Usually at the writing center I stare out the window during my 15 minute break between sessions. Our window takes up an entire wall of the center, looking out over the central part of campus where students walk between buildings and classes. It is “winter” now, and I think back to when the campus was pretty – all brown and yellow and orange from the fall leaves of a Kentucky November. Not a vast courtyard of skeletal trees like it is now.
Even though it is now winter, activities below are still the same. The students walking along the grid of sidewalks bustle along, talking on their cell phones, backpacks loaded down with laptops and books. I see all of this from my perch — a window three stories up where I can see them, but they cannot see me. The window is full, from floor to ceiling, and it makes the entire wall look like a mural of fall foliage. Sometimes I just watch one person walk from Bingham Humanities all the way to the library. I see them shuffle their backpack on the shoulder. Watch them reach into the pocket for the phone to text as they walk. Sometimes they have to sidestep another student as they swerve into their path, far too engrossed in updating their Facebook status than paying attention. Sometimes they gaze up into the branches, squinting in the mid-day sun as if to find some hope or answer. They do not look up at me, the one behind the curtain. If they do, their gaze is quickly diverted by something far more important.
You see, I am not of power. I am one of one million. From the outside, my window is a sheet of dull, opaque glass. In some ways it reflects Michel Foucault’s panopticon, an all-seeing eye over the student’s movements. However, it is one of many black, opaque windows staring out from buildings into the sea of education. Students walk from building to building under the gaze of professors and staff, looking out from their own veiled watchtowers. But, because there are so many watching eyes, their sheer numbers allow them to fade into the building proper — nothing foreboding, nothing overtly power-hungry, and for the most part, ignored.