what to do about office hours?

sometimes rather than meeting in the office, it might be better to have coffee, look at art, or take a walk around the block…

at berklee, a set number of office hours are part of our contract. surprisingly, the figure of hours is very low–much lower than the informal expectations for office hours at other schools with which i am familiar. recently these hours have been in a bit of flux as well–i should say, where we can hold our office hours is in flux–as policies little observed have been enforced. one of my colleagues always held his office hours in a coffee shop appended to an independent bookstore nearby campus. although i have some of my office hours in my office, i also find it beneficial to be available for part of my office hours at a coffee shop off campus. partially, this has to do with my work practices, but there are other reasons having to do with space

so what was my colleague to do when the chair informed him that he could no longer hold office hours off campus? moving them to the office required negotiations with office mates

yes, office mates.

an urban campus where real estate is at a premium, berklee cannot offer private offices to its faculty (that most administrators do have private offices is a point that i will not discuss right now. let’s just say that there are equity issues concerning space that remain unresolved). thus full time faculty in my department, who average at twelve classroom hours and around 80 students share offices with two to three other faculty. we work not to have office hours overlap, but sometimes one cannot avoid being in the office when students come to see one’s office mates. thus off campus office hours might permit more privacy than meeting in the office. when my office mates hold office hours, i try to be scarce or visibly put on large headphones to signal, “i will not listen”

one of my colleagues has developed a novel and probably healthy way to hold office hours. she meets students at the office and then takes them on a ten or twenty minute walk around the block–she has worked out the timing of such loops to suit the meeting. she says that often physical motion and the way that walking allows the student to choose not to make eye contact makes it possible to work through situations that might be difficult if not impossible to discuss in an office with two other faculty nearby. besides, it gets her and the student out in the air, getting a little exercise.  i’ve not tried this method, but i find it intriguing

because of our limitations and the kind of feeling we would like to promote, we have all worked out ways to hold conferences with our students. as it turns out, my at coffee shop office hours are always better subscribed than my in office ones. so i wonder about the implementation of a one-size-fits-all-mandated-by-titleix-fears policy on campus. we do not have the space for it to work, and our students and faculty are likely too diverse a bunch to meet in cubicle or steelcase furniture land. this is one of the places where administration doesn’t get it

but rather than kvetching, i would like to experiment with different modalities of office hours. the “meet me for a walk” sounds like a very interesting approach that i will try. i wonder whether any of y’all have particular ways that you have held office hours?


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