Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 5
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Pio Past: Students build protest shanty town

For almost 120 years, The Pioneer has reported on news from the Whitman campus and surrounding community. Pio Past pulls old articles from past decades from the Penrose Library archives to give modern readers a glimpse of campus history.

Originally published March 13, 1986

By Randy Edison

Easily the most visible demonstration of divestment support at Whitman yet, a shanty town of hand constructed shacks and tents has been erected on the front lawn of the Memorial Building. Constructed Tuesday morning by members of Whitman Students for Social Change and other concerned students, the shanties will remain standing and inhabited until Friday when the Board of Trustees meet and consider the standing of Whitman’s $10 million invested in companies that do business in South Africa.

According to WSSC representative Ann Pelo, Shanty Town is “making concrete the black South Africans’ experience under apartheid.”

“I think the purpose is twofold,” elaborated Susan Bonner, another WSSC member. “One is to bring the issue close to home for Whitman students.” Its obvious physical presence “forces people to make a choice one way or the other. But it also puts pressure on the administration. It lets them know that students support divestment strongly. We want our views represented.”

Shanty town huts were constructed from lumber scraps and plastic sheets which were donated by local supporters and “pretty much whatever we could find on the side of the road or in backyards,” stated WSSC member Stafford Squier, to a national AP reporter. The shanties have been occupied 24 hours a day, with students trading off shifts so to not miss classes. Tuesday night ten students spent the night in Shanty Town, despite rain and cold winds.

Before construction was started, Shanty Town met with college approval. Dean of Students Russel DeRemer explained that “it doesn’t violate college policy and we see it as an expression of free speech. It is built in a location and a manner that complies with college policy and doesn’t interfere with college business of activities.”

The Board of Trustees meeting this Friday is expected to consider the recently established Investment Advisory Committee’s proposal for partial divestment. This proposal asks for Whitman’s divesture of shares from corporations that do not adhere to the Sullivan Principals, which maintains a policy designed to improve employment conditions for non-whites. Pete Reid, Whitman College Treasurer and Investment Advisory Committee head, stated that in addition the committee will recommend “that we don’t invest in businesses that deal directly with the South African police and military.”

The construction of Shanty Town has attracted some attention from Eastern Washington’s media, such as a news article appearing in Spokane’s Spokesperson Review and receiving television coverage in the Tri-Cities.

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