Thursday, November 12, 2009

Dear Prospective Student Visit organizers

Dear Prospective Student Visit Organizers,

When your office was organizing tours and class visits for prospective students, I mentioned that having a prospective student in my lab today wasn't a great idea. Nonetheless, RIGHT during the most unappealing part (we were dissecting a cat that we found was pregnant, so we were taking dead kitties out of a dead momma cat in a room filled with the odor of preservative) IN walks one of the campus visitors.

I got the impression from her that she wasn't doing so directed by your office (was she just left alone on campus to wander around?), and came in to say hello to one of her friends that was in the class. She assured me that she wasn't grossed out, and stayed to watch some of the dissection. I hope she felt welcomed and we made a good impression on her.

But I have to admit to being a little irritated that someone could just walk into my science lab off the street without my permission. Not only do I spend a bit of time preparing the students for the potential of an emotional reaction (we all have pet cats and no one likes dead things), but I also prepare them for the use of their sharp tools and how to avoid contact with the hazardous materials that may be present in the preservative. In my opinion, "popping in" to lab today should not be condoned.

Sincerely, PUI Prof

Readers, am I overreacting, being overprotective or territorial here? Or should such a lab be relatively closed... secretive... hush, hush? Am I doing the students a favor by showing them what cool things were learn here? Or am I taking the chance that the lone animal rights activist is the one that ends up in my lab?


  1. I don't think you're over-reacting. You've done a careful job of preparing your students for any possible hazards/reactions - this is your *responsibility* as the person in charge and you've executed it well. When someone just *pops in*, you are still *responsible* for their safety even though you weren't given the opportunity to prepare that person. Uncool.

    Interestingly, we had a similar thing happen in my lab recently. Some students from another campus came in to learn some things about what goes on in a research lab - I think that the education angle is pretty awesome. But it does concern me that these students were allowed to do some stuff with not-already-dead animals (the instructor handled that part to be fair). But it also concerns me that this seemed to be organized on rather short notice, so I'm pretty sure that there were no security measures taken, like, I dunno, informing the campus security that we would have visitors here? It's unlikely that in such a small group of science majors we would have had any ARAs, but I don't like that this possibility seems not to have been considered. I wish we could have open labs - I'm not ashamed of anything I do and I think a lot more people would supportive and interested if they could see how it's done. However, that's not really the world we live in right now. I am irked that my safety and yours was overlooked.

  2. My PUI asks about whether we would welcome visitors to class; and I would say that no one should walk into a lab without the proper protective gear, and without an escort -- or without letting the instructor know ahead of time!