Friday, January 15, 2010

work space

I had never really thought about the importance of work space before this week. By work space, I mean the office space, work area, and location that is available to workers, or in this case, students. When I was in the Social Work Program, students had a small office in which we could study or read. In sociology, undergrad students only have the library or student center. This may not seem like a problem, but I find that the library has too much going on for me to get anything done, even in the quiet section, my train of thought is interrupted every time somebody walks by.

This week, I spent a lot of time at various graduate programs in the school. Sociology has a small office with a couple computers and a table that is shared by all of it's students. Psychology has even less space, as they had an office taken away last week without any notice- they just showed up one day to find that it had been cleared out.

I went to a graduate room for students in various natural science programs. It was much larger, it used to be a computer lab, and had about 10 L-shaped desks, each with a student's name on it. In this room, each student had their own personal workspace, rather than the have-to-come-in-early-to-guarantee-a-spot rooms or use-the-sign-up-sheet-for-office-hours that most of the social science and humanities students have become accustomed to sharing.

In engineering, each student had a very large workspace, consisting of a desk more than double the size of the science students' desks with built-in filing cabinets and desktop computers. Each of these students has the same amount of work space as the entire sociology master's program must share. It also became apparent that the quality of students workspace is related to funding available to individual students in a given program.

It seems to me that the university really tends to favor natural sciences and business students at the expense of social sciences and humanities (who do not receive guaranteed funding, or even their own desks).

I was talking to a friend in the sciences about this yesterday, who said that it is unfortunate, but because the natural sciences and business contribute to society in a more visible way, they receive more money. I believe it is more that they contribute to the neo-liberal political agenda. My own thesis involves making a post-secondary education more accessible, especially to groups who currently have trouble accessing funding for their education. This also contributes to society in very visible way, as it could help people find good jobs, but because it would require increased social spending in the short-term, it does not fit with the neo-liberal agenda that underpins recent Canadian politics.

And speaking of Canadian politics... professors, please note that I am proroguing any further assignments until after the Olympics... no penalties expected. Thank you.

1 comment:

  1. Ha! Can I prorogue grading student papers? : )

    But well stated on the comparative 'poverty' of the social sciences and humanities when compared to the so-called "hard" (i.e. solid) sciences.

    These discriminatory practices are extended in all spheres: faculty, chairs, deans and administrators in the social sciences/humanities are all treated equally poorly by universities. And there's a discriminatory thread that runs among the various departments and schools within the social sciences/humanities as well.

    But I'm sure that it's NOT because the natural sciences contribute in a more 'visible' way -- expressed by your friend as so neutral, so un-ideological. Aren't teachers, social workers, childcare workers, eldercare workers, pollsters and policymakers just as visible? The divide isn't between the visible and the invisible, but rather between "profit-making" and "profit taking."