by Kathleen Fitzpatrick — Modern Language Association
June 14, 2009 – 11:00
The ironies continue to pile up: five years ago today, I was moving office, out of a dank, lonely basement and into my newly renovated smallish (by the building’s standards, which are vastly out of keeping with the rest of the academic universe) but gorgeous second-floor corner office. Almost exactly three years ago, I moved across the hall, into the office formerly occupied by the Eminent Shakespearean, the office that makes every single person who walks in for the first time stop and say “Wow.” I have said for three years, and utterly without exaggeration, that I have the single best office on campus, outstripping even that of the college president.
Tomorrow morning, I begin my move out of these palatial digs, and into — well, what I’m sure will in the end be a very nice office. It’ll be spacious, certainly, and eventually the bookshelves will be up to snuff. But it’s… in the basement. Where for the next year, at least, I will be alone.
I need to acknowledge the good news in this, of which there’s a lot: for the last eleven years, I’ve been jointly appointed in English and Media Studies. Media Studies has been, all that time, an interdisciplinary program, and the half-FTE of my position was the first dedicated FTE in the program. (We got a second such position, shared with Art History, in my sixth year.) As at many other institutions, there’s a very distinct hierarchy between departments and programs here: departments get lines, space, and operating budgets, and programs, well, don’t.
But a series of developments in my program gradually made it clear that we needed to be converted to departmental status. Among those developments, the attempt to add a third joint position to the program made clear that our needs had become more disciplinary than interdisciplinary; we needed to hire someone whose graduate training was in Media Studies rather than in another discipline, and in order to do so, we needed to be able to house that line ourselves. Which meant that we had to become a department.
Which we now are: as of July 1, the Media Studies program will officially become a department, and each of the positions that was previously partly Media Studies will move fully into the new department.
The downside of this is that I’m losing my affiliation with the English department, which has been my home for the last eleven years. It’s an emotional loss, but also a material one: English is, shall we say, one of the more well-heeled departments on campus, and so I’m losing access to certain kinds of support that I’ll really miss. And I’m losing my gorgeous corner office, which is mildly heartbreaking.
On the other hand, Media Studies will finally have space: three offices, a small library, and a laptop-based computer classroom, all in the basement of the English department’s building. So as I told a colleague last week, I’m trying really hard not to think of it as moving out of a palace and into a dank, lonely basement, but instead as moving out of a rental and into a starter house. It’ll need a bit of fixing up to make it feel like home, but it’ll be all ours. And there’s something to that.