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We’re changing our name

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Beginning in the fall of 2016, the student newspaper of Whitman College will no longer be The Pioneer. After a year of discussion with our editorial team and staff, we believe that the paper’s name no longer reflects our mission and place in campus culture.

We’re looking forward to collaborating with the Whitman community in the coming weeks as we decide upon a new name for the paper. A survey will be sent to community listservs this week, and we will hold focus groups in late February and early March to advise the Editorial Board on selecting a name and brand. We’re excited to hear your thoughts and feedback throughout this process.

A hundred and twenty years ago, this newspaper was founded on a college campus in the Inland Northwest. The Pioneer has transformed many times over the decades. At the time the paper was founded, the college was in the midst of reinforcing a telling of history that celebrated the arrival of white invaders–pioneers–to the Columbia Plateau. According to this story of the pioneers, they arrived in an empty and savage land. In reality, they were coming into the homelands of the Cayuse, Walla Walla, Umatilla and other peoples who have inhabited this land for as long as any can remember.

Critically engaging in Whitman College’s past, and, in particular, its relationship to settler-colonialism and white supremacy in the Inland Northwest, is extremely important. By changing the newspaper’s name, we hope to encourage greater discussion and engagement with this history and move away from the traditional Whitman narrative. At the same time, we aim to have the name better represent the diverse, tolerant and curious community the paper serves.

Please join us in building a history of which future generations can be proud to be a part.

Lachlan Johnson, ‘16        Sarah Cornett, ‘16        Marra Clay, ‘17

Investigative Director        Editor-in-Chief            Publisher


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19 Responses to “We’re changing our name”

  1. Edward H. Parker, Jr. on February 18th, 2016 11:03 am

    RE; Name change for “The Pioneer” newspaper. This is a half measure. Whitman College will still be named after the white invaders, Marcus and Narcissa Whitman and their followers. And while you are at it you should have all books in the library which refer to the Whitmans placed in a locked area with “Trigger signs” warning people that offensive books are located in this area. This is the same area where “Huckleberry Finn” and Tom Sawyer” will be placed if they are not in a secluded place already. And make sure no English or history classes talk about these historical and literary works. I understand that Whitman students are like so many college and university students these days: you cannot bear to read or study subjects which hurt your tender sensitivities. This diversity will result in Whitman graduates being as uninformed and narrow-minded as many of our country’s current college attendees. In case you forget to do a clean sweep, don’t forget to have the street named “Whitman” changed to an acceptable name. Then there is the Marc Whitman Hotel and so many other places which will need their names changed.

    I hope you will share with us less educated “townies” where the forces for diversity and sensitivity stop.


  2. MC Maziya on February 18th, 2016 1:20 pm

    Edward H. Parker, Jr what amazing and progressive ideas you’ve stated! Hopefully, Whitman can begin to implement some of these really insightful suggestions you’ve so eloquently stated . Why go half measure when we can go ALL THE WAY!


    — Alumnus ’15


  3. Liz Smith on February 18th, 2016 1:44 pm

    My thoughts on this are less vitriolic than the previous comment, but this does seem kind of extreme. Why don’t you keep the name, and change its meaning? That would result in a much deeper & meaningful change than just not using it and avoiding the topic.
    There are so many meanings for Pioneer. Civil rights activists can be pioneers. Astronauts can be pioneers. Scientists can be pioneers. Teachers can be pioneers. Explorers can be pioneers. Whitties can and have been pioneers in many fields.
    Focus on real change instead of politically correct fueled bullshit and you will accomplish more in the world than patting your own liberally-educated egos. I say this from a place of experience. I lived in the Whitman bubble. You will exit it one day and understand the difference between surface level change, and systemic change.

    Liz Smith
    Class of 2002


  4. Spencer on February 18th, 2016 1:56 pm

    @Edward H. Parker, Jr., #1 –

    Edward, you said, “You cannot bear to read or study subjects which hurt your tender sensitivities.”

    It’s interesting to me that you use the words “cannot bear” and “tender sensitivities.” Can you explain to me what of this letter conveys “cannot bear” to you?

    Because I read words like “critically engaging” and “greater discussion and engagement” in this statement. I see that the staff of the newspaper have given the issue much thought, and are not rashly making this decision out of thin skin, but from a very deliberate position.

    Edward, if I’m honest, I’m sensing more “tender sensitivities” in what you say. All this announcement said was that the staff had decided to change the newspaper’s name, after much critical thought–critical thought! Isn’t that what we hope college instills?–but in your comment, you reacted defensively.

    You leapt to a slippery slope argument. You besmirched Whitman students and university students in general. And then you ended with a self-deprecating remark, even though when I look at the announcement, I see none of the elitism you seem to insinuate.

    Edward, it seems to me that if anyone is demonstrating “tender sensitivities”, it’s you. You have shown that you “cannot bear” that students might be forming nuanced, critical viewpoints. Maybe you “cannot bear” how these discussions of diversity, respect, and awareness challenge what you were taught and what you believe. Or maybe the idea that we should be careful with our words and heroes strikes at a “tender sensitivity” for you.

    I hope you’ll ask yourself why your reaction–which was nasty and hyperbolic–does not count as “oversensitivity,” but students’ careful decisions to change does.


  5. Andrew Ryan on February 18th, 2016 2:10 pm

    Doesn’t the erasure of these historically weighty labels ironically make it less likely for future Whitman generations to, as you write, “critically engage (sic) in Whitman’s College past”? I think name changes like this are perhaps part of the final stage of White colonialism. I am particularly disturbed by the phrase “move away from the traditional Whitman narrative.” I’m left questioning: who really benefits from the distancing of this morally questionable past? Is it Native Americans, who are by in large still systematically restricted from the spaces of Whitman College? Or does it serve the largely not-diverse, colonial descendants that inhabit Whitman? Colonialism is not only Whitman’s past. It is Whitman’s present. Changing this name prior to any tangible benefits for the people it oppresses only further solidifies that oppression.


  6. Semi-recent alumnus on February 18th, 2016 4:11 pm

    How many people have complained to the paper about the name? I suspect it is not many…

    I am disappointed, although not surprised, to hear about another act of self-righteousness at Whitman. You say that this change is going to “encourage greater discussion” about ugly aspects Whitman’s history and White settlement of the Walla Walla region, but I am not so sure. To me it seems like this change will mostly trigger eye-rolls and perhaps a couple weeks of discussion, but in the long term this is just a step towards burying the history you say you want to engage. Once we get rid of our mascot, the name of this paper, and whatever else the 70%+ White upper middle-class Seattle/Portlandite student body deems distasteful, we will probably have what many seem to have always wanted… A school that people think is named after Walt Whitman. A respectable White icon. I am sure you will be happy not to correct them.


  7. 2012 alum on February 18th, 2016 4:19 pm

    I have to admit, while I appreciate the spirit in which this decision is made, it does seem to fall under ‘things white people do so they can feel better about themselves’. Liz is talking sense.


  8. K. on February 18th, 2016 4:36 pm

    I completely agree and support the Pioneer changing its name from the oppressive and offensive term Pioneer. I completely agree with the concept that Pioneer is a term that invokes concepts of “White Supremacy” and “White Invaders.” While on that thought process, we should also start a campaign to change the word ‘America’ and get rid of it entirely. America is a word derived from the WHITE Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci. Due to his pioneering actions of exploring uncharted lands, he brought forth concepts of “White Supremacy” and “White Invaders.”

    If we continue with this train of thought, many many things will need to be changing their name. You are under the impression that term Pioneer only correlates to “White Supremacy” and “White Invaders.” Therefore you believe it is a necessity to change the name. However, there are many different uses for the word.


    a person who is among those who first enter or settle a region, thus opening it for occupation and development by others.
    one who is first or among the earliest in any field of inquiry, enterprise, or progress:
    pioneers in cancer research.
    Ecology. an organism that successfully establishes itself in a barren area, thus starting an ecological cycle of life.
    (initial capital letter) Aerospace. one of a series of U.S. space probes that explored the solar system and transmitted scientific information to earth.
    verb (used without object)
    to act as a pioneer.
    verb (used with object)
    to be the first to open or prepare (a way, settlement, etc.).
    to take part in the beginnings of; initiate:
    to pioneer an aid program.
    to lead the way for (a group); guide.
    being the earliest, original, first of a particular kind, etc.:
    a pioneer method of adult education.

    There are many different manners in which Pioneer can be used that does not correlate to “White Supremacy” or “White Invaders.” For example: “She is a pioneer in cancer research.” Or, “NASA is bravely pioneering its way ahead in research on the solar system.” Or even, the Whitman Pioneer is a pioneer for creating discussions and opening dialogues that engages the entire campus.”

    Furthermore, talking about the American pioneers who came westward, many of them came out here to develop a better life for themselves. They endured great hardship and faced many trials, and a great number of them died chasing this dream. In addition, when specifically talking about the pioneers who came to the Walla Walla Valley, you can try and disassociate yourself as much as possible, but without those pioneers, the town of Walla Walla would have never been built and the college of Whitman College would never have been built. So you can hate on the pioneers who came to the Walla Walla area as much as you want, but you are here in part because of them. Therefore, you may not like the pioneers, but as students we are benefiting from the actions of the pioneers regardless of if we acknowledge it or not. Yes I’m aware of the horrible things that some of the pioneers did, but they are still responsible for establishing Walla Walla as a town and in turn, Whitman College.

    I understand the argument of pioneer being an ignorant term based off of the vile actions that some of them committed. But you must also be aware that rewriting the history of an oppressive past is a very “privileged” thing to do. I feel that the response of changing the newspaper’s name is a classic “White Savior/White Guilt” concept that is not helpful to anything or anyone in the long run. Just because you want to rename a newspaper doesn’t mean that you are giving anything back to an oppressed group. Overall the decision to change the name of the newspaper seems to be based on purely emotion.

    In conclusion, the Whitman Pioneer has been called the Whitman Pioneer for over 100 years. Changing the name is disrespectful to the founders of the newspaper and dishonors their memory. Changing the name does a disservice to the 100 years of worth of alumni who have worked for the Whitman Pioneer and have attended Whitman College who have all remained loyal readers and have done many great things with their lives.

    Shame on you, Lachlan Johnson, Sarah Cornett, and Marra Clay. You all should think of the number of people that you are alienating and how little you will actually accomplish by changing the name of the newspaper.


  9. '14 alum on February 18th, 2016 8:11 pm

    Agree wholeheartedly with Liz.

    If this makes you sleep better at night, then you might want to think a little bit more about what erasing history does.

    Also, for the love of god, it’s engage WITH, not engage IN, Whitman’s community. Whitman’s community is a body of individuals comprising a hole, not a damn swimming pool.


  10. Dr. Samuel Marcus Ruine PhD, MD, MBA, MPH, DDS, ESQ, ETC. on February 19th, 2016 7:57 am

    I have not been so gleefully entertained as I have been in the last few months reading The Whitman Pioneer. In particular, this article had me guffawing uncontrollably upon reviewing the biting satire so masterfully written by these three brave and thoughtful authors.

    In this age of people claiming micro-aggressions and drive-by harassments as an excuse for their own irrational fears and emotional inadequacies, I applaud the gravitas of these fine individuals to point out that even the inherently heroic term “pioneer”, may be co-opted and twisted to signify subjugation and inequality.

    Keep it up, fine Whities! Go Ivory Towers!!


  11. George Felton on February 19th, 2016 10:34 am

    I love how many of the commenters here upset about the name change assume it solely comes from white students looking to erase history. I heard a lot of desire to change things like mascots or names from students of color while I was attending Whitman, and I think this is a sign that they’ve finally been heard.


  12. Jim Peterson on February 19th, 2016 11:22 am

    I personally am not looking forward to sending my kids to the formerly Whitman College (insert new name here), whose mascot is now the “Mighty Blues” and whose newspaper is being changed to the “Campus Times” or some such. Really, now. Whitman is a fairly insular place and these names only have meaning to those of us in the Whitman community; which is to say they are simply names, though names that have the power to connect current-day students to those who have attended in years past, and names that the larger world could care less about. Ask anybody on the streets of Seattle (where I live) if they know anything about Whitman College in general and you’ll typically get for an answer, “Sure–it’s that Presbyterian school in Spokane. Right?” Believe me, no one beyond anyone intimately associated with Whitman College could give a hoot what the newspaper is called or what the mascot is named. Please understand this as you move forward: you may be following the current trend of scrubbing up the past; I imagine that, however, in so doing you will potentially run the risk of losing the support and interest of people like me and my wife whose parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. attended Whitman over the years and who are now deciding whether to encourage our children to apply. Yes, tradition does have meaning in today’s world, even if these are seemingly just names.


  13. Bill Fleenor on February 19th, 2016 11:48 am

    Just plain stupid. I lose more respect for Whitman students daily. Disgusting


  14. lance whitman on February 19th, 2016 11:59 am

    Isnt the college named after marcus whitman? Was he considered a pioneer or “white invader”? If so I believe you should follow and change the name of your school.


  15. 2015 Alumna on February 19th, 2016 7:13 pm

    While I do not doubt that the newspaper staff gave it deep thought, I am rather perplexed as to why the Whitman community (students, staff, alumni, etc.) wasn’t polled (as they were re. the potential mascot change). Given the legacy of the newspaper I think it would only be fair to have its fate decided democratically by all invested parties rather than the people that happen to be in charge of the paper at this point in time.

    I love the idea of keeping the name but rebranding using some of the other wonderful definitions commenters have provided above. How about having a makeover of the Pio and reimagining the writers as pioneers of inquiry, showcasing stories of Whitties paving the way in their studies and in the world, opening new doors and expanding their intellectual contributions. Keep the history of the paper intact but reclaim what you feel to be most important and positive about the name and the legacy.

    I hope you will reconsider this change. At least send out a poll so you know that you are representing the actual desires of the community.


  16. Deb Wright on February 22nd, 2016 10:40 am

    Finally, someone said something useful, thank you “2015 Alumna”! I’d also like to know why the current newspaper staff feel free to change the name without asking anyone else’s opinion. Was there any process followed with the Whitman administration? While I have no actual memories of the Whitman mascot from my time here as a student (1989 grad), I do feel very connected to the Pio as an alum. It would be a shame to lose that connection.


  17. Bob on April 7th, 2016 7:58 am

    All I can add regarding this questionable decision can be found here:



  18. Geoff on April 14th, 2016 8:29 am

    I’m a former Whittie and I don’t give a shit what we name our paper but just so you know I feel embarrassed for you.

    How about quit renaming things and spend more on scholarships for underprivileged students and less on luxurious workout centers, you counter-intuitive weirdos?


  19. Olaf on November 5th, 2016 10:03 am

    Pretty typical move by a generation that lacks the mental subtlety to hold multiple, sometimes contradictory thoughts in their little heads.

    You don’t think it’s possible to recognize that people in history may have had mistaken ideas about each other while at the same time achieving great things. You require all of history to measure up to exactly your philosophy, here in 2016. If anyone falls short, erase their memory.

    I look forward to the day in 2116 when your names are purged from the records of the All Peoples Eastern Cascadia Ideological Reprogramming Center (née Whitman college), as you fall short of their Approved Morality.


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