350: Human Resources

350: Human Resources

Feb 29, 2008
The true story of little-known rooms in the New York City Board of Education building. Teachers are told to report there instead of their classrooms. No reason is usually given.
When they arrive, they find they've been put on some kind of probationary status, and they must report every day until the matter is cleared up. They call it the Rubber Room. Average length of stay? Months, sometimes years. Plus other stories of the uneasy interaction between humans and their institutions.
  • Host Ira Glass talks with a veteran Human Resources administrator about what it's like to fire people, and why it helps if you don't actually use the word "fire." (7 minutes) Jobs/Employment

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  • We hear from New York City school teachers about a secret room in the New York City Board of Education building. Teachers are told to report there, and when they arrive, they find out they're under investigation for something. They have to wait in this room all day, every day, until the matter is cleared up. They call this bureaucratic purgatory "the rubber room." Some teachers have been stuck in it for years. (23 minutes)

    This story was produced by Joe Richman, Samara Freemark, and Anayansi Diaz Cortes of Radio Diaries.

    We first heard about the rubber room from a documentary by Jeremy Garrett. There's a trailer at rubberroommovie.com.

    Update: in 2010 the City and the teacher's union came to an agreement that will close the Rubber Room. EducationJobs/Employment

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  • American cities have gone through a massive wave of gentrification in the last few decades. To some people, it's not a natural ebb and flow of the real estate market, but a plot, by rich, mainly white people, to take over the neighborhoods of poor, mainly black people. This American Life producer Jon Jeter reports on how, in neighborhoods all over the country, the plot has a name, "The Plan," and most people you talk to know about it. (11 minutes) CityEconomicsHousing

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  • Reporter Charles Siebert talks with Ira about retirement homes for Chimpanzees. Yes, retirement homes for Chimpanzees. There are thousands of aging chimps in the US: Retired chimp actors, ex-research subjects, abandoned pets. They can't be put back in the wild since they don't know how to survive there. Charles Siebert visited many of the facilities where they're housed, often in rooms, with TV's and 3 meals a day. He's writing a book about his experiences called Humanzee. (11 minutes) AnimalsHousing

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