From the Editors: The Pioneer’s Un-naming

2/26 Update: Your thoughts and feedback are important to us. Please add to this discussion using this form if you’d like to share ideas, reactions, or any additional comments with us.

Last week, The Pioneer announced that it will recommence under a new name in the fall of 2016. In the past few days, we’ve received thoughtful and important notes of both criticism and support in response to this editorial decision.

Members of the editorial board first began a discussion about changing the name last fall. Conversations with members of the Indigenous Person’s Education and Culture Club (IPECC), faculty and The Pioneer’s own advisory board encouraged us to think seriously about how and why we should move forward under a new name. We view this decision as one piece of a larger movement on Whitman’s campus to reckon with symbols and markers that venerate colonial settlers.

Our decision to change the name of this newspaper is the product of an ongoing conversation about Whitman’s history; it is not an isolated action. We are joining the conversation initiated by IPECC, student activists and faculty with the goal of critically understanding and examining this college’s history.

Names and words cannot exist devoid of context. In our case, the name ‘Pioneer’ cannot be divorced from its historical origin. In its first issue, published in 1896, editors of The Pioneer wrote that the paper’s name was a tribute to Cushing Eells, the Whitmans, and the scores of other white settlers who came to this valley under the pretense of moral and racial superiority. As student journalists, we can no longer deny that our name promotes and celebrates their harmful legacy.

We will not passively embrace a historical narrative that we no longer wish to support. We see this as a process of grappling with the history of Whitman College and scrutinizing language that glorifies that history. Our autonomy as an entirely student-run newspaper makes us unique. In the spirit of independent and accurate journalism, we proceeded with our campaign on the strength of our editorial conviction and the support of our advisory board.

When campus symbols meant to encourage and promote a sense of community, unity and shared values become divisive, they no longer serve their purpose. We hope to move forward with a new name that doesn’t misrepresent our attitude towards Whitman’s history, and one that accurately reflects our values and those of the students we serve.

The Pioneer has been a major part of our lives at Whitman, and that of countless alumni. It is important to emphasize that we will always share the same history and the same values of independent student journalism. We do not intend to disparage the extraordinary work of students who came before us. Rather, we intend to align the name of the paper with the values of critical thinking and inquiry we aspire to as student journalists. We hope to choose a new name with the help of the Whitman community that better reflects this paper’s mission.

In the coming days, students, staff, and faculty will receive a survey requesting input to enact this process, and soliciting ideas for a new name. Alumni will receive a similar survey. We will also hold a student and community forum on our rebranding campaign as part of Wednesday’s ASWC Town Hall, at 7:00 p.m. in the basement of Reid, as well as a forum for faculty and staff at 4 p.m. on Thursday, March 8 in Olin 130. We are currently planning focus group lunches to discuss new name ideas and other ways in which we can ensure this process reflects the concerns of current students, staff and faculty.

We look forward to discussion with the Whitman community as we choose a new name that can represent our present values without denying our past.

Thank you to those who weighed in on this decision last week, whether via online messages or in person. We hope to hear more of your thoughts and ideas in the coming weeks. Please send any comments, questions, concerns or Letters to the Editor to [email protected]

-Editorial Board of The Pioneer