Whitman teaches us to create the world we live in

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This column was contributed by Alice Minor ’12

Credit: cade beck

We’ve tried to climb Styx or observed someone fail to do so. Thrown or been hit by a Frisbee. Attempted the Reading Room challenge or watched Sam Alden’s legendary YouTube triumph. Been to or at least seen profile pictures of the ‘80s dance. Oh yeah, and we “pinged.”

I’m a politics major. That means I now officially have a degree in exposing hierarchies, deconstructing problematic discourses and positioning my subjectivity. (Look! I learned Big Words!) So of course I have issues with Whitman. I’ve spent a good chunk of time complaining about the impact of this organization, bemoaning the weakness of that department or critiquing the lack of student interest in these issues. Along the way, however, I’ve increasingly grown to appreciate the many avenues for action open to me here.

On March 1 The Pio published Rachel Alexander’s article about sexual violence at Whitman. On March 3 I decided I wanted to make a magazine to further address the issue. A month and a half later we went to press with “Break Ground.” This isn’t just a shameless plug for the magazine. Many of you could echo your stories of putting thought to action at Whitman be it starting a club, organizing a conference or pulling together the best flag football team Whitman has yet to see. In our various ways we’ve benefited from the support and communities in place at Whitman.

I used to view Whitman as a static institution: a place students occupied rather than a place we create. We have helped to make this place we’ve briefly called home what it has been to us. The tiny student body and campus, invested professors and ASWC dollars make Whitman a cocoon of sorts. Of course it takes work and the desire to act––but it is ludicrously possible to start a new campus group or publication in a matter of weeks.

This energy doesn’t end at Whitman. I want for us all to take this sense of possibility and community with us.

I’ll miss having a dozen shoulders to cry on within walking distance when I feel adrift. Fondly remember the professors who care enough to be my advocate. The ludicrous amount of investment placed in the coveted blue shirts. The way we collectively lose our minds with excitement and shock any time the weather does something out of the ordinary (but that hail was insane––and so was the lightning). The way leaves in the walkway outside of Olin make those tiniest of tornadoes. The lovely friends who organize “mock weddings” and dedicate entire parties to a Talking Heads album.

There have been opportunities here that really are unique to a small, tight-knit academic community. We’ll miss so many pieces of Whitman and each other, but it doesn’t end here. Whitman showed me how possible it is to act, to get involved. When we go out in the coming days, months, years––we’ll still be making the world we live in.

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