WDA’s funding reminds Whitman students of available resources

This column was authored by junior Anna Murveit with sophomore Sean McNulty contributing.

Last Sunday, the ASWC senate approved a nearly $8,000 funding request for Whitman Direct Action’s annual two-month summer trip to a rural village, Willywood, Guatemala. It wasn’t an easy sell––these funds are a part of Whitman’s sticker price, a fee of approximately $320 each year, appropriated by the ASWC senators who we elect to fund all of the student organizations on campus.

In justifying this request, my first passionate impulse is to cry for the most basic and essential human right, access to clean water. However, I quieted my personal resolve to fight this injustice––as a result of Guatemala’s weak centralized and historically corrupt government, insufficient and ineffective water policies and infrastructure, and a lack of education surrounding sanitation practices. These factors alone do not justify the financial contribution of every Whitman student. What might begin to do so is the opportunity that Whitman Direct Action has afforded me, and the equal opportunity that every student has to get involved with WDA or with the many other organizations on campus.

We all have an equal opportunity to argue before ASWC to request these funds ourselves.  The money in the Travel and Student Development fund allows our student government to fund a wide range of student organizations and requests. Whitties pay for the lion’s share of our project, so WDA always keeps the benefits to student body in mind by  compiling reports, presenting findings at the undergraduate conference, and hosting educational events and conversations about development each semester.

All students, regardless of their involvement with WDA on a weekly basis, were allowed to participate in the independent studies and encouraged to apply for the Project Team. More broadly, all students have equal access to ASWC funding to pursue whatever it is they believe deeply in. Our position as students at a small, private liberal arts school––with all the library resources, professor expertise and funding only accessible to college students––allows us to start working on our passions or professional goals today.

WDA, and other ASWC organizations like it, provides crucial opportunities to develop students’ passions outside of the classroom. Whitman alumnus and founding WDA member Curt Bowen demonstrates where these opportunities can lead. Following graduation and a Davis Projects for Peace fellowship, he and a few other Whitties started a sustainable agriculture NGO called Semilla Nueva. They essentially took the WDA model and planted it in Guatemala, where they carefully tend to its successful growth in many rural villages. His experiences in WDA were no doubt formative in the eventual creation of Semilla Nueva, and I hope that other students make use of Whitman’s opportunities to further their own passions––career or otherwise.

My Whitman education both in the classroom and through WDA has empowered me to act in an educated, and hopefully ethical, manner toward social and environmental justice. This is my passion, and what I want to do with my life. Whether or not you share my often idealistic sentiments, I hope this piece may at least remind you of the incredible and endless opportunities that exist on this campus. Every student organization here is the brainchild of a group of Whitties, and by paying the ASWC fee, we all agree to financially support each other in our pursuits. I encourage you to take advantage of these resources, and to live your passions as much as possible.