Desk Assignment Philosophy, Policy & Logistics

Herein is the desk and room assignment policy for the
Department of Computer Science at the University of Virginia.

[Department of Computer Science]   [Student Locator]  


      The Department of Computer Science wishes to provide a productive and pleasant environment in which to conduct research and encourage intellectual interaction. We feel that this is best accomplished by mixing students of varying research interests and seniority among the desk space available. The Desk Tsar assigns a student desk space upon entry to the program and coordinates all movement of students between desks. A Room Tsar is appointed to oversee each room and to keep the Desk Tsar abreast of the goings on in his/her room. The Room Tsar duties are listed here. The desk assignment policy is intended to fulfill all desk requests as satisfactorily as possible. The hallowed position of Desk Tsar has been occupied by the following illustrious personages:

[Rickey Benitez (92-93)]   [Charlie Viles (93-96)]   [John Karro (96-97)]   [Anand Natrajan (97-99)]   [Brian White (99-02)]   [Chris Taylor (02-03)]   [Radu Stoleru (03-05)]   [Xiaohua Jiang (05-06)]   [Nathanael Paul (06-07)]   [Jeff Shirley (07-08)]   [Joel Coffman (08-12)]   [Liliya Besaleva (12-present)]  

Guiding Philosophy

      Our goal is for all full-time graduate students to have their own individual desk and surrounding working space where they can work comfortably and productively. Students may set up and personalize their desk and working space to increase their comfort and productivity, so long as this does not interfere with the comfort and productivity of neighboring students.

      In some cases, two students may share a desk. In these cases, the students sharing a desk should use only their assigned desk, and not ones assigned to other students (even when they are not in use). This policy is to respect personal space and ensure that students do not in effect become reluctant participants in other students' desk sharing assignments.

Room Policy

      As members of a working community, all desk holders are expected to conduct themselves in a way that allows the community as a whole to function effectively. Mostly, this means you should be quiet and do your work. The following guidelines are meant to ensure fairness in desk usage:

Desk Acquisition & Moves

      To request a desk assignment, please request the desk from the desk locator tool. Though desks are for graduate students, an undergraduate associated with a department research advisor may be assigned desk space if free space is available. If assigned a desk, the undergraduate may be asked to vacate the desk on one day's notice at any time.

      Occasionally, a student may wish to change his or her desk assignment to move to a more preferable location, roomier desk accommodations, or simply for a change of venue. Any changes in desk assignment must be approved by the Desk Tsar. An intra-room transfer (e.g. a free desk becomes available in your room and you would like to move to it) should be handled by the Room Tsar. In such a case the Room Tsar must contact the Desk Tsar for final approval. Inter-room transfers (i.e. moving from one room to another) must be handled by the Desk Tsar. A desk assignment/move is never final until the Desk Tsar is informed Of the assignment, has consented to it, and the change is reflected on the Student Locator. You are ultimately responsible for making sure that your assignment is always reflected accurately in the Student Locator. If a desk move is not entered into the locator, it is not official, even if it has been approved. Always verify your assignment in the Student Locator.

You may only request to move to a desk that is already FREE as reflected on the student locator. I can NOT take future requests. Never EVER send me an email that says "I wish to move to such and such's desk once he/she graduates". If you send such a request, it will be ignored. You may only request a desk once it appears as FREE on the student locator.

      A student should always verify his/her desk assignment via the Student Locator and report any suspected errors to the Desk Tsar. It is the student's responsibility to ensure that his/her entry in the student locator correctly reflects his/her current status in the program, research advisor, and especially his/her current desk assignment. The student should inform the desktsar via email of any changes in his/her status (e.g, you changed your advisor or you attained formal admission to the PhD program). Failure to do so may result in your seniority(see the criteria below) being overlooked due to misinformation in a requested desk move.

      Here is an unfortunate scenario that we wish to avoid in the future. George graduates and vacates his desk in room X which is much roomier and more accommodating than Bob's desk in room X. Bob decides to move to George's old desk and take advantage of the space. Unfortunately, Bob neglects to request the move from his Room Tsar, nor from the Desk Tsar. After settling in to the new accommodations and moving all of his stuff, Bob is very pleased with his new surroundings. A week later (in August) the Desk Tsar learns of George's graduation along with a number of others reported by the systems staff before assigning desks to the incoming graduate class. Considering the space free, the Desk Tsar assigns an incoming student to the desk. When the incoming student goes to move in to his desk, the discrepancy is discovered. Now the new student is the rightful owner of the desk because he has been assigned the space by the Desk Tsar. Unless the new student consents to taking the less desirable space that Bob vacated a week ago, Bob must move back to his assigned desk. In this case Bob had every right to posses the desk he wanted (as per his seniority in the room over the incoming student) however his neglecting to request the move and attain the assignment, results in forfeiture of his seniority in the situation and the unpleasant task of moving his belongings back and re-taking the less desirable space. In this case, Bob must move from the desk assignment because his "desk move" was never reflected in the Student Locator.

Vacating Your Desk Assignment

      Please, Please, PLEASE, send email to desktsar when you vacate your desk assignment. Whether you are vacating due to graduation, or other circumstances, it is important that I be informed that you have left so that I can record this in the Student Locator and make the space available for other students to request. Regard this act of notifying me of the same importance as returning your keys to Brenda.


      All desks are subject to the following assignment criteria (highest to lowest weight):

Priority Comments


Full-time graduate students have the highest priority for their own desk. In other words, if you are a full-time graduate student and have a desk, that desk cannot be taken from you unless one of the special cases below applies:
  • Grossly unacceptable social behavior
  • Prolonged lack of use of your desk: If the Room Tsar and Desk Tsar determine jointly that your desk is considerably under-used, we would likely ask you to share the desk. Only if you refuse to consider this option would you be asked to give the desk up. Unused desks should be given to someone who will use them.

Intra-room Assignment

Ties in these two categories are broken by seniority, as judged by the following criteria (senior-most to junior-most):
  1. Passed PhD dissertation proposal
  2. PhD candidacy (passed PhD qualifying exams and received formal letter from the department)
  3. Completed Bachelor's degree
  4. Undergraduates with research responsibilities
  5. Part-time
  6. Signs of movement, breathing, or other indicators of life

Inter-room Assignment

Note: Room transfer entails seniority loss.


The Desk Tsar and/or the Room Tsar reserve the right to override any part of this policy if circumstances suggest so.

Shelf Space & Computing Resources

      Shelves at a desk are considered to be part of that desk, and may not be moved to another desk without the consent of the Room Tsar, as well as the consent of the Desk Tsar if moved to a desk in a different office. Furthermore, when a desk is vacated, the Desk Tsar has the right to move some shelves from that desk to other desks, in order to even out the distribution, before the desk is claimed.

      Computer/network assignment is not the responsibility of the Desk and Room Tsars. Contact the Systems Staff regarding putting new machines on your desk. Any issues regarding computing systems should be directed to the Systems Staff.

Current Desk Inventory



      If you are having troubles with a person in your room, your first line of defense should be an attempt to work out the problem yourself with the offending person. Be nice. Perhaps the person does not realize he/she is disturbing others. Most of the time, the direct approach is the best. If you do not feel comfortable with a direct approach, or the direct approach has failed, contact your Room Tsar to help you. If you are unsatisfied with the situation after talking to the Room Tsar, then you may approach the Desk Tsar. The Desk Tsar will talk to all involved parties and decide on a course of action. Any decision the Desk Tsar makes is final.