Grad Students, Sledgehammers, and Deconstruction That Doesn’t Involve Derrida (for Once)

This week marked NC State’s Graduate Education Week, full of events like the Graduate Student Research Symposium on Monday and the Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant Awards on Thursday. Early Saturday morning, at the crack of 41 degrees, CRDMers pitched in to help with the Graduate Students’ Day of Service coordinated by the Wake County Habitat for Humanity Chapter.

No, I said Habitat for Humanity. Humanity.

The Wake County Habitat for Humanity ReStore Trailer o' Tools (it's Irish).

Much better. More than 32 students from at least a dozen different programs turned out to lend a hand at the deconstruction site. The house was already stripped down to the basement and a first floor, so we split into two groups: one to process the nails out of the boards in the back so they could be reused or sold, and one to pry up the existing floorboards while not falling through or off.

Grad students apply a mixed methodology of de-nailing boards that's part pneumatic nail gun, part OH GOD WHO GAVE A KNOWLEDGE WORKER A NAIL GUN!?

Habitat is one of my favorite volunteer opportunities so I was really excited to see it picked as this year’s Day of Service. Added bonus: the job site was a deconstruction job, so instead of a series of careful measurements and methodical detail work that go into building a house, we got to go HULK SMASH on hardwood floors and a hanging duct system. Double added bonus: I got to do a full day’s worth of deconstruction with nary a mention of Derrida. Instead, LUMBER! HAMMERS! PANERA BAGELS! HELPING PEOPLE!

What grad students lack in "right tool for the job" they more than make up for in enthusiasm.

The Habitat for Humanity ReStore runs deconstruction projects like this one throughout the year. According to their website,

From partial to full-scale projects that remove all building debris down to the foundation, Habitat offers competitively-priced deconstruction services as an alternative to traditional demolition. The donated house is a tax-deductible contribution.

Check out upcoming opportunities for your chance to help out. Take it from me–there’s nothing quite like a good demolition job to release the stresses that build up in grad school. “What’s that? My article manuscript had too many split infinitives? I’ll split YOUR infinitives! Take that, revise-and-resubmit-notification-that-I-projected-onto-a-rotting-crossbeam!”


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