What’s a Lancer? Past the check-in desk at the recent Student Activities Fair, in the far corner stood a cluster of alumni. They surrounded a portable table bedecked with hues of blue and a giant crest carved out of wood. “Lancer” was emblazoned on a vinyl poster andon plastic pen giveaways.
When Whittier College’s ten other societies reach out to potential new members this Fall, the Lancer Society will recruit alongside them for the first time in four years.
The organization has recently been reinstated after a few rocky years involving probation and suspension.
Founded in 1934, the Lancer Society has participated in integral moments of the College’s history. Examples include helping move The Rock in 2012, gaining funds for the construction of the Memorial Chapel and donating to the new recording studio for the College’s Music Department.
“The Lancers were best known for their involvement in student government,” Athenian alumna Dottie Pendleton ‘78 said. “At that time, Senate was known as the Board of Governors (BOG) and the Lancers held a lot of positions on BOG.”
In the 2010 to 2011 academic year, the Society had been suspended for one year as a result of administrative action. At the time, the group had just seen-in a new pledge class in January when, nine months after that New Member Education Process, the school had been contacted by a student’s guardian. “During [New Member Education Process], there were events which later resulted in expressed discomfort from a parent.” Lancer alumnus Tyler Zickel ‘12 said.
Following an investigation of a linked activity between theMetaphonian and Lancer Societies, both organizations were suspended. “We were punished, justly so,” Zickel said. “I think that the punishment was just at the time, and so we served our punishment.”
In the 2011 to 2012 school year, after completing the previous year’s mandated sanctions, the Society was then reinstated on probationary status. In the following 2012 to 2013 year, the members found themselves contending with new allegations.
Two weeks after bringing in a new pledge class in January of 2012, the Society was placed back on probation due to the actions of active Lancer members tied to a pledging event. There was also a violation of the student code of conduct in regards to alcohol on campus that occurred some time after the pledging event, according toformer Associate Dean of Residential Life Andre Coleman. Both of these actions were the cause of their second round of probation.
Proceeding these transgressions was the Society’s ‘Senior March’ activity that began behind the Metaphonian house on Earlham Drive, a Society house formerly owned by the college. The march through campus resulted in destruction of property to the College’s organic garden owned by Bon Apétite. These events resulted in a hearing and ultimately, another suspension.
During these years, the perception of the Lancers was not always a positive one. Alumna Riley Dennis ‘15 was a student during that tumultuous time. “I was never a huge fan of any of the societies in general, but the Lancers were particularly awful,” Dennis said. “They were suspended twice for good reasons, and aside from that, they shouted demeaning things about women as a part of pledging, harassed people who criticized them and were just overall a toxic group of people who contributed nothing of value to the campus. I was thrilled to hear they were dying out and am honestly disappointed they’re being reinstated.”
According to Lancer alumnus, Raye Thomas ‘08, the original verdict was a four-year suspension, which would begin after the Society completed multiple sanctions, such as community service, attendance at educational seminars and suspension of Society emblems.
However, recent graduate Clifton Whittaker ‘16 attempted to work with administration to complete these requirements and negotiate the reinstatement date.
“The College was able to compromise with us on that by determining that we could not have a pledge class until there were no actives on campus, so that was kind of the middle ground,” Zickel said.
The efforts of Whittaker caused the Society to serve their four-year suspension while completing their sanctions instead of four-years of suspension following the completion of the original sanctions.
Zickel and Thomas currently play key roles on the Lancer alumni committee dedicated to recruiting new members.
Their drive comes from their passion to restore the Society. “In reality, as much as it’s been frustrating and painful to go through this suspension process, it really is a good thing for the health of our organization in the long term,” Zickel said. “So that when we’re celebrating our hundred-year anniversary in 2034, we can look back and say we really were able to return to our ideals while modernizing the ideals of Lancer to fit the modern student.”
Rallying behind the Society’s banners to speak to current students are both recent and older alumni representing the group.
“Lancer was a cornerstone for a lot of our development and growth. It didn’t make us, but it helped us become better men,” Thomas said. “We want to have the opportunity for other young men to have that same option.”
“I’m of the opinion and our alumni base is of the opinion that no student should miss out on that simply because of a probation or a sanction or a suspension,” Zickel said, in concurrence with Thomas. “It will take a little bit of work, and although it will be a somewhat arduous process to get back on campus without having any actives, the work is far and away worth it for the result and the reward of bringing Lancer back and giving these students an opportunity to participate in something we all got great value out of ... that will connect them not just to Lancer and alumni, but to Whittier College and make not just good Lancers but good Poets.”
The Lancer Alumni Committee will be working closely with Inter-Society Council and administration in the following months leading up to their first New Member Education post-suspension in February.