For the past several weeks, construction crews have slowly been tearing down Meyer Library. Regularly, you will find small groups of tourists, staff, faculty, and students stop to take pictures, videos, and marvel at the large machines and the falling debris. Sometimes I do the same as I pass by Meyer every day on the way to the office.
In conversations with students, they tell me, repeatedly, that there is something cathartic and soothing about watching the half-dilapidated, on-going destruction happening in the middle of campus. After deeper questioning I have found that it usually boils down to this:
“It’s nice to see something that reflects how I feel inside.”
I must say this resonates with me. Stanford, with its manicured lawns and perfect arches, doesn’t leave much room for imperfection, loss, grief, and brokenness. Even the weather is rather homogeneous and mild. It’s a meticulously perfect campus in the perfect weather system.
The problem is that for me (and for many students I work with), we often feel more like Meyer Library than Memorial Church. Things are half done. Things are nowhere near what we’d like.
So to the Meyer Library Demolition Project: Thanks for the daily reminder that destruction, brokenness, and ugliness is just a part of life. It may be on the road to something better. But for now, it’s a once-useful place turned into a broken, twisted pile of metal and rubble. And its nice to be reminded that it happens in life sometimes.
To Stanford administration: Let’s all infuse our teaching, counsel, advising, and collegiality with a little less manicure and a little more Meyer. Let’s be more truthful and honest selves to one another. If a broken building can give students the ability to connect with and process their own struggles, how much more could our authenticity as their mentors and advisors free students to be themselves!
To students: The struggle is where it’s at. It’s okay to take a break from chasing perfection to come to terms with your own pain, grief, and loss – to “Live the Ugly”. Despite the pristine environment, you are surrounded by stories of struggle — many which would surprise you. We are all like Meyer Library more than we would like to admit.
My hope is that Stanford can become the kind of community that regularly and proudly exclaims to one another — “I am a work-in-progress!”
Warren Y. Chiang
Residential Programs and the Leland Scholars Program
Contact Warren Y. Chiang at wychiang ‘at’ stanford.edu