Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Mutual Aid at Whitman

Mutual aid is a component of the Whitman community that involves community members supporting each other through various means. Mutual aid networks and systems are characterized by collaborative work and the voluntary exchange of reciprocal resources.

The Mutual Aid Club (TMAC) at Whitman has been involved in organizing fundraisers where proceeds go towards local projects such as the communal food and resource pantry in the organic garden and supporting incarcerated individuals in the Washington State Penitentiary. 

“It is the purpose of the Mutual Aid group at Whitman College to promote the distribution of necessary resources to the Whitman and Walla Walla communities. We are founded on the beliefs of anti-imperialism, anti-capitalism and anti-fascism and we are committed to educating ourselves and others to promote the liberation of all people,” TMAC’s Whitlife page reads. 

Although TMAC has organized and executed events on campus in previous semesters, the club has been recently inactive. 

Alum Devon Player ’23, a former member of TMAC, discussed some potential causes of the club’s current inactivity in an email to The Wire.

“I honestly think part of the reason the club isn’t very active is because of how many barriers TMAC faced from Whitman administration/various institutional policies that are in direct opposition to community care, which is at the heart of mutual aid. It was honestly pretty discouraging at times, and I think it made it hard to keep club participants engaged and motivated. And quite frankly, I find that to be extremely hypocritical on the part of the school, which is an institution that constantly promotes their commitment to both the Whitman and broader Walla Walla community,” Player said.

Darlene R. Wilson, Assistant Vice President for Finance and Controller, discussed the policies and procedures in place for clubs in a statement to The Wire

“If the Mutual Aid Club is a student organization operating under ASWC, then ASWC’s policies and procedures would apply. There are different policies and procedures depending on if it is considered internal fundraising (intended for use only by the club or Whitman College) vs external fundraising (intended for non-profit organizations outside of Whitman College),” Wilson said.

Wilson continued mentioning that the college’s administrative practices mirror ASWC’s with a few key differences. She said that Whitman can donate to other organizations, but that it must make sure that the mission of the organization receiving funding aligns with Whitman’s mission, and that funds are best sent directly to an organization rather than through Whitman or a crowdsourcing website. Finally, to retain its nonprofit status, Whitman cannot support partisan organizations.

Due to the “Whitman Bubble” and Whitman students’ perceived disconnection with the local Walla Walla community, the reputation of community care from the college is not seen as mutually beneficial to local community members, Player said.

“In my experience, especially now working a full time job and being a bit more immersed in the Walla Walla community, the prevailing view of Whitman from the surrounding community is one of frustration, as Whitman is seen as a largely extractive institution (i.e., consistently and unapologetically taking more from the existing Walla Walla community than we contribute),” Player said.

Player continued mentioning that the creation of TMAC was a response to these disconnects and aimed to bridge the Whitman and Walla Walla communities to each other. 

“The mutual aid club from my perspective (granted I was not part of its initial creation) was created as a response to that harm, a response to needs students saw at Whitman and in the broader Walla Walla community that, at best, aren’t being met or have been intentionally neglected at worst. I also saw it as an attempt to begin shifting our collective understanding around what it means to be in community and in solidarity with one another,” Player said.

Alanna Sherman, senior and member of Whitman Students for Justice in Palestine (WSJP), discussed in a statement to The Wire how mutual aid is a tenant of the work that WSJP does. 

“I think mutual aid is built out of love for one’s community and motivated by the firm belief that everyone should have easy access to their own necessary resources for their well-being … The practice of mutual aid is central to Students for Justice in Palestine because our work is stating that we believe in creating a world of justice and liberation for all people, and fighting for Palestinian lives includes extending mutual aid practices across the globe,” Sherman said. 

Mutual aid and TMAC are built on the principles of community care and engagement with local communities. However, the club’s on-campus work has dwindled as a consequence of difficulties in executing initiatives because of institutional policies.

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