As planned, I taught my Ethnographic Practicum class on the topic of TIME in the university. There were 24 grad and undergrad students researching the topic, and we barely scratched the surface. A few students became interested in how the university organizes student time, and the practices that form students as expert time managers. Examples were calendars and schedulers on sale at the bookstore, workshops on time management and procrastination, “mindful moment” meditation sessions when they should make time to slow down, and career planning sessions that encouraged students to see every experience in their lives thus far as part of a sequence leading to a great future. Researchers also looked into the dissonant time frames that students inhabit – managing their everyday workloads (school, paid work, care work) while seeking to equip themselves for radically uncertain futures – including the apocalyptic time of climate change. I learned a lot from the class, and as usual I was impressed by the students’ creativity and insight.
My other activity was to start some research on the topic of work at the university in collaboration with a faculty colleague Michelle Buckley, graduate student Amanda Harvey-Sanchez, and the United Steel Workers. We’re attempting to build a map of who works at the university, under what conditions, and to learn something about their work life experience. We’re especially trying to catch the impact of COVID on different employee groups. On a personal note, I have found COVID conditions quite alienating, especially for new classes where I don’t know the students and they don’t know each other. The lockdown is revealing to me something about the everyday affects of university life – the importance of the chit chat before a class or meeting, the buzz in the corridor when we all go to attend an amazing guest lecture, and the importance of being present, around, available, on campus.