So yes, it's true: I am moving. Not moving my residence, and not moving my place of employment, but moving my office -- from the relatively secluded confines where I am presently lodged, into a student dormitory.

Yes, you read that right: I am moving my office into a dorm. Where students live. And where said students are more likely to come and find me, as opposed to my present office which is more difficult to get to -- my new locale will be right next to the student mailboxes, placing me right on the main traffic path for the undergraduates who inhabit the dorm.

Why am I doing this? In many ways it's irrational, since one of the causal implications of my moving is that I will have less undisturbed time in my office to write and to do the kind of work that gains one prestige within the academic discipline of International Relations. Whether things should be this way or not (and I don't think that they should be, but that's material for another post or ten), one's prestige as an academic depends basically not at all on one's teaching -- including one's relations with undergraduate students -- and almost exclusively on one's research productivity. Hence the urban legend that the way to damn a junior faculty-member is to give her or him a teaching award before she or he gets tenure, since this is supposed to be a signal that they're spending too much time with students and not enough time researching and writing.

Of course, by all indications I'm about to get tenure, so maybe those restrictions no longer apply to me -- at least not as much. Regardless, though, prestige within an academic discipline is virtually never about teaching, and hence devoting more time to teaching (which means less time for writing and research) means going against the socially dominant norm. So why am I doing this irrational thing? Besides the suspicion that I may simply be insane -- which, judging from the looks on many of my colleagues' faces when I tell them about my plans, may not be too far from the truth -- I suspect that there are better reasons.

In fact, I can think of two.

1) the kind of academic I am -- the kind of academic that I aspire to be -- is a student-focused academic. That means that my vocation is to teach students, and everything else that comes with my job should be subordinated to that end. Moving my office into a dorm seems a logical continuation of that path.

2) teaching students is not just about seeing them for a few hours each week in a classroom. It's about reaching the students in a more profound way, connecting with them in such a way that I can really produce the kinds of social spaces within which they can explore contentious issues and try to ascertain who they are and who they want to become. It's hard to do that if your only interactions with students are distorted by the authority and control techniques of a classroom setting! Moving my office into a dorm increases the potential for such informal interactions, as well as enabling me to engage in some co-curricular programming -- and literally reach students where they live.

So after two years in my present office, I will be moving on Tuesday.

I originally had big plans for this move, and in particular for the packing of my office. I wanted to take some time and really triage all of the accumulated crap in the office, and throw a lot of stuff out before I left. But I ran out of time and find myself doing something quite different: tossing things into boxes and planning to triage after the move, during unpacking. In some ways that's fine, because the important thing has been done -- all the stuff in my office has been neatly divided into small boxes. Now all I have to do is to sort it while unpacking, and remember precisely what is in that box labeled "who the heck knows?"

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