One of the aspects of Whitman that makes it unique is the opportunities for engagement in complex and difficult dialogue. Every year Whitman hosts a Power and Privilege Symposium for one day where classes are cancelled and students, staff, faculty, and the Walla Walla community are invited to attend a variety of workshops and sessions all centered on ideas about Power and Privilege. In the past I have attended workshops varying from racism and decolonization, to discussions about rap music and social change.
Every year the sessions and workshops follow a certain theme, this year’s theme is Attacking Apathy. So what does that mean? The way I understand apathy in the context of Whitman is the lack of motivation or drive to take action and reflect tangible change. As students with busy lives, it is easy to sit and talk about important issues such as sustainability and indigenous rights but how do we reflect our values and beliefs into our practices? This year’s Symposium will be delving into what apathy is and how it is harmful to making change and further marginalizes the issues at hand. Students not only have the chance to attend sessions and participate in workshops, but can also lead and facilitate their own sessions with respect to any aspect of the theme. My sophomore year I was a part of a Power and Privilege panel that talked about Greek life at Whitman and the purpose it serves on our campus. Not only did I get to share my opinions of Greek life, but I got to hear what others had to say and broadened my understanding of the role of institutions such as the Greek system at Whitman. I’ve come to realize that the Power and Privilege Symposium is important because it demonstrates one of the ways that students can be engaged outside of the classroom and apply themselves in ways that develop leadership and other personal values.
But what happens beyond the symposium? In addition to this one day full of sessions and discussions, there are a plethora of clubs and organizations that are centered on social and political justice where students can continue to develop their skills and understanding of many issues and topics. Some of these clubs include: Club Latinx that focuses on Latinx culture and puts on events such as Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), Whitman African Student Association (WASA) that explores different African cultures and customs and every year celebrates different African cultures at the Taste of Africa event open to the community. Additionally there is the Border as Method club that delves into immigration issues and policies through education and different events. In addition to the many clubs and organizations, every Friday at noon is the “Continuing the Conversation” discussion where students, staff, and faculty are invited to engage in conversations on important topics such as racism at Whitman and the LGBTQ+ identity. These are just a few examples of how Whitman fosters a space where students can learn not only from textbooks and political theory, but from their everyday experiences, and encourages engagement and active participation that is enriching and important to the Whitman experience.