Faculty Comments - Mission Bay 2013

Comment by Section:

Confidentiality concerns including HIPAA, IRB, HR and academic requirements:

Whomever conceived of this idea clearly does not have an understanding of the type of work that many faculty do on a a daily basis. I can not imagine working in this environment on projects requiring concentration such as papers, grants, or data analysis in this setting. Moreover, this set-up is completely impractical for conference calls or meetings. As a pediatric oncologist and a fellowship director, I have multiple phone conversations regarding very sensitive patient and trainee issues that are not appropriate in an open environment from HIPPA or confidentially perspectives. As many of these are unexpected, moving to a conference room for a confidential call or conversation multiple times a day is impractical. Finally, I have great concern about this design in terms of faculty recruitment, retention, and job satisfaction. I doubt senior faculty would choose UCSF if they were only going to have a cubicle.
-Michelle Hermiston, Pediatrics

The plan for the new Mission Bay office building is untenable and unworkable. We have been meeting to try to figure out how it can be used, since it was presented as a fait accompli, but it will not work. We are an academic institution. Those of us, 80% of my division, who are involved in research, both lab and clinical, have 4-8 hours per day of conference calls and meetings with mentees and collaborators. Those of us with more administrative positions have confidential meetings 2-4 hour per day with applicants, staff, residents, fellows, and medical center issues. We cannot be running in and out of offices or talking with even one other person in public small cubicles. WE will not be able to recruit from outside UCSF for new faculty and researchers.

It is not too late to redesign the inside of this building, which is still a hole in the ground.
-Kate Matthay

This type of work environment will be very problematic for clinical care. I think there are a number of confidentiality issues that will arise with this planned format: HIPPA compliance issues, inability to appropriately counsel students and trainees. I believe this will have a negative impact on work productivity. Having a quiet, private, non-disruptive space to do scholarly work is essential in an academic institution. The planned format will lead poor job satisfaction and will impact recruitment and retention of faculty.
-Rob Goldsby

I think the current plan will lead to decreased productivity and inefficiency.
Importantly, private phone conversation between doctors and patients can not be guaranteed, with potential medico-legal consequences.

It's inconceivable for me that anyone could possibly see this as a move towards anything other than total disaster! As far as I can tell, this was an experiment that has already been performed by the business community and failed horribly. Why in the world are we eager to duplicate that failure?

In the medical community, these shared desks would work even less well, both for clinical faculty that require privacy in order to openly discuss sensitive HIPAA protected patient information, as well as academic physicians that need privacy simply to be productive without the already existing challenge of trying to get one's work done with an ever increasing barrage of constant distractions and interruptions.

On top of all the blatantly obvious negatives, how will UCSF possibly recruit top faculty candidates? Who in their right mind would want to come to a university with no personal office (added to the already huge recruiting disadvantage we have due to lack of sufficient lab space)?

What else can I say, but this seems colossally misguided! If implemented, UCSF should prepare itself for the inevitable mass exodus that will surely follow.
-Concerned Professor

I'm afraid that having this office arrangement for our treating physicians creates an environment that exposes HIPAA (PHI) and personal effects (laptops, phones, etc.) to unauthorized use, including theft. I am not certain whether this arrangement is HIPAA compliant and/or complies with JAHCO regulations, which if it does not (i.e. JAHCO sees this and finds that it is a risk to HIPAA / PHI), could open the Hospital up to fines and/or loss of accreditation.

As a recently hired junior faculty and alumna of UCSF training, I share the concern my colleagues already have expressed.

I know of teaching-predominant departments in other university systems (non-UC) where faculty are expected to share offices, but at a premier research and clinical institution such as UCSF, an individual office is a must and cannot be replaced by a shared space. Focused thought, creative work - including writing, grant applications, design of figures, critical thinking - and HIPAA-sensitive patient discussions all require quiet and privacy. When my colleagues and I are on vacation, our individual offices are used by visitors so that the space is not wasted. Have you consulted architects with significant scientific design experience, like Ken Kornberg (son of Arthur Kornberg, brother of Richard Kornberg)? Most importantly, please consider what faculty are expressing! If you were remodelling your house, you would expect your architect and contractor to ask about your wishes and needs, not thrust their own vision on you.
-Raga Ramachandran, Assistant Professor of Pathology

Physicians involved in patient care need individual offices to do so in an efficient manner while complying with an increasingly strict set of rules concerning patient privacy.The open room model that works for basic scientists at UCSF(although most PI have a private office) will not be satisfactory.In addition,this model will make it extremely difficult to recruit faculty to UCSF.
-Andrew Bollen

Here is yet another bad idea that has gone a long way to implementation without discussion with the group it will affect most - the people (faculty) who see the patients, get the work done, teach and counsel the students, and try to get creative cutting-edge research conceived and done along with innovative patient care ideas. I add my small voice to the outcry against this idea for all the reasons that my colleagues have intoned. I would also recommend that the Chief Privacy Officer go ahead and watch some of the HIPPA videos and on-line training that we are all subjected to. That Privacy Officer did not get it right - the course must be taken again. The degree of HIPPA liability exposure with this idea could bankrupt the state even further.
-Dolores Shoback

It is important as we go to various events at the different campus site that there be an area where faculty can use computers and with HIPPA appropriate restrictions be able to make patient phone calls and manage clinical emails etc.  This enables us to get work done before and between meetings if needed.
-Ann Poncelet


I went on the workstation tour last month and I am very concerned about how the current layout and structure will affect mine and my research group's productivity. The workstations space is too small, there is insufficient privacy or sound reduction, and there are too many stations put into one open space. This is going to particularly burdensome to research faculty and staff who are generally are in the office much more than not; I've worked in cubicles, and they can be tolerable; but the current configuration will not be.
-Tracey Woodruff

After taking the virtual tour, it is hard for me to imagine a less conducive work environment. While we do thrive on collaborations and interactions with our peers, so much of the work that academic faculty perform requires a quiet and private space where focused writing and thinking can occur. Reading, reviewing, and writing grants and manuscripts, as well as a relatively quiet space to meet with a student, trainee, or colleague one on one for sensitive conversations is critical. In addition, participating on conference calls and WebExs, which are frequent occurrences in this era of national and international collaborations, will be challenging. As a faculty who prides itself on creativity and productivity, we must resist the latest business trends that suggest that these environments allow full productivity. If I were to be assigned an office here, I would likely be spending a lot more time in my house, working from home.
-Mignon Loh

I agree with many of the comments of previous posters. I foresee major issues with new faculty recruitment as well as a profoundly negative effect on productivity from such an arrangement. To take away the one place where faculty can privately retreat to write manuscripts, grants, and research would be a major negative for both current and potential future faculty.
- Clay Gustafson, Asst Adjunct Pediatrics

I am an 80% clinical investigator. On most days, I spend 6-8 hours per day in my current office where I use the space to write grants, papers, and clinical trial protocols. I also use the space for conference calls and in-person meetings. None of these activities can be conducted in an open cubicle without either distracting me from writing activities or distracting those around me. I anticipate that I will need to be in one of the private ""shared"" rooms all day.

Moreover, I use my office to store specialized supplies and pathology slides that support my translational research program. I have concerns that I will not have a place to store these items securely.
-Steve DuBois, Pediatrics

I have worked in this type of environment before. It is very disruptive to productivity when you can here other conversations and phone calls happening. I had a very difficult time preparing a manuscript in this environment and opted to work in the library. This is a short term solution to the financial bottom line. Ironically I don't believe individuals who are making these decisions would actually agree to giving up their own office space for this set up.
-UCSF Medicine Dept

Others have commented on an inevitable flight to home offices in order to find a quiet space in which to write grants. I would also point out that younger faculty, who are struggling with the cost of housing in the Bay Area, often do not have home offices to turn to. I do not, for example, nor does my wife, now that we have an infant in our second bedroom. And we are both NIH-funded UCSF faculty. This plan would exacerbate a San Farancisco-specific problem that already hinders recruitiment and retention.
-Prescott Woodruff

I agree with all the comments below and will not list them all again, except to reiterate that creative thinking requires as few distractions as possible, and we already have way too many! Even now, the library keeps a set of "offices" that can be used by Academic Senate faculty to get some work done in peace in quiet; that space might have to be hugely expanded if this proposal gets implemented. If the administration thinks this is a generational issue, they should speak to the current students and postdocs, who have been subjected to the shared space experiment for quite a while. I have not yet met a single student or postdoc who enjoys that arrangement and will miss their cubicle/knee hole when taking a faculty position; in fact, a private office is probably one of the largest perks of having a "real job" that they can think of. In summary, this is a bad, bad idea that I hope will be reconsidered before it's too late.
-Marta Margeta

Terrible idea and will create massive absenteeism.
-Daniel Ramos, Professor School of Dentistry

I agree with earlier comments. The plan to replace faculty offices with cubicles will markedly reduce productivity and worsen the working environment for faculty and trainees. Meetings, teaching, and the actual work of academic medicine require protected, private spaces for faculty. Also, as noted many times below, efforts to recruit and retain top talent will be seriously compromised.
-Jean Nakamura

The Mission Bay Academic Building, withits 'activity-based workplace' cosisting of 40 squate foot cubicles, is an ill-conceived, wrong-headed misadventure that will deeply, possibly irrevocably, damage UCSF. Its design is based on the utterly misguided and totally untested notion that the working environments used by the electronics industry for teams of baccaulaureate-level technicians and engineers, working together on specific projects, is somehow translatable to university-based academic physicians. It's not. University-based academic physicians are more than mere 'providers'. We teach at multiple levels; students, residents, fellows, junior faculty, in addition to nurses and other ancillary medical personnel – but one cannot teach in a beehive. We write grants, papers, book chapters, manuscript reviews, grant reviews, evaluations and letters of recommendation — but one cannot be creative in a phonebooth. And we discuss patient care with patients, families and other healthcare professionals – but we cannot do this in a public venue. No study has been made of UCSF faculty activities and what space and environment is needed to facilitate essential functions. No solicitation for opinion or advice went to the faculty; this is being forced down our throats with the same foresight and dexterity as the aborted UCSF-Stanford merger, and will be equally successful. No other University or medical center has tried this; it is terra incognita, and we are setting sail without a map, a compass, provisions or leadership.

We are regularly asked to attend meetings to fine-tune the way we will live in these rat cages, which is analagous to asking those on a slave ship whether they want to be chained to a starbord or portside bunk. This is not a mere a generational issue; it is not that older faculty cling to books and papers like middle-Americans clinging to their guns and religion. The paperless office is a fantasy that exists only on Star Trek; there are endless examples, from the need for original signatures to the vast amounts of literature that are not available on line. My work has been substantially assisted by my computer, but it cannot replace the trove of information at my fingertips in my files.

It is my prediction that 1) talented younger faculty will be more readily recruited away by other Universities; 2) recruitments will be substantially more difficult, especially at the level of division chiefs, who need offices for their myriad duties; 3) productivity, especially in grants and peer-reviewed papers, will fall; 4) this 'experiment' will ultimately fail, costing UCSF substantial money and lost presige. It is difficult to envision a more effective tactic for reducing UCSF back to the rustic quaintness of Toland Medical College. This is not the way a great University treats a great faculty.
-Walter L Miller

As a recently hired Assistant Professor, I was shocked to hear of the plans for the activity-based workspace model. One of my main concerns when I was considering potential faculty positions was to ensure that I would have the office space and lab space that I need to carry out my research and teaching responsibilities. Had a suitable office space not been available at UCSF, I would have strongly considered a different institution.

Why is the office space important? In addition to the many pertinent issues raised in other comments, I would like to add that the office space is really a place where faculty "live," not just spend a few hours working. Most faculty that I know at UCSF have devoted their lives to research, teaching, and/or clinical practice. The faculty spend inordinate hours in their offices on activities such as writing grants and manuscripts, preparing lectures, supervising trainees, and communicating with collaborators. Many faculty work extended hours and occasionally eat and sleep in their offices. The office is an extension of their home. As faculty we find it challenging to juggle all of the demands placed on us, and at the same time we need a dedicated space where we can think, focus, reflect, and write quietly--this is why we are academics. We also need to have the ability to rapidly switch among disparate tasks. In a typical hour, I might start out working privately on a manuscript or grant application using multiple computer monitors, then one of my lab staff members might come by my office and we may meet privately to go over data or plan experiments, and then I might need to handle a confidential phone call. I can only seamlessly transition among these tasks with a private office.
-Chris Allen

As an associate professor in a basic science department and a parent of small children, my office is a critical space that allows me to manage my work responsibilities effectively. It is the only space in which I have the necessary solitude to work efficiently on grants, manuscripts, and lectures. I cannot effectively mentor research trainees without a private office in which I can discuss both scientific issues and career-related issues (such as work ethic, motivation, lab conflict, etc.) Choosing an "activity-based workplace" over traditional office space is misguided and is doomed to have negative repercussions on the University.
-Anita Sil

This is a terrible idea. This is probably some architect's idea of how to foster community or something. Along with other ideas from McKinsey and Oracle that we have been subjected to with Grants and Purchasing, this is not how to do it. Science and discovery result from the right balance of inspiration and collaboration along with deep, sustained, concentrated thought. Much of what we do is writing, look at writers spaces for some idea of the kind of space necessary for that. The model of Genetech Hall is not bad, with neighborhoods and places for interaction, and private offices for meetings, and writing and thinking. I agree with others that this would decrease productivity, lead people to work more from home, and decrease recruitment.
-Assistant Professor

How could I work without an office? How can I think? How can I meet with my postdocs and students? My office is right next to my lab: that spatial continuity if vital.

We will have a very difficult time hiring or keeping faculty if they can't have an office. We need peace and quiet so that we can concentrate and think deeply and uninterruptedly about science.

I don't know if you are aware of this, but it's getting harder and harder to be a faculty member at UCSF. The red tape is killing us, and it's everywhere. This new idea is just crazy. If it is implemented, I may have to stay home to get more of my work done, and I think it's good to be here where the students and postdocs and other faculty are. I also don't understand why you would want to do this. We have a lot of space. Your faculty bring in a lot of money for the university, and they give the university its reputation. If we all leave, or are miserable in our little cubicles, what will happen to USCSF? We don't have to stay here. I love UCSF but I need to be able to get my work done, and also to feel that I am valued. This might just be the last straw.
-Distinguished Professor at UCSF

For the many reasons noted, faculty need individual offices. I cannot imagine doing my job without a private office: reading, writing, meeting with trainees, supervising employees, carrying on conversations regarding confidential patient information in a private environment.

In addition, I continue to find it very useful to have a large screen desktop computer, which I utilize for private discussion for both patient care and research. I would not want the additional effort of logging in remotely from a conference room and would not want to have all my information on a laptop.

This seems like a terrible idea.
-Scott Kogan, M.D. Professor of Laboratory Medicine

I think that it is crucial for faculty members to have individual offices. I often come to my campus office to work on the weekends because it takes less time than organizing work to being it home. Having a quiet place to work is key to productivity.
-Susan Fisher

As a physician scientist I cannot imagine working in an environment with limited or no privacy. I handle confidential patient related issues in my office, I have numerous confidential discussions with the individuals in my lab or with house officers and fellows discussing patients on my service when I am attending, and of course I need quiet but accessible (for patient and staff conversations) private space for writing grants, reviewing data, composing and responding to email, making and taking phone calls often involving confidentiality issues.
-Daniel Bikle

I worry that a lack of private office space will severely limit faculty productivity and will negatively impact the way that UCSF faculty are perceived by peers and funding agencies. This will negatively impact mentorship as faculty will not have space to meet one-on-one with trainees.

The "activity-based workplace" is an absolutely terrible idea and makes no sense whatsoever to me. A private office is critical to a professional career. How can I possibly organize my academic life without a home base in which to write, contemplate, discuss, and plan? I would honestly look to leave this university - which already gives me much less than most of my colleagues at other institutions.
-Associate Professor, Department of Medicine

As a new faculty member and physician scientist, I can see how an open model with cubicles could foster collaborations. However, the role of a PI requires a balance between individual effort and collaborative effort. The majority of my time is spent meeting with trainees, reading, writing, meeting with collaborators, and managing my patients. Having a private office is critical to successfully completing all of these tasks since many of these conversations are confidential (ie patient care; feedback to a trainee; current lab strategies) or require concentration (ie grant writing especially in this environment.) Can you imagine having these types of conversations or spending all of our time in an environment like a coffee shop?

The university must support its basic researchers as well as clinicians in order to support the long-term health and success of the institution. Having some areas with an open design is appropriate for fostering collaborations and interactions, particularly since we already have multiple campuses. Having dedicated space (ie an office) for faculty to concentrate is critical for successfully achieving and maintaining our high research, teaching, and clinical care goals.
-junior faculty recent hire, Department of Medicine

An office is an essential component of life as a faculty member at an academic institution.

Much of what we do requires intense concentration - which is hard enough under any circumstance - let alone when you can't close the door to shut out other conversations or distractions.

The recognition UCSF earns for outstanding grant funding will suffer if faculty do not have offices in which to write grants.
-Tamara Alliston

Happily ensconced in my own private office with a view of the Quad at Mission Bay, all I can think as I read this forum is that I would have a much more difficult time thriving and succeeding in the type of space proposed. I make a point of trying to spend as much time in my lab as possible to promote camaraderie and improve productivity in my group. However, when it is time to write grants and papers, I must be in the quiet space of my office. Open environments work for some personality types, mainly extroverts. However, the vast majority of research scientists are introverts, who need quiet alone time to think and recharge. Open office plans will not work for them as they would not work for me. I would not have joined the UCSF family if I had been recruited to a cubicle.
-Recently hired junior faculty, School of Medicine

I can see that it is attractive as a model for situations where faculty come and go from a particular location on a rotating basis, but that isn't the way that faculty engaged in basic research work. We read, write and meet for the majority of our days, day in and day out. The proposed model absolutely will make this more difficult and less pleasant. Most people need the ability to quietly gather their thoughts and to spend time in deep consideration in order to actually make scientific progress.

The "hotel" model seems to be based on the thought that scientific progress is based on group think rather than the efforts of individual faculty making conceptual advances. A balance of individual space and meeting space is absolutely essential to actually do the things we are supposed to be doing. If I were forced to exist in this model, I would find no choice but to do about half of my work in my home office.
Full Professor ladder rank, physician scientist

I oppose this dictate. Private (sound-proof) faculty offices are essential to the University's mission.
-Mark Seielstad

Members of study sections care about whether a PI has a dedicated office space. We look for this resource in their applications because having a dedicated private office indicates that the PI's institution values them enough to provide an office. This also indicates that the PI will have a dedicated place in which to think, collate data, talk with lab member and to carry out the science that they are paid to perform. It is my belief that we cannot perform the science the taxpayers are paying us to perform with out a private office. I know members of study sections at NIH agree. The bottom line seems to be money, however, this plan to get rid of private offices spaces will make UCSF less competitive and prove financially unsound.
-Noelle L'Etoile, Associate Professor

Whereas I understand the rationale for moving from private offices to "activity-based" workspace and understand that it may in fact work for clinical faculty, I think that this is a very bad idea for basic science faculty. Trying to do my business in an open work area would simply not work for me and the members of my lab with whom I consult on a regular basis. I urge the UCSF administration to think this one again.
-Martin McMahon

Activity-based workspace is a short-sighted idea . Academic faculty have many duties that go beyond direct patient care- teaching, administration and research. Most of us juggle these tasks on a daily basis but to be productive in these areas, space that is private, ergonomic and allows for confidential work and discussions is mandatory. In some non-clinical specialties such as radiology, laboratory medicine and pathology even the patient care duties are performed in private office space. I cannot imagine being able to recruit top-tier candidates to our institution without guaranteeing such space, much less retaining our best and brightest faculty. Rather than make this decision in a vacuum, I encourage the decision-makers to "go to the source"? to find the facts themselves (Genchi Genbutsu in TPS terminology) before choosing a course that will negatively impact this Medical Center in the long-run.
-Associate Professor

I am not in favor of replacing PI offices with activity based workplaces.
An office for research academic PIs is vital for writing grant applications and papers, meeting with post-docs and lab staff as well as job candidates and visiting academics. The PIs office is a place of work and creativity, just as any office to be found at UCSF should be.
Activity based space provides a means to quickly perform basic work within a set time frame and suggests that the researcher will carry all the information needed with them to complete their task. This is not amenable to researchers who need significant time for thinking/creating/writing in a quiet space. Researchers often need access to multiple forms of media e.g. lap top, desktop, large (30-inch) true color monitors/backup drives/text books etc, how will activity-bases spaces cater to this need?
-Sarah Knox

It is my strong opinion that lack of office space for basic science faculty is an extremely counterproductive plan that will result in substantial reduction in productivity. Transition to an Activity-Based Open Space model will be the end of UCSF as a top academic institution.
-Assistant Professor in Residence

I agree with the notion that faculty, basic as well as clinical, need their own, dedicated office space. Implementing a system in which faculty offices are removed in favor of open, joint spaces is a poorly thought out idea that should not move forward. There are many reasons for this to be a bad idea, from confidential conversations, to private/quite environment to write grants, etc.
-Matthias Hebrok

The notion that faculty have limited need for private office space in which to conduct sensitive work (i.e., discussion of a private nature with other parties, scientific writing requiring minimal distraction, discussion with research team members regarding proprietary research) is preposterous. The majority of my work day is spent in meetings with students, colleagues, and peers, the majority of which include private matters that should not be held in a public venue. My experience is that most of my colleagues have the same near-daily experience. What is the data that such open-plan concepts are productive in the academic setting? The possibility is that some amount of shared space is reasonable, but to commit to this large-scale restructuring is ill-advised without careful consideration as to the impact on faculty productivity and quality of life (which impacts productivity!). The apparent financial savings do not take into account the considerable cost in terms of lost/displaced productivity and increases in the cost related to Human Resources workplace complaints, grievances, and potential loss of intellectual property due to open plans for faculty and staff.

And finally, the open plan with respect to wet bench laboratories is equal narrow in its vision. This appears to be geared primarily towards basic scientists who do not work with primary human tissues. The need for secure facilities in which to accrue and maintain human tissues collected from participants in ongoing clinical research studies is poorly accommodated by the open plan design. These materials must be safeguarded and a shared freezer bay for keeping samples is the poorest form of security. The more people that share laboratory space (i.e., students, staff, postdocs, faculty) from different research groups, the more likely that an individual who is not familiar with the gravity of not following all safety protocols to ensure that samples are securely maintained will make a fatal (if unintended) error that could cause considerable harm. There appears to be little plan to cluster research in a meaningful way to potential assemble investigators with similar needs (i.e., infrastructure, equipment, security) to minimize risk to study conduct, safety, and security.

It is unclear to me whether this is going to have a MAJOR negative impact on my work life, or just a minor/neutral one. I cannot imagine, however, how it would ever be a net positive to lose an office where I can focus on work.
-Faculty member in Epidemiology

Shared space is hard enough in a family, much less with colleagues. Work styles differ, respect for quiet and privacy differs, degrees of 'nosiness' differ, views of what constitutes 'clean' or 'organized' differ. For faculty that need quiet personal space to recharge and gather thoughts, this new model will be challenging, stifling and claustrophic. This decision is clearly a misguided attempt to save money, and should not be touted as anything other than that. The only way for faculty to stop this is to band together play hardball with the leadership. That's why unions work. Imagine if someone tried to take away the unit-specific nursing lounges and replace them with a common lounge space for all nurses in the cafeteria? The nursing union would strike and administration would have to listen. We are powerless unless we act.
-Department of Pediatrics

I currently work in cubicle-land, and I like my colleagues. Yet even polite, low level conversations adjacent to my desk are highly distracting, especially during grant writing and paper revision work, when it takes time to get into a good flow. We can all agree that constant interruption is counter-productive. I will often work late evenings and weekends, or in the worst-case I will squat in other unoccupied workspaces to avoid unnecessary conversations. Being chased out of my personal work-space to get work done is non-ideal, as I lose printer access and reference materials, and I am visibly absent. If a model of anonymous shared space is adopted for faculty, this would represent a step down from a situation that is already difficult to tolerate. Considerations that I recommend for the new space: Lockable, assigned, personal cabinets and drawers. Printer/copier/fax/phone access. As much privacy screening as possible without blotting out natural light. Allowing plants and food. Daily cleaning/sanitation schedule. If workstations are provided, to make an equal number of spaces available without them.
-Pharmaceutical Chemistry

For all the reasons previously expressed, I am very concerned about this type of workspace. Lacking a quiet place to think, work, and meet will seriously affect my productivity.
-Judy Hahn

The Academic Senate has done an excellent job in outlining many of the concerns associated with the proposed activity-based workspace for faculty. I share the concerns outlined, as well as those added by other colleagues here. Something of great concern to me is that this plan does not appear to take into consideration the individual needs of faculty, but rather seems to be address us a homogenous group with very similar work-styles, activities, and privacy needs. I believe that faculty are a very diverse group of individuals with very different needs for privacy, quiet, etc. The issue of losing the ability to pump when working with a nursing child is but one critical individual need I see raised here that deserves a great deal of weight. Had I not had a semi-private office when my child was young I doubt I could have managed to keep up with pumping given the schedule I managed, and I know this to be true for others as well. This is but ONE example of a necessary activity that would be very difficult to maintain in the proposed environment. There are many others. Has there been consideration given regarding faculty members with cognitive differences relative to distraction and noise? How would anyone be able to accomplish anything at all if every movement or sound in the open space they share broke their focus? Would these people be housed differently than other faculty? How will the University accommodate members of our community who can't function in such an environment without excluding them? Besides these issues of potential discrimination, the comments other colleagues have shared contain reason enough to recognize that this proposal has many concerns for many different reasons, across the community.
-Gwen Essex

I am in favor of breaking down barriers to interdisciplinary communication, but I don't think that the new designs are the best way to accomplish this. There seems to be an implicit assumption that faculty and staff are working in teams to develop I-phone like products. But academic life is not compatible with such a model. People need quiet space for reflection and writing, and for private conversations with colleagues and students. The ideas about expanded "huddle space" are good, but space for offices -- and books -- should not, and need not, be sacrificed for that gain.
-Barbara Koenig

Working styles vary greatly among faculty. I know with 100% certainty that an "open space" office would NOT work for me. I would not be able to write grants or papers in this kind of a setting. An open space office would paralyze my ability to write or think creatively. This concept may work for those who like to work in front of a television or in a coffee shop. This has never been my work-style, even going back to elementary school. To be successful at UCSF, I need a quiet place to work. I currently have an ideal office: door, window view, enough room to hold 3-4 person meetings. I get enormous pleasure from working in my current office. The open office concept is a complete miss-match for my working style.
-Julene Johnson

I currently have shared space in clinic with the other faculty members in my division. Though, I enjoy the camaraderie and exchange of ideas and updates that come with the interactions of working together in this space together, if I need to be efficient and thoughtful about academic and administrative work, I find my private office is far more effective. Common work spaces can be distracting.
-William Ryan

I concur with all the issues raised in the Dec 18th letter from the Academic Senate. An open workspace plan for faculty seems incredibly problematic. I personally could not do my work in such an environment.
-Beth Mertz

I just returned from an international conference where I learned from an Australian colleague that this open workplace has been used in an academic medical setting: University of Melbourne. It sounded like a similar floor plan--desks in large open rooms--with the exception that there are a small number of coveted offices for senior faculty. My colleague had a desk in the open space for two years, and felt that the plan was disastrous for reasons that echo the concerns I have heard regarding the new faculty building at Mission Bay. His biggest complaints were the high noise level and the frequent interruptions by people who would see him sitting at his desk. He felt it had a large negative impact on his academic productivity. He now has one of the few private offices, and feels that he needs the door he can close to get work done. Although my colleague feels that this workspace is widely disliked at his institution, his does represent just one opinion. It seems worthwhile, however, for UCSF leadership to interview academic physicians like him who have worked in this type of setting. During presentations regarding this new building at UCSF, I have repeatedly heard that there is no precedence for this sort of open workspace in academic medicine, but that does not seem to be the case.
-Heather Fullerton

The letter makes multiple salient points, particularly as a junior faculty member who has books, meets with students and staff privately, and requires quiet space to write.
-Emily Arnold, PhD

Voice access:

I can appreciate most of the concerns expressed. I have a few questions of my own. Would we also be sharing computers in these shared workplaces? Would every software program then be available on every computer for everyone's use? Or will UCSF give everyone a laptop, each one loaded up with the software that we might have on our desktop computer in our office? Not trying to be funny, but am really wondering about this? Also, where would I keep my petty cash? I do a lot of community-based work and need access to my cash for a number of project-related expenses. And would we share file cabinets, too?
-Valerie Yerger

Insufficient consultation with stakeholders:

Insufficient consultation with stakeholders
I was recently a visiting professor at Penn and described the Activity Workplace plan to several colleagues in different departments there (Medicine, Pediatrics and Surgery) and they were all astounded that such a poor top down decision could be made by the Chancellor and the Vice Chair of Research and the Dean of the School of Medicine without adequate faculty input. They all said they would never move to a Medical School with this kind of work place plan because of the negative effects on research, clinical communications, and faculty excellence. The Academic Senate must be very forthright to change these plans at all UCSF sites immediately.
-Michael Matthay, MD, Dept Medicine and Anesthesiology and the CVRI

Now that a number of the main tenants of the MB faculty building have weighed in -- the Pediatrics Department -- faculty from all but one of the proposed Departments who will have cubicles in the space have registered thoughts - With such overwhelming negativity and with 22 months before this building will be ready for occupancy - and now this from Pediatricians who are actually getting a new hospital -- it is not reality to believe this will work -- faculty will leave, retire, work from home and be unhappy all at the same time.

I suggest that the next step is for the Department Chairs be forced to meet with their faculty and explain to their faculty where they were when this decision was made -- and what were they thinking if they were thinking at all. The Chairs are every bit as responsible for this mess as are the planning groups. If and when you read this, forward the link to your Department Chair and hold them accountable.

These workplaces may work for non clinical faculty, but this will simply NOT work for clinicians, surgeons. Show me one physicians' office in the entire US that is configured in this manner.

I believe that clinicians should not move to Mission Bay if this is the model. We at UCSF should finally have our voices heard instead of given patronizing statements or platitudes or be told that it is a done deal.

This Activity-Based Workplace plan is ill conceived and will hurt UCSF in many ways. It reminds me of the top down, high handed administrators' decision making process that occurred without adequate faculty input with the disastrous UCSF-Stanford merger. The Chancellor and the Deans should have consulted and worked with faculty on this issue from the outset. It will hurt both retention and recruitment of premier faculty in the basic, translational, and clinical sciences. As others have already commented, it will impede optimal grant applications, manuscript preparation and interactions among faculty and fellows and students.
-Michael Matthay

I have just spent a typical day here at UCSF. I met with postdocs to mentor them, I met with the administrator and an RSC about the grant we're preparing to put in, I met with one of my research teams, and then another research team. Finally now, I'm alone. Thus, from this morning until now (6:15 pm), I have been in nonstop meetings, in my OFFICE. How will this work in the new space we're being forced into? Will I have to demand that I get one of of the offices? (that there are only 1 for every 4 people?).
Moreover, I work all the time - on the weekends, evenings, and university holidays. I work really hard for my pay! And then I look again at the photos above and I think of the movie "9 to 5", with all the workers in cubicles, a sea of cubicles. In fact, when the main character got a raise, she moved to....yup, an office! And us, those of us who bring in the grants that keep the university going - #1? And we're being told, nope, you're being put into "open space" (not even cubicles). Y'know, it truly does not feel that the university cares about us. And there's just ongoing confirmation about this since no higher-ups are doing anything to help us. From department chair on up. No one cares. It feels really sad to me. I've put in many years here, bringing in lots of money. But no one cares.

Thirteen years ago, I co-chaired the building committee for Genentech Hall with Zach Hall, then our Executive Vice Chancellor. Our committee developed one of the very best research buildings in the country. This accomplishment was made possible because the committee drew heavily on the collective wisdom of the faculty and staff and respected the needs of the future occupants whom the building would serve. The resulting design was innovative and has proven very functional. To get to this point, however, the committee had to scrap a set of professionally made architectural drawings that would have implemented a building of vastly inferior design (then called the Seismic Replacement building). The initial structure had been designed by the architects with little if any faculty input before the Mission Bay building committee was formed. Simply put, had it been built, none of us would have chosen to move into it; the Mission Bay campus as we know it today would not have developed. Our Chancellor at the time, J. Michael Bishop, was supportive of the dramatic redirection that the faculty advocated, even though it came at a significant cost to UCSF. To this day, we are thankful for his support.

As I hope this brief history illustrates, UCSF is a large institution with a vast experience base. More likely than not—and whatever the issue—we have been there before. By getting into building design without faculty input, our institution made a mistake then, and we paid a price to correct it. Regrettably, we now seem to be making the same mistake again, except that, this time, there appears to be no will or constructive mechanism to admit the mistake and correct it. Personally, I have not seen the details of the design but, from the sentiments I hear and read, it seems rather obvious that the office space layout is widely regarded as incompatible with the functions that the building will house. And, it seems clear that a dysfunctional Building 25 could endanger the optimal development of the Mission Bay Hospital, which is a huge institutional investment.

A few lessons seem to emerge: 1) we must remember to look more often to best practices of the past and apply to the present the enormous wisdom and experience pool in our community, and 2) we must reverse the increasing trend towards top-down decision-making that now seems to be permeating the institution we are all so proud of.
-Peter Walter, Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics

I also agree with the comments and want to join the chorus of outrage about a decision that to have emerged without consultation with those who will be affected by it. Based on the reasons voiced in prior comments, we have to be very concerned that this will undermine our productivity and competitiveness. Is the institution's commitment to faculty well-being only lip service?

I am afraid that our worries may be dismissed as us not appreciating the benefits of a more open working environment. That seems like a risky or reckless bet. Is there actually any data or precedent that what may work for some industries will work in academia? As has been argues, our work life is very different from that of an employee of a corporation. I am equally worried that this could have an extremely negative impact.
-Boris Bastian, Professor of Dermatology and Pathology

Associate Professor, Mission Bay.

Concur with all the reasons given below by the faculty.

Why does the administration keep insisting on getting in the way of our research?

Leave us alone. We like our space just the way it is.

If the administration likes this idea so much, let them implement it for themselves. I certainly don't mind if the chancellor, deans, provost etc have cubicles right next to each other. Just don't bring your expensively wasteful and loony ideas to the faculty.
-School of Medicine

I concur with my colleagues and will not reiterate all the very sensible reasons they presented, that make this an idea worth at least to be tested on a small scale for a sufficient amount of time (since we can not move back on the the Mission Bay Academic Building plan).

I am still not clear on how and by whom this idea was proposed and the decision was made. Could we please get a very straightforward answer on that so as to be able to understand their arguments and meet with them in person.
I also agree that the chancellor's gesture is nice but that there should be a moratorium on this plan for faculty until we have feedback from this plan applied to ALL the administrators and after they have worked under these conditions for a while.
-Christian Vaisse MD, PhD-Professor, Diabetes Center

The silence and lack of comment - any comment -- from the Dean or Chancellor at least acknowledging the angst and discontent of the faculty is bordering on the unbelievable. Many of the faculty have done due diligence and have visited the mock-up of the space at Mission Bay. Unfortunately, while done in good faith, the experience has increased discontent of the faculty -- that the administration believes a tour of this corner of the fourth floor of the Diller Building to see the space would increase acceptance is further evidence of their tone deafness. Despite the laundry list of comments on this site, perhaps the leadership believes this is a vocal minority of whiners. Well, how about a formal survey? How about showing some respect for the faculty of a Medical School again ranked in the Top Ten? How about admitting a mistake and finding a compromise? The obvious strategy of the administration is to delay, just as the strategy was to sneak this idea through the door while the faculty was not looking. And meanwhile, how about spelling out in detail the plans that would use this same model of space allocation for all remodeling going forward.
-Dept of Medicine, Professor

I concur will all of the concerns of the commenters here and thank the Academic Senate for taking the lead on this very important issue. I would add to the list of privacy concerns the management of research staff performance and development in addition to advising and mentoring activities.

Please note that the proposed faculty workspace plan is not limited to Mission Bay. Relocation plans for faculty moving out of Clinical Sciences and University Hall into other spaces on Parnassus are also affected. As of today I do not see a single positive comment regarding this plan.

We were informed in our departmental faculty meeting that this plan was motivated by cost savings. I think we all appreciate the difficult decisions involved though the lack of stakeholder involvement was disrespectful. I suggest that perhaps the long terms costs were not adequately assessed.

Now that we've had a month long comment period, could we get an update on the plans?
-Katherine Williams

The university leadership has responded to the outrage expressed on this page with silence: a deafening silence. Is it too much to ask for lip service to the idea of faculty welfare?

The university should call for a timeout and immediately halt the planning process.
-Associate Professor, School of Medicine

I have not heard a single faculty member speak even remotely positively about the current workplace Mission Bay plans. The response from senior leadership even in response to the academic senate has been nothing but condescending. Literally, we hear the decision was made (without your input) so you will have to adjust and deal with it. I am already hearing rumblings of faculty leaving and have seen the initial effects on recruitment to UCSF. I myself will have to reconsider my long-term plans - not just in response to the workplace plans but also the decision-making process and responsiveness to this decision. We are not google or an IT company. I deal with sensitive patient issues, research issues, administrative issues and have always had my personal space to work. This is what every other academic hospital local and distant offers for these very same reasons. Despite the reiteration that "it will work" and you will "have to adjust," there is no doubt in my mind that for me, it will not.
-Department of Pediatrics

I agree wholeheartedly with the eloquent comments of my colleagues who have taken time to make entries on this site. I do fear that we are preaching to the choir, and that we are reading and feeling solidarity in each other's comments but the planners are not listening. As recently as last week I attended a meeting of Cancer Center leadership where yet again the comment was made that "the ship has already sailed." I greatly appreciate the efforts of the Academic Senate to provide representation, yet I get the sinking sense that this site may serve more as a place to vent than as a means of talking reason into the minds of those who thought this a good idea before asking. Misery loves company, but not when misery is trying to get our kind of work done.
-Lisa Orloff MD

I think that 2 important statements/questions have been made: 1) Is anyone higher up listening? Or are we just complaining to each other? 2) Said one person, "The only way for faculty to stop this is to band together play hardball with the leadership. That's why unions work.”  My sense is that the answer to #1 is a resounding NO. Do we want to do something about it? I very much appreciate that the faculty senate is commenting on this. But as someone who is being forced to move - from a space that we designed for ourselves and works amazingly well for us - it bothers me that it feels that we are just going to be the guinea pigs to show that it doesn't work. But a lot of us are afraid of speaking up because of potential retribution. And speaking doesn't seem to be doing a heck of a lot to help.
-Full Professor

The postings on this website and the letter from December 18 clearly demonstrate that there are faculty who are extremely upset with the move to Mission Bay. The comments reflect two areas of greatest concern: the open-space concept in general and the lack of consultation with the faculty regarding this decision. It is unclear if the views expressed are from a vocal minority or majority and that is probably irrelevant. The response of the leadership has been to build a mock-up of the space configuration and to offer tours, at which time a written survey is taken which solicits choices of, for example, preferences for chair type or how one wishes to distribute the nine linear feet of shelving.  Despite the absence of any official response from the leadership to the concerns voiced by the faculty -- such as quality of life issues, a literature suggesting this kind of work space is a trend that is losing favor in places where it has been implemented, HIPPA compliance -- sessions are being held to determine the neighborhood composition of the floors of the building. To my knowledge, no official surveys have been conducted by the leadership, no town halls have been held and not even a nod to acknowledge the sentiments of the faculty at large -- even if the administration thinks the concerns are rubbish -- has been seen -- if there is any doubt that the lack of consultation with the faculty leading up to this decision was purposeful, the failure to put out a statement of any kind on any point clarifies that question. The lack of a formal response should also assure the faculty that the administration is hoping the faculty is too busy and too downtrodden to notice and that the plan can proceed as scheduled without opening a dialogue. Once ground is broken for the building, apparently set for later this month, the leadership has said the plans are set in stone. Why that would be true is unclear, but the time-frame is unambiguous. Comments welcome.
-Department of Medicine

The concerns so aptly laid out by the Academic Senate and expanded on by my articulate colleagues concern me, too. The manner in which planning occurred was not only against our core principle of faculty governance, but disrespectful of faculty. The plan devalues us as people and the important work we do to make UCSF great. The continued erosion of our value, workplace environment and supports make this an increasingly demoralizing place to work.
-Susan Kools

I share the concerns of other writers and thank the Senate leadership for taking the lead in responding. There are two important issues here: 1. The effects of the planned workplace changes on faculty productivity, welfare, happiness, compliance with HIPAA standards, status, etc. and 2. The unilateral manner in which this decision was made. Most comments relate to #1. RE: #2, I appreciate that budgets are tight, that individual offices are often wasteful of space, and that the administration was tasked with finding offices for many faculty on a limited budget. But we have lots of dedicated, smart faculty who know more about what our jobs involve than those who made this decision. Why not involve us in problem solving from the start? This doesn't feel like shared governance.
-Tom Newman

I agree that open workspace without private offices for faculty is highly problematic for the reasons put forth by the Academic Senate and other commenters. The plans seem to reflect a fundamental lack of understanding of what faculty do and how we do it. I am dismayed that UCSF did not follow the precedent it set when Laurel Heights was built out in the 1990s. All of the groups that moved in initially had the opportunity to configure their suites with the mix of private offices and shared work spaces that best met their needs.
-Janet Coffman

General and/or Multiple Themes:

This workspace design decision is clearly based on short-term financial desperation rather than any clear long-term view for continued excellence at UCSF. This WILL have a long-term negative impact for the prestige and quality of UCSF -- particularly for the departments forced into this one-size-fits-nobody design. We have been told that it costs too much to change the design now. This is a false economy. It will cost much more to repair and unravel the damage to UCSF after this mistake has been made. Please reconsider this decision.
-John Kornak, PhD. Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics

ABW was developed from "hoteling" "hot desking" where employees had a 2/3 mobile job. But is ABW suitable for the primary functions of UCSF? No.
-We need to support confidentiality. We conduct patient calls, student interviews and conference calls on sensitive research. Having to constantly move to a designated "private" space to conduct these conversations would disrupt workflow.
-We are still document bound. Even the most technologically savvy individuals carry patient records, shadow charts, books. ABW requires 100% mobile technology. Converting to 100% digital would take time and training.
-We need areas to concentrate. I have for the past 4 years shared work space. When I needed a quiet area to focus on completing a grant or paper, I would work at the library or from home. "Focus rooms" would become congested, and absenteeism would ensue as a growing number of people would work from home.
ABW may we well suited to certain industries, but no models have been implemented in medicine.
-Tiffany Chang, Pediatric Hematology Oncology

I echo the comments of many prior posters. Most faculty that I know spend a substantial portion of their day in research meetings, working on grants/manuscripts/data analysis, or following up with patients. None of these activities is amenable to a cubicle work style. In particular, grants, manuscripts, and data analysis are critical activities for many faculty members that require quiet and concentration and cannot be carried out effectively in a cubicle environment. Not only will this hurt individual faculty recruitment and retention, I would be concerned about the impact on the productivity of the University as a whole.
-Kathleen Liu

yuck! would you want to work in an area like this? maybe in clinic, but not for an office

This is a ridiculous notion , medical centers are not Google , we need privacy in our offices and most of us are not 25 year old working in jeans. .But of course if the dean and the chancellor use the same cubicles amongst us , then maybe it will be okay
- Flavio Vincenti

The ban on private academic offices is a terrible, terrible idea--for all the reasons enumerated.
-Chi-yuan Hsu

The negatives of an activity based workspace design far outweigh what is being presented as a solution to space limitations and promoting interactions. Speaking as a basic science investigator, my dedicated office is essential for writing and reviewing grant applications and manuscripts as well as preparing lectures. As many have emphasized, taking this away will result in faculty working at home, which would negatively impact promoting interactions – a disguised impetus for cubicle spaces. The plan would negatively impact recruitment at a time when UCSF is already falling behind other universities for start-up funds and other perks. Not offering private offices on top of no longer offering defined FTEs as previously designated for basic science faculty will further limit recruitment. Moreover, the plan would create a community of “have” and “have not”, which is antithetical to what hopes to be accomplished. Finally, yet another top-down decision is being initiated without sufficient faculty input.
- Diane Barber

Agree with all below. Not acceptable!
-Stefan Habelitz

Rather than reiterating the many valid concerns nicely articulated by others, I'll simply concur and encourage others to consider doing the same so the extent of faculty feelings about this plan is clearly documented.
-David Erle

I am not categorically opposed to new models of workplace design, and I disagree that every PI must be enshrined in an office (with square feet, view and furnishings indicative of status and "respect"). Exploring new designs that integrate places for creative thinking, quiet concentration, confidential conversations, peer interaction and teaching along with conducting experiments is something we should be actively engaged in.
-Jennifer Puck

Simply a bad idea.
-Michael McManus

Given the type of work that most of us engage in daily: clinical and training issues- many confidential; grant writing; manuscript preparation; and data analysis; this plan is 100%, p
-Sally Adams

The proposed open workspace with huddle rooms will be a major deterrent to getting work done.

It will make HIPAA protections difficult, will push faculty to work from home rather than mingle in the business world way that seems so fashionable (and so inappropriate for academic medicine)these days.  The extra time taken to find a rooms to speak confidentially to a medical student or a patient (assuming one could be found) will cut into valuable faculty time.This is cost cutting at its worst, heading for the bottom line and forgetting the mission we have at UCSF.  This will be a catastrophe for recruitment of new faculty, and bodes very poorly for faculty retention as well.  While I admire the Chancellor for proposing to endure the same conditions, I wonder how much time she will spend in her 40 sq. ft, and what those she speak from other institutions will think of her and our "digs" (assuming she doesn't opt for the cushy room in the Science building.
-John Partridge

I would like to point out that if we are using common keyboards, telephones etc. (i.e. if we do not have our own desks, phones and keyboards, but share them with others who sat today where we may sit tomorrow), we are sharing each other's colds, flus and other illnesses. Will we need to spray and wipe everything down before commencing work? Also, I anticipate sitting down and then noticing seeing other people's food crumbs, soft drink cans and other rubbish.

A few references: Bean B, Moore BM, Sterner B, Peterson LR, Gerding DN, Balfour HH Jr. Survival of influenza viruses on environmental surfaces. J Infect Dis. 1982 Jul;146(1):47-51. PubMed PMID: 6282993. Boone SA, Gerba CP. Significance of fomites in the spread of respiratory and enteric viral disease. Appl Environ Microbiol. 2007 Mar;73(6):1687-96. Epub 2007 Jan 12. Review. PubMed PMID: 1722024 Kramer A, Schwebke I, Kampf G. How long do nosocomial pathogens persist on inanimate surfaces? A systematic review. BMC Infect Dis. 2006 Aug 16;6:130. Review. PubMed PMID: 16914034.
-Non-Faculty Academic, School of Medicine

When is the town hall with Mark Laret, Dean Hawgood, and others? Is anyone in leadership reading this message board?
-Associate Professor, School of Medicine

I have been a participant in some of the initial meetings about the floor plans for different faculty, staff and trainee groups. It is clear that this space is completely "non-secure"--with respect to personal possessions, research activities and documentation and interactions with trainees, colleagues, patients and research participants. Ultimately, it seems that it will not matter where one sits, as the likelihood of accomplishing much of our usual work will be extremely diminished. One other person has commented on cubicle height--none of us will accomplish anything staring directly into someone's face. At minimum, planning appropriately for this in advance, rather than waiting to see what will happen, makes the most sense from a financial standpoint--including putting in cubicles with higher walls from the get-go. Ultimately, the lack of input from faculty in this planning will surely result in faculty leaving--early retirement or another institution are two obvious mechanisms--both of which hurt our institution. At minimum, faculty will be working at alternate locations, making them less available to interact with each other, and to advise and mentor junior faculty and trainees.
-Mid-level faculty member
2013-03-02 14:03:56

Removing faculty offices and replacing them with "activity-based workplaces" will have an immediate, serious and adverse negative impact on faculty welfare, faculty life and faculty recruitment and retention. This change should be opposed as strongly and urgently as possible with support from the Academic Senate.
-Jacque Duncan

The planned move to Mission Bay has triggered a host of visceral responses from the faculty and I am no exception.

The open space environment is one that will require HUGE adjustments from all of us not accustomed to working in an area where distractions of all sorts abound.  When we work in the clinics, we are in an open space and there is no question in my mind that we are much less efficient as we are continuously interrupted by staff, colleagues and trainees.  At least in the clinic the interruptions are valid and justified by the complexity of the clinical scenarios that we encounter, or by the needs of the staff and trainees who are working with us.

It is INCONCEIVABLE to me that if I need a quiet space, I or a colleague might not be able to find one because we will not have signed up fast enough to reserve one of the few closed rooms. I find it down right unacceptable to hear that if surgeons need some time to rest between cases they can take a quick nap in these rooms.  Not that I begrudge them much needed rest, but the administration should not be planning to accommodate valid surgical practical concerns in this manner.  Absolutely ridiculous, yet incredibly revealing of the absolute lack of forethought put into the project.

Given the enormous impact that this plan will have on our ability to function, it is INDISPENSABLE that there be some type of a pilot to assess if in fact the inumerable concerns that most of us have are realized BEFORE we are committed to a plan that will impact our future ability to function an remain on faculty at UCSF.

I absolutely share your concerns that HIPAA isses are not addressed by the current designs.  For that matter there are massive clinical research privacy concerns that are equally ignored by the lack of privacy (conversations with patients/subjects/sponsors may happen in the open if there are no privacy rooms available).  In terms of clinical research, I do not think that these installations, with open desks etc will pass the privacy standards for any trial.  I could go on about why privacy is indispensable to a lot of our day to day activities.

Finally, logistics aside, the way this project was managed from the git go is downright insulting to those of us who have been around this institution and have sacrificed much to see it flourish and thrive.  The operations group that has been pushing this project feels that they have had representation form the user group but nothing could be further from the truth as they have sought input from a restricted number of individuals who have taken upon themselves to speak for all.  I believe that the latter point sticks in everybody's craw as anyone who looks at the potential impact of this project is thinking about whether or not remaining on faculty at UCSF is a viable proposition.  As I see it, this ill conceived and ill managed project threatens the very core of our faculty fabric.
-Medical Oncology, may elect to move to Mission Bay

The concerns expressed by so many others are shared by me so I only have one point to add. Years ago I worked as research director for the Seattle Urban League and we went through the same process of going from space with private offices to cubicles for all the same reasons being touted by those who design these spaces. Guess what? After less than a month things were obviously not working and so our space was redesigned with private offices for most of the staff.
-Bill Strawbridge

Lisa Thompson had 5 great reasons to illustrate the need for private office space. I have 5 more and then they can be ordered in preference - David Letterman style.

  1. Need privacy when counseling/mentoring students.
  2. HIPPA and confidentiality issues are important when interacting with research subjects (how would I discuss end of life issues in a cubicle?)
  3. Quiet space is needed for creative thought - especially when writing grants and manuscripts
  4. Space is needed for small team work - my students already share my space and use my research computer....that is in a locked office space - HIPPA and IRB issues.
  5. Offices are not used just for tasks - it is where relationships are formed, research and patient care takes place and creativity is needed.

-Jill Howie-Esquivel

This plan makes sense for offices that are used by faculty members for a minor part of the working day, especially in areas where there is a significant shortage of office space. But for faculty members whose primary work space is their office, an activity based open design is unreasonable and untenable. This is true of some clinical faculty and ALL research faculty (PI's). For research PIs, much of the day is spent on meeting with fellows and students and working on grants and papers, all of which are individual activities that require privacy. An open office design is completely impractical for these individuals. If we insist on doing this, we will lose our ability to recruit outstanding research faculty, which is our greatest strength.

It also doesn't make sense that we allow some faculty members to have up to two private offices simply because they have these now and will not give faculty members going forward even one. This is a destructive example of establishing two classes of citizens, and is antithetical to the principles we adhere to as an institution.
-Professor of Pathology

I fear that UCSF is hoping to save money at the expense of the academy. Many colleagues have already stated many of the concerns with the proposed changes. Yes, putting us all in shared space will result in a savings in capital expenses. However, that must be weighed against the true costs - the reduced work productivity, the reduction in NIH grants received, the lack of collegiality, and the negative impact on morale. Given the impact that the mere suggestion of this approach has generated, I can only imagine what the reality will bring. Given what the airlines insistence on treating us like sardines has done for civility among passengers, I can predict that shared office space will generate tensions among colleagues rather than intellectual exchange. I am hearing rumblings about retirement and working exclusively from home.  We all recognize that there is a need to reduce costs, but the cost that would result from this proposed change is too large. We must not destroy the academy to save it. Furthermore, there was no faculty consultation a la shared governance. I strongly support the Academic Senate in its efforts to be heard on this critical and academy-threatening issue.
-Wendy Max

5 reasons why an activity-based workplace is not a good idea

  1. HIPAA--need privacy when interacting with patients
  2. Locked file cabinets for data and informed consents
  3. Quiet workspace for data analysis, writing, reading
  4. Freedom from distraction from conversations of others
  5. Well-being of UCSF faculty,staff and students should be at the forefront of decision-making

-Lisa Thompson

I agree with virtually all of the concerns expressed here.
-Dorie Apollonio

This issue is of enormous ongoing concern, indeed increasingly so. Senate Division leadership has initiated our response, but we clearly need a full meeting of the Division to discuss this, probably to consider a formal move to modify, change or reverse the plan. The majority view of faculty will not be heard if it is not openly expressed.
-John Greenspan

There is no need for a pilot or "further study" to demonstrate the obvious - this is an absolutely dreadful idea.
-John Imboden MD

I concur that an open workspace poses substantial problems, for the reasons articulated by others.
-Michael Steinman

Sorry, but cut the BS and just be honest. You are downgrading the faculty to cattle class accommodations and we think it stinks.
-Andrew Infosino

Loss of Community:

I echo the comments of many prior posters. These workspaces might be suitable for a physician charting area on the wards, but the workspaces simply won't function for clinicians and clinical researchers whose daily activities, including grant writing, protocol review, meetings with students, case discussions with residents, calls to patients, nurses, and other physicians, etc, simply cannot be done in a cubicle workspace. I think that many MDs will choose to work at home during times when they don't have direct clinical responsibilities; this would have a deleterious effect on the valuable collaboration and interactions that are such an important part of medicine.
-Elizabeth Robbins, MD, Clinical Professor, Pediatrics

I just returned from a conference where during discussions with a colleague from University of Washington, he chortled knowingly about new buildings with open plans. He told me UW purchased a building from Safeco insurance company which had an open plan and fantastic views of the city (and renamed it University Tower).  He was there for a while and hated it and gladly moved to a windowless basement private office.
-Stuart Gansky, DrPH, Preventive & Restorative Dental Sciences

The countless grants that keep our lab's research going and successful were written in private offices, doors closed. Who will replace those lost $$$ in research funding after eliminating private office space? Faculty forced to work in cubicle space will flee to their quiet home offices (if they have one) and will be away from the lab more often. This absenteeism in turn will harm the collaborative atmosphere and not foster them.
-Assistant Professor

Torsten is absolutely correct and I completely agree. This will have devastating consequences both immediately and for the scientific future of UCSF. If it passes, many PIs will be forced to adopt a "work from home" strategy to get writing done (which is most of what we do) and we all know how well this worked out for Yahoo.
-Assitant Professor Dermatology

I think this is all about $$$ and not about "team-building." I know that it's primary effect on my work schedule will be that any days I don't have patients or critical meetings, I will be working from home, which is much better than a cheap cubicle! It will be another reason to consider leaving when recruitment offers come my way. It's also going to be VERY hard to impress anyone (residents, fellows, faculty) to come to UCSF when they see how lousy the faculty are cared for....
-Associate Professor, Pediatrics

There was a time when most at UCSF were in one large building (Parnassus). There were frequent, dynamic interactions amongst faculty (and those working with them). This occured in part because of the need for all to cram around the elevator shafts where unscheduled meetings happened regularly. There also were areas, particularly along the north-west corners of HSW, where people would congregate to look at the view and talk (until ill-considered renovations removed those spaces). My point is that interactions were the engine driving the innovation that UCSF was known for. So I appreciate why administration attempted to create a pleasant interactive space in the new building. But the comments posted, and discussions with others, strongly indicate that the space plan for Mission Bay is not the solution. There will be no interactions if faculty avoids a space because the cubilces provided do not meet their minimal work needs. Precious resources therefore will be spent on a building that only will poorly position UCSF's competitiveness in retaining and recuiting young-to-senior top-tier faculty.
-Fred Schaufele

Our department has done a survey of this issue. Nearly everyone feels that the space will be inferior to what we have now and that many people will work at home a lot. This will have bad effect on our sense of community. We also think that our concerns have not been taken seriously by the chancellor. Even a little thing like divider height has not been incorporated into the design.
-Full Professor

I was talking to one of my postdocs, Ashley Sander-Jackson, about the new building. She later followed up the conversation with the following email:

From: Sanders-Jackson, Ashley

Sent: Tuesday, February 12, 2013 1:53 PM To: Glantz, Stanton A

Subject: shared space

Stan, I was thinking about the conversation we had about a shared space. I've known a number of people who have worked in shared environments like the one you describe and I have worked in a lab that was a large shared space. Though some people might enjoy the interaction, many attempt to manipulate the hours they are in the space so as to avoid too many people. They may also use headphones to block out extraneous noise. This type of environment is not necessarily optimal for getting things done or even for collaborating (people often feel that they need to move their meetings elsewhere to avoid disturbing those around them).

 Best, Ashley
-Stanton Glantz

The designers of this plan are clearly not academics. The assumption that the academic role can be broken down into a series of discrete tasks that can simply be done in different places ignores the way most academics actually work--which involves doing multiple things at the same time: working on paper proofs, fielding phone calls, making ideas for grant proposals, being interrupted by a student with a problem, answering emails, reviewing applicants for programs, etc--all at once. Making us move to a different place for each thing we do will not improve our efficiency--and will be a disaster for morale. 

Yes, collaborating with colleagues is important. But equally important is a place of one's own to retreat and think deeply about the work. Having to make an appointment to have that opportunity is not the same as simply closing the door and having one's resources at hand. If this plan goes through, many faculty will simply work from home, having the effect of DECREASING collaborative interaction.

As a dept. chair, I know how challenging it is to recruit good people to come here, given the very high cost of living. If I proudly show potential recruits their cubicle, they will run screaming to competitor institutions that understand what faculty need to do their best work. No one who has worked so hard to be successful wants to go back to cubicle life, and calling it "bold" won't change that.

The kind of research I do involves iteratively reviewing many, many documents. It is almost impossible to do this all online, not to mention the eyestrain involved with trying. We order the documents in different ways, lay them out on hard surfaces and compare them. I also use (gasp) BOOKs in my work and in my activities with students. I need to have a place for them. This plan ignores differences in the workstyles and multiple types of work faculty do. We are not all widget inventors working on prototypes.

However, this plan made me think of an innovative revenue generating startup: a torches-and-pitchforks (figuratively only) rental company! Should be quite a demand for them among faculty if this plan continues.
-Ruth Malone

Creative thought needs private space for maximal fruition. Faculty interact w/ others all day every day and need private space for integration and molding of the intellectual products we are so good at creating. Take away private spaces for thought and work, and you take away the thought and work. This "activity-based workplace" is nothing more than destruction of the intellectual process that makes the UC great. Take away private places for minds to work, and minds will cease to work in the space provided. Private offices are essential to collaborative work: if one is forced into public spaces all the time, one will do ever more to seek private mental space and will resent and avoid intrusions on this. If one has private mental space for adequate processing, one will seek increasing collaboration w/ others who have had the same processing space and will create greater intellectual products. The "activity-based workplace" is a disaster for intellectual growth. Do not force it upon UCSF. UCSF will suffer as a leading institution if faculty are not able to work in the spaces necessary for intellectual prosperity. No leading minds will seek out such a space to work: we will not recruit the best people if we offer only this intrusive and distracting "activity-based workplace". I do not want to and cannot work in such a place, and no one coming here would want to either. We are productive now; do not destroy the productive collegiality that we currently enjoy.
-Stacey Anderson

Inefficient Use of Space:

In-efficient use of space
This seems really really dumb. Perhaps someone studied Bauhaus architecture theory and thought again that re-envisioning how human beings work was a good idea? I reiterate--really dumb.
-Max Krummel

This is a terrible idea, clearly designed by individuals who have no idea what faculty do. Unless the administration's goal is to reduce faculty number this cubicle space concept should be scrapped.

It is important as we go to various events at the different campus site that there be an area where faculty can use computers and with HIPPA appropriate restrictions be able to make patient phone calls and manage clinical emails etc. This enables us to get work done before and between meetings if needed.
-Ann Poncelet

I don't have a home office, so this move will present a dilemma. I'm not sure where I will stack the towers of books I use for my work, on the floor at Mission Bay, or on my living room table? I close my office door when writing grant proposals and manuscripts, those things by which my productivity and value to the university are judged. I can't image being able to produce scholarly work in the Mission Bay workspace as planned; and, I know what those spaces are like, having worked in them prior to entering academia. For people in my field, there are hard money positions at other institutions with at least some salary support and the possibility of tenure, in addition to a good office. Yes, the bay area is wonderful, but without any of the above, the scenario of a continued career at UCSF begins to look less attractive in comparison.
-assistant professor, adjunct series
3/5 /13

It may be fiscally necessary to do something like this, but the planning process appears to not consider work functions. A workplace that fails to support its function is problematic. There seems to be an assumption that all work can be conducted using electronic documents but that is not the case- clinical research often requires paper documentation, and often materials are sensitive. There also seems to be an assumption that much work can be conducted in a semi private of public arena, and for clinicians, clinical researchers and educators that is often not the case. Supervisors will also find use of this workspace quite challenging. The availability of scheduled private spaces will likely not be adequate for people who spend significant time with confidential interactions.

Oddly, even though the clinicians, clinical researchers and educators require more privacy than other community members, the basic scientists, housed in relatively lavish spaces at Mission Bay and other sites, have large private offices. Besides completely failing to meet functional need, the clinical researchers and clinicians generate the lion's share of indirect dollars and clinical revenues at UCSF. So the clinicians and clinical researchers will, in poorly suited space, be paying for the private offices of the basic scientists. UCSF cannot continue to succeed and lead with this kind of decision making.

Honestly, I can't fit in the office space I have now. As a full-time researcher and faculty member, I have two full-sized bookcases which are full of professional books, journals, reports. My project files take up two four drawer file cabinets and two two-drawer file cabinets some of which are residing in the corridor. My desk top is home to another file cabinet's worth of materials. I can't even imagine taking up less space. Nor do I think my space constraints are unique to me. Moreover, my home is not the appropriate place to house what can't fit in my UCSF space, as well as hold work-related calls because privacy is reduced to a minimum.
-Annette L. Gardner

I agree with pretty much all of the concerns about the new workplace design. I personally think this design is completely misplaced for the type of work that most of us do in our offices for which concentration (to write papers, grants, analyze research data) and privacy (to have meetings with trainees and colleagues and for many, also phone conversations with patients and referring physicians) is essential. Going back and forth between cubicles and private spaces to make phone calls and have one-on-one meetings will make us less efficient, not more efficient. It seems to me that the driving force that has led to this design is money, but loss of productivity, and problems with faculty recruitment and retention may make this in the end a very costly solution.
-Sandrijn van Schaik

I agree with all the above, and would like to add a concern about space for lactation. Even though the building will have a few designated spaces (more than required by law), having a private office that lactating women can pump in over lunch or while working on the computer is important for reproductive age faculty women who are trying to balance work and family life. The lack of privacy will be unfair to these women.
-Marya Zlatnik

At least for research faculty, it’s not just a matter of having to break into work and leave one’s desk to take a phone call from a patient, but it is also difficult to picture not being able to temporarily stop work to have a short private meeting with someone. Faculty would expect to be able to stay in their chair with their work in front of them, have someone come in and close the door, have a few words, and the person leaves. This is basic. Being able to lock my office is important to me. If I have a visitor, they can lock their bags in my office while they give their seminar or do other things. I can feel comfortable that my own possessions are not publicly accessible when I’m not there. If I am concentrating on writing grants or papers, I need to be able to close my door, have quiet, and still be in my own space. If I did not have an office, I would probably work from home except when I had meetings or other commitments. When writing NIH grants, we are supposed to include a Facilities and Resources page in which an entire category is called Office.  Writing that I have a cubicle or creative work space or whatever euphemism one wants to apply will make the study section members not take me seriously. Lastly, it all comes down to STATUS. If I get a phone call from a colleague at Stanford or Harvard, or from a Program Official at NIH, or from a prospective graduate student, and I have to tell them to hang on while I go find a private place for a phone call, they will assume I have low STATUS. I will not be taken as seriously by my peers or others with whom I need to deal professionally. That alone is a deal breaker. As part of an academic’s career progression, an office is one the basics that we assume we will obtain either in our first independent position or shortly thereafter. UCSF is notorious for taking longer than most places to do this, but to not do it at all would seriously shrink the number of good people who might otherwise take a faculty position here. Given the promise of a position without an office, basic research faculty will only come to UCSF as a last resort.
-Matt Springer, PhD, Cardiology

Loss of Faculty:

Dear Dr. Bluestone,

I second all of the outrage and concern about the plan to no longer provide private offices for the faculty. I am concerned that this will provide substandard privacy for clinicians calling patients and this will, as Dr. Springer points out, put UCSF on inferior footing with obtaining new faculty recruits. At UCSF no faculty member is technically allowed two offices and now there are plans to eliminate these single offices altogether. I just came from giving Neurology grand rounds at WUSTL and many of their faculty have both clinical and research offices to enhance their productivity. By comparison, this new plan will send a clear signal that faculty well being and productivity at UCSF takes a back seat to a perceived new focus on the short-term bottom line. Many current faculty will leave and new recruits will be much more difficult. Moreover, I agree that the flexibility afforded by having a private office for meetings (that are often immediate and unscheduled and faculty would find none of the shared rooms free) and the ability to write ones grants undisturbed is critical to managing a lab and to the success of the scientific endeavor.


Elliott Sherr
-Elliott Sherr MD PhD

There is simply no way I could perform my job of running a research laboratory without a private office. If the UCSF leadership insists on imposing this idea despite near universal opposition by the faculty, our community will have lost something much greater than offices.
-Scott Oakes, Associate Professor of Pathology

The idea that research faculty can function with a cubicle is absurd. During the time that I am not in meetings, I am meeting individually with trainees and colleagues or trying to concentrate on reading the literature and writing grants and papers. All of these activities require a quiet place to concentrate or privacy for often confidential conversations. If my office were taken away, I would leave UCSF. Particularly over the next 5-10 years of what will likely be a flat or declining NIH budget, the university must support its basic researchers, or else prepare to lose many of them, and as a result, compromise its academic excellence.
-Diana Laird

In my opinion transition to an Activity-Based Open Space model, especially for lab-based investigators, will be the end of UCSF as a top academic institution.

As a PI, writing grants, interacting with students, post-docs, visiting scientists, etc we need ample dedicated office space for unscheduled meetings. We also require our own space to be able to write grants and manuscripts.

Loosing dedicated office space is a deal-breaker and would lead me to look for another position at a different institution.
-Andrei Goga, MD, PhD - Associate Professor

I experienced the transition from an "open office" environment (large cubicles with no door, ceiling, or personal secure space) to having a private office. In the open plan, private meetings were conducted in a nearby conference room, much like the proposed activity-based plan.

Moving into a private office has made an enormous positive impact on my productivity and quality of life. No longer do I whisper when using my desk phone to discuss decisions about who to hire or fire or include or omit on a grant or paper. No longer do I overhear fellow faculty discussing sensitive information about their personal or work lives (results of pregnancy-related tests, discussions about job offers from other institutions). No longer do I fear that sensitive working documents on my desk (performance reviews, PHI, etc.) will be seen by the wrong eyes. No longer do I ceremoniously march a trainee around the corner when needing to deliver constructive criticism.

I love UCSF and think the world of the current administration for the huge strides made in the past 5 years. But I have tried both workspace models. If asked to go back to the "open office" configuration, I would start looking for jobs at other institutions. I can see from this forum that many of my colleagues will have the same response if the plans move ahead. This makes me deeply sad because it threatens what I love most about our institution: its world class faculty and trainees. When the faculty leave, the trainees will follow, and the era of UCSF's greatness begin to end.
-Associate Professor in Residence, School of Medicine

I will leave UCSF if I do not continue to have an attractive, enclosed, dedicated office. I am quite sure that UCSF will be unable to recruit faculty who are distinguished scholars if they will not have their own, private offices. Imposing the corporate tech-industry model is incompatible with maintaining a world-class academic institution.
-Paula Braverman

An additional thought that perhaps has not been considered: I was reviewing some hiring documents today. I wonder whether anyone has considered the possibility of breach of contract issues arising? Many faculty hiring agreement terms include the provision of a "private office." Those who get to be the guinea pigs on this one might want to check theirs.
-Ruth Malone

Faculty Recruitment:

I am in support of the plans presented for the Activity-Based Workspace at the new Mission Bay Academic Building. The space as designed is visionary and reflects an institutional commitment to collaboration. It is this level of innovation that drew me to take a position at UCSF. Contrary to some of the opinions expressed here, I believe this space is likely to attract bright faculty members who are excited to be in an environment that fosters an exchange of ideas.
-Assistant Professor, Dept of Medicine

As a current NIH funded adjunct faculty member just beginning recruitment to an in residence position who is extremely interested in staying at UCSF, this open office concept is a very unattractive idea. It takes away a major recruiting tool from the university and the idea of trying to write a grant or a manuscript with no private workspace makes me seriously consider other future employment options outside of UCSF. Living in San Francisco is difficult already with small living and work spaces. New recruits from outside will already need to compromise for smaller homes/apartments, smaller cars, and close living/working quarters with others - there is a real need for a private, secure space in the workplace. Its bad for morale, bad for productivity, and bad for recruiting.

I agree with the many excellent comments below, and I would encourage those who agree to add their names here to communicate the depth of the concern among the faculty. This proposal is already having a major negative effect on faculty morale and will have even greater negative effects on faculty recruitment, retention, productivity, and job satisfaction. I truly hope that the administration will reconsider this plan before it is too late.
-Carolyn Calfee

I am deeply concerned that this plan will cause a long term decline in the attractiveness of UCSF for recruitment both of external and internal faculty. We are in stiff competition with other top-notch research centers for the best faculty, who can compete for NIH grants, and this plan places us at a systemic disadvantage, which is extremely poor strategy. I am also concerned that this change will make it much more palatable for existing, successful, scientists to move elsewhere when they are inevitably recruited. Certainly it makes me more interested in the several recruiting calls I have received recently.
-Prescott Woodruff

I agree with sentiments expressed that activity-based workspace is a bad idea for UCSF. It would make all aspects of work difficult, and would discourage new faculty hires. NIH and other funding agencies likely would look negatively on it. If some PI's do get offices and others don't, it will contribute to a two-class society. A bad idea all around.
-David Pearce

I think the lack of offices for faculty is a terrible idea. If I was offered a job, without an office, I would not accept the job. Implementing this plan will mean that UCSF will no longer be able to attract the best people.

There are many reasons that offices are required, from conducting private meetings, to holding items required for work, to providing private space to write grants and papers. Having a small number of private rooms that need to be reserved will not suffice for many reasons.

I know that if I were offered a job here that didn't have an office, or be asked to give up my current office, I would not accept it and find a job elsewhere.

Do the people who thought of this plan have offices? Would they get rid of theirs?

I echo the concerns highlighted repeatedly in the comments. It is simply not feasible for clinical or research faculty to function without privacy for interactions (with patients or trainees), dealing with sensitive written/online material (patient records), or reflection (for data analysis, grant writing). If we go forward with this model, it will compromise our ability to attract and retain the best faculty and undermine the mission of UCSF.

I hope that we can learn from operational excellence, which in my experience has turned out to be neither operational nor excellent. Cost saving measures were proposed and put into place, with concerns from many stakeholders. Not surprisingly, there have been numerous problems, many of which could have been anticipated had participants with detailed, on the ground knowledge of the systems been better consulted in the design of the system (for example, the best administrative people in our department could see the problems in the one size fits all redesign and elected not to take jobs in the new centralized system, foreseeing many problems). In the case of activity-based work stations, the stakeholders are speaking loudly and clearly with substantive concerns. Will they be taken seriously?
-Barbara Panning, Associate Professor Biochemistry and Biophysics

I agree strongly with just about every comment I have read here. There are myriad reasons why this plan will be highly detrimental to our institution. This will drastically impair both productivity and morale. I can't imagine why any faculty member would choose to join UCSF without a private office.

Everyone I know in academics always has some sort of 'plan B' for their career, in case their current position becomes untenable, or in case the many rewards of working at UCSF cease to outweigh the drawbacks. This new plan seems likely to inspire established faculty to pursue alternative positions.
-Ben Braun M.D., Ph.D.

This policy/plan could severely (possibly irreparably) damage this institution by the following means:

  1. Will not be able to recruit ANY faculty
    1. Severely curtails efficiency
    2. Reduced resources at physicians/PIs fingertips
    3. Promote miscommunication and increase errors leading to patient injury.
  2. Control of PHI will be severely jeopardized!!!
    1. Virtually impossible to perform clinical research activities.
    2. How do you get CHR approval for handling PHI (there is nowhere to protect it).
    3. Increased fines due to patient injury / loss of PHI.

Does a plan like this even meet JAHCO accreditation standards?
-Jeff Simko

I have been designing such buildings and conferring with other organizations. The plan is NOT suitable for faculty and should be strongly opposed. It will kill recruitments, an area in which we have problems as already. A design with true faculty offices next to cubile areas for research associated and post docs is best. I would be glad to discuss research building design with the higher ups who proposed this plan.
-Carl Grunfeld, MD, PhD

There are at least four arguments that would suggest the current approach is poorly-reasoned:

1) The "how we get work done argument":
My view is that any faculty doing scientific research that involves writing of grant proposals, research manuscripts, and meetings with individuals under them needs to have dedicated office space. It is difficult to see how a conference room reservation system can substitute for this. Even my friends in corporate environments such as Genentech enjoy dedicated office space for scientists.

2) The "dollars and cents" argument:
Indirect costs contribute substantially to the University budget. Reducing dedicated office space may result in less incentive for investigators to write grants and the papers that justify them to review panels.

3) The "recruiting good talent" argument: If given a choice between dedicated office space at Stanford vs a cubicle-conference room system at UCSF, who would choose the latter? No one I know.

4) The "respect" for the position argument: Being a faculty member is a position with significant personal meaning and is not without substantial sacrifice (none of us works just 40 hrs a week). The change in policy would appear to be an indication that the decision-makes are sufficiently aware of this.

I would encourage the University leadership to respect the Faculty consensus and reverse the decision. Doing so otherwise jeopardizes UCSFs leadership position. Yes, offices will cost more to construct, but there is not an alternative here that is viable.

Continuing on the current course seems likely be perceived as a reflection of poorly-reasoned decision making.
-Hiten D. Madhani, M.D. Ph.D., Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics

The decision to limit development of new office space is flat out ill mannered, short-sighted and counterproductive. The number of concerns and problems raised by this ill-advised decision is so many that I fear I will have to waste a whole day writing against it.

We have been accustomed to short sighted bureaucratic initiatives by the leadership that this should not surprise me, but it actually did.

Is there any reason, any logical rationale for taking such an action? Unfortunately, I could not come up with one. However, I can come up with numerous highly undesirable outcomes such as not being able recruit new faculty, lack of operational and academic independence of programs, not being able to redesign departmental workspace in the face of changing necessities, creating a two-tiered work environment for faculty as haves and have-nots, inability to initiate programs in emerging fields and inability to retain faculty since they will be offered much more favorable conditions in other universities or institutions.

I am not sure I need to continue but my vote is a resounding NO for this ill-advised decision.
-Tarik Tihan


It is really incomprehensible that the plans for activity-based workplaces are about anything except saving money. The Mission Bay Academic Building will do more to stop research progress than any past or future budget cut. I am extremely grateful to have an office (in Parnassus) so that I do not have to move into the Academic Building with the rest of the Epi-Biostat department. If not, I would be on the job market this year, despite enjoying my colleagues at UCSF and my family's strong desire to stay in the Bay Area.

If the administration is really short-sighted enough to plan future activity-based workplace buildings, they will preside over the dismantling of UCSF's storied heritage of research. I would never encourage a colleague to work in a place that did not offer private faculty offices.
-Jeff Wall

I can only share the disagreement already voiced by my colleagues. Losing dedicated PI office space would be an unmitigated disaster for both clinician and basic scientists, and the future of UCSF as a premium research and medical enterprise. Ignoring the specific needs of the PI job and the increasing requirement of grant writing is a recipe for disaster and another way to make UCSF less competitive for recruitment or retention of current faculties. While improving office/lab design on a case-by-case basis should be encouraged, this all-encompassing model does not sound rational and poorly justified.
-Emmanuelle Passegué, Associate Professor

This is the most ridiculous idea ever proposed in the history of academic building design. Not only we will not be able to recruit any elite candidate in these buildings but we will become the laughingstock of the academic community, to a degree that even PIs with an office will want to leave. The administration needs to understand that academic research is different from running a company and that without respect for the researchers the community shall not function.

As a surgical pathologist, my office is where I take care of patients and train residents. It is absurd to contemplate practicing pathology in a communal workspace. It will be very difficult to recruit pathologists if we can not offer them an office.

Does the CHR office approve of this design as HIPAA compliant for all of our patient research hardcopy documents ? Will each faculty still be able to have the same amount of locked cabinets/shelving as in their current office ? How does creative writing / thought for grants and manuscripts occur in an open environment with ongoing noise ? Is anybody from the upper echelons of UCSF listening to these granular details ? A private locked office is imperative to academic medical faculty success.
-CHR concerns

This is a disastrous idea that will eliminate UCSF as one of the premier research universities. Both clinical AND basic science faculty dedicated to the UCSF missions of clinical care, research and teaching deserve an office. It is a basic tenet of a faculty position.

For basic faculty, this would make it especially difficult to write a competitive grant application or a manuscript without an office, or meet with students and postdoc. It will be nearly impossible to hire the best new faculty without offering them an office, and we will become the laughing stock of visiting faculty from other universities.

In NIH grant applications we write that the PI has an office to be able to work on the research proposed, write reports and manuscripts. This will adversely affect the UCSF research program because of how funding agencies will look at PIs in cubicles.
-Jayanta Debnath

Activity-based workspaces will hurt faculty recruiting and retention. I can tell you from my own personal experience that the lack of a passable office can certainly be an important factor in deciding among job offers. It's not just the practical matter of having to work effectively in a particular space for long hours. Offering someone a cubicle instead of an office will be seen as a sign of disrespect.
-K. Mark Ansel

Activity-based workspace is not a good solution to shortages of space. This will directly discourage recruitment of new faculty, and will create a situation of inappropriate inequity between existing and new faculty. An office is critical for focusing on writing grants and papers, and is also a very important meeting place for scientific discussions. Both of those things cannot be done in the same space, as they are mutually disruptive.
-Jeff Bush

No offices for new faculty is a bad idea. I don't know any comparable institution where faculty do not have an office, so this policy is likely to put us at a severe disadvantage for future recruitments of top faculty to UCSF. Faculty spend most of their waking hours at work, and one needs this type of space for multiple reasons. A private space for certain work functions is critical to the ability to do one's job in a quieter environment where interruptions could be controlled and confidentiality can be maintained. A faculty member has many needs for private discussions among colleagues, with patients, with staff, with students/post-docs, etc, as well as confidentiallity of patient materials/notes, etc in an office (for example, in pathology, cases that are currently under work up are kept in our office, and these show HIPAA protected data). Shared offices also don't provide the correct ergonomic conditions, which is critical for my work as a pathologist who spends 7-10 hours/day at my microscope and computer.
-Linda Ferrell, Professor

I've read up on the literature concerning the impacts of these kinds of spaces on academic work productivity and work satisfaction and the results honestly are not good at all. I’m wondering if a thorough search of the literature was done before proposing this and if not, why not? It really does feel imported from somewhere other than academic. In addition, Im quite concerned that the office space would not respect certain disciplines that have tons and tons (and tons) of books to draw upon in our work and need to physically store in these spaces. We have fairly large offices which have an enormous amount of shelf space to accommodate this disciplinary tendency. This is needed for Medical Anthropology, Sociology, History of Health Sciences, etc. We're not all working from an article culture, in order words. Im also quite concerned about recruitment--I've spoken with some junior faculty on the phone and they say that they feel they worked so hard just to have a "room of one's own"--and it would be really disappointing and upsetting for them to not have a private office space that is quiet/not shared/and more. These considerations are very real in people's configurations of what they deserve at a basic level of professional identity.
-Shari Dworkin

No scholar of any repute in the social sciences could ever be recruited to a faculty position that did not come with a reasonable office. We would be reduced to recruiting low level desperate untenured faculty unlikely to be able to generate grants. In my office I have three full bookcases and two full file cabinets. At home I have 9 more full bookcases and 2 more large file cabinets. I use many of the books within each year and my students use even more. I also have all the materials for teaching the 8 different courses I have offered over the past decade. I believe desk-top research has generated over 30% of the grants on campus. We need offices to do this. Last, mentoring is not a public sport. It can require very private conversations.
-Adele Clarke

I find the idea of this workspace highly problematic and agree with all of the reasons set forth in the letter. It concerns me that I am to be evaluated by my productivity in terms of grant applications and manuscripts, but be expected to produce them in an open work space, without private office space. I anticipate this type of space to be not at all conducive to the type of environment necessary for academic activities. I also believe that it demonstrates a lack of respect for faculty, and agree with those that state it will hurt our chances at recruiting and retaining faculty. I believe it will also decrease collaboration by limiting spontaneous conversations between colleagues, as well as from faculty choosing to work elsewhere. We need access to our things--our books, papers, notebooks, phones, and the ability to meet with our colleagues and students privately.
-Lynae Darbes

The idea of an open space office for someone engaging in scholarly research is poorly planned for many reasons. Many have been articulated by others. Here are my thoughts. The pursuit of quality scholarship requires office space. This minimizes distractions and provides an atmosphere necessary for maximizing the thinking process. Open space, in contrast, will reduce the ability to concentrate on serious grant writing and will result in a reduction of quality grants being submitted. Open office space greatly decreases ability to recruit quality scholars. I am fairly new to UCSF and there is not a chance I would have accepted a position here if I knew that there was a plan to put me in open office space. With that in mind, my guess is that there will be some who will seek positions elsewhere if this plan goes through. I can imagine that many of our best researchers will seek out a position that provides them with office space so that they can continue to be productive with respect to scholarship and grant writing. In conclusion, open space office is an idea that is disrespectful to the scholarship process and will reduce productivity.
-Zachary Zimmer

Application of an activity-based workspace in an academic health sciences institution:

Absolutely unacceptable design plan. This workplace design is not appropriate for medical sciences.
-Heme Onc

This proposal is an unmitigated disaster for the future of UCSF from a clinical, research, and educational standpoint. A "one size fits all" policy ignores the heterogeneity of the daily activities of the faculty as a whole. Reducing "activity" to a single homogeneous concept and basing policy on this concept undermines the very diversity of our faculty activity that makes UCSF such a productive and successful environment from a clinical, research and training perspective. The principles that govern private industry (tech industry, finance industry etc.) do not necessarily apply or work in the biomedical sciences and health care field; thus we should NOT adopt design concepts drawn from those industries. Instead, I hope that UCSF will continue to allow each department to define its own appropriate course of action; to define its own needs; and to define its own methods of adapting to whatever space/financial constraints that UCSF faces. It is imperative to allow each department to flourish according to its own independent needs. Please do not homogenize the concept of faculty activity.
-Associate Professor, Clinical X Series

As for the root cause of all of this, to my understanding, this floor plan was chosen to save money because the university did not have sufficient resources to provide private offices for faculty. I believe this is common knowledge. If we step back a moment and recognize that this means that the university cannot afford to give each faculty member even a small private office (say 80 square feet; room for a small desk and two chairs for visitors), it does make one wonder about the commitment to the faculty. Many faculty (like me) feel demoralized by this, and this demoralization subsequently inevitably affects staff members who are very tuned in to the ambient environment -- as well.

Is this a good floor plan for our work environment? I cannot see how it would be. We are not a start up IT company with the constant need for interaction between workers to spur innovation and competition. Instead, most of us spend most of our day computing and writing. This will not be done very well in the middle of a crowded and noisy room.  If this floor plan materializes, what will happen? As for current faculty, it is easy to predict that they won’t be seen too often; they will only appear for meetings and teaching. The space will not be one where a faculty member will preferentially go to actually work. The floors will be ghost towns with those who have to come to work eventually positioning themselves as far away from everyone else as possible. As for future faculty, it is also easy to predict that this will negatively impact recruitment. There is no reason to believe that this floor plan will sweep the nation’s academic medical centers. For at least the next generation, it will be the expectation amongst budding faculty that they be given a private office. If our plan to make this floor arrangement the future of all new buildings/renovations at UCSF, we will likely be alone amongst our peers. This will undoubtedly affect recruitment. Of course, we will still have a faculty and our doors won’t be closed but it will be hard to call ourselves the best if our faculty are relegated in space to what amounts to a 1/4 of a large kitchen table. Is this really the direction we want to be heading?
-Faculty Member; Epidemiology and Biostatistics

I think it is a disastrous idea to eliminate private offices. I can't imagine doing virtually any of my work without one, including many of the tasks described already by my colleagues. This new 'savings' measure is yet another one of those 'business driven' experiments implemented without much though, planning, or even testing. It saddens me profoundly to see our institution increasingly run as McDonald's or Walmart, where business standards of 'efficiency', 'cost-effectiveness', and other fads prevail over creativity and socially useful intellectual production.
-Claudia Chaufan

This letter raises practical issues regarding this new model of activity-based workplace. This model has never been experimented before in a peer academic institution and therefore a pilot program to test this model (as listed below) is critical to avoid major problems when we transition enmasse to this new building.
-Farzana Perwad M.D.

Mission Bay Faculty Concerns