Selection of senior speakers controversial

Questions are being raised about whether the commencement speaker selection process was redone to right a procedural irregularity or to keep a transgender person off the stage. “The committee took many factors into consideration,” said Richard Mandeville, vice president of Student Life. “No one was removed from consideration by the committee based on their sexual identity.”

However, Mandeville refused to disclose what criteria was used to choose the commencement speakers  because the inner workings of the committee are confidential, he said.

The end result is a transgender student is no longer the choice to speak at commencement.

During the original speaker selection in April, finalists were told via email they would present their proposed speeches to a panel of peers. However, when they arrived, they instead found a panel of one, Ashton Lupton, senior class coordinator.

“I asked four or five people to participate in the process who replied back with ‘maybes’ but ultimately everyone was busy and I was told I had to choose the speakers before Spring Break,” Lupton said.

Soon after hearing each finalist’s speech, Lupton consulted with assistant dean of students Dayna Coleman and student activities graduate assistant Rachel McKay.

Following Whitworth tradition, Lupton chose a female and a male to speak at commencement: Sarah Streyder and Ashton Skinner, a transgender male who has declined to comment in this article.

During spring break, President Beck Taylor received complaints from several members of the Whitworth community, including students who had wanted the chance to speak at commencement, Taylor said. They felt the selection process was unfair because it didn’t follow the original plan calling for a panel of peers.

They had “legitimate grounds to be disappointed,” said Taylor, who asked Mandeville to intervene if necessary to ensure a fair process.

Days later, Streyder and Skinner each received an email from Mandeville, saying the invitation to speak at commencement was rescinded.

This is the first time in at least five years the administration has intervened in the commencement speaker selection process. Last year there was also controversy about the selection process. Challenges were made in regard to the fairness of allowing people to vote multiple times.

“I was very sad because, while I got to reapply, there was this sneaking concern that whoever got the selection process reversed must not have been happy with those of us who got picked, so, we are less likely to get picked the second time around,” Streyder said about this year’s process.

The week immediately following spring break, Mandeville appointed a committee to re-select commencement speakers. The committee members included not only student peers as previously promised by Lupton but faculty and staff members as well.

The committee consisted of Vice president of Student Life Richard Mandeville; two students, senior class coordinator Ashton Lupton and senior Phillip Moore; two staff members, chief of staff Rosetta Rhodes and campus pastor Mindy Smith; and two faculty members: history professor Dale Soden and communications professor and speech and debate team coach Mike Ingram.

As a result of the new selection process, Streyder was re-selected as the female speaker but Ashton Skinner was replaced as the male speaker by Sam Director.

Some seniors such as Alma Aguilar have challenged the necessity and fairness of the second selection process.  Aguilar sent a letter to Mandeville contesting the way the selection process had been executed.

“I think from the bottom of my heart that if Ashton [Skinner] wasn’t a transgender male there wouldn’t have been an uproar about needing a panel number two,” Aguilar said.

Streyder also wrote a letter to the committee requesting that Ashton Skinner replace her as a commencement speaker. She said she believed that would be a more just outcome than what had been decided.

Mandeville responded that the selection of commencement speakers was the role of the committee and by giving her spot to Skinner she would be selecting one of the speakers.

Seniors have also questioned whether Skinner’s transgender identity played a role in the selection of commencement speakers.

“We are not proposing that there was discrimination done—we can’t prove that, unfortunately, but if there is any possibility or doubt that is what happened we would like to see some action being taken,” Aguilar said.


Hayley O’Brien

Staff Writer

Contact Hayley O’Brien at

Launching Social Finance Club

Whitworth has launched a new program called the Social Finance Club (SFC) with a $2,000 grant provided by the Whitworth 2021 Strategic Initiatives Fund to the Whitworth Rural Microfinance Initiate. Although located within the School of Business, the SFC is a campus-wide initiative that will provide financial support to projects and organizations both locally and worldwide.

At first glance, the SFC may appear to function much the same as the already existing School of Business Investment Club; however, the Investment Club is limited in what it can invest in.

“The School of Business Investment Club cannot invest in small-scale privately held organizations, they can only invest in publicly traded stocks, whereas the Social Finance Club can invest in private entrepreneurial projects,” said Vange Ocasio, an assistant professor of economics at Whitworth.

For this year, the main focus of the club will be to utilize Kiva, a non-profit organization that works with microfinance institutions across the globe to provide loan opportunities to people who do not have access to traditional banking systems.

According to the Kiva website, the organization has lent over $700 million since founded in 2005 and has a repayment rate of 98.72 percent.

Ocasio hopes the SFC will expose students to other parts of the world, she said. Through lending with Kiva, the students will learn about the country is going to as well as the individual. For example, some of her students are doing a research paper on a specific country and borrower of their choice.

Because the club is still relatively new, it will use the already established organization of Kiva. However, once the club gains more financial support, the members hope to expand.

“In the beginning, the club will focus on investing abroad,” said David Sloan, a visiting assistant professor in the School of Business. “The goal later on is to have the students create socially minded projects that they can implement here in Spokane.”

The newly appointed president of the SFC Joel Silvius also voiced his intention of expanding the club by focusing on issues closer to home.

“Next year, we will explore ways for the club to invest locally,” Silvius said. “We will look into what kind of development Spokane needs and how Whitworth can help.”

Silvius’ duties as president are still tentative, but he imagines he will work closely with Ocasio and Sloan on projects including planning events to build the investment fund and analyzing lending practices and organizations, he said.

The SFC is a not-for-profit club, but profit can be measured in other ways besides monetarily.

“Percentage and dollars is how profit is normally calculated, but the social impact is how you measure your profit,” Sloan said. “It’s a good dream and aligns with Whitworth’s mission. The idea I like about the Social Finance Club is that it can destigmatize the negative connotations people have with business because there is a shadow and light side to any kind of tool that you use in the world, and this program is the light side of business.”


Lee Morgan

Staff Writer

Contact Lee Morgan at

Whitworth alumna experiences Baltimore protests

Riots make for great television. Freddie Gray’s death on April 19 sparked weeks of peaceful demonstration, protests and outcry across Baltimore. But after his funeral on Monday, April 27, a confrontation between a large group of young people and city police, which ended in over 200 arrests, caught the attention of the world media; “thugs” looted and burned a CVS and several stores in west Baltimore and other communities, according to both the mayor and the country’s president.

“Before anyone classifies us as thugs, well this is what happens when youth are always placed on the back burner,” said Jazmine Brooks, who graduated from a West Baltimore high school in 2012. “The riots are not acceptable, when no one wants to help create a solution to issues that run back decades. You can’t be too surprised.”

Outside of Baltimore, it might be logical to watch this week’s coverage and assume residents are only expressing their anger through violence. The past week has been filled with peaceful marches, some organized and led entirely by youth, and neighborhoods across the city are cleaning up and coming together in support.  But many news outlets still seem to be watching and waiting for the next brick to fly at an officer or through a corner store window.

As residents, community leaders and elected officials work for peace, Baltimore City youth are raising their own voices not just for justice, but for the real Baltimore to surface in the midst of the television glare.

“Baltimore is like a diamond in the rough, but with both parts. We’ve got beautiful parts but also some really tough problems,” 17-year-old Denis Bauerschmidt Sweeney said, who has been active in the peaceful protests all week. “People turn on television and say ‘Oh, no, that city is on fire and there are riots in the street’, and can’t see past that to the good things.”

Sweeney said he thinks that although protests had the potential for small victories, the violence of a small group is overshadowing the larger positive movement.

“We had probably 10,000 people marching Saturday [April 25], but the media treated us like a footnote,” Sweeney said.

Travoye Joyner, age 16, said he asked his mom if he could participate in the peaceful protests last week. But because of the potential clash with police, his mother turned him down and he abided by her decision. Joyner said his mom felt he would stand out to police as more potential trouble than white protesters because he is African American.

“There’s a difference between wanting to protest and wanting to destroy, but those kids were just in a pressure cooker,” Joyner said. “(Gray’s) killing just made them explode but there are a lot of other issues going on.”

The mayor declared a state of emergency, which came with an almost week-long 10 p.m. curfew and 4,000 National Guard troops. (Note: As I sat with students for this interview, a large National Guard vehicle drove down the street and we encountered two other guards on foot.)

On Friday, after the announcement that Gray’s death had been ruled a homicide and the Maryland State Attorney filed charges against six police officers, Joyner said he realized the event would stand out in his mind as the exception to his other experiences with police.

“I didn’t think the system would change because it’s always been this way,” Joyner said. “It’s sad that this will stay in my mind as breaking a pattern of injustice. It’s progress, but I shouldn’t have to remember specific isolated instances of justice.”

The hashtag #therealBaltimore circulated on social media all week as well, though, from teachers and community members trying to emphasize the peaceful, cooperative mindset of the city. While some pictures focused on classrooms of youth engaged in science labs or food drives, others showed people’s positive interactions with law enforcement, including casual conversations or deliveries of food and water to both city police officers and the National Guard.

Brennan Colson, 18, lives in Halethorpe, Maryland, and commutes into the city to attend a pre-professional performing arts school each day. He tries to educate himself about police interactions and his rights, but said because he is white, he will not have to interact with them as much as his black classmates, he said.

But what happened in Baltimore isn’t simply a matter of individual racism; three of the six officers involved are African American, and the city’s mayor, police chief, and state attorney are all black.

“People like to use black politicians as an excuse and say, ‘Well we have a black president so how could there still be discrimination?’ But we still see the problems with prejudice happening,” Colson said.

Colson, Sweeney and Joyner all said the protests are in response to Gray’s death, but also represent a call for change to several problems facing the city, including the education system. Joyner said he was lucky to be in an honors track at his middle school in west Baltimore, but his classmates identified as less motivated were not given the same chances to learn. Sweeney also pointed to their current high school as an outlier in an otherwise struggling school system.

Sweeney said that as people in other parts of the country watch the coverage of Baltimore, he wants them to realize that they should get involved in conversations and activism in their own communities.

“Not taking a side in a situation of oppression is supporting the oppressor,” Sweeney said.

As the justice system moves forward with potential trials for officers, the city has a long road ahead with possible conflicts and continued protests. But Sweeney and Joyner both said they represent their city with pride.

“Baltimore will come back from this strong,” Joyner said. “And hopefully we will be better for it in the long run.”


Joy Bacon

Guest Writer

Joy Bacon graduated from Whitworth in 2009 with degrees in Journalism and English and holds a Masters of Arts in Teaching from Johns Hopkins University. She is a high school English teacher in Baltimore City. She interviewed current and former students for this commentary piece.

Professor becomes associate dean of College of Arts and Sciences

John Pell, an assistant professor of English at Whitworth, will assume the duties of associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences effective July 1 of this year. The Whitworth College of Arts and Sciences was established in 2012 and its dean, Noelle Wiersma, has been operating without an associate dean since it was created.

“When the College of Arts and Sciences was first established, the plan initially was to have an associate dean to help run things; but there was wisdom in waiting to see what it was that the dean actually needed an associate dean to do,” associate provost of instruction Randy Michaelis said.

The exact roles of the associate dean have not been finalized, but tentatively, Pell will be assisting in planning around enrollment, needs analysis and scheduling, with specific attention to general education courses. He will analyze multiple factors, including admissions and assessments, and will make recommendations to dean Wiersma based on his findings.

Professor Vic Bobb discussed his approval to the appointment of John Pell as the associate dean.

“I believe one of the reasons John has been chosen is because he is so effective with the University Writing Program,” Bobb said. “He is good at it, and has brought energy and ideas to the job. I’m assuming that it is his performance there that has led them to say he is an excellent choice because he is well organized and great at getting things done.”

In a press release on Pirate Port, dean Wiersma also expressed her confidence in Pell.

Wiersma is deeply encouraged by the demonstrated gifts and promise John brings to this position, she said. Pell’s research, thoughtfulness and persuasive influence is well illustrated in his recent general education forum presentation, and he emphasizes how the plans for liberal education and any related gen ed revision must begin with a clear sense of who we currently are.

In an e-mail interview, Pell described his research and how he hopes to apply it to his newly appointed position.

“My dissertation and subsequent research focuses on how the types of orientations we have toward others determines our ability to effectively collaborate in order to solve shared problems,” Pell said. “In other words, our views toward another person, even prior to our interactions with them, says a lot about how we will work together. In my work, empathy is the term I use to describe an openness toward others, a position that makes collaboration possible.”

Pell’s hope is that by being open to sharing and collaborating with others, we might be able to solve problems in ways that does justice to the needs of all of those involved, he said.

“This, it seems to me, is one of the central challenges to the healthy growth and maintenance of any large institution--holding others in high regard and engaging with their ideas and concerns with a collaborative spirit,” he said.

In congruence with Pell’s research, Michaelis believes collaboration to be a strong point in his character.

“John’s leadership style is collaborative. The position requires a lot of collaboration and John has already shown that ability,” Michaelis said.


Lee Morgan

Staff Writer

Contact Lee Morgan at

Students challenged to use gender-neutral bathrooms

Harper Lee once wrote, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” This week, senior Cultural Diversity Advocate Sarah Streyder is taking a page from Lee’s book and challenging the Whitworth community to live in the bladder of someone who feels uncomfortable using a gendered restroom. The bathroom challenge is an event urging students to only use gender neutral bathrooms Monday, April 20 through Sunday, April 26 when urinating or defecating.

“The primary purpose is to encourage students to cultivate genuine empathy for a demographic here on campus.”

There are plenty of students who do not feel comfortable using gendered bathrooms on campus, Streyder said.

“If they are focusing on holding their bladder in class because they don't have that option [to use a restroom they are comfortable in], they aren't going to be filling their greatest potential nor are they going to feel welcome in our buildings,” Streyder said.

Rainier Emerick | Graphic Artist

Currently, 13 out of 37 of the buildings on campus have at least one gender-neutral bathroom Streyder said.

Senior Ashton Skinner and Dr. Richard Mandeville, vice president for student life, are planning to increase the percent of single stall, locking, gender neutral restrooms on campus to 51 percent next fall and the bathroom challenge is meant to start creating awareness of these changes, Streyder said.

The challenge will allow participants to realize the scarcity of gender-neutral bathrooms and provoke students to find out where gender-neutral bathrooms will be added on campus next year, Streyder said.

For students who want to participate in the challenge there are no sign up lists or incentives. The challenge is meant to be voluntary and personal, Streyder said.

Including prizes or incentives for the challenge would make the experience into a game and cheapen the experiences had by students who deal with these issues every day, Streyder said.

“This is meant to be something for the earnest of heart,” she said. “Not for the people who are trying to be popular.”


Hayley O’Brien

Staff Writer

Contact Hayley O’Brien at

Student symposium lecture: Call for Sex Education Reform

On April 22 senior Megan Hinzdel urged Whitworth students and church communities to actively support comprehensive sex education during the last student symposium lecture of the year. Today’s church culture, where sex is not openly discussed, has created two issues: a focus on female purity and abstinence only education, Hinzdel said.

The emphasis on female purity is evident by the prevalence of purity balls and purity rings in American culture Hinzdel said in her lecture. In both instances a daughter pledges her virginity to her father until marriage.

“This places such a heavy burden on the female alone, although  in the Bible it is really the male and the female that are supposed to stay pure until marriage,” Hinzdel said. “Our society has placed the burden on the female.”

Putting the burden to stay pure on girls alone is problematic because we live in a culture where rape exists, Hinzdel said.

Sixty-eight percent of sexual assaults are unreported and the top two reasons females don’t report rape is because of self doubt, shame and embarrassment, Hinzdel said.

“I truly think this is because our society places the burden on females to stay pure,” Hinzdel said.

In addition to the emphasis on female purity abstinence only education is an issue that has arisen from the lack of conversation about sex in churches, Hinzdel said.

A study done by the House of Representatives in 2004 found that of the 13 commonly used curriculum in abstinence only education only two curricula were scientifically accurate, Hinzdel said. Some of the false claims taught include that condoms fail 31 percent of the time, HIV can be spread through sweat and tears and a person can get pregnant by touching another’s genitals.

In her lecture, Hinzdel went on to correlate the absence of comprehensive sex education in a state to higher rates of teen sexual activity, pregnancy and HIV.

“Obviously, I can't change the church's stance on sexual purity, nor do I want to, but I think what we can do is make sure those inside and outside of the church community are educated so they feel they can make safe, informed and logical decisions about sex,” Hinzdel said.

The best way to encourage people to make the informed decisions and stop society’s emphasis on female purity  is to provide students comprehensive sex education, Hinzdel said.

Sophomore Jenna Hulse attend Hinzdel’s lecture.

“I think education, especially sex education, is important to empower people to make their own decisions about their body and values,” Hulse said.

According to the Advocates for Youth website, comprehensive sex education is education that “teaches about abstinence as the best method for avoiding STDs and unintended pregnancy, but also teaches about condoms and contraception to reduce the risk of unintended pregnancy and of infection with STDs, including HIV. It also teaches interpersonal and communication skills and helps young people explore their own values, goals, and options.”

“I really like that last part because I feel like it's something Whitworth also values,” Hinzdel said. “When we educate each other on our beliefs and our ethics and our values we are more informed to create our own worldviews and to act upon our own ethics and I hope that we can give that privilege to teenagers as well.”


Hayley O’Brien

Staff Writer

Contact Hayley O’Brien at

Whitworth Student Pro-Life Club brings attention to number of abortions occuring at Planned Parenthood

An array of small pink crosses that covered the lawn outside the library were sure to grab attention from across campus, and that is just what the Planned Parenthood Project was intended to do. Last Tuesday the Planned Parenthood Project was brought to Whitworth by the Student Pro-Life club. Bright pink banners were set up along the sidewalk, each one showing statistics from Planned Parenthood’s 2011 annual report. The 915 crosses were a visual display representative of the 915 abortions that happen everyday at Planned Parenthood, according to the 2011 annual report.

“I didn’t know what to think, it was all very shocking,” freshman Andrew Goodwin said. “I didn’t see an announcement about it so I was very surprised.”

Northwest Regional Coordinator, Lisa Atkins, is based out of Seattle and travels throughout Wash., Idaho, Ore., Mont. and Ark. to train and equip pro-life student groups throughout the Region. Lisa is currently on tour with the Planned Parenthood Project display. Students For Life of America has also created the “We Care” Tour, which addresses the question of rape, and the “What Has Roe Done For Us” Tour, which encourages discussion of the Roe v. Wade decision. “

“We are here to encourage dialogue about who Planned Parenthood is as a business, and that their agenda is abortion,” Atkins said

Whitworth’s own Pro-Life club was started two years ago by alumni Louisa Wilkinson and since then has had three different club presidents. Junior Michael Dumais is the Current Club President of Whitworth Students for Life.

Dumais has been directly involved in the pro-life movement since a young age along with his family. He points out that his beliefs have not changed since then, but have rather been refined, he said

“Our club is centered around raising awareness and making colleges more life-centered,” Dumais said. “We want people to talk about the issue and talk about it in an intellectual manner, whether pro-life or not.”

Students for Life of America is not religiously affiliated because it is a secular organization. The pro-life movement has supporters from a wide range of belief systems and is not necessarily Christian-affiliated.

“This is a human rights issue, not a religious or political issue,” Atkins said.

“Overall the Planned Parenthood Project went well and started many conversations,” Dumais said. “I had a conversation with two people who were very pro-choice and that was very rewarding. People were very respectful.”

As of now, the Whitworth Students for life club is trying to provide more resources for women and make Whitworth a more “mother friendly” campus, Dumais said. There have been posters advertising “ichoice,” which is a clinical resource for women, and they are also hoping to have baby changing stations in all restrooms on campus.

“We want to open conversation and we think that if we’re silent on this issue, we’re not helping anybody,” Dumais said. “Overall, this was a very positive experience.”

New School of Education employees

“Coincidences mean you’re on the right path,” British author Simon Van Booy once said. For assistant professors Stacy Hill and Doreen Keller, working at the same school districts seem to be their right path. Both Hill and Keller previously worked in the Whitworth School of Education as visiting professors and will resume their roles as educators for the next school year.

Hill has been teaching in varying capacities for the last 17 years, and many of those years have been at Whitworth, she said, but it is not the first time she and Keller have worked together.

“We have been friends since we were both hired to teach English at Mt. Spokane High School in 1998,” Hill said. “After we both left Mt. Spokane, Doreen went to teach at Gonzaga and I came here, but now we are back together at Whitworth as assistant professors.”

Keller also discussed in an e-mail the importance of her friendship with Hill that began in 1998.

“We quickly became good friends along with another colleague who was hired the same year,” Keller said. “When I advise teacher candidates about managing collegial relationships, I always share that they need to find trusted and respected colleagues with whom they can process and confide in. This makes all the difference in getting careers off on the right start. I am thankful every day for my friendship with Stacy.”

Hill was an educator for both the Masters in Teaching Program and the Evening Teacher Certification Program in the past, but next year she will be assigned full time to the ETC.

“I have a soft spot in my heart for adults returning to school,” she said.

The ETC is designed for working adults, Hill said.

“The evening classes are nice because the students can continue to work while in school,” she said. “Most people are juggling full-time jobs and families along with their class schedule.”

Hill will miss the MIT Program, she said, but she is looking forward to continuing at ETC.

Keller acted as a visiting professor this year for MIT and will continue with the program next year.

“The more I continue to learn about the program and the more I am a part of it, the more I am convinced we are as good or better than the best comparable programs in the country,” Keller said. “I am proud to be part of the team that makes it so great.”

Even though both of the professors are going to be assigned to a specific program, there may be possibilities where they can branch out and teach in different settings.

“For the most part, they will remain in their set program, but there is some fluidity in terms of what courses they teach and the terms they teach them in,” said Scott D’Amico, the assistant director of the MIT Program.

A strength that each professor shares is the fact that they have experience teaching in the Spokane School District.

“Stacy and Doreen know the public school climate in this area, so they have numerous connections, which are always beneficial as they help to place our students into the districts,” D’Amico said.

Hill and Keller both said they look forward to continuing their careers at Whitworth, emphasizing the inviting environment Whitworth has to offer.

“I had heard about how great the community was from Stacy and others who are Whitworth alums,” Keller said. “What I found when I arrived was how open and supportive and grace-filled the community is.”


Lee Morgan

Staff Writer

Contact Lee Morgan at

Executive assistant to the president retires

Patricia Green, executive assistant to president Beck Taylor and board secretary, will be retiring on June 30 after working at Whitworth for almost 20 years. “It’s been my family. It’s been my community. It’s been my friends,” Green said, tearing up. “But it’s time.”

Ruth Pells, assistant to the dean of the school of education, will fill the position come June.

Over the past five years, Green’s role of executive assistant to the president and board secretary entailed arranging the president’s schedule, attending weekly cabinet and university council meetings as the minute recorder, coordinating the three Board of Trustee meetings that take place each year and sponsoring events in conjunction with Institutional Advancement department such as the president’s Leadership Forum.

“She’s absolutely been committed to making sure that everything that comes  out of my office—the office of the president—represents the quality that Whitworth aspires to whether that be correspondence or communication,” President Beck Taylor said.

Green also has a reputation in the president’s office as the life of the party.

“They always say that if there’s a party going on, Patti’s in the middle of it,” Green said.

Green has that reputation because she can’t hear people having fun outside her office without joining in, she said. She also has been known to prank her coworkers every so often.

“She’s funny. She loves a party,” Taylor said. “She keeps the mood light in our office and frankly that’s important because we’re dealing with difficult stuff sometimes.”

She is notorious for redecorating co-workers’ offices while they are away at a conference or gone for vacation. The person’s office whom she pranked the most was Tammy Reid’s who at the time was the chief academic officer, Green said.

In one instance Reid came back to a beauty parlor instead of an office.

“I had 50 bottles of fingernail polish, hair dryers, towels and shampoo all over her office, and a big banner that said ‘Welcome to Big Bill’s School of Cosmetology,’” Green said. “I told her we sold the university to an Asian group and they changed the name to that.”

Another time Reid came back to find her office covered in beach towels, lawn chairs and the home of a swimming pool, she said.

“The best one was [when] she came back and I borrowed Bill Robinson’s motor bike and it was in her office with leathers and Hog Tails,” Green said.

Green believes her sense of humor is one of the reasons she was hired in 1996, she said.

When retelling the story of her interview Green said, “One of the faculty on the hiring committee asked me if I had a sense of humor and this is what I said: ‘I am one of the funniest people I know.’ And he laughed and I asked if he had a sense of humor and everybody laughed.”

Another reason Green landed the job may have been due to her experience working at Seattle Pacific University and the other administrative positions she worked at while her husband worked as a pastor, she said.

“I was a person that wanted to try different things,” Green said.  “So my husband would take a new church and I would say ‘I think I’m going to go to work and I want to work at a law firm’ and pretty soon I’m working in a law firm. And then, ‘No I think I’m going to work in a hospital’ and then pretty soon I’m working for the administrator.”

Her favorite jobs, however, have been in higher education, she said.

“I love working in an environment where people are always learning and there are always wonderful conversations,” Green said. “You can walk into a conversation and feel like you can participate and learn something.”

Green loves working at Whitworth because of the school’s mission to provide a mind and heart education, she said.

“I love that we have this mix of great students who some have faith and some don’t and we’re all on this journey together and we find out how to work that through together,” Green said.

Another reason Green loves Whitworth is the wonderful faculty, she said.

“I have so many friends here. They’ve been dear friends and I’ve had so many connections with them,” she said.

“I’ve tried to, wherever I’ve been, make it feel like it’s my ministry—like I’m contributing something,” Green said. “I don’t want to go to a place and just take from people. I want to contribute- I want to make it better.”

She said she feels she has achieved that goal at Whitworth.

“We’re a very very close team and that’s what’s going to be so hard to leave,” Green said.


Hayley O’Brien

Staff Writer

Contact Hayley O’Brien at

East Hall renamed to honor former board chair

Students, faculty and trustee members gathered on the sunny lawn outside of East Hall on Thursday, April 16 for the last time. It’s not the last time such a community will be in front of the dormitory, but the last time the building will be a gathering place under the name East Hall. The six-year-old dormitory has been renamed Oliver Hall in honor of the former chair of the Board of Trustees and ‘67 Whitworth alumnus Walt Oliver.

“This is a special day in the life of Whitworth University as we honor our good friend, Walt Oliver,” President Beck Taylor said at the ceremony.

The Board of Trustees made the decision earlier this year to dedicate the hall to Oliver. According to Whitworth’s website, Oliver joined Whitworth’s Board of Trustees in 1996 and served as its chair from 2008 to 2014. He stepped down from that position last year.

Renaming the hall in Oliver’s honor took a bit of arm-twisting from Oliver himself, Taylor said.

“This is the spirit of Walt—ever humble and understated, and always generous and encouraging,” Taylor said at the event. “Honoring you [Oliver] in this way will educate students for decades of the man you are.”

Oliver’s story and legacy will begin to be implemented in the script of campus tours as well as the resident orientation.

Current residents of the formerly named East Hall attended the ceremony wearing t-shirts with the dorm’s new name. The current resident director of Oliver Hall, Cris Tietsort used shared his experiences working in the dorm. While it is not a perfect hall, he said, those imperfections give the dorm personality.

“My prayer moving forward is that we honor Walter through the conduct of Oliver Hall,” Tietsort said.

It was under Oliver’s leadership that Taylor became the university’s new president, the Whitworth 2021 plan was launched and the campus received major additions, including Robinson Science Hall, the Hixson Union Building expansion, the University Recreation Center and the Lied Center for the Visual Arts, according to Whitworth’s website,  In fact, the Lied Center’s Bryan Oliver Gallery is one of many gifts made by Oliver and is named in honor of his late son.

Additionally, Oliver and his wife Kay pledged a gift of $3 million to the Campaign for Whitworth in October.

“For your leadership, for your generosity, and for the role model you are, I hereby dedicate this building Oliver Hall,” Taylor said, revealing a replica of the naming plaque.

Oliver closed the ceremony with words of thanks. The crowd laughed as Oliver explained he simply wanted to walk by the building and made Taylor promise not to have a large ceremony.

Because of their own financial struggles, Oliver’s parents were insistent that he would have a better life that they did, he said. The cornerstone that they suggested would make the difference was education, he said.

“Having had that clarity, my prayer is that the students in this hall, in these rooms, on this campus can have the freedom of learning, and that that freedom will give them the clarity to follow Christ, honor God and serve humanity,” Oliver said.


Rebekah Bresee

News Editor

Contact Rebekah Bresee at

Aaron Leetch remembered by faculty and students

The outpouring of emotion during former Whitworth Athletic Director Aaron Leetch’s memorial service illustrated the high level of impact Leetch had on the Whitworth community. According to a campus-wide email from president Beck Taylor, Leetch was killed Monday, April 6, in a plane crash near Normal, Illinois. He was traveling with donors from an ISU event on a private airplane which crashed during landing. There were no survivors.

Leetch had returned to work at Illinois State University after serving as Whitworth’s athletic director from 2011-2013.

With attendants ranging from Whitworth president Beck Taylor to athletic coaches, athletes and professors, there was a palpable feeling of loss among those in attendance Tuesday in the Seeley G. Mudd Chapel who called Leetch their friend.

As Taylor gave his opening remarks and time was allowed for those who wished to say something about their experience with Leetch, women’s basketball coach Helen Higgs and baseball coach Dan Ramsay were keen on relating an anecdote or two of their experience with Leetch.

“There was something I teased Aaron about. It was that, ‘you’re in the Northwest, you don’t need to wear a suit to a football game. This isn’t Texas. It’s not the 1950s,’” Higgs said amid laughter from the audience.

“He loved to win and hated to lose. On multiple occasions, I recall him saying, ‘I will not lose to my 3-year-old daughter in checkers. I love to win,’” Ramsay said to reactions of laughs and nods from audience members.

Higgs, as well as Ramsay and men’s basketball coach Matt Logie, spent most of their speaking time telling the audience not only what made Leetch great, but why they admired him so much.

“He was not afraid of [success]. He made no bones about his desire to compete and to win and as a young coach, also new to this institution, to the Division III landscape, I appreciated that vigor,” Logie said. “I appreciated that passion for victory and I knew that I could go out with this program and achieve victory.”

That competitive attitude was a heavy talking point in both Higgs’ and Ramsay’s remarks about Leetch and each account brought forth a different angle highlighting Leetch’s interaction with the vast array of Whitworth athletics.

“Whether he was pacing the sidelines at football games, hiding behind the scoreboard at basketball games over in the Fieldhouse, or pacing the bleachers and rubbing his bald head at baseball games. There were times I feared he wanted to win more badly than I did myself,” Ramsay said.

However, Higgs chose to highlight how being a man of action and competitiveness influenced Leetch’s outlook on his job as athletic director.

“He was going to get things done. He was going to get out and be active, and one of the places that was most important was getting out and building relationships,” Higgs said. “He didn’t expect people to come to him. He went out and reached out to people.”

Higgs then went on to explain the significance of the McIlroy-Lewis All-Sports trophy and how the fact that Whitworth won the award regularly was a symbol of more than athletic success to Leetch.

“He was proud that we won the All-Sports trophy because it showed we were excellent in a lot of things if not all things,” Higgs said. “I remember him sitting and telling students, ‘You need to be excellent in the classroom. For some of you that’s an ‘A,’ for some of you it might not be an ‘A.’ You need to be excellent in your sport. You need to be the best you can be in your sport. You need to be an excellent roommate...When you’re older, you need to be excellent at your job. You need to be an excellent husband, wife, father, mother. You need to be an excellent friend.’ It was in every part of his life.”

Looking forward, Logie and Ramsay reflected on the impact Leetch has had and continues to have on their lives.

“To this day, he’s the only person I see standing behind the scoreboard. I’ll see him there for each game that I coach from now on,” Logie said.

Logie reflected upon his experience with the frequently heartbreaking way the basketball season ends for him, and how Leetch was always there in success and defeat.

“Aaron may not have had a lot of hair on his head, but he wore many hats. He celebrated with you after victory and he genuinely hurt with you after defeat,” Logie said. “He listened when you needed to talk. He mentored when you needed advice. Most of all, the hat he wore was the hat of a friend.”

On the other hand, Ramsay said he saw Leetch as the epitome of the kind of person he wanted to be.

“I revered Aaron. I wanted to be like him. I wanted to talk the way he talked, speak with the passion and flair he had, wear cowboy boots, workout like he did, love my wife like he loved Lindsay and be a father to my little girl like he was to Avery and Emmersen,” Ramsay said. “He was a man’s man. He exemplified in my eyes what it meant to be a man of courage and faith, a friend, a husband and a father. I’ll be forever grateful that our paths crossed and I was able to call him a friend. Although it was only for a short period of time, Aaron’s impact on my life was unspeakable. He made a difference and created memories that will last a lifetime.”


Connor Soudani

Sports Editor

Contact Connor Soudani at

Forensics team dominates at National Tournaments

The Whitworth Forensics Team placed first at the National Christian College Forensics Association National Tournament at Colorado Christian University March 20-22. The following week, they concluded their season by placing second at the International Public Debate Association National Tournament at Boise State University held March 27-29. Multiple Whitworth students were awarded at each of the tournaments for their performance at the individual tournaments as well as their performance for the entire year.

Senior Sam Director, who has been with the team since it was resurrected in 2011, was named as the top competitor at the Christian nationals as well as awarded National Runner-Up in the tournament at Boise State.

“It was a really good way to end my debate career and I would not have changed anything about how it turned out. As far as my own personal performance, I felt very satisfied,” Director said.

Mike Ingram, the coach of the Forensics Team, expressed his own thoughts about Director’s performance over the last four years.

“Sam has been the heart of the team and has put in more hours than anyone,” Ingram said. “He works hard on his own speeches and debate preparation, but has also helped teammates in practice settings, both formally and informally. In many ways, it has been like having another coach on the team because Sam has performed well and is a sharp student who understands the nuances of speech and sees the strategies in argument.”

Out of the 19 team members, Director was not the only one to be recognized for his achievements.

Sophomore Liz Jacobs, a two-year veteran of the team, was ranked seventh among hundreds of other students for a season long speaker award. It was based on the number of victories and win percentages she had accumulated over the entire season, she said.

Although many members of the Forensics Team were recognized individually, Director and Jacobs shared the sentiment that the success at each of the tournaments was a team effort.

“I think we have a lot of depth on our team,” Director said. “There are some schools that are phenomenal in one thing, but we are great at everything. That depth makes it so that we can win over a broad category of events. It’s a team effort; we always help each other.”

“We are all good friends, both on the team and off the team, and there is a lot of camaraderie. We can count on each other, and that for me is more rewarding than winning,” Jacobs said.

The Forensics Team entered the National Christian College Forensics Association National Tournament as three-peat victors. This year, the team has done better in the year-long standings than previous years.

“This has been the best season of my professional career. We have won eight out of ten tournaments. This season has been a testament to the great skill of our students. They work extremely hard and effectively as a team,” Ingram said.


Lee Morgan

Staff Writer

Contact Lee Morgan at

Fire pit being built in front of the HUB

Whitworth Trustee, Gary Hopkins and his family are funding a fire pit to be built outside the HUB. Gerry Gemmill, vice president for finance and administration, said the fire pit will be, “a gathering place where the students, if they want to have a little heat, will sit outside in a pretty place, and talk about whatever they choose to.”

It is estimated to be completed by the end of April, Gemmill said.

“The fire pit was shelf ready. We had the concepts done,” Gemmill said.

Now, with the funding provided by the Hopkins family, the pit has become a reality.

As of April 9 the pad has been poured, the gas is hooked up, and the masons are being installed. The next step is to put together the screen and fire apparatus, Gemmill said.

“It’s coming together like a little orchestra or little play,” Gemmill said.

A timer has been included into the design that will cause the fire to turn off after a certain amount of time so the fire isn’t left on while no one is using it.

The fire pit will be made of concrete and brick the same color as the HUB.

“We want to make sure it looks like it belongs there,” Gemmill said.

Total construction cost with taxes is $54,921.

“It will be a great thing for students now to students years from now,” Gemmill said.


Hayley O’Brien

Staff Writer

Contact Hayley O’Brien at

Aaron Leetch: A Remembrance

On Monday night, April 6, 2015, Whitworth lost a dear friend and key contributor. While former athletic director Aaron Leetch’s stint at Whitworth lasted only two short years, the impact of last week’s tragedy still hits closer to home than imaginable.

Leetch was serving as deputy athletic director for external relations at Illinois State University; he and six others were on a small private plane returning home late on the night of the 6th from the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship game in Indianapolis. The plane took a wrong turn, purportedly to avoid poor weather, when it crashed near Normal, Illinois, killing all seven passengers.

I remember the first time I met Leetch. I had stumbled into a Whitworthian staff meeting a couple weeks beforehand thinking I was attending an informational session and left with a deadline to get my first story in by Saturday night. I had never interviewed anyone nor written a journalistic piece of writing. I was bewildered, overwhelmed and at that time, hated journalism.

In just my second week on the job, my sports editor assigned me to write a feature on Whitworth’s new athletic director, Aaron Leetch.

Leetch greeted me in his freshly unpacked office and came out from around his desk to sit next to me during the whole interview. As I nervously fidgeted with my iPod and asked if I could record our conversation, he replied with a calm and welcoming, “of course.” I clumsily flipped from page to page in my notebook trying to remember each of my pre-scripted questions while also trying to copiously take notes. Leetch loved to talk and did so enthusiastically.

His enthusiasm was the very thing that made the interview so successful. Over the course of around 35 minutes—time that few university athletic directors at whatever level will give to a novice reporter, to whom 35 minutes feels like an eternity—Leetch had not only answered all of my questions thoroughly but had also engaged me in conversation.

He assured me that we were rookies together. His passion oozed out of him; it caused me to dream of one day having his job. He was sure to point out the importance of his family, his ultimate pride and joy; he had a wife and two daughters, whose photographs were framed and displayed in his otherwise scarce, new office. He offered to help me in any way he could in my years at Whitworth and I knew he meant it.

Leetch took the initial fear out of journalistic writing for me. I stuck with my developing new skill and gained confidence after my time with him; it’s for this very reason I write this now. This week I dug through four years worth of notes and writing and pulled up the story I had written on Leetch, published Sept. 28, 2011.

While I never knew the man well, I read it and deemed it timelessly Aaron. It was my desire to see at least this excerpt resurfaced as a tribute to Leetch’s commitment to this university. Though he moved on from Whitworth by 2013, the same spirit is still felt.

I would hope it would be the desire of our community to deem Aaron Leetch, while we didn’t know him long, forever a Pirate. Here’s to the man who truly gave it everything he had.


Sena Hughes

Guest Writer

Contact Sena Hughes at

Coach of the Year awarded to Mike Ingram

The Whitworth Forensics Team’s coach Mike Ingram received the Coach of the Year award on March 29 as the International Public Debate Association National Tournament at Boise State University came to a close. The Coach of the Year award is decided after a coach has been nominated and the other coaches vote for the nominee they believe to be most deserving of the award.

Ingram was both surprised and humbled to receive this award from his peers, he said.

Other members of the Whitworth Forensics Team were not as surprised to find that Ingram had received the award.

“The amount of time he puts into the forensics program is daunting,” sophomore Liz Jacobs said. “He does the budget, the travel schedule and meets with each of us individually for an hour a week. He cares about us as his team members but also as individuals. I think this speaks volumes to the kind of person he is.”

“Not enough can be said about the influence Mike has on the team,” senior Sam Director said. “He helps us prep and practice, does logistics and our success is a result of him working with the students. He has a phrase: ‘Trophies mean that others see what I already see in you.’ It’s an important philosophical point. We have had a lot of success, but that’s not really what it’s about. It’s not about how many tournaments we win; it’s not the point of what we do.”

The fact that Ingram won the award means that people have noticed his devotion to the program, Jacobs said. He also helps at tournaments, judges competitors and plans their travel itineraries. He interacts with the other competitors and coaches on a professional and personal level and does not hesitate to offer advice that will help an opponent become a better speaker.

At tournaments, Ingram goes out of his way to help both his team members as well as his opponents.

“I see myself as a coach and teacher. When I go to a tournament, I judge and fill out the ballot,” Ingram said. “I like when Whitworth wins, but I think I can play a small part in the students’ lives from other schools to help them become better speakers. I believe this strengthens the forensics community.”


Lee Morgan

Staff Writer

Contact Lee Morgan at

Green Dot “We Will” campaign promotes campus safety

Whitworth’s Green Dot club hosted the “We Will” campaign all day Wednesday, April 8 in the HUB’s Multi-Purpose room to promote ideas for campus safety. A video played on the big screen and the windows were adorned with green strips of paper covered with pledges by numerous students, faculty, staff and community members. Pledges were made to raise awareness about sexual assault, advocate for women’s and transgender rights and to not pass judgment on anyone, just to name a few of many. Submissions ran until March 27 and were submitted by website, paper pledge and even selfies posted on social media websites with the #wewill.

“Submissions allow students to take part in something bigger than the campus community,” said Pam Oswalt, the Whitworth coordinator of Green Dot. “The idea is to use your gifts, your passions, your commitments, and make a public statement.”

Oswalt explained how everyone can make a difference with how accessible the campaign is. Whitworth’s Green Dot, along with the Health Education Action Team, featured a run/walk on Saturday, April 4 in support of this campaign that welcomed anyone who wanted to attend. The organization will also be present at River Park Square on April 16 beside numerous local colleges and universities as a part of the “We Will” campaign.

Each school’s campaign is catered to the specific needs of their campus, but are joined together for one specific purpose; to make campus communities safer.

The exact location and time for the downtown display are still not confirmed.

“The hope for the future is to change the culture one step at a time; me and my friend, me and my dorm, me and my school, me and my community and so on,” Oswalt said. “There are a lot of things that are simply not talked about, especially when it comes to sexual assault.”W

She encourages open discussion and supplied a lengthy list of resources for anyone in search of help or support, on and off-campus.

“We will know where the resources lie, so if anyone needs support we will know how to support them,” Oswalt said, finishing up a Green Dot presentation.


Alyssa Saari

Staff Writer

Contact Alyssa Saari at

Executive Vice President candidate: Savanna Jenkins

Major: Music (pre-vet) Year: Junior


Why are you running for this ASWU position?

I would love to be on leadership through ASWU because I've had experiences on leadership as  an RA, a student success coach, and I've been on leadership in ensembles, so I think my experience would benefit me in the position. Also I love being with people and I'm a huge extrovert and I enjoy having relational jobs and this would definitely be one of those. As EVP you're meeting with senators and RDs. It's a lot about communication. Communication classes have been some of my favorite classes I've taken at Whitworth. Also I would love to be challenged and stretched and to be a team player and mentor and friend and professional co-worker through this position. Lastly, I'm the only female executive candidate running, and I'd love to represent 60 percent of campus. We do have quite a large female population.


What is your class load like for next year and what will your other responsibilities be?

I'll be finishing up my music major and pre-vet work. I won't have an overloaded course load; it'll be about medium. I'll be in ensembles and I'll be in jazz band and wind symphony. I'll continue to be in those ensembles I've participated in, because that's part of my major and I'm really passionate about it. One thing coming into this position that I was cautious about: I talked to one of my professors in the music department, and he cautioned me against stunning because he was afraid that times would conflict, but I talked to people and figured that out. So in terms of meetings and times it won't be a problem.

What do you think is the greatest need of the student body? How do you propose to meet that need?

I think that this position is more the humans resources side of ASWU, and so there's a lot of communicative and relational aspects to the job, and a lot of behind the scenes communication. Through that, supporting the team in what we've decided as something we'd like to move forward in, whether it's adding language to the [faculty handbook], like they've been doing this year. I'd really like to bring more clarity to the RD, senator and ASWU communication system and hold senators accountable to how they vote in ASWU meetings. That's something I could work on in this position. Something that I've noticed through my experience in the music program is that there's somewhat of a disconnect between ASWU and the music department. The academics and ASWU don't really have and understanding or relationship. That would start by just continuing to involve myself in activities.

How would you assess your performance in other positions of leadership that you’ve had?

I loved being RA. I think as an RA, I had so much fun. That was like the highlight of my year, spending time with that group of women and also men in the Stewville community. I think I did well and brought energy to the team last year. I came in and brought fresh ideas and I was a new face. I loved getting to know people on the team and really cherished those relationships. I did well there. In leadership in ensembles, I've organized a bunch of different events for barbecues and social things geared toward having people get to know each other more and building relationships. That is beneficial

Why should we vote for you rather than your opponent?

I think you should vote for me rather than my opponent because—for one thing, I'm female, like I said before. Also, I have a lot of experience in a great deal of other places on campus like music and science. I have my feet in both areas. I've enjoyed continuing to get involved in those things and stretching myself by trying out for different activities. I love Whitworth, and Chase [Weholt] loves Whitworth too, but I want to bring a fun and engaging and relational dynamic to the team. I'm also involved in other things besides just school. My life isn't just Whitworth; I've vaccinated buffalo before, and I'm interested in doing different things with helping out at Whit Pres and so I've really involved myself in the community of Spokane. I know a lot of places here since I grew up in Spokane. It would be wonderful for me to be in a leadership position at a university and give back to the Spokane community that has meant so much to me, and also give back to the Whitworth community that's meant so much to me.

This position also is not so much of a vision-casting position, but more of a supportive position where you are working on communication in the team and making sure those aspects are going well and scheduling and such. It's not so much the face of Whitworth or dealing with finances, the nitty-gritty. I'm really passionate about the behind-the-scenes work.

How do you plan on working with the rest of ASWU?

I think when your'e on a team, being respectful and making sure you know your job and do your job well is really important. Holding yourself accountable to being the best you can be in the position you're given is so important. Getting to know the ins and outs of ASWU will be a new challenge for me, but it's not a hurdle that's impossible to overcome by any means, and I would fully intend to go the extra mile to make sure I'm comfortable with everything. Also as a team player, it's important to value the relationships of the people that you're on a team with and make sure you try to be friends. We're all students here and we're all in the same boat, and we're just regular old people. I want to make sure we're realistic about things as well, and you go out of your way to be a fun person and enjoyable and relatable.


What are your weaknesses in terms of the position you’re running for?

One weakness of mine is that I haven't been a senator before. The thing about that is there's no real stair stepping from senator to EVP; that's what people seem to view. There's not an equivalent to that for FVP or for president. To me, I don't think that titles matter at all. It's more the willingness to learn and the attitude that you bring to the team and position that matters, and the determination and perseverance through challenges and the willingness to overcome and to compromise. That is something I wouldn't have a problem overcoming.

In some ways, it's a super positive thing that I haven't been a part of ASWU before, because I'm a new face. I've been to ASWU meetings, so I'm familiar with the workings there. I haven't had weekly meetings with the EVP, but I don't think that's something that is detrimental to the position for me.

Also, a new person coming into a new team will always have challenges getting to know people and understand how the dynamic functions. It'll be different across the board with different RA and ASWU teams. We just need to be willing to learn and change and fail and try again, and keep a positive demeanor throughout the entire process.


Interview conducted by two members of The Whitworthian's editorial board, editor-in-chief Katie Shaw and opinions editor Whitney Carter.

Whitworthian Endorsements ASWU 2015

President: Naji Saker Executive Vice President: Chase Weholt

Financial Vice President: Skyler Lamberd


President: Naji Saker

This board, though very torn on this difficult decision, endorses Naji Saker for ASWU president. For Saker, it seems as if the presidency is the culmination of his time at Whitworth. Although he has not had a position on ASWU before, as an RA for two years, he has demonstrated his leadership abilities within the Whitworth community. The other endorsements from this board have ASWU experience, and, if all three are elected, we think that it will be an effective team. Being an RA for two years and being a leader on the track team also show his ability to relate to, befriend and lead his peers, an important aspect of the presidential role. Saker also has a long list of connections at Whitworth and in the Spokane area, which is a great asset to bring to ASWU. Saker would be a face of needed diversity in ASWU and has the ability to represent the minority voices at Whitworth.

Although we have not endorsed Justin Botejue, after interviewing the candidates, this board thinks either of them would do a great job as president. They each bring a unique set of skills to the program that has the potential to impact the student body in a very positive way. Botejue has done an incredibly thorough job of making life better for his residents in Stewville and his range of experiences in and out of Whitworth leadership is impressive. We thoroughly applaud his consistent and tireless efforts to improve the quality of student life on campus.



Executive Vice President: Chase Weholt

This board endorses Chase Weholt for the position of executive vice president (EVP). Weholt has spent the past two years in leadership roles, first as senator, then as RA. He stated plainly that if he is elected, he will limit activities outside classes to the EVP position alone; this dedication convinced us of his passion and commitment to ASWU and to Whitworth. Weholt also has a wealth of experience in working on and in ASWU committees despite not having a position this year. This affirms that he is both qualified to serve as EVP and again, that he has dedicated a significant amount of time already to ASWU and to serving the student body.

Although this board has chosen not to endorse Savanna Jenkins, we do not doubt her passion or ability to relate to and connect with her colleagues in ASWU. She would serve Whitworth well in the position of executive vice president. However, the position of EVP is time-consuming; Jenkins will be taking a nearly full course-load and participating in many of Whitworth's music programs, which might limit her from performing in her job as well as she would with a freer schedule.


Financial Vice President: Skyler Lamberd

This board endorses Skyler Lamberd for the position of financial vice president (FVP). As Duvall senator, Lamberd has experienced ASWU. He has also served on both the finance and the club chartering committees, which are directly headed by the FVP. Understanding how those committees are run and why they are needed is crucial for the FVP, and Lamberd is one step ahead by already having that knowledge. Being a math major will also be useful for Lamberd as he handles the ASWU budget.

Brett Pray, although we have not chosen to endorse him, would be an excellent FVP as well. Our main concern was that he has not had any leadership experience at Whitworth, although that is not for lack of trying, as he did apply to be an RA. Pray’s relational skills and his obvious desire to give back to Whitworth are assets. Pray’s economics background and familiarity with budgeting would be useful, but are not the most important part of the FVP’s job, and the position does not require an extensive financial background to be successful.

Presidential candidate: Naji Saker

Major: Chemistry Minor: Athletic Coaching

Year: Junior


Why are you running for this ASWU position?

I’ve been an RA for the past two years, and I was looking at next year and asking myself what kind of student leadership I wanted to do. I didn’t think my time to serve our community was done. I was thinking over the options, because I didn’t want to be RA for a third year, it takes a special person to do that. I was ready to get off campus. I’ll be living with a couple buddies next year off campus. At the beginning of the year, Jolyn Dalvig, who was the associate dean of student life, and I would share coffee every once in a while; I’d share a book with her, she’d share quotes with me. One morning she recommended that I run for this position. When I got a mentor like that to tell me that this would fit my strengths, it really opened my eyes to it. And comparing the position with EVP and president, I decided I wanted to run for president, because my leadership skills and experience does fit for the position better. It was a combination of my mentors supporting me and having a lot of support from my friends and family that made me want to do it. I think that I could serve the Whitworth community really well and I feel like it’s time for me to give back since I’ve grown so much from being here.

Being in Student Life for two years, I think I’ve reached the max capacity for how much I can grow in that position. Going to ASWU and being president, I think I can fit that position well. From a the “five strengths test,” I know I’m an achiever, have responsibility, am a relater, restorative and strategic. Each of this is a different piece of what the position of president needs. Being an achiever, I get things done. I need to be relatable; it’s the whole student body that you speak for [as president]. Responsibility speaks for itself. Strategic—having a strategic mind and always thinking of something new to be doing. And restorative: if there’s ever an issue, with my RA training even, I’m able to take care of it.

A difference in the RA and ASWU positions is in Student Life, we’re really just working with our hall and our dorms getting together. Being in a second year RA position, I’ve got to expand that more and branch out and talk to more administrators, like Jolyn and Dick Mandeville (he and I meet about once a month). Being able to build those bridges with our administration and other parts of campus is preparing me for that part of the position. I’m really looking forward to working with the administration.


What is your class load like for next year and what will your other responsibilities be?

I don’t plan on quitting on the track team. I wouldn’t be at Whitworth if it weren’t for track; it keeps me grounded and motivated. I’ll be done with my chemistry major at the end of this semester. So next year I’ll just have a couple gen eds. I just need my coaching internship credits (for my athletic coaching minor) which I’ll get over the summer. So it’s Core 350, my biblical literature and my american diversity. I’ll only have one class Monday, Wednesday and Friday and two or three on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I’m looking really open to be able to commit to the position as well as the track team.


What do you think is the greatest need of the student body? How do you propose to meet that need?

I think each year is different. I can’t speak for the future and what the student body needs for next year, but from experiences in Student Life this year, I don’t know if our student body really knows how much our campus is affected by sexual assault. I really want to press on that and for our campus to be more aware and a safer place for those who have been sexually assaulted to be able to speak up and come to people for help and feel like they are worth something. They tend to shy away. I think it would help our campus rejuvenate as well as support one another. Going about that, I’d like to revamp Green Dot and for everyone to have their training or some sort of seminar.

Going off of that, statistics from Green Dot show that the least trained in Green Dot are male athletes. Being a male athlete, I can help in getting more of them trained through Green Dot and be able to set into situations. The sad fact is that athletes are going to be at parties more often than others. That’s where you’ll see where sexual assault happens. If I can help my peers be more aware of situations, we can help each other out and stop it from happening.


How would you assess your performance in other positions of leadership that you’ve had?

RA is definitely my most dominant leadership experience at Whitworth. I’m also president and founder of the CHAOS club and have been a leader on the track team. I’m confident in my job as RA. I know that it’s a tough job, but I’m confident in how I’ve done, and I think it speaks for itself that I got hired again. I also know all the RDs at a personal level and have built relationships and excelled in it. Halls do evaluations right before winter break. This year, I had 100 percent completion and scored around a 4.4 out of 5 on everything. I know I’m above average there.


Why should we vote for you rather than your opponent?

The biggest thing my opponent’s been saying is that he’s more experienced than me. I beg to differ. He’s had ASWU experience being a senator, but I haven’t had those opportunities to be in ASWU because I’ve been an RA. My relatability skills speak for themselves. He’s an awesome guy, but I know that I can connect with anyone. Throw me in a room with anyone on campus, and I could talk to them for an hour or all day long. The position of president at Whitworth isn’t one of a politician. I don’t need a political science background. I need to be able to connect to the student body and see what they need, and take it to the administration.

I have a lot of connections on campus. I know our athletic director really well and actually helped him move in to his house. Our assistant athletic director is my coach, and I know him really well. Dick Mandeville, Jolyn Dalvig, the new associate dean of students, Josh Cleveland—I’ve met with them a few times and know them at a personal level. With several professors like Dr. Kamesh, Toby Schwarz being my coach as well. As president of CHAOS, we work closely with chemistry faculty to host events. Even though I’m not a Christian, I have very good ties in the chapel, with Kent McDonald, Mindy Smith and Mama Beans (she’s awesome). President Beck Taylor. Another professor Raja Tenas, I’ve been to his house a few times, being one of the only Arabic students on campus. I’ve had ties with Sodexo and Dan King hosting dorm events. Right before the position, I’ve been building relationships with Dayna and Ian [Robins, current president] to see what the position will be like and what I would do with it.

I’ve built ties around the area, especially with doctors. I have connections with the Spokane country club. Even last night, I met up with one of our Board of Trustee members, Bill Curry if I’m not mistaken, and one of his friends. Both of them are huge donors to Whitworth. In the future I’ll be getting lunch with them and seeing how they can help me and how I can represent our student body well. I was one of five to selected to get lunch with them out of all our pre-med students.


How do you plan on working with the rest of ASWU?

I heard that it’s going to be a majority girls. That’ll be sweet. I’d say that I come from football team experience, RA experience, track experience, and obviously track and football is predominantly males, but having the RA experience and working with females all the time, that will be fine. Being a second year RA, you’re almost the leader of the RAs. It’s not stated,  but you do have more responsibilities. I thought this year, I would do my job as well as try to take some of the burdens off the first year RAs, because they’re still walking through the position and learning how it is. I’ve worked with CDAs and SGCs and HAs when we had them has prepared me well to work with different positions across ASWU and I’m confident I’d be able to do that. I have a lot of friends hired in the coordinator positions—for instance Bailey Kasler, who is my really good friend—so I’ll definitely have some strong ties in ASWU already.


What are your weaknesses in terms of the position you’re running for?

I’m a big people person and people-pleaser. That can sometimes hinder my performance, since I want to make sure everyone’s happy. But being in an RA position and knowing that not everyone on my team is going to think the way I do, I’ve definitely learned to cater to both sides of a topic. It’s remembering what the greater good wants and be able to mend both sides and find middle ground where both sides will be happy. With a campus of 2,300 students, you’re not going to make everyone happy, but as long as you can get the majority. You have to make some sacrifices so almost everyone can come together.


You touched on that you have an ability to connect with people. However, you’re not a Christian and there have been those racist YikYak comments; with those things in mind, do you ever worry about your ability to connect with people at Whitworth?

Not at all. I was asked this question last night: of not being a Christian and how can I work to meet the mission statement at Whitworth. I think our mission statement to honor God, follow Christ and serve humanity is huge. That’s who Whitworth is. It has made me grow so much through that mission statement, and I respect it so much. Obviously my religion [Islam] is not going to change anytime soon and I’m going to be the president of a predominantly Christian school as a non-Christian, but that gives me the opportunity to speak for the non-Christian population at Whitworth. I’ve tried to educate myself as much as possible so I could connect with my peers about the Christian religion. There are, in my opinion, so many similarities between the Christian religion and my religion, to where I don’t think there will be a disconnect whatsoever. ASWU is going to be full of Christian leaders as well; it’s not just my voice that will dictate what happens. I sat on the student luncheon committee for the hiring of the dean of spiritual life, and that just shows that I can speak of the majority of the campus in hiring a spiritual leader on campus.

To go off the YikYak comments: granted, several have been said, but it’s probably just one person. At least I’d like to think it’s just one person. They have not affected me. Yes, reading a comment like that burns a little bit, and I’ll always remember it, but that doesn’t speak for the entire student population. I know the entire student body doesn’t think of me that way, so I’m just shrugging it off and hoping for the best. And if I win, it speaks for itself, and they can shut up.


Is there anything else we need to know about you to make this decision?

My combination of Student Life and administrative work will fit the position really well. The ASWU president position isn’t like a normal president at another university or the president of our country. I think that my skills fit the position really well and that I’m qualified enough for the position. I don’t necessarily have as many hours as my opponent in ASWU, but I definitely know the basics of how it’s done. I’ve sat through a few ASWU meetings as well as chartering a club and requisitioning money from ASWU. I’m confident in my abilities.


Interview conducted by two members of The Whitworthian's editorial board, editor-in-chief Katie Shaw and sports editor Connor Soudani.