President Murray Visits Senate

In continuation of her semesterly tradition, President Kathy Murray spoke to Senate at a recent meeting on the sixteenth of October. ASWC President Arthur Shemitz commented on the visit, saying, “Last year when President Murray first visited Senate, it was the first time in over a decade that the college president had visited an ASWC Senate, and so we’re very grateful to have her continuing to speak with us.”

President Murray began her presentation by commemorating the student lost earlier on in the semester, describing the event as a “rough start to the year”, but she continued to say that she was reassured by how the Whitman community “came together in a powerful way”.

She then moved on to talk about the Strategic Planning Committee, which has been hard at work determining the school’s goals for the future. By the end of the Strategic Planning process, President Murray anticipates having “between 4 and 6 high-level strategic goals for the college for the next five years”. The committee and President Murray continue to seek input from students about what they hope to see in the college’s future; preceding the fall meetings of the governing boards, President Murray will be holding joint office hours with Brad McMurchie, the Board of Trustees Chair, in Memorial Building 304, from 1:00-3:00pm, on Tuesday, November 1.  Beyond these goals, President Murray hopes to address the issue of increasing the diversity of both the faculty and the student body. Still more, she intends to address the “climate of discourse” which generally plagues discussions today. She wants everyone at Whitman to work on better listening to each other and having hard, controversial conversations. Though it will be a challenge, it is also our “responsibility” to do so.

After concluding her presentation, she engaged in a question and answer session with Senate members. Highlights of the session include:

She addressed concerns about tenure at Whitman, saying that it is “not going away”, because “it serves us here very well and keeps people engaged”.

Regarding a question about progress on the new residence hall being built, she told the Senate that around $7.6 million in funds have been raised, though she would like to get to $10 million. They plan to “break ground” in February of 2017, with the hall will hopefully becoming available for use in Fall of 2018. When asked about whether the function of North Hall would change following the construction of the residence hall, she answered that it would no longer be used as a residence hall, though its new function has not yet been determined.

To a question about increasing financial aid in the future, President Murray answered that the school will be doing more fundraising overall and will be raising financial aid by a quarter of a million dollars by next year. She also stated that the school is thinking carefully about how it will be raising tuition in the future.

When asked about reestablishing the debate team (the team was suspended a year a half ago (for two years) because of “problematic behavior”) at Whitman, she responded by saying that a committee had been assembled to research a safer way for the school to reengage in debate. The committee will produce a report by the first of December detailing its findings, and President Murray will ensure that it is made publicly available. She will decide whether to reestablish the debate team at that juncture.

She was then asked about conversations that have been happening at the administrative level regarding the sexual assault banners put up during Fall Visitors Day as well as the letter distributed by the so-called “Indies” which discouraged first-years from rushing. To this, she answered that she does not yet know much about the banners and that she did not approve them to be put up. Regarding the letter, she said that she did not have a problem with such ideas being expressed, but also that she thought that “the timing could have been better” (the letter was distributed during Rush Week). Due to this and other factors, she was “disappointed” by the letter and its writers.

Finally, she expressed her desire to better distinguish Whitman from other, similar liberal arts colleges. To accomplish this, she wants to highlight the virtues of Walla Walla as well as how specific programs set Whitman apart. She hopes that the latter will be “the tide that lifts all boats”, so to speak.

President Murray Visits Senate

In continuation of her semesterly tradition, President Kathy Murray spoke to Senate at a recent meeting on the sixteenth of October. ASWC President Arthur Shemitz commented on the visit, saying, “Last year when President Murray first visited Senate, it was the first time in over a decade that the college president had visited an ASWC Senate, and so we’re very grateful to have her continuing to speak with us.”

President Murray began her presentation by commemorating the student lost earlier on in the semester, describing the event as a “rough start to the year”, but she continued to say that she was reassured by how the Whitman community “came together in a powerful way”.

She then moved on to talk about the Strategic Planning Committee, which has been hard at work determining the school’s goals for the future. By the end of the Strategic Planning process, President Murray anticipates having “between 4 and 6 high-level strategic goals for the college for the next five years”. The committee and President Murray continue to seek input from students about what they hope to see in the college’s future; preceding the fall meetings of the governing boards, President Murray will be holding joint office hours with Brad McMurchie, the Board of Trustees Chair, in Memorial Building 304, from 1:00-3:00pm, on Tuesday, November 1.  Beyond these goals, President Murray hopes to address the issue of increasing the diversity of both the faculty and the student body. Still more, she intends to address the “climate of discourse” which generally plagues discussions today. She wants everyone at Whitman to work on better listening to each other and having hard, controversial conversations. Though it will be a challenge, it is also our “responsibility” to do so.

After concluding her presentation, she engaged in a question and answer session with Senate members. Highlights of the session include:

She addressed concerns about tenure at Whitman, saying that it is “not going away”, because “it serves us here very well and keeps people engaged”.

Regarding a question about progress on the new residence hall being built, she told the Senate that around $7.6 million in funds have been raised, though she would like to get to $10 million. They plan to “break ground” in February of 2017, with the hall will hopefully becoming available for use in Fall of 2018. When asked about whether the function of North Hall would change following the construction of the residence hall, she answered that it would no longer be used as a residence hall, though its new function has not yet been determined.

To a question about increasing financial aid in the future, President Murray answered that the school will be doing more fundraising overall and will be raising financial aid by a quarter of a million dollars by next year. She also stated that the school is thinking carefully about how it will be raising tuition in the future.

When asked about reestablishing the debate team (the team was suspended a year a half ago (for two years) because of “problematic behavior”) at Whitman, she responded by saying that a committee had been assembled to research a safer way for the school to reengage in debate. The committee will produce a report by the first of December detailing its findings, and President Murray will ensure that it is made publicly available. She will decide whether to reestablish the debate team at that juncture.

She was then asked about conversations that have been happening at the administrative level regarding the sexual assault banners put up during Fall Visitors Day as well as the letter distributed by the so-called “Indies” which discouraged first-years from rushing. To this, she answered that she does not yet know much about the banners and that she did not approve them to be put up. Regarding the letter, she said that she did not have a problem with such ideas being expressed, but also that she thought that “the timing could have been better” (the letter was distributed during Rush Week). Due to this and other factors, she was “disappointed” by the letter and its writers.

Finally, she expressed her desire to better distinguish Whitman from other, similar liberal arts colleges. To accomplish this, she wants to highlight the virtues of Walla Walla as well as how specific programs set Whitman apart. She hopes that the latter will be “the tide that lifts all boats”, so to speak.

Resolution SRF16.1: A Step Forward in Title IX Advocacy

At the most recent Senate meeting on November 13th, legislation was presented by co-authors Molly Unsworth ’18 and Kyle Fix ’19 to senators regarding recent violations to the college’s Title IX policy. Specifically, it advocates for mandatory notation on the transcript of “any student that chooses to withdraw while allegations of intimate partner violence, stalking, and/or sexual violence are pending”. Essentially, a notation would inform a school to which a violator is applying/transferring that he/she has been accused of such a violation. This resolution is in response to the recent uptick of incident reports of Title IX violations since 2012; in that year (2012-2013), there were 9 reports, while there were 32 reports in the 2014-2015 school year, according to the college’s Annual Title IX Report. Since 2012, the school has dismissed four students and suspended one after they were found responsible for violating Title IX. This resolution also addresses a larger, national trend of accused violators withdrawing from their respective college while still under investigation, stopping them from receiving all of the proper documentation which may help prevent them from committing violations at other schools. Unsworth and Fix cited the case of a student who withdrew from his previous school after being accused of sexual assault (thus avoiding notation, so the school to which he was transferring was unaware of the circumstances) and is now under investigation at his current school for sexually assaulting another female student.

The co-authors described the problem more generally as, “In current practices, there is a huge concern about getting predators or offenders off campuses, but no sense of follow through on the behaviors they have shown, or any care about the impact they can potentially have at future institutions”.

After some discussion, Senate resolved to pass the resolution by acclimation, which is a rare occurrence. ASWC President Arthur Schemitz noted, “Acclimation is the strongest expression of support that the Senate may give to a resolution. It is more powerful than just a unanimous vote as it expresses our deep commitment to and belief in the importance of the content of a resolution. We use acclimation sparingly, so that it can be applied only to the most significant resolutions that we want to lend our full and entire support behind”. Regarding this, Unsworth commented, “I was genuinely shocked. I had anticipated a lot more push-back from the senate, and the fact that so many people not only supported it, but wanted to give it the honor of passing it by acclimation, was such an incredible moment for both of us”.

Colleges similar to Whitman (Occidental, Emerson) have enacted similar policies to this one, and Unsworth and Fix hope that Whitman’s adoption of this policy will encourage other schools to follow suit, eventually creating a national standard.

An assault survivor herself, Unsworth is passionate about this sort of legislation and change, and is excited that the resolution was passed. However, she still sees much more that needs to be done regarding not only policies, but practices. For instance, she would like to see “further opportunities extended to the student body from the Dean of Students office that invite students to participate in critical dialogues surrounding the prevalence of sexual violence on this campus”. Still more, she hopes that the school will actually make efforts to act on those dialogues, rather than “the same conversations happening over and over again, with no results”.

The resolution still has to be approved by the administration, and may or may not be enacted by the end of this year.