Sick tree's health policy doesn't make the cut: students not oaky with removal of centennial

Sick tree's health policy doesn't make the cut: students not oaky with removal of centennial

Malory Henry


Whittier students returned to Campus after Spring break to find that the oak tree located on Founders Hill in front of Disability Services was cut down without any prior notice. The historic oak was over 100 years old, surprising many students and faculty members after they noticed its removal. Second-year Emilio Maldonado shared his reaction on Tuesday when he noticed it missing, saying, “Where the f**k did the tree go?”

The old oak was planted on Founders Hill in 1908 by the members of the graduating class of 1912. The first-year class decided to leave their mark on Whittier College by planting what grew to be the  oak we all grew to love across from the Bonnie Bell Wardman Library. Although they planted other trees during their time at Whittier College, most died away, leaving the oak to continue to grow for over a century. The class of 1912 — Maude Starbuck, Frank Crites, Gertrude Cox, Milton White, Hazel Cooper, and Nofle Renneker (the mastermind behind the Rock on campus) — certainly left a reminder of their time here that lasted for years.

For decades, students enjoyed relaxing in the oak’s shade, watching squirrels, and admiring the tree’s beauty. “It was such a nice, large tree. You could sit underneath it for some shade, especially with how hot it can get here, and it was just nice to look at since it’s pretty central on campus,” said first-year Kayla Boyer. “I’m just sad they took away such a peaceful, pretty piece of nature.” 

According to Vice President of Finance and Admissions James Dunkelman, the reason for the tree’s removal was due to its declining health. Because of this, the oak required an assessment by the school’s landscape services provider. Whittier College contacted arborists, which are tree surgeons, through the Sequoia Environmental Services, who assessed the state of our campus’ plant life.

Upon evaluation, the arborist recommended that the tree be cut down due to the fact that there were “no changes in care that could improve the tree’s health, and it would continue to decline.” 

This, in conjunction with “a structural defect in the trunk that was weakening the tree that could not be addressed due to its location,” necessitated the removal of our historic tree.

Despite this, many students were vocal about their concerns with the tree’s removal. “I would like to see the papers that they were given to cut down an oak tree! Where are the authorities?” said fourth-year Chelsea McClendon. Another student, who asked to be left anonymous, also chimed in by saying, “First, Whittier College decides to absolutely drain my pockets, and now they’re trying to take my oxygen also?”

Thankfully, Dunkelman explained that “the health of this tree does not impact any other landscaping.” So, even though students might be upset with the oak’s removal, they can continue to relax without the impending threat of another oak tree toppling. For now.