I have ogival windows in my office, overlooking Fifth Avenue. They are dirty and grimy, but I can still see through them, and the view is nice in any season. I should be thankful.
After all, who cares if a member of the Italian, French or Hispanic languages faculty — or any member of the staff working on the 13th floor of the Cathedral — has been probably breathing harmful dust these many years? Who cares if the paint is peeling off the walls of this faculty member’s departmental premises; if the radiators startles her sometimes with loud bangs; if the carpeted floor is the first thing she looks at when entering the main office because of the tears in it that may make her trip; if she has to rinse her coffee mug in a bathroom sink and one of the toilets there needs too frequent repairs to be used safely?
She should be thankful. She has been given a new laptop every five years; can’t she live and work out of it? Doesn’t she know how to take advantage of the wonderful platform technology provided to her for free?
In any case, she can go to Hillman Library to read in peace; she could beg colleagues on the newly renovated floors of the Cathedral to let her use one of their rooms to hold conferences with prospective students and advisees (we would not want to subject our paying students to ripped carpeting, ruined linoleum tiles, noisy radiators … now, would we?).
Besides, as someone who teaches mostly intangible things and only, perhaps, some observable, quantifiable skills, which she stubbornly insists would serve her students well in their after-college life when — let’s be real — they hardly translate into immediate spendable income, she needs no safe and pleasant physical space to work in!
What is it that she teaches again? Could she remind us? … Ah, language and literature, cultural literacy, skills necessary to truly connect you with the culture of a rather special country, where the traces of almost everything the West has produced over the centuries can be found. … Does not sound all that important, does it?
She and her colleagues should only be happy to have a job and to inhabit such an historic place, the Cathedral of Learning, the centerpiece of the University of Pittsburgh. If renovation of their floor has been forgotten or canceled there must be a very good reason: money must be needed to support some more vitally crucial area of the university and a more worthy category of people. Stop complaining!
I will: I shall retire soon. But, for the sake of my dear colleagues, whose wellbeing is being overlooked or dismissed, I ask you: Is this fair?
Professor Francesca Savoia
Department of French and Italian
1328 Cathedral of Learning