Recently, I decided to “think out loud” (i.e., blog) about adopting a social justice informed approach to education. Though I do not officially start at the University of Richmond until Aug. 1, and classes begin a few weeks later, I have been working in and on my new office. I took suggestions for ways to decorate my office, which turned into a challenge to make the space more accessible and inviting. Of course, I have to show you “before” and “after” pictures.
The picture above features the initial setup. As visitors come into my office, the first thing they would see is me behind a rather large desk. I would hold meetings with students separated by the desk and the power that it conveys. So, as I mentioned in the earlier post, my first change was to move the desk to take away its prominence in the office, hopefully downplaying the power-differential between my students and me. But, I went beyond that, taking seriously the suggestions of my friends to make the office as accessible and warm as possible.
Now, the floorspace in the middle of the office has been cleared, and now dons a cool looking area rug. If I am at my desk, you will see my left side. In the picture immediately above, you can see the cute little cafe table and chair set I bought at a thrift store. I plan to hold my meetings here. Physically, my visitor and I will be on equal ground. There is no powerful desk between us, only a bronze colored cafe table. Also in that corner of the office, I have added a small dry erase board (with a corkboard border), and a little table that features candies (the visible bowl) and safe sex items (i.e., condoms, dental dams, lube; in the bowl behind it). The office now features a few posters, stickers, and magnets that make clear my commitment to social justice and, more importantly, to empowering my students to speak out against injustice (e.g., Audre Lorde: “Your silence will not protect you”).
Many of my colleagues have seen the new setup, and remarked that they liked it. The true test will come as I begin meeting with students in the fall semester. Stay tuned.