Thursday, August 29, 2013

An Open Letter to the Stanford Visitor Services Folks Who Didn't Think This Through

Dear Stanford,

Your campus is beautiful. The weather is sublime, the architecture appealing and the landscaping lush. I was really looking forward to taking it all in and photographing it from the top of the Hoover Institution tower observation deck during my visit here for a week-long Islamic codicology course. Imagine my dismay when I was told that I couldn't take my backpack up with me and the staff suggested that I take any valuables out and hand-carry them up with me. As an academic visitor to your campus, I have with me my laptop, which I've not backed up for the ten days I've been in California, the iPad will all the photographs of the manuscripts I'm working on, a digital camera, my wallet and phone, three notebooks full of handwritten notes (two from the course and one of my research) and — oh yeah — the hand-annotated copy of my book manuscript that I've been working on revising during lunch breaks.

I get that you're saying that it's a security issue, and I'd be happy for my backpack to be subject to any kind of inspection, but I'm not leaving it in the lobby. And I can't possibly be the first academic visitor who has had stuff they didn't want to leave and no office or locker to safely stow it in. Hopefully I'll be on campus for absolutely no reason whatsoever one day, have nothing important for my career with me, and be able to take in the bird's eye view.

Love and logistics,

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