Sep 072009
 
Authors: Paul Bell Guest Columnist

My congratulations to the numerous individuals at CSU who helped the institution receive the national award from Minority Access, Inc. to be presented later this month. Such recognition shows what can happen when we work together to fulfill the university’s mission.

Such recognition also brings to mind a current situation in the institution where one or more anonymous authorities seem to be working against components of that mission.

The new Academic Instruction Building (AIB) being built to the south of the Clark Building is said to be a showpiece for the university, complete with LEED certification, a head-turning atrium and all the fancy bells and whistles of the modern electronic classroom. In addition to modern classrooms, the AIB will house the Department of Human Development and Family Studies and much of the Psychology Department.

This summer, a startling declaration was made by the authorities that had nothing to do with the design of the building. Faculty were told that the building was going to cost less than planned and that some of the excess funds would be used to buy new furniture for the faculty offices.

Now, that’s a nice gesture when we all have to reduce our expectations with the budget squeeze. Incredibly, we are told we have no choice but to accept the new furniture whether we want it or not.

Moreover, the furniture is being selected by anonymous authorities who are not to be housed in the new building and do not have to live with the furniture – only future AIB occupants do.

Oh, faculty do get three choices: whether to have an extra chair or an extra bookcase, whether to have the desk set up with your back to the door or your face to the door (presumably so you can choose to see or not to see when the Furniture Security Forces walk by) and whether or not to have a whiteboard (only one size allowed).

Would you like an arrangement where you can have three chairs for students in your office? Not allowed.

Would you like a smaller desk but then a table so you can meet with several students around the table? Not allowed.

Maybe a smaller bookcase and a larger whiteboard? Not allowed.

The Psychology Department alone has made more than 20 hires in the last decade or so (numerous retirements and other departures needed to be replaced), and along with other special circumstances the department has purchased at least 20 sets of office furniture in the process.

This is perfectly good furniture that represents a diversity of personal tastes and ways to meet individual functional preferences.

Many of these faculty members would like to take their tuition and taxpayer-funded existing furniture to the new building, but the authorities have dictated that such a move will not be allowed: All the office furniture in the new building must be new, uniform of the style and color picked by the authorities and purchased with university funds.

The AIB is supposed to be a model of environmental conscientiousness. That trees will be unnecessarily sacrificed and water and air pollution produced in the manufacture of the unnecessary new furniture seems to have escaped the decision-making capacity of the authorities, who also seem to have run out of more educationally sound ways to spend the university’s money.

Efforts to find out through the faculty committee just exactly who these decision-making authorities are have been unsuccessful. Decision-making in state-supported entities is supposed to be more transparent than that.

For those who have been around academia a while (I have been at CSU for more than three decades), we know that things change with time.

Years from now when the current authorities are gone, the “old” uniform new furniture in the AIB will wear out, new faculty will be housed in spaces that do not have the “old” uniform furniture, and new furniture of different styles will slowly replace it. So the current authorities should recognize that the new uniform furniture won’t be uniform for long.

Again, my congratulations to those responsible for making it possible for CSU to receive the upcoming diversity award. But could someone in authority please explain why no furniture diversity is allowed in the new building?

In the process, could you please identify who it is that is making the decision? Is mandatory new uniform office furniture really the best use of university’s funds?

Paul Bell

Professor of Psychology

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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