tea room which we have been granted permission to use, we can be treated as invisible. Corridors linking the student office space seem to operate in a slightly different way, as I have even been party to the exchange of polite greetings between downstairs staff and students. To appear in the wrong place not only demonstrates our presence, but that these places are not for us students to be in highlights that there is constant work being done to stop this situation from become one whereby a bunch of adults share a building.

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