February 18th, 2007

planet

fake big college spaces

my roommate likes to watch Numbers ("we use numbers every day!") It's a little far-fetched, but it does an interesting job trying to portray academics. I mean, how many shows in the history of the world have had characters with math PhDs? This might be the first.

The thing I noticed today is that the show had been true to the #1 rule when showing academia: never portray spaces as they actually are. What I mean is, all shows about college students are set in these 1500 square foot dorm rooms. No bunk beds. Huge desks. Small tables for eating. Curtains. A yoga studio. In reality, all the dorm rooms I've seen are 10x12 cells that you can barely walk into. You're most likely living on the fourth floor and never have time to wait for the elevator. The hallways are four feet wide. The paint is chipping off the cinder block walls.

The way they stayed true to that on Numbers is by showing the professor's offices at 20 times actual size. I mean, they have these huge wood desks and shelves lined with mahogony shelves for the neatly organized books. The giant chalkboard full of equations is the only thing that makes it not look like a lawyer's office.

Every PhD I've seen in real life is crammed into, yes, a The Cell. More cinder block walls. If there's a window, the stacks of random papers cover half of it. The bookshelves look like they're about to buckle, the room is barely wide enough for a chair, there's a 2'x3' whiteboard with phone numbers on it. Oh, and if you're not a full tenured professor, you're still in the same office, it's just that you probably share it.

I've only seen professor offices at underfunded state schools, so maybe it's different in other places, but in my experience if one of your life goals is a really nice office, an academic career is NOT the way to go. For the record, neither is a career in the aircraft industry... we work in converted hangars.

That makes me think of a poll! For those of you who actually have jobs:
Poll #929933 work environment

You have your own:

Building
1(1.4%)
Office
9(12.5%)
Cubicle
24(33.3%)
Desk
13(18.1%)
Locker
6(8.3%)
None of the above
19(26.4%)

How crappy is your work environment?

Actually quite nice
21(29.2%)
Probably average
30(41.7%)
Sort of annoying
19(26.4%)
They asked me to take care of the roach problem
2(2.8%)