Long commutes don’t deter faculty

Geoffrey Baker, English professor

Chico State English professor Geoffrey Baker spends about two hours and 40 minutes driving back home to Oakland every weekend, a commute that doesn’t affect his teaching.

“I know it seems if we’re commuting that distance, we’re not working on the days that we’re not here but I guarantee you we are,” Baker said.

Baker lived locally for the first four years he taught at Chico State before moving to San Francisco, he said. He signed a nine-month lease to an apartment his friends moved out of because he loved the area and it was affordable.

Now, he’s typically on campus Tuesday through Thursday and frequently on Friday, which is the same amount of time he spends on campus when he lived in Chico, he said. When he is in town, he lives with colleagues who teach at Butte College.

If students can’t make it to his office hours, he makes himself available over the weekend for phone calls or Skype.
There is no university policy that dictates where faculty can live, said Charles Turner, president of the California Faculty Association chapter at Chico State.

“My hunch is that the university has no business telling employees where they can live as long as they fulfill their job duties,” Turner said.

Some professors live out of the city because of their spouse, Baker said. One professor he knew commuted to San Francisco each weekend because of his wife and he teaches online courses.

“He was teaching classes online which is something the university is trying to get people to do more and more, which also is going to impact how often people will be on campus,” he said.

On the road, Baker ponders how he could better his teaching.

“I do a lot of thinking,” he said. “I think about research I’m working on, about how to present things in class a certain way. I think I’m more organized because I get into class and I have a better sense of where I want things to go.”

Daniel Veidlinger, comparative religion and humanities professor, commutes home to San Francisco each weekend, something that also doesn’t affect his job performance either.

“It has nothing to do with commuting, it has to do with doing your job,” he said. “If you’re doing everything necessary for the job then it shouldn’t matter if you commute or not but if you don’t do things because you’re commuting, for sure, you shouldn’t be allowed to get out of obligations because you commute. You’ve made a choice to commute so you shouldn’t get privileges to miss meetings just because it’s hard for you to get to.”

There are people in California who travel one hour to work each weekday, which puts them behind the wheel longer than his weekend commute does, Veidlinger said.

“So that’s five days a week,” he said. “That’s 10 hours of commuting each week so I actually commute a lot less than the average person in California.”

Baker said he constantly thinks about moving back to Chico, especially during his drive on Tuesday mornings.

“It’s a good place to raise kids and the commute is silly,” he said. “I’ve liked it for the time that I’ve done it but I don’t see myself doing it long term. For the research that I’m doing now, it makes sense to be close to more research resources down there but I think my views on that will change.”

Christine Lee can be reached at [email protected] or @leechris017 on Twitter.