An email I really don’t want to have to send

Dear Administrator,

I know that everyone in this building lacks blinds on their office windows, and I realize that you have requested that blinds be installed. However, I have a particular need for blinds in my office and I hope you can forward my request to Facilities Services with some urgency.

In the current configuration of my office, the sun strikes my computer screen for several hours per day, making it very hard for me to read the screen. I would like to rearrange my office to mitigate this problem, but every single other arrangement leaves another problem in its place.

If I move my furniture, I will sit facing the window or with my side to it, rather than having my back toward the window as I do now. Three times a day, for 30 minutes per time, I need to pump breast milk for my daughter. This involves me taking off or pulling up my shirt. With my current furniture arrangement, I can do this discreetly. If I rearrange my office to reduce the sun glare, I would be exposing myself to our colleagues in the business school. Thus, you see the urgency of my request.


Short of tacking sheets to the window (and losing my beautiful view), does anyone have any suggestions?


  1. #1 Lisa
    December 13, 2007

    You said you had those special nursing shirts from motherwear, so maybe now that you’ve asked for blinds, you won’t feel bad just pumping in plain view if you don’t get them? I don’t have nice nursing shirts like you (though I think I’m getting some for Christmas :)!) but I wear old t-shirts with slits cut in them as undershirts. Then I can pull up the top shirt and position the pump and pull it back down a bit. I pump right in front of my office mates (who are other grad students in my group), which is still better than the general public, I guess. They don’t seem to mind, sometimes they ask me questions about work while I’m pumping or just chat with me.
    Maybe the issue is that you have a double pump (while I have a single) so it is harder to be discreet. But if you feel comfortable, just go for it!
    Or, maybe you can pay for your own blinds–it can be a tax deduction. If it makes you feel better and work more efficiently, it’s worth it. Good luck with whatever you try.

  2. #2 Mark P
    December 13, 2007

    Don’t count on deducting the cost of blinds for your office. Is there some way you could put up a temporary block when you need it? Maybe with Velcro and paper or cloth?

  3. #3 bsci
    December 13, 2007

    Depending on how bad the glare is, you can probably get a good glare filter for a monitor for $50-100.

    You can also take the opposite approach of putting something in the window to block the light that is such an eyesore (hopefully just to others and not you) that admin people need to get you blinds to get you to take something else down.

  4. #4 brother
    December 13, 2007

    No offense, but this is something that I’ve never understood about employees of large organizations. They will sit on a bad desk chair for 20 years ruining their back because they can’t get an new one issued. Or they will squint into the sun because the building people are slow on getting blinds. It’s your health and happiness — spend your own money and just fix the problem. Cheap blinds or fashioning drapes from some cloth should be less than $50 and will make you feel a lot better. Yes, it’s Mystery U’s job to do it — but they aren’t, so you can.

  5. #5 dave X
    December 13, 2007

    Tell it brother.

    Lowes sells its cheapest blind for $2.67: for $10 or so you could get a nicer one. Even if the bureaucrats eventually get around to doing something, they’ll probably do a worse job of it than you could have done yourself with less effort.

  6. #6 Mommyprof
    December 13, 2007

    You could put a piece of poster board over the offending segment of the window, either for computing or for pumping. Or, you could sit on the floor to pump. I know that the Lowe’s shades may not fit your office windows or that you might have union issues that could cause you problems, but Velcro and a piece of fabric would also work.

    I don’t have a window in my office, which can sometimes be convenient!

  7. #7 sara
    December 13, 2007

    i agree with the other posters, just pay the few dollars and get something yourself, so much faster and easier.
    my professor has a shower curtain (the white, not see through kind) up on his window to cut down on the glare but still let some light in, the kind of thing you can find at IKEA for 2 dollars.

  8. #8 Jen G
    December 13, 2007

    A cheap temporary fix, integrated with the holiday season: how about wrapping paper to cover up the window? At least it’s pretty!

  9. #9 rb
    December 13, 2007

    do it yourself, but expect the facilities union to put up a fuss.

    I replumbed my lab several years ago at another instiution, including he exhaust fume hoods. Why? becuase the univeristy wanted to bill my start up money for $15,000 (I only had $20,000. So I told them to get lost and did it myself. It cost me a weekend and some explaning to the department chair, but you have to do what you have to do. Currently I didn’t like the new furniture that the President of my college picked, so I modified it (extremely, think circular saws) but it makes my office function.

    So come in on a saturday and put up blinds. (heck I even painted my office because i hate institution gray)

  10. #10 Female Engineering Professor
    December 13, 2007

    Don’t sit and mutter about the administration. Don’t wait for the maintenence department to get around to your request. They’ll be ugly industrial blinds when they get around to it. You’ll probably be done nursing by then.

    Treat yourself to some pretty curtains or blinds from Ikea or HomeDepot or Smith + Noble or Target. If you can’t get out to find them, order online and have them delivered to work. You spend a lot of time in your office. Make it a place you enjoy.

    When I got tenure I treated myself to an awesome signed & numbered art print for my office. It makes me smile everytime I see it.

  11. #11 justapie
    December 13, 2007

    I agree with the idea of buying your own curtains. You can get tension rods, the kind that doesn’t require you to drill in the wall. They can be installed in a few minutes (but they won’t work well if your windows are very wide).

  12. #12 ScienceWoman
    December 13, 2007

    You all are right. I should just do something on my own rather than whine. Then when the powers that be get upset, I can use that to bring about official change. Unfortunately due to the peculiarities of the architecture around here. Installing blinds or curtains will be a major project. The windows span all 15 or so feet of one wall, so tension rods are out. The run all the way up to the celing which is one of those industrial suspended panel things, so I’m not sure how I would hang traditional blinds. I might simply have to tack a series of fabric panels to the ceiling, and make do. Maybe I can find some nice nature inspired motifs at the fabric store. *After* I finish Mini’s quilt. A project for next summer methinks.

  13. #13 Elf Eye
    December 13, 2007

    One possible DIY problem: Be certain you don’t run afoul of the fire inspectors. Blocking the windows with paper or cardboard or even non-fire-retardant cloth may bring down their wrath upon you.

  14. #14 Female Engineering Professor
    December 13, 2007

    Aha! look at the Dignitet product on the Ikea webpage.
    Maybe this could work? It’s not available online unfortunately.
    There’s going to be a lot of sunlight between now and next summer.

  15. #15 bsci
    December 13, 2007

    If all you want to do is block glare on your computer, you don’t need to go to the ceiling. Work from the floor up with something like a thin faux Japanese partition such as:
    Some are rather cheap and even translucent… just enough to block direct sunlight. You can also fold it up when you don’t need it.

  16. #16 guppygeek
    December 13, 2007

    In my experience (e.g. getting them to cough up for an air conditioner–part of our building is nearly 50 yrs old), making not terribly veiled threats about OSHA compliance might help. You could even look up OSHA code. Some wording such as “damage to my eyesight”, “poor ergonomics”, “unhealthful working conditions” etc might do it. Maybe even leave out the pumping reference and just say that other furniture arrangements are impracticable…

  17. #17 guppygeek
    December 13, 2007

    I should have also said that NO, this is not something you should handle yourself much less spend money on. You are the whole reason the institution exists, so please don’t even think about doing tasks not in your job description. This includes (or should), mopping your office floor, addressing envelopes, compiling and maintaining a database for some committee, etc etc. That is what support staff is for, and sooner or later you will be able to lobby for improved support staff if needed (maybe after tenure! 🙂 ) In the meantime, avoid the mindset of being altruistic to the institution whenever possible. They benefit most if you put all your time and energy into being the best professor you can, not janitor, secretary or administrator.

  18. #18 Harry Abernathy
    December 14, 2007

    Don’t wait around for facilities to do anything if you can avoid it. They’ll charge you way too much (unless the department is paying for it instead of you).

    I like the idea of using a partition. Sometimes you can find some very artsy ones for a good price at a Home Goods, TJ Maxx, or Marshall’s store.

    Since you have such a wide window span, you could also just nail together a freestanding frame with a rod running between the two slides and hang a curtain on that. Or just buy a freestanding garment rack (from somewhere like Target or the Container Store) and hang a curtain on that. That would also prevent you from having to drill into the wall, which avoids the conflict with facilities. Further, you can roll it out of the way when you want an unobstructed view. Finally, you can take it with you when you get bigger and better facilities…

  19. #19 Female Engineering Professor
    January 8, 2008

    I saw this in a catalog last night and thought of Science Woman!

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