Criticism and a Christian institution: the unique opportunity for growth

This final editorial is a bit unconventional, but as I start counting down the days before I graduate and hand off the title and responsibilities of my job to someone else, I wanted to take the time to reflect on two topics that have been raised at various points during the last four years: criticism and the role of a student publication at a private institution. The format has changed, but the goal of The Whitworthian has remained relatively the same over the course of its existence: to seek out information and tell the truth. It is inevitable that a student publication receives flak over what is published; ultimately it is why the editor-in-chief position exists — to act as a sounding board for criticism from our audience. As a general rule of thumb, a paper that does not create conversation is a paper that is selling itself short and ultimately not doing its job. Yes, we have received criticism this year, but we have also facilitated conversation through our content, and for that, I am grateful. At no point has our job been to please everyone on this campus, and at no point was that our goal this year. Instead, we did what we knew how to do best: tell the stories of those in this community, even if those stories and those beliefs went against the majority.

Contrary to popular belief, a student publication is not necessarily the soap box of student government or the school it is associated with, even if some would wish that to be true. With that said, this idea is dependent largely on how much freedom student publications are given by upper administration and the Board of Trustees.

I recently had a conversation with another editor at a small private college in Illinois. Similar in many ways to Whitworth, the structure of this particular paper reflected an administration and Board that was relatively leery of placing the power in the hands of a student group. The Board of Trustees and the President’s Cabinet played a significant role in anything from deciding what is published to how the editor-in-chief is selected. Very little was not monitored by upper administration. Only in the last several months did the paper get permission to have a website where they were allowed to post stories dubbed the best of the week. When I started talking about the climate here at Whitworth, she was surprised to hear that I didn’t share the same outside pressures, nor did I have to rely on a voluntary team of staff writers with very little incentive to treat their role as a job.

This conversation reminded me that Whitworth is a unique place. Although the paper receives criticism, I am grateful that we are largely supported by faculty, staff and administration who are free to voice their concerns about what we publish, but leave editorial discretion up to us.

It is a foreign concept to many private institutions in this country, but one that has made me proud to call myself a Whitworth student and honored to be a part of this publication. This freedom has allowed us to strive for a level of success and professionalism that is not always found at other collegiate publications. Yes, we make mistakes — those are inevitable, but above all else we are given the opportunity to learn from those mistakes and turn it into an opportunity for growth.

Honor God, follow Christ, serve humanity: the mantra I have heard repeated countless times by others. I can say that my time over the last four years spent working in various roles on this publication, from copy editor to editor-in-chief, have prepared me to do just that. Story by Jessica Valencia Editor-in-chief

Contact Jessica Valencia at jvalencia12@my.whitworth.edu.

Student Life caters to Whitworth ideal

Whitworth prides itself on the close-knit community that has been established through Student Life. The idea of community here is a strong selling point for most. Student Life works hard every year to ensure that residents have the best possible experience. Resident Assistants are given extensive training and taught how to handle most situations to best meet the needs of residents. The year begins with Traditiation, which is in place to build community within the first few nights on campus. The Traditiation experience sticks with people and, in some cases, defines their college experience. That time is for making long-lasting friendships, feeling comfortable on a foreign campus and starting a new chapter of life. Whitworth’s student life has put together a creative orientation experience.

There are also seminars for students to engage in during the first week on campus. Seminars such as “I am from...” or “Valuing a Diverse Community” serve the purpose of introducing students to a new culture. While these are wonderful seminars for information, they don’t function well in allowing students to create relationships with others.

These are often seminars to be attended with parents and there is little communication between students and leadership.

“Hopefully there are places for everyone to plug in and feel connected,” said Kathy Storm, vice president of Student Life.

However, these experiences can, at times, focus on a specific type of student who is outgoing and generally speaking, an extrovert.

Some students are uncomfortable with participating in Traditiation activities. Being with that many people doing activities meant to quickly create bonds can be overwhelming, yet there aren’t many attractive alternatives. If students do not join in, they risk not being plugged in right away or not making these crucial, initial friendships.

“We did try one year to offer an opportunity for students to meet and have coffee with faculty members in lieu of traditiation, but no one showed,” Storm said.

While this was a good move by Student Life, the students who are likely to be uncomfortable with Traditiation are also likely to be uncomfortable with meeting faculty in a one-on-one setting so early in the year.

This board understands that appealing to the needs of everyone is impossible. However, we also believe that more could be done to cater to a wide range of needs.

One possible alternative is engaging students more with RAs on a personal level during the orientation season. Typically, four to six RAs are in charge of Traditiation in each dorm community. If the resident assistants who were not in charge initiated outside events for students who were uncomfortable with Traditiation, more students could be effectively assimilated into the community. More could also be done during orientation in the individual halls, with the exception of hall meetings, to get students acquainted with their RA and neighbors.

More personal interaction within the first few days could be beneficial for comfortability. Whitworth prides itself on wonderful community and although traditiation is beneficial for most, community also begins with one-one-one relationships for some.

 

Editorials in the “In the Loop” section reflect the majority opinion of the editorial board, which is made up of five editors.

 

In the Loop April 4

Recently, Whitworth’s campus has experienced a profuse amount of vandalism. Crimes ranging from the stealing of the gold letters at Whitworth’s entrances to the Mr. T graffiti that has become prominent have greatly affected the community. Not only has property been defaced, charges have been incurred by the university as the perpetrators of the crimes have yet to be caught.

This board would like to point out that those actions do not align with the prestigious nature of the institution or the values held by the university as a whole. As part of the Whitworth community, we have often prided ourselves on the beauty of our campus. Yet over the past several months, beit considered a practical joke, a way to bond with a roommate or a rite of passage, the thefts and vandalism incidents have brought embarrassment. This board would like students to understand those incidents have surpassed the point of being funny, if they ever were. At this point, the price of replacement and repair has risen insurmountably.

“The university has incurred over $10,000 in sign repair costs plus labor and considerable ‘opportunity’ costs associated with attention to this issue to the detriment of other needs on campus,” said Brian Benzel, vice president for Finance and Administration.

This cost is a result of theft alone and does not reflect the destruction of the main entrance sign at the end of last year.

Benzel goes on further to say the damage is considered among the most severe experienced by the university in recent years.

As the prevalence of theft continues, the university plans to implement enhanced video surveillance to monitor activity around the sign. Benzel said those enhancements would cost the school upwards of $25,000 to provide.

Although a lofty price tag, this board recognizes that those involved in the decision making around the sign are left with very few other options. Whitworth has been a unique place in that it is an institution that places value on truth, honesty and responsibility. This board argues that the actions of those involved with the theft are in direct violation of the trust bestowed upon us.

That money could be used to update the campus and on general equipment maintenance. Yet there is now a need elsewhere, a need that should not be present in the first place if those in this community would respect the property around us.

This board challenges those in the Whitworth community to stand up and fight back against such acts of theft and vandalism. Members of the Whitworth community have raised standards of respect to neighbors in Spokane and promoted a peaceful atmosphere on campus before. However, such peace cannot continue without the integrity and responsibility that the Whitworth community has been entrusted with.

The Whitworth community, as well as the surrounding neighborhoods, must remember a basic principle that has been upheld among communities throughout the world and throughout all time: do not do unto others that you would not want done unto you. That basic principle of respect and reciprocity benefits everyone and should not be passed over so easily.

The thought of spending $25,000 on security updates and cameras is painful, but given the actions of a few, the entire campus is forced to bear the brunt of the cost.

 

Editorials in the “In the Loop” section reflect the majority opinion of the editorial board, which is made up of five editors.

 

Ineffective top-down communication the most evident issue with honors program

The goal of this board and editorial isn’t to criticize the honors program — we want that to be clear to our readers. Instead, what we would like to bring to the attention of those involved in the planning and implementation of this program is the frustration felt by the student body relating to a general lack of communication. We applaud faculty and staff in charge of the honors program for working with ASWU to put together a forum Thursday night to answer questions raised by students. Yet this board feels that could have been executed more effectively. Emails informing the student body about the forum were not sent out to students until Tuesday, only two days before the forum took place. Upper administration was made aware of student concerns about the program Wednesday, Feb. 29 during an ASWU meeting and the forum was tentatively planned by Thursday, March 1. This board is concerned about why information was not disseminated sooner.

Students tend to be apathetic; this board recognizes that, but that should not be an excuse for a lack of effort to communicate. Given the impact this program has not only on academic life, but also on residence life, measures should have been taken to ensure students were informed. Although ASWU is in place to act as a pathway of communication between upper administration and the student body and vice versa, this lack of communication does not solely fall on the shoulders of ASWU. It is the opinion of this board that information was not properly given to the ASWU assembly pertaining to details related to the honors program. ASWU meeting minutes show the honors program was discussed in little detail Oct. 26, by President Beck Taylor in response to a question posed by an assembly member. According to the minutes, the first detailed discussion did not take place until Feb. 29, when Taylor returned per the request of student body president Melinda Leavitt.

We recognize it is a nicety and not necessarily a requirement to discuss topics that affect students such as this with student leaders, but when the mode of communication lies heavily with ASWU then it becomes imperative that the assembly know almost as much as faculty and staff if they are to disseminate accurate information. This board believes this method of communicating with students could have been executed more effectively and ways to ensure better communication between ASWU and upper administration should be examined by faculty and staff. The ASWU executive team should also do what it can to remain proactive in the future on issues that affect students. With all of this said, the honors forum held Thursday was a step in the right direction, but should in no way be looked at as the final step. Conversation held at the forum should be looked at as the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, and this kind of dialogue should continue even into next year. If the goal of this program is to shape and mold it as time progresses, faculty and staff in charge of the program need to recognize students will want to continue the discussion as these changes are implemented.

If faculty and staff recognized a need for a program such as this, then we applaud them for acting in a way that filled that need. With that said, Whitworth has been a place that has prided itself on community and unfortunately not including students in the discussion of the honors program creates a stark dichotomy between administration and students. This gap should lessen, not grow, and efforts by faculty and staff involved not only in the honors program, but also other areas of academia and student life should continue in urging student involvement and participation. It is in the university’s best interest if ASWU, administration and other leadership take time to recognize this breakdown in communication and concentrate their efforts on making sure a situation like this does not happen again.

Editorials in the "In the Loop" section reflect the majority of the opinion of the editorial board, which is made up of five editors.

Whitworth needs to take clear stance on homosexuality regarding campus rule

Whitworth University prides itself on the fact that it is a liberal arts institution that allows students to have leeway in their actions, while still standing on Christian morals and beliefs. However, Whitworth’s leaders have failed to take a stance on an important, controversial issue that is applicable to campus: the debate on homosexuality.

With the passing of the same-sex marriage bill in Washington, and Whitworth’s mission to love everyone, you would think Whitworth’s leaders would have taken a clear supportive or unsupportive stance on homosexuality.

In an email from Rhosetta Rhodes on behalf of Beck Taylor, she states: “Whitworth does not take an institutional position on this issue in light of the fact that thoughtful Christians hold differing opinions, and that diversity of opinion extends to members of the Whitworth community, including students, staff, faculty, and trustees.”

Important issues are always controversial and there are always differences of opinion. The claim that there is a diversity of opinion is an invalid reason for Whitworth’s neutrality.

We are specifically concerned with how their views would relate to the ‘Big 3’ rule concerning cohabitation. Whitworth’s student handbook states that it believes that “the genital sexual relationship is to be understood and experienced within the context of...a lifelong commitment known as marriage. ...this union is to be understood as a committed relationship between one man and one woman (heterosexual monogamy).”

This editorial board wants to challenge the administration to take a clear stance on homosexuality, as there are blurred lines between what is and isn’t acceptable regarding rules such as cohabitation. Although Whitworth accepts everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation, this board feels that it would be beneficial for the university to state its stance in order to facilitate conversation about this debate.

Editorials in the “In the Loop” section reflect the majority opinion of the editorial board, which is made up of five editors.

 

Security fails to inform Whitworth students about triple-homicide suspect

Friday, Feb. 10, three bodies were found on the 4000 block of north Whitehouse St., which is located near the vicinity of Northtown Mall. Police believed it to be a homicide and searched the north Spokane area that night for the suspect, Dustin Gilman. Meanwhile, Whitworth students started their weekend as usual. Unknown to them, there was a man-hunt being conducted in the area surrounding campus.

Many students noticed helicopters searching around North Spokane, but had to seek out information on their own. Campus security did not inform students of the potential danger.

This board thinks security should have communicated the circumstances to the student body, either through an email or through the emergency response system already in place.

With that in mind, this board also recognizes the importance of wanting to keep the campus calm, but we also would like to reiterate the severity of the crime within the proximity of the school.

It was later discovered that the man being searched for was a three-time convicted felon. However, security did not deem it necessary to warn students against potential danger.

Some students milled around outside, which could have potentially been harmful, due to a lack of any communication from campus security.

According to a police response to the murders, Gilman posed a “grave risk to the public and any officer who encountered him.”

Although that was unknown at the time of the search, Whitworth security deemed any campus-wide notification to be unmerited.

“Police notified us of the incident and the suspect vehicle information, but again had no information to indicate that he was headed towards Whitworth,” Security Supervisor Mark McFall said. “Our officers patrolled the campus thoroughly in search of the suspect vehicle, but with negative results.”

Again, this board would like to assert that, regardless, knowing the area around campus was being searched for a triple-homicide suspect, the Whitworth student body should have been warned.

The Spokane police notified Whitworth security of the incident, and although no threat was believed to be posed to students, why wouldn’t security at least send a message ensuring that campus was safe despite the helicopter and police cars surrounding Whitworth?

Many students, some members of this board included, said they felt uneasy and unsafe because of the lack of communication from security. Their unsettled feeling could have easily been avoided had security sent the student body a quick message.

In our opinion, the incident should have been evaluated more effectively since there could have been potential danger if the gunman had been on Whitworth’s campus. Although security thoroughly searched campus, students should have been warned to be cautious.

The Wednesday following the incident, Whitworth students were notified of an emergency notification test via email. We hope this means security will be prepared to better inform students, with the tools in place, if this type of incident should occur again.

This board urges Whitworth University to take cautious measures against potentially dangerous situations, as we would rather err on the side of caution.

Editorials in the “In the Loop” section reflect the majority opinion of the editorial board, which is made up of five editors.

Ten states exempt from No Child Left Behind now trying new approaches

A week ago, 10 states found themselves in an interesting situation: exempt from No Child Left Behind. Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Tennessee are the first states to no longer be bound by the No Child Left Behind restraints, and could soon be joined by many other states.

The main goal of NCLB is for all children to be proficient in math and science by 2014, but the United States is far from reaching its goal. In a White House address, President Obama said in exchange for educational flexibility, those 10 states have promised to raise standards and work to close the achievement gap using different approaches.

“No Child Left Behind forces teachers to teach for a test,” said junior Macy Olivas, Students For Education Reform Whitworth president. “It does not leave room to accommodate for students with disabilities and those that come from disadvantaged backgrounds.”

If handled correctly, those states have the potential to benefit the U.S. education system beyond what NCLB could allow. Instead of standardized testing, those states have gained the ability to reform their state education.

As part of a college community, this board would like to reiterate the importance of paying attention to what plays out in the coming months, or even years, with those states that were granted an exemption. The performance of students coming out of these states could have an interesting effect on places like Whitworth. If the goal of an NCLB exemption is to create higher standards than those already in place, then in theory the caliber of students coming from said states should be higher than those states following NCLB guidelines. That is, of course, if the goals of those states are actually implemented effectively.

“We want to set high standards for students, but also have to think critically of ways that we effectively help them reach those learning goals,” Olivas said. “Teaching is a profession that is more than just about lesson planning and tests. Teachers are responsible for helping mold our future leaders. Data is important, but we have to construct policy that best support teachers so that they can best support students from all backgrounds.”

Supporting students from all backgrounds is a major concern, but changing the program will only work if it will be replaced with more successful programs.

“No Child Left Behind was better than nothing,” said Marissa Ranno, junior education major and SFER communications director. “I’m curious to see what the new programs will be, but I’ll be critical of them. Reorganizing and changing the way things are will hurt the system before it helps it. I hope that whatever the states implement in its place will be worth it — let’s not throw it out just to throw it out.”

The important thing for those states to figure out is how to support children from every angle. Children learn at different paces with different instruments.

According to the Huffington Post, while some legislators are celebrating Obama’s decision, others are wondering if it will be harder to ensure that states are helping minority and disadvantaged students.

Without teachers being forced to “teach for a test,” there may be no incentive for them to teach effectively and to make sure all students understand material, regardless of their circumstances.

Editorials in the “In the Loop” section reflect the majority opinion of the editorial board, which is made up of five editors.