To start, they are not “office hours.” Now, I know that at Columbia some words come to have counterintuitive meanings. We can’t take the word midterm too literally when we can get three in a semester in some classes and only one in others. But office hours is a term that I’ve been taught to trust. Whenever I get a syllabus at the start of a class, I feel confident plotting the two hours or so a week on my calendar as a repeating event.
Dean Valentini’s office hours, on the other hand, are nothing of the sort. For one, they are not hours-long, they are an hour-long. Their timing is infrequent and unpredictable. So fine, perhaps “office hours” is a misnomer. Let’s call them “the hour every month and a half when you can see the dean.”
But what’s really irksome is that they seem to be designed so that students won’t actually come. When I wrote that that the hour’s timing is “unpredictable,” I was lying. Two things are generally certain about the dean’s office hour: first, the hour will be scheduled while class is in session, and second, the hour will be scheduled in the midst of midterm and/or finals season. If this isn’t intentional, it sure shows an obliviousness to the lives of undergraduates that the familiar name “Deantini” belies.
If Dean Valentini had real office hours it would be nice, because it would contribute to some sense of “community.” Now I’m no expert on “community,” but I feel that an important component of the “community” at this school is making people feel like they are attending a relatively small college, which is actually true, and not feel alienated.
As I see it, one of the biggest things that prevents students from feeling part of a community in this way is the perceived distance between students and administrators. If our dean had more frequent and conveniently timed office hours, he could do his part in contributing to this aspect of “community”.
In the end, the office hours are a symbolic gesture that represent the (unfortunately rare) instances in which we get informal face to face contact with Dean Valentini, the man who runs Columbia College. Office hours mean to support an image that the dean is in touch with us. And by us I mean the plebe students. And by plebe students I mean students who aren’t “student leaders.” Sadly this image seems to be mainly that: an image.
This piece was submitted to The Lion from a current Columbia student and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Lion Editorial Team. To respond to this op-ed or submit your own piece, email firstname.lastname@example.org.