May I Come In?

Sometimes when I go to see a professor during his posted office hours, I get there and his office is open, but empty. I get tired of standing in the hallway (especially today, he was 50 minutes late!) Is it rude to go on in and take a seat?


The Power Of Christ: 2000 years and He hasn’t come yet!

You stood outside for 50 minutes? I hope not.

I would think it would have been rude to take a seat in someone’s office, especially if you haven’t been invited.
The professor was being rude though for not observing office hours or leaving a note to explain the situation.

I would have left a note for the professor to say that you were there and wanted to speak to him/her. Or you could go to the department office and ask where the prof is.

However, this is 1980s etiquette we’re talking about.

Speaking as a former professor, I wouldn’t consider it rude. He did leave the office open and it was during a time when visitors would be expected.

First, a word of advice. It doesn’t matter if a bunch of anonymous nerds on the internet agree that it’s not rude; what matters is your professor’s opinion.

That said: I would be very hesitant to go in if the professor wasn’t there; I’d rather sit on the floor in the hallway. The professor probably has stuff in there that you have no business seeing (other students’ grades, drafts of upcoming tests, etc.) and you do not want to even raise the suspicion that you might have been poking around in those things.

The most politic thing to to do would be to leave a note/voicemail/e-mail telling the jerk you were there at the posted times, when can we meet again?

I would only go in if I were very friendly with the prof. Most are too squirelly to get informal with them.

A reply from a mere, lowly Lecturer (IIRC, the second-to-last lowest faculty member here)…

I’d say: don’t to it. If my office is open but I’m not in, it means I’m in the building somewhere and plan on returning soon, especially if it is during posted office hours. Finding a student in your office (unless it’s a student you know and trust) is a little disturbing. Leave a note, ask the secretary, look around the department, but don’t just let yourself in.

Of course, torq is right: it depends on the prof. I tell all my students to either catch me right after class, make an appointment (which I always honor), call, or–best of all–e-mail.

My personal opinion: In doubt, don’t do it. Remember that this professor will be giving you a grade later on (I assume), so I would think it’s best to avoid getting on their bad side.

Example: At my job I sit in a cubicle (that’s right, Dilbert Land.) If I came back to my cubicle and someone was sitting in my chair, I would feel slightly peeved at the invasion of my “personal” space.

Most of my professors had one or two chairs outside the office door (I expect for people to sit and wait if another students was speaking to the professor).

Go in and leave something unusual on his desk, then scram; you have to take advantage when life gives you these little opportunities to make existence more interesting, both for yourself and others.
It could be anything that you leave: a pumpkin, a stuffed raccoon, a photograph of a whale with an erection, a ventriloquist’s dummy, a memo from God saying to build an ark, etc. etc. Use your imagination.

I went upstairs to Dr. Ostrom’s office last week. He wasn’t there, so I waited for him.

I remember exactly what he said when he came back.

“Who are you? What are you doing in my office? I’m going to call Security…”

Professional courtesy, that’s what it is…

In 1974 at UCSD, a couple dozen of us went into the open Chancellors’ office for a sit in. He didn’t show up at all, not that there was anywhere for him to sit.

Thanks for the advice guys; now I’m glad I waited outside. I think it was rather rude of him to be late though, since he was the one who told me to come by at 11.


The Power Of Christ: 2000 years and He hasn’t come yet!