Thank you, Vivian, for providing the other side of the issue. I was getting ready to write that we don’t know what orders the tech has been given, so don’t judge. You were much more elegant in your explanation.
Okay, I have been this technician before. Spent 20 years in Chemistry as tech before this job. Let me give you another side of the story...
Often times, the technical staff do all the buying and the person in charge (dean, provost, dept. chair), will give them an order to watch their spending because of x,y or z. Well, this message only goes to them and not faculty who still come to request items or in worst cases, demand items. This was happening to us here during the lean times. We finally had to meet with our chair and implore her to send a message to the department- not make us the messenger! We explained that we had been washing what was labeled and sold as disposable items (pipets, test tubes, etc) for years to save money. We had to provide chemicals for the labs or we could not offer them. Where did that leave room for us to cut money? She realized she had made an unfair request of us and quickly issued a departmental email that we all needed to conserve funds and to not ask the technical staff for extra stuff as she had given them orders to watch their spending. With this background information, you may have been able to have a completely different conversation with the technician.
Somewhere she has gotten the idea that she cannot replace those 2 dozen units she has easily. Don't assume she is being stingy or obstinate, she may need to save those for the next year. Technical staff supporting labs often have a very good idea of what gets used from year to year. Not that I am advocating an unsafe situation. Distillation heads are a common breakage item. In a lab of 16 students and we may run 12- 15 labs a week, how long will they last?
Your chair, provost, dept. chair etc. needs to know that this is the cost of running organic lab. if they cannot afford to purchase equipment to replace broken and possibly unsafe glassware, then they should institute a broken glassware reimbursements from the students or reduce their offerings.
Safety Training Specialist
Environmental Health & Safety
Cal Poly State University
San Luis Obispo, CA
From:"James Saccardo" <James.Saccardo**At_Symbol_Here**CSI.CUNY.EDU>
Sent: Friday, August 29, 2014 11:21:49 AM
Subject: [DCHAS-L] issue broken glassware to students
Hi Listserv members,
Here is something for the list serve, I think it is simple and straight forward, but it has become complicated.
I just want to hear the opinion of some of my colleagues who may be able to express what is right more elegant than I.
So it is the first day of classes in the organic chemistry lab sequence I, I am hanging around to show students where to put their bags, how to use the hoods, and in general think about the risks and incorporate safety into their technique. The students check into a locker drawer filled with intricate glassware. While students are checking in, the instructor (a graduate student) is walking around and the lab technician is in the prep room. A student comes up to the prep room window and asks for a beaker that is missing and to have a broken distillation head replaced. It is cracked in a jagged fashion at one of the ground glass joints, but might still work without leaking. Perhaps it would work in a still apparatus, but the jagged edges are a greater risk for the novice who is new to the hood, PPE, organic chem and the intricate glassware.
The lab technician provides the missing beaker and tells the student that the distillation, while cracked, will still work, the department does not have any money and she cannot replace it. I come to find that the technician has 2 dozen new distillation heads on the shelf, but insists on worrying about the department budget. The arguments she uses are invalid, this or that has not been fixed, a chemical order was canceled without her knowledge, the provost is to blame because they took the money.
Of course I could replace the still head myself, but what have I really done to change things. I am trying to educate her and change her culture. I am trying not to kick this up to a higher level. Before I do, I wanted to see what the list thinks about this.
James Saccardo, CHMM
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