New bicycle policy raises concerns over Whitman’s relationship with WWPD

Anabelle Dillard, News Reporter

Bike theft has plagued Whitman students for many years. It makes up the majority of reports on the Daily Crime Log, with the most recent reported theft occurring on Feb. 14, and has been the subject of several Wire humor pieces.

First-year Caden Hoyt had parts of his bike stolen twice. The rear wheel and front axle were taken before Thanksgiving break, and the seat was taken before finals week. Both instances of theft occurred outside of Anderson Hall while his bike was locked. 

“I purchased a new wheel, as well as gears, axles and a new lock for the wheels, during Thanksgiving break, but I haven’t replaced the seat yet. It [is] disappointing that I couldn’t leave my bike locked outside,” said Hoyt. 

Junior Mo Dow had his bike stolen outside the Hall of Music over winter break. 

“I didn’t really do anything–the bike was already quite broken, and I didn’t have the money to fix it anyways, so there just wasn’t any use in holding onto it. I hope the person who took it is able to get more use out of it than I was,” said Dow. 

As of Jan. 28, all Whitman students are required to register their bikes with the local police department in an effort to reduce the frequency of bike theft. 

“The City of Walla Walla requires that all bicycles be registered with the Walla Walla Police Department. Registration costs $5, and has proven to be an effective method for retrieving stolen bicycles, since the owner can be traced and the bike returned if found,” reads Whitman’s updated Bicycle Policy. 

Hoyt has not yet registered his bike with the police department and does not believe that it should be the college’s responsibility to handle bike thefts beyond preventative measures. 

“I don’t know what [the college] would do in response to thefts,” said Hoyt. “I do think they could do a lot more to keep the bike storage rooms open for the people who actually use their bikes… the Anderson storage is impossible to get bikes in and out of, which is a little frustrating.”

The requirements of the updated Bicycle Policy were met with some confusion and concern, as President Kathy Murray announced that the school was cutting ties with the Walla Walla Police Department in an email on June 28, 2020. The email was sent largely in response to a photo of a tattoo with an “SS” lightning bolt on the arm of Walla Walla Police Officer Nat Small surfaced online, sparking controversy in the community

“Whitman College will no longer hire off-duty Walla Walla Police to provide security at Whitman events, including Commencement. We will end our practice of allowing law enforcement to conduct training in Whitman facilities when they are not in use. We also revoke, effective immediately, privileges to use Whitman’s Baker Ferguson Fitness Center that had previously been granted as a professional courtesy to local law enforcement officers,” Murray said in the email. 

Dow was critical of the school’s decision to work with the WWPD again, calling it a dismissal of student voices.

“[The policy] also is going to inevitably force many students, especially students of color, into very uncomfortable, and entirely avoidable, situations,” said Dow. “I think this is just another clear instance of the Whitman administration taking the easy route instead of fighting to create alternative infrastructures that counterbalance the white-supremacist [values] that pervade American life.”