Whether they focus on a specific issue or address a broad range of ideas, Whitman’s Town Hall meetings have proven promising for community growth. These ASWC-hosted events facilitate discussion about the student body’s concerns. On October 20, Student Affairs Committee Chair Arthur Shemitz led the first Town Hall of the semester in the basement of Reid Campus Center. Armed with pumpkin pie bars and hot apple cider, ASWC representatives and club leaders focused on campus safety. The meeting also touched on improving iEngage, changing the college mascot and using PGPs (preferred gender pronouns).
Shemitz brought up recent incidents of drive-by racial harassment and break-ins, explaining that ASWC “want[s] to be able to resolve [and] to look for solutions” to the issues. Though all safety concerns are alarming, Shemitz expressed concern that the incidents have “disproportionately targeted people who are already minorities on campus.” Attendees then broke into smaller groups to address these questions: What would you do if you felt unsafe? If you were not on campus, whom would you call? Whose responsibility is it to address an unsafe situation? To whom at Whitman would you feel comfortable talking about issues of security?
While most students knew that “yellow jackets” are on-campus security escorts rather than flying insects, few people in attendance knew how to actually make use of the service. First-year Senator Shannon Zander said that many of her peers “don’t know how far campus security should, or does, extend,” and consequently do not call. Others emphasized destigmatizing its use — students often feel hesitant to contact campus security unless in immediate danger.
Junior Senator Gordon Kochman suggested “creating different ways to get out information” such as a workshop or extensive poster and email advertising. Sexual Misconduct Prevention Advocate Katie Steen echoed upper-level students’ concerns regarding off-campus housing. Steen proposed making workshops required for students who want to join the Whitman off-campus housing lottery. Additionally, Town Hall attendees broached the topic of campus lighting, particularly highlighting the darkness in the Interest House Community.
In response, Senior Senator Anna von Clemm proposed “creating — sorry AnnaMarie — a committee of sorts” to communicate with campus security. Nominations Chair AnnaMarie McCorvie assured the group of her passion for creating committees. Senator Caroline Bauwens suggested supplementing first-year orientation by “extend[ing] the meaning of ‘Green Dotting’ to after a party.”
In closing, Dean of Students Chuck Cleveland reminded attendees that “if you’re in danger, you should call 911″ rather than second-guess the role and location of campus security. Regarding off-campus safety, Cleveland emphasized the need for students to report immediately any situations that arise.
The next Town Hall will be held on December 9th at 7:00 PM in the Reid Coffeehouse.