“I am pleased to inform you that you have been allocated a desk in [REDACTED] for the coming year. “
I’m a PhD student, returning after taking a leave of absence last academic year. Leave of absence is fancy post grad talk for year off. It makes your research sound important, and serious; it’s not something you can just take a year off from, you have to be granted a leave of absence, like a nuclear submarine commander. The next step up would be to take a sabbatical. A sabbatical sounds REALLY cool, like you’re not just going to be dossing for the year, watching Hollyoaks and Countdown, you’re taking a break from your highly important research to do something equally important, and also creative. You’re probably going to write a novel, or do an exhibition at the Tate Modern or some such. You won’t live for weeks at a time on Sugar Puffs, because you’re too engrossed pretending to be a cowboy on your Megadrive (or whatever Sega’s console is called these days) to go to the shops. You’ll probably put on pants every day! They don’t just hand out sabbaticals willy-nilly, and certainly not to mere post grads!
As I say, I’m now back in university, although trying to convince the various offices and departments around the university of this is no cakewalk, believe you me. This is because universities are not, despite what you may believe, primarily concerned with teaching and education, but with bureaucracy. Oh doubtless, there’s some teaching that goes on there, but this is mainly an excuse to lure people in, so that they can be forced to fill in a variety of forms (possibly in triplicate) and then get them signed by the appropriate administrator, before returning them to a different administrator, both of whom work in different buildings and on different days, and who you have to queue for about 14 hours to get to see. And even then your form will likely be rejected, because you didn’t write in block capitals, or used blue ink instead of black, or black ink instead of red, or red ink instead of invisible.
So,under the circumstances, I am inclined to view getting a desk six weeks after the start of the term as something of a minor victory. There is however, one minor snag; I can’t get into the room where my desk is without my id card, and I haven’t managed to acquire an id card yet. SO, I’m stuck working in the library. The smelly, sweaty, over-heated library, full of chattering, whispering undergrads, all of whom look either bored to death, or terrified of the books they have in front of them. It’s enough to make one want to go on sabbatical...