OP-ED: Scrambles: Should we mourn their passing?

Walker Orr, Senior

I’d like to offer a few uninformed thoughts about the proposed gutting of the Scrambles program. This has been big news around campus lately, and I have friends and acquaintances who are very upset about this development. My intuition tells me that it’s a bad idea from a business standpoint — Scrambles clearly do a lot in terms of product differentiation for the college. The effect on campus culture is much harder to predict.

I didn’t do a Scramble. When I got the pamphlet in the mail, I said “oh, this looks fun,” but my parents weren’t willing to pay for it — not because they didn’t have the means, but because the SCORE options were cheaper, and, in their view, a better investment. I’ll never know whether they were right or not, of course. I did get several things out of my Food & Hunger SCORE — I met my first girlfriend, I got introduced to Whitman, but also to Walla Walla, and I made valuable and lasting connections with community members. I’m currently interning with Walla Walla Valley Food Systems Coalition, the members of whom I met on my SCORE — and one of whom I can count as a personal mentor and friend. I’m not sure I would be as involved as I am today were it not for that introductory experience.

Of course, I know many of my friends whose circles are built around Scramble buddies, and who consider it to have been a fun and valuable experience. It’s not possible for me to measure the benefit of going on a Scramble as compared to the experience I had in SCORE. I do know that not going on a Scramble made for a considerably different experience at the beginning of my first year. Being very socially awkward then, I can’t establish any sort of causation between not going on a Scramble and my initial difficulty integrating into the student body. But I can’t rule it out either.

As far as Scrambles’ exclusivity, I don’t think there’s any reasonable argument that can be made that they’re not inherently exclusive, and I don’t think simple reforms “do more outreach…” will do anything to resolve this. The exclusivity comes from deeply embedded socio-political and economic conditions in this country. The question is whether the benefit Scrambles provide to participants (and to the college, perhaps) exceeds the cost of their exclusivity and the effect that has on the experience of those who don’t have the opportunity to participate. That’s not a question I have an answer to. The best criticism I can muster against the college’s decision is that it was made without student input — indeed, this is just one of many unaccountable decisions the college is making that will have lasting effects on the Whitman experience.