I wonder whether it's time to rethink my open-door policy. I keep my office door open when I'm in there so I won't get claustrophobic, and if I'm leaving the office for a few minutes, I leave the door open so I don't have to remember to carry my keys. But recent events make me wonder whether I ought to get in the habit of locking my door every time I leave the office.
The first event was fairly mysterious: a book I had assigned for a class disappeared at the beginning of the semester and then reappeared after the class was done. I keep that book in a fairly obvious and visible place so anyone could have walked in and lifted it, but at first I assumed that I had misplaced it, something I have been known to do. I searched high and low and then bought a new copy, keeping it just where I had kept the original. And then at some point after the class was over, I noticed that the book had multiplied: two identical copies sat side-by-side on the shelf. Did someone "borrow" the book just to get through my class and then return it when the class was over? I'll never know the answer.
Then today one of my colleagues left her office for a brief errand and came back to discover a student retrieving his graded exam from her desk. To find the exam, the student had to enter the office, root through papers on the desk to find the right pile of exams, and then rifle through the graded exams to find his. My colleague was justifiably steamed, and her department has now decreed that office doors must be locked when faculty members are not present.
I don't keep anything of great value in my office (except my books!) and I don't worry much about my own privacy; if a student should discover the location of my kaleidoscope or my secret stash of herbal tea bags, I suppose I'll survive the embarrassment. But I am concerned about my students' privacy, and considering how often I wander off to make copies and leave my grade book sitting right smack in the middle of my desk, I ought to be more concerned. But I hate not trusting students. Even after spending half the morning investigating possible cases of academic dishonesty, I cherish the fond hope that my students are, in essence, nice people.
But even nice people can be tempted. Is my open office door an attractive nuisance? Is that grade book sitting in the middle of my desk an invitation to snoop? Maybe it's time to close the door.
But first, I'd better find those keys.