Fall of the famous house of sticks

Phallus Palace.

That’s the moniker many Guilford students have bestowed upon the wooden monument in the middle of campus. On a basic level, it’s easy to see why: the intricately woven structures bear a striking resemblance to a certain male anatomical feature.

But Patrick Dougherty, a respected North Carolina artist, had no intention of pulling a practical joke by inserting large penises into an educational institution.

Dougherty took inspiration from a wasp’s nest he found at Guilford. The interlocking cellular structure of the nest reminded him of the focus on community in Quakerism. Seeing that Guilford placed a heavy emphasis on core Quaker values, he chose to erect the monument to togetherness here. Now a visual testament to those values stands in the middle of campus.

Well perhaps the word “stood” would be more appropriate, because by the time you read this, “Disorderly Conduct” will have most likely been taken down and burned, due to the elements decomposing it faster than expected.

Several students seem to breathe a collective sigh of relief at the structure’s dismantling. I, on the other hand, feel mixed emotions about the disappearance of such a defining facet of our campus.

Sure, there’s the elephant in the room that yes, “Disorderly Conduct” has a distinctly phallic shape, albeit an intentional one or not. The first time I took a tour through the campus last year, I leaned to my mom and whispered, “Why are there giant dicks in the middle of everything?” On a puerile level, Dougherty’s work can easily be derided and mocked.

But learning more about the piece has made me respect it a bit more. Here we have a man who took time out of his life to come and contribute something to our campus, something that he felt was incredibly meaningful. Over 150 volunteers helped construct the piece, bringing a large body of our school and the wider community together.

Taking the relatively humorous shape out the equation, we’re left with something that helped to truly bring us together, a paragon of our community emphasis, which convinced me to attend Guilford instead of Wake Forest.

Aside from what it represents, think of how unique this work is. Most colleges pitch in money for a fancy bench, a shiny fountain or some bronzed plaque that people end up wiping their shoes off on. Here we had a living sculpture; something comprised out of completely organic material that people could find solace in.

Think for a moment how beautiful this is. We came together as a unified body and gave each other a place to seek shelter, a place that still allowed people to get some fresh air after being stifled by their classrooms all day. The result will now be burned to cinders.

So go ahead and laugh as they haul off something that we as a college came together to make possible. Deride Dougherty’s work as nothing more than a practical joke at our expense. But in the meantime, I’ll sit and hope that the artist comes back and contributes another thoughtful piece to our campus.