What You Learn Going into Grad offices

Over the last 6 months I’ve walked through the majority of buildings on campus. Although I know I have not yet personally been to every building with grad students in it, I feel comfortable at this point saying that I have been to the majority of them. I’ve done this, of course, to talk to grad students and drop off flyers about unionization (if you haven’t checked your mailbox recently you should, there might be a present from me), but I’ve also learned a few things:

  1. The scary signs that say something about radiation probably aren’t that accurate, unless they are. When I first encountered a sign on a lab door with a vague warning about radiation or chemicals I was at least slightly disconcerted at the prospect of entering (I think this was somewhere in Electrical Engineering). I was made even more nervous when a friend I was with, who comes from a physical science background, just walked right on it. With some prodding from him I learned that these signs are only vaguely important. And after months of knocking on doors I can only remember one time when the sign actually lead to a student asking me not to enter (although still taking flyers to handout).

  2. There is a Learning Factory(?) on campus. I was under the impression that Penn State is one giant learning factory but I guess there is a specific one as well. (Connected to this is that I found out there are buildings on the other side of Atherton.)

  3. The IST Building is the nicest on campus. Hands down. It has an Au Bon Pain. Spots to work. Touchscreen directories.

  4. I am still not sure about which is the worst building on campus. For a while I thought that my own, Pond Lab, with its sealed shut windows and oddly spaced bathrooms would take this spot, but I am starting to appreciate it. To be polite I will not go into details but I will say, hey at least we have windows.

  5. Staff assistants are the nicest people at Penn State. I’ve always suspected this, given the staff in my own department, but after walking in, rather confused, to many offices this has been reaffirmed and generalized. A lot of staff, answered a lot of questions about where grad mailboxes were, or offices (sometimes not even in their own department)

  6. Most graduate students are willing to talk to the weird guy who just knocked on their office door. Setting out on this I had some trepidation about walking up and talking to other graduate students about anything, let alone unionization. We are not always known as the most gregarious group, and I feared that I wouldn’t get much beyond blank stares. Now, I won’t pretend as if I haven’t gotten any blank stares, but the majority of students were at least willing to actively listen if not talk to me.