Residence Life Shuts Down Camp Whitman

Lachlan Johnson

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Illustration by MaryAnne Bowen.

Students must move out of residence halls by Thursday, May 22 this year, bringing an end to the period between the end of finals and commencement commonly known as Camp Whitman. Traditionally, residence halls have remained open until commencement to allow underclassmen the chance to see their friends graduate and give students a chance to relax and say goodbye to friends before leaving for the summer.

The staff of Residence Life made the decision to shut down the residence halls due to the belief that students spent that final week partying and engaging in disruptive behavior such as climbing buildings, drinking and streaking. They hope closing the halls before commencement will prompt students to swiftly depart from campus, and that this change will lead to less partying and disruptive behavior around campus as a whole.

“As we realized that these trends had shifted and the mentality surrounding that week after finals had shifted, we had the flexibility to adapt in a way that will best take care of our students,” said Resident Director of Prentiss Hall Emma O’Rourke-Powell.

The decision to close the residence halls was made in May of 2013, and students were notified of the dates of residence hall opening and closures at the beginning of the academic year. However, many failed to notice the change, and awareness of the new policy has been slowly growing.

Students are divided over the decision to close the halls. Some have expressed understanding and support for the decision, but many others feel frustrated by the closure. Though some students choose to party during Camp Whitman, others use it to unwind with friends, explore Walla Walla and say goodbye to senior friends who will not be returning.

“[In past years] it was nice to be on campus with all my friends and not have to worry about assigned reading or due dates or all those things and just be able to spend time with them,” said senior Ben Harris.

Some students have also questioned whether closing the halls early will lead to the changes in student behavior that the staff of Residence Life hopes for. Upperclassmen who live off campus will still be able to remain and host parties, and the fraternities will remain open as well, possibly providing shelter for members moving out of the halls.

“It doesn’t seem like [this] is the best solution. Maybe they could put graduation earlier, because it’s really sad when your closest friends, who are almost like family, don’t get to see you graduate when you’ve worked so hard for it. I’m sure a lot of people will find a way to come, but there probably won’t be as many. It doesn’t feel fair,” said senior Talia Rudee.

Under the new policy, only students with explicit permission to stay in residence halls will be able to remain until commencement. Students can gain permission by speaking with their resident directors, but permission will only be given to students who are involved in classes or sports that continue after finals or to students who have a sibling graduating.

“We’re willing to make a reasonable number of exceptions for students that have a particular reason why they need to stay, like in the case of family members [graduating or] international students, but we’ll be dealing with that on a case-by-case basis,” said Assistant Director of Residence Life & Housing Andrew Johnson.

While underclassmen with friends who are graduating may hope to stay in off-campus housing after moving out of the residence halls, this may prove difficult. Seniors often have family in town and are busy preparing to move and begin their life after Whitman, while underclassmen will have to deal with moving all of their belongings either out of the residence halls or into storage. The process of moving houses at the end of the semester can already prove stressful, and now first-years and sophomores will have less time in their dorms to move out. 

“Moving out is a huge process. A lot of people can’t just do that very quickly, so logistically it’s a lot harder [under the new policy],” said sophomore Kevin Obey.

Though they have not yet had the chance to experience the week between finals and commencement, many first-years remain disappointed by the closure of the residence halls. Some students plan to stay off campus, but others will be unable to spend time with friends or see seniors graduate before students leave campus for summer.

“When I was a prospie even, I was told many people stay [until commencement] and it’s lots of fun … it’s sad because it’s such a cool community thing,” said first-year Delaney Hanon. “[It’s] beer mile and [events] that the frats do every year … that really make college, the experiences that are student run and community run. So it’s a bummer that that’s not going to be happening.”