ASWC Town Hall Looks at International Travel, Budget, Yearbook

Dylan Tull

The final Associated Students of Whitman College (ASWC) Town Hall of the year focused on three major subjects: the lifting of the international travel ban, addressing concerns regarding the ASWC budget and tackling the question of whether or not the yearbook should continue to be funded.

Town Hall.  Photos by Brennan Johnson.
Town Hall. Photos by Brennan Johnson.

In addition to these central topics, students raised two new questions that may gain more attention in upcoming ASWC actions. Widespread concerns with off-campus housing were raised and the possibility of a Whitman-organized shuttle to the Walla Walla and Pasco airports was suggested.

ASWC President junior Kayvon Behroozian opened the Town Hall with the announcement that the ban on international travel had been lifted. Previously, the ban in place prevented any Whitman students from receiving ASWC funding for international travel or activities.

ASWC president Kayvon B
ASWC president Kayvon Behroozian.

“So international trips, ASWC can fund those now too. That’s really, really big, especially for clubs, especially for club sports and especially for individuals who want to go to conferences,” said Behroozian.

Now that the ban is lifted, Whitman students can pursue their studies internationally with Whitman funding. Students can receive grants for international internships, Canadian programs are treated the same as domestic programs and funding for international student research may be possible.

It was clear, however, that the most contentious topic of discussion was the fate of the Waiilatpu yearbook. ASWC senators anticipated this by splitting the Town Hall into small groups so senators could better hear students’ feelings about the yearbook.

The general sentiment around the tables was that there are currently two paths that ASWC could take. Either ASWC invests a significant amount of money in the yearbook, resulting in a larger staff and a more appealing final product, or it cuts funding completely. Many students expressed that there simply wasn’t a lot of interest in the product and that the publication as it is now simply isn’t representative of Whitman as a whole.

Sophomore Grant Rommel, current editor-in-chief of Waiilatpu, took the microphone to give an impassioned speech in response to these opinions.

“I really don’t think that the yearbook has been given enough of an opportunity to build a strong foundation for itself in just the three short years that it’s been reinstated,” said Rommel.

Sophomore Zac Parker, ASWC’s Nominations Chair, spoke afterwards about the response to Rommel’s speech.

“It was fairly positive. Most people seem to come to the heart of it very quickly, that the yearbook needs to either be completely decommissioned or just be given the chance to grow and become something that would be really productive and useful,” Parker said. “Personally, I think that a yearbook does have a lot of value on campus, and it is something that we should be trying to keep around, especially [when] there are students who are as passionate about it as the two that came and talked.”

The ASWC Committee on Student Affairs will vote on whether or not to decommission at a meeting on Thursday, April 10.

After yearbook concerns were addressed, students were able to bring to the table new concerns or ideas that they wanted to present to ASWC. One of the concerns that was brought up was the issue of off-campus housing for upperclassmen. One student suggested that the Whitman housing lottery could be reworked, to possibly give preference to seniors and to take place earlier in the semester, when all other housing decisions in Walla Walla are generally made. The lack of information regarding off-campus houses was another concern.

“I was surprised about the number of people that were really concerned about off-campus housing and trying to learn more about that. There was a pretty apt observation made that there was not any concrete way to get information about off-campus housing, or at least there’s not one that’s very well publicized if there is one,” said Parker.

The final suggestion that was raised was that of a Whitman-organized shuttle or bus to the Walla Walla and Pasco airports. This generated a lot of student support at the Town Hall, and may be something ASWC looks into further in the future.