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Last modified : 23-03-2012
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Agustín Cernuda del Río
Write to me: guti at uniovi dot es


The Pigeon Home and other humiliations

IMPORTANT:In November 2004, after four full years in the situation described below, I was allowed to use an acceptable office (excellent, actually). Now that I am part-time, another professor has been assigned that office (a measure I fully support) and.. I'm back (as of March 2007) to the ``pigeon hole'' here presented. (Pictures and comments were made on my first period there).

Right now I don't feel like complaining abotut the crazy treatment this university inflicts to Computer Science. But I think I indeed must reveal the degrading treatment it gives to some of its best employees.

The work situation of assistant professors should shame a society which intents to be civic and advanced. Please, before you start typical thoughts about University professors and how lazy and privileged they are, get informed about the problem. You can find it all at the wonderful pages of my colleague Cobas:

http://di002.edv.uniovi.es/~cobas/protesta/ [Spanish only]

Apart from this general situation, specifically several of us have been receiving for more than a decade a degrading and unacceptable treatment from a professional point of view. Professors of Computer Science who have their office at Oviedo crowd together in unhealthy attics, while professors from other departments enjoy worthy working conditions. Seven! of us occupy since our beginning at the university (at the end of 2000) and in a permanent basis a warehouse, known as ``the pigeon home'', which was uninhabited until our arrival. During the summer, temperature has not dropped below 27ºC. There are neither windows nor ventilation, only a few skylights. There is no physical room for attending to our students or anyone else. During the course it's usual that even in spite of this we attend to them... several professors at once. All of us share only one phone line, each of us suffering all possible interruptions. And someone intends... that we get our Ph.D.'s, that we do research and that we shut up.

The rooms that could be used to solve our problems are going to be used for other purposes whose need has never been justified, and over the priority that should be that dozens of professors restrain on working conditions which are unacceptable for any employer. The responsible authorities, for reasons I don't think they could explain, ignore our claims and any of our goodwill attempts to find a solution. During the last meeting we've held our data were rejected, we were told simply that they couldn't make miracles (we informed about this situation in writing several months ago), we were described as ``spies'' for contributing data (all of them publicly available) that could be used to design a solution, and the only thing we achieved after begging and pleading was... that the inhabitants of the ``pigeon house" occupy (on loan!) some offices in the ground floor. Other people present at that meeting, who wanted to use such offices for other purposes, described the ``solution'' literally as ``a swindle''. So, because we need to work in healthy conditions, we are either ``spies'' or ``swindlers''.

A typical professor of Computer Science here in Oviedo enjoys 6.5 square meters for work. How much room do other professors have?

This is the situation. If you want to hear how three professors attend to three students at once, in a sort of cave under a fluorescent tube, click here [WAV, 826 KB]. These are wonderful conditions for explaining programming theory. If you want to take a tour by our pigeon house, click here [AVI/DivX, 814 KB]. (Don't get fooled by so much light; this was recorded a really sunny, sunny day).

On the movie "Being John Malkovich" you'll find an explanation about low ceilings, so credible as the ones we've received. [AVI/DivX, 8 MB] [Spanish]

NOTE: Temporally we've been allowed to use other offices (only to the 6 former inhabitants of the pigeon home) while an acceptable place is found. But basically things are just like before for most of the professors.

Entering my office
All these people fit there...
A view of my office


This is the entrance to my office. It has an advantage: it's special (no other teacher here has one simmilar). In order to enter the wardrobes, we had to take apart the rails.

Everything is relative.

Believe it or not, some think that all these people fit (and can work) here. Almost all of them work full-time. In fact... they assigned more professors to this office than the ones that appear on the plate!

My place.

This is the place where I spend so many hours. Some corners are outside the picture, but I can't put the camera farther (there isn't room for that). By the way, I paid that laptop with my own money.

Low ceilings
Low ceilings
A door for an office


Right here works one of my colleagues. He must be careful when sitting or gettin up. I think at DuPont probably they would be a bit worried about having an employee in this situation...

More ergonomics.

This is the place where professors of Computer Science with no permanent office do their work in turns.

Nice door.

This is the "entrance door" for the "office" of another of my colleagues. As you can see, a small chair doesn't quite fit.

Receiving visitors
Three offices in a row

Can I help you?

This is the space I have for attending to any student, colleague or anyone foreign to th University. (Trying not to occupy the corridor, of course; there is another "office" besides me).

Three offices in a row.

Mine is the one in the middle. We really don't need much resources for working, managing courses with almost 500 students and researching...