English Matters

English Matters Newsletter Fall 2015

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2 I recall how ecstatic we were about having the old Klapper Library to move into, until the problems about the renovation of the building started surfacing. I'm surprised that Steve recollects Temp 2; I thought he arrived after we had moved to Klapper! But I'm sure he doesn't remember, as I do, the bull pen, which is what we called a large space in the center of the building, which was furnished, if you can call it that, with cubicles à la Dilbert. This was primarily the home of part-time faculty, but when I arrived as an instructor in 1970 (owing to a technicality, the awarding of my PhD was delayed till 1971), I inhabited one of those cubicles. That cube continued to be my office until 1975, when the then-chair, Michael Timko, asked me to be the Assistant Chair for scheduling and advisement. I moved into the corridor (known as Murderers' Row) of little private offices for departmental administrators in Temp 2, between the main office space (where the Kim and the Tiffany of those days worked) and the large Chair's office. Those bull pen spaces were open to the world. Students and colleagues wandered through, and you didn't dare keep any valuable books there. My desk had all sorts of junk in it belonging to a full-timer who had recently been let go. (The department rather suddenly started requiring its full-time faculty to publish and that caught a number of assistant professors by surprise.) Razran Hall was originally called the New Science Facility, and I mainly knew it as a classroom space, except for the stretch between 1982 and 1985, when I A Glance Back David Richter FACULTY NEWS had an office there. The classroom spaces then were very similar to the ones that are there now (some have been turned into offices). At the time, they were highly desirable, especially in the early fall and the mid- to late spring terms, because the windowless building was one of the few air-conditioned spaces that we would teach in. The corridors of the first and second floors had strange smells from the biology labs at the south end of the building. Those who had offices on the third floor sometimes called it the Bat Cave because it was windowless, as it still is, and the corridors with the faculty offices were dark and winding. I would tell students the number of my office, but then say, "Turn left off the stairway, go into the office corridor and just wander around checking the names on the doors till you find me." Nonetheless, for bull pen veterans, the offices were heaven: private, lockable, and carpeted—industrial, but at least not linoleum. You could keep your books and a typewriter there and do some academic work. A former colleague who was in the throes of a divorce is reputed to have slept some nights on his office floor. On one memorable occasion, a fuse blew and the lights went out all over the building. I stumbled out of my office and groped my way to the stairwell at the north end of the building, where light trickled in from the doors at the bottom of the stairs. As far as I know, the power outage happened only once and briefly; animals were kept in the lab and their health and lives were important. But I kept a flashlight in my office thereafter. Remsen was mainly a science building and I never taught there, but the department used to have its annual Christmas party in a large room on the third floor. There was a piano as well as a full bar, and capable people like the late Eddie Epstein used to play show tunes and Gilbert and Sullivan on it and colleagues would sing along. (Each year, my party job was to make a three-pound paté from veal, pork, and chicken liver, cèpes, and herbs and spices.) At some point the college stopped letting us use the space; I can't remember why—it was something technical, not annoyance at our rowdiness or choice of music. Remsen was unusual among buildings for always having had a name rather than a letter of the alphabet or Temp plus a number, or an academic field, associated with it. (Powdermaker used to be called the Social Science Building, Razran was NSF, Kiely was the Ad—for Administration—Building.) Mindy Altman began teaching composition courses in QC's English Department in 1979 as part of the Queens English Project, a federally funded bridge program that linked the syllabi of English courses in Queens high schools with those used in English 110. In her time here, she has been involved with syllabi development for English 110, Freshman Year Initiative communities, and the Queens College Freshman Honors Program. She has been a presenter at writing workshops and has contributed to Revisions, the Writing at Queens publication. Her interests are in composition, the writing process, narrative, modern poetry and contemplative practices. What do you enjoy most about teaching, especially teaching writing? What I enjoy most about teaching is connecting with students, getting to know them and their stories and working with them individually. Over the years, it has been consistently possible to do this in our writing classes which, fortunately, Interviews with Our Seasoned Faculty David Richter

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