Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Midnight-thirty: Rap battle must go on

Genuine shows of community interest at Whitman are few and far between. Between ASWC, resident life, listserv e-mails, table toppers and insane postering, everything that happens on campus is so mediated, so advertised, so pre-planned and ultimately so wrapped in money, bureaucracy and expectations that in the end I often feel like I should want to go to an event more than I do.

This is why seeing last night’s freestyle battle get shut down is so fucking frustrating, and disappointing.

For once an event took very little planning, no ASWC money, hardly any advertising and had an amazing turnout. For once an event is not just for students, but for our friends in the Walla Walla community. For once Whitman students broke the bubble, only to see it powerfully reconstructed by security wanting students to play by their rules.

And so I say to my fellow students: Spontaneity is a virtue! Self-organization is a virtue! I am terrified that the community I live in might not be capable of either.

Did Whitman security have reasons to break up our gathering? Sure, even I can accept that. Yet every one of those reasons were fraught with holes and contradictions and met by stronger arguments against them.

I hope to bring a few of the claims of Whitman security to light, alongside responses and alternatives presented before them by students. I mean no disrespect to campus security, but I think a much better way should have been encouraged.

Initially the two campus security guards at the courts claimed that drugs (marijuana and alcohol) warranted dissolution of the gathering.
True, plenty of those in attendance were either high or intoxicated, yet by so late on April 20, this was almost inevitable. If they were high on the courts, they were high before the courts, and from our gathering last week we demonstrated that we are willing to pour out all alcohol and keep drug use off the premises.

This was never acknowledged.

In fact, reports about previous “complaints” were repeatedly cited against us although no one who had attended last week’s gathering could support these claims. Such claims simply don’t reflect what actually happened.

It was also noted that drug use and alcohol by disparate students all over campus, in fraternities and housing, and even on Ankeny is routinely ignored or accepted. But when a group of individuals congregate to freestyle they are guilty of breaking a rule unknown to me that Whitman students must have permission to congregate late at night on campus.

After non-students left (because the lenient drug-enforcement policy does not apply to them and they have much more to lose) Whitties moved from the courts to Ankeny and security’s logic changed.

Now it was our friends from town who were the problem, because they were purportedly on drugs, drunk or had criminal histories. First of all, for the vast majority this was patently false. Some, in fact, are staff members at Whitman, and most were here to freestyle in an event for which for once they were encouraged to participate by students.

It wasn’t as if Whitties were not drunk or stoned at the event, either. I was shocked to hear security attempt to mollify students by blaming those outside the so-called bubble. These are our friends who were treated like strangers and criminals.

Finally, the argument became simply that “You guys didn’t go through the proper groundwork,” despite how, in reality, students did communicate with security in advance, if imperfectly. I don’t know what went wrong. Most likely the message just didn’t go through. Yet rather than acknowledge and work to understand our claims as students, security maintained a posture of righteous superiority.

By the time we moved off the tennis courts, was there any problem left? The crowd was already smaller. Whitman’s precious private property was no longer in danger (although our gathering last week attests that it never was). Some community members who left came back to see if any headway had been made, and whether they would be allowed to freestyle unmolested.

Sadly, without a Frisbee or prior notice, Whitman students were not allowed to congregate on Ankeny. We were actively denied the right to assemble, and threatened that we could never gather for our purposes if we continued to exercise our speech.

Perhaps speech and assembly are simply privileges here at Whitman. In practice, they were denied.

So what possibilities do I think offer a better alternative? For starters, security could have helped do what should be their primary job: making sure we were safe. They could have agreed to provide security for, rather than against, the event; they could have encouraged people to sit; they could have simply given battlers center stage, and would have seen the crowd as they truly were: as an interested audience.

If noise was the problem, which: as we were completely unamplified: seems silly, we could have found an indoor location. Penrose is open 24/7. We could have battled in the reading room.

Yet security threatened that if we tried to have this event anywhere on campus, it would be shut down.

Students and readers, community lives through free speech and assembly; it thrives by spontaneity. Yet fostering community takes a willingness to solve problems as they arrive by exercising creativity, not authority. At this I believe Whitman’s security failed miserably. Instead my respect goes to our friends from off campus for putting up with so much bullshit, and with every other battler who showed up. On Friday night a crowd gathered hoping to transform into something even more rare then a flawless flow: a genuine community.

–– Avi Conant

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All Whitman Wire Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *