Thursday, December 06, 2007

Mulling the Poll Results

From my pseudo-scientific, statistically invalid poll yesterday, it seems clear that students are a lot more comfortable about sharing a campus recreation facility with professors than we professors are about exercising with our students. > 90% of students like or don't mind encountering their professors at the rec center, whereas a majority of faculty either avoid campus rec centers entirely or go anyway, despite preferring to be in a less student-dominated environment.

One of my colleagues commented that it would have been interesting if the poll had been further divided by gender, but I deliberately kept the poll quite general just to get a first-order idea of how people feel about faculty and students sharing campus rec center facilities.

Note: If you haven't voted yet, the polls are still open! If you are a grad student who teaches, vote in the 'faculty' poll (and thanks to the commenter who brought this up).

Why are professors so much less comfortable about being at a student-dominated rec center? Hypotheses (not necessarily mine), some of which were touched on in yesterday's post, include:

Hypothesis 1 - Many professors aren't comfortable interacting with students (and others?) outside the classroom/lab milieu.

Hypothesis 2 - A corollary: In a classroom, professors are in control (or, at least, we think we are) -- we are knowledgeable and we set the rules. At the rec center, we are in a totally different situation, and some/many might find it embarrassing to be seen sweating on an elliptical trainer or treadmill.

Hypothesis 3 - Professors are typically older than students, and we are reluctant to put our aging bodies on display to the extent that we have to in a gym/pool/locker room setting.

Hypothesis 4: We so dislike (or are tired of) the surprised reaction of students encountering us in a non-classroom setting that we avoid places where this is likely to occur. As we are always teaching different students, there is an endless supply of those who will be shocked that we have emerged from our professor lairs to mingle with real people.

Hypothesis n: ?? (leave a comment if your reason for not wanting to work out with your students is missing)


Andrea said...

When I was at a big school, I didn't mind. In fact, I thought it was fun to run into my students at the gymn. I recall giving one girl a tutorial on how to write her short paper while on the stairmaster. (She was on the stairmaster..I'm not in good enough shape to lecture and climb at the same time) Now that I am at a very small school (2500 students), I dont even like to go to the cafateria to eat because YOU CAN NEVER GET AWAY FROM THEM. At the big school I would run into maybe one student each time I went. At my small school, I know 1/4 of the students I see and they always ask about their classes and sometimes you just need a break.

Anonymous said...

I thought someone might have brought up the specter of sexual harassment.

These days, when students can be so quick to lash out at a hated professor with unfounded accusations of sexual harassment, why would you ever put yourself in a situation where you could be NAKED with a student? You can't even be in a room alone with a student behind a closed door.

Kate said...

Actually, the reason for me is I don't want to be objectified by male students. It still happens. So I go to an all-female gym and am much, much happier.

We'll see after I have this baby and have stretch marks and the like to see if I mind having my body seen in a locker room around potential students. But right now that's not really the reason.

ScienceWoman said...

I would love to go to the rec center and work out, stretch marks and all, but my time on campus is too constrained by childcare hours to devote an hour+ to exercise. So instead I am forced to squeeze exercise into dog-walks and weekends when I can.

Anonymous said...

I find this topic and the resulting comments interesting. Science professors are just as socially dysfunctional as they are cracked up to be.

...and Kate, is it okay for your female students to objectify you, or is it only male students you have a problem with?

Anonymous said...

I'm with the sciencewoman. I would love to have time to squeeze in exercise at work but there is simply no way to do so. My spouse and i go on a 45 minute walk after I get the dishes done and while the kids are doing homework, and then I drop. I also try and squeeze in one short run each weekend.

It is amusing to see students out of context, however. They are so surprised that you eat or go to the library or whatever.. I must admit, though, that, as our building is on the edge of the undergrad campus and we thus don't get a lot of through traffic of students, it also amazes me to go over to the student center, seeing all the students hanging around and playing frisbee etc, and remember this is a colleage campus and not just a workplace where I also teach classes. Maybe working out at the campus rec center would have the same effect.

Mark P

Anonymous said...

For a faculty, you surely must remember what it felt like to run into one of your professors when you were a grad student. What did that feel like? As a student, I am happy to see my professors work out - I think it's healthy and proves you can have a balanced life in academia. Sometimes, it's uncomfortable to see one of your professors naked, but it would be seriously depressing and more disturbing to see everyone in academia overweight or without a hobby.

Also, I think how uncomfortable I am seeing a faculty depends on how uncomfortable the faculty is to see me at the gym. If the person is just embarrassed and socially dysfunctional, I just feel bad for them and hope I never run into them for their sake.

Female Science Professor said...

I never saw any of my professors at the rec center when I was a grad student.

Anonymous said...

Maybe some professors (or any other professional that has a gym at their place of work) prefer not to be around "work" when they are NOT working(?).

Name Under Development said...

I have 2 reasons not previously given:

1) Time poverty. I work 30 hours a week in a support staff role and teach 2 classes as an adjunct. Every second of on-campus time is fully booked, and spending any hypothetical free time I might have is unpaid time, to boot.

2) A corollary to the issues related to body image: Being middle-aged, flabby and out of shape is only part of the problem. In addition, I’m ridiculously incompetent at any physical task. Who wants to look stupid and klutzy around his/her students? Certainly not me. I’m not even all that jazzed about letting my colleagues see me perform that poorly (see above reference to part-time, adjunct status).

Anonymous said...

As for the sharp disparity in the voting record, I'm not certain that your student audience is necessarily representative of students as a whole. ^_~

Female Science Professor said...

The poll is not about whether you have time exercise, whether you prefer to exercise at a gym or elsewhere, or whether you can only exercise if your pet rabbit is watching you. It is about faculty-student opinions about exercising together at a campus rec center.

Anonymous said...

I have two reasons for not using the Campus rec centre - first, I don't want to spend any more time on campus than I need to so I want to use the time I'm here efficiently - and on work - and have as much non-work life (which definitely includes exercise) away from the campus and secondly, like 'name under construction', I'm a flabby, unfit total klutz and would rather not go to a gym where there are a majority of young, agile bodies, whether they're my students or not - the local authority gym is much more comfortable as the population is more mixed.

landsnark said...

For me it's about the nudity, aging or otherwise. It doesn't bother me at all for students to see me sweating or lifting weights or whatever. I also have no problem with being naked in a locker room, and I've often thought that I'd be less uncomfortable on a nude beach than wearing a swimsuit (swimsuits always seem to draw attention to the less-attractive bits of my body, while nudity is just, y'know, skin.) So I'm not a prude about nudity in general.

But I am uncomfortable with the idea of looking out into a large lecture hall and making eye contact with someone who saw me naked in the gym a little bit ago. I'd be wondering also whether they were thinking the same thing, and whether it (I, my body or parts of it, etc) was a topic of conversation among their friends. Partly I'm just remembering back to my own student days when the fact/rumor that a certain lab TA didn't wear panties was cause for discussion. Students can gossip about anything, and I prefer not to be a topic of discussion in this particular aspect of my life.

I guess I need to get over this, rise above. Who cares if someone in my audience has seen me naked?

William Allan Kritsonis, PhD said...

How can students respond effectively to sexual harrassment?Here are some useful suggestions:

a. Talking to a friend or relative about the situation to place the facts in perspective and develop solutions.
b. Learning not to laugh at the harassing behavior.
c. Learning skills to confront the harasser with a firm NO at the first sign of sexual harassment and letting the harasser now that this behavior will not be tolerated.
d. Avoid being alone with harassers.
e. Talking with o ther students to see if they have been harassed and, if so, petitioning school authorities to deal with the problem.
f. Obtaining eyewitnesses to verify experiences of harassment.
g. Keeping a written record documenting all incidents, with dates, times, places, and persons who have seen the activity, and recording physical and emotional reactions.
h. Filing compliants.

Source: William Kritsonis, PhD on Schooling, BookMasters, Inc., Ashland, Ohio 2002.

William Allan Kritsonis, PhD
PhD Program in Educational Leadershp
Prairie View A&M University
The Texas A&M University System

Anonymous said...

My Health class teacher was also our gym teacher in my freshman year of High School, and she always showered in the girls locker room with us after every gym class.

We were her last gym class of the day, but she still had another health class to teach after our gym class was over, and so she would shower too.

I honestly don't think that any of us ever viewed her any differently because we were seeing her nude everyday? And I'm sure she never viewed any of us girls any differently because of seeing us nude either.


gradTA said...

I know I'm coming late to the party, but I just discovered this (excellent) blog and wanted to weigh in. As a grad student and TA in a large dept at a medium-sized university, I don't mind exercizing with or showering in front of students (none of the female undergrads seem to shower at the gym, they're either embarrassed or live close enough to shower at home, or maybe they don't mind being smelly/sweaty).

What gets to me is when students ask me questions about research, coursework and even administrative stuff like exam scheduling while I'm working out or generally going about my non-TA life (it's not limited to the gym, of course). Any suggestions on how a female science instructor can seem academically approachable, but not so approachable that students think it's okay to ask you for help when you're exhausted, sweaty and naked?