Print Edition: November 6, 2013
Faculty reception has done a lot for me over the years.
I would need both hands and a couple of feet to count the occasions I’ve handed tardy papers to the friendly white-haired woman behind the desk (or, more often than not, the mail slot that takes over duties when the friendly white-haired woman leaves for the day).
There’s no feeling in the world quite like the relief that descended in perfect time with the blue-inked date stamp. That was the moment when the paper was truly finished: not when spell check ran for the last time, not when the title page printed, not when it was finally stapled together, but when the faculty reception secretary raised one eyebrow and made sure the professor’s name was on the front.
Finally, as a Chilliwack student, faculty reception saved me more than one trip to Abbotsford’s campus; if I dropped off a paper at the Chilliwack faculty reception, it would magically find its way to the professor’s office in Abbotsford (and vice versa).
UFV announced the end of faculty reception this summer. By the time classes resumed in September, it was a done deal. The desks were empty. The after-hours boxes were gone. Staff were relocated to other positions.
In many ways, faculty reception was a relic – in an age of digital information and email, it seems archaic to print physical pages and have them physically carted to their destination.
There are logical reasons to close faculty reception, and I get that. But now it’s the middle of semester and I’m beginning to sorely, sorely miss the friendly desk and the white-haired woman and her blue date stamp.
When UFV administration initially announced that faculty reception was getting the axe, they warned that responsibility would now fall on the professor to be more open to assignments submitted by email.
This is where the logic behind axing faculty reception begins to fall apart.
The need for faculty reception’s powers of collection, organization, and distribution of physical paper may have decreased, but that doesn’t mean demand has vanished. Although UFV can spin the elimination of faculty reception as a brave step into a clean and digital era, it’s simply not true.
Would it be easier to have all assignments travel through digital channels? Yes, of course – instantaneous and efficient are the internet’s middle names. Is this a future we should work toward? I whole-heartedly believe so. If not for the ease or speed, think of the amount of paper and ink that goes into the stack of final papers from every section of every class. Think especially of creative writing courses, in which students are expected to provide a copy of every assignment to each of their six (or 10, or 20) workshop group members.
But the truth is that instructors aren’t going to become more accepting of digital assignments. Period. Maybe ever. Some professors are extraordinarily against accepting any kind of assignment through a computer, and I would bet a couple of limbs that some of them will stubbornly stay that way forever.
No problem! UFV says. Those instructors who prefer physical assignments would be able to organize a physical drop-off point for student assignments – under the door of their office, for example.
And here we find ourselves back at the beginning: physical papers that need a physical drop-off point. The only difference in this new system is that students are expected to do the legwork themselves, and the infrastructure isn’t always there to support them. When was the last time you tried to find a faculty office in the maze of D building’s third floor? What do you do if the professor hasn’t set up a drop-off box for assignments? What do you do if there is literally no space between door and floor to slide a tardy paper?
At the end of the day, I can’t blame UFV for trying to make the best of a bad situation and making cuts where cuts can be made. I’d rather faculty reception get chopped, after all, than a class, a professor, a department.
But even if the desk had to close, why not keep the after-hours drop box open? A staff member (maybe even the same staff members, since they’ve been reabsorbed into other faculty support positions) could go through it every morning to stamp and direct the papers on their way.
Because, unfortunately, physical papers are here to stay. We’re going to have to deal with them one way or another.