Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

What’s in a Name? The Nomenclature of Off-Campus Houses

Whitman’s off-campus houses don titles like “The Garden” or “The Airport” because of the student initiative to label where they call home. Anyone driving down Isaacs may be familiar with a constant head swivel to read wooden boards decked out in acrylic paint and a goofy or relevant name created by both past and present students. The bright blue sign outside the “Disco”or the hand-painted carnival-style tent hanging above “The Circus” are a signature of campus life for those living on or around the college.

Last Saturday, Whitman students gathered to create house signs and take naming off-campus houses into their own hands. For these students, making a house a home involves the craft of creating or decorating a name. Junior Sara Marshall, who organized the event as the Creative Arts Director for the Whitman Events Board (WEB), explained how the event served as an opportunity for self-expression.

“House signs might not seem like the pinnacle of artistic expression, but I do think there is something wonderful about having housemates come together to make something for their house,” Marshall said. “Considering the history of house names, there is also a chance that these signs will stay in the house for a long time.”

This sentiment was echoed by other students at the event. Jacqueline Luna, who lives at a house located south of the college, says that the tradition of naming an off-campus house is a legacy for Whitman students as they move from the dorms to houses.

“It brings a sense of belonging. As college students, we almost have a loss of identity at some point, and we used [the name] to make it really deep,” Luna said.

For Luna, the act of naming a house connects students with their housemates and engages with the individual interests or personalities of their peers.

Her house was renamed from “The Bird” to “The Airport” by her and her housemates. They deliberated over a name one evening, recording ideas and identities they wanted to advertise on a whiteboard before they decided on their new brand. According to Luna, the process of choosing a name was entertaining as well as a chance to rebrand the house to reflect the people living there.

“We’re all from different places, and [are] all united … living in one house for a set amount of time. When you think about an airport, you’re going to go on a flight, you’re sitting with people that you’re never going to see again, and that’s how we really thought about it. We’re all going to be united in this specific time and space, but we’re all going to graduate and blossom, or go wherever we’re destined to go,” Luna said.

For Luna and her housemates, the opportunity to select a house name was both a way to carry on the Whitman naming tradition and adjust it to embody the people in the house or their interests.

Sometimes, though, houses come with names. WEB’s sign-painting bash offered those with iconic or cemented house names an opportunity to take how their homes’ name is represented to the greater community into their own hands. Chase Schubert, who attended the WEB event and lives in the Community Service Interest House, explained that advertising names is a way to represent house members within the school’s community.

“This sign tradition that we have is a very Whitman thing. It’s very unique and shows our personality to a lot to other people. But also, I made this [sign], you know?” Schubert said.

Although those living in the Interest House Community do not have a choice in the name of their houses, students like Schubert are equally invested in showcasing and adjusting their housing to their own preference and interests during their time at Whitman. He described how the house is leaning into its name, The COOP, by embracing a chicken theme which he and other house residents prepared for their sign at the WEB event last Saturday.

Students’ roles in labeling and decorating their houses both on and off-campus also showcases how Whitman students fit into the Walla Walla community. The houses and their names are an exhibit of the diverse identities and creativity of students attending the college. The signs allow every student, regardless of whether they pass by houses on their way to campus or live in one themselves, to recognize communities linked to or surrounding the school.

“I love that, at least for Whitman, everything is very localized. You’re always local to the actual campus itself, and I’m still connected to the off-campus community even though we’re almost pseudo-off campus,” Schubert said.

Like Luna and Schubert, students both on and off-campus enjoy the rich tradition of naming houses. For anyone involved on or around the school, these names stand as a trademark of Whitman’s student body. Either renamed, pre-named, imbued with meaning or used as a play on words, house names reflect and represent the student body to other students and the greater Walla Walla area.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All Whitman Wire Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *