Students gathered in Club 88 for a town hall meeting on March 13 for a chance to directly and openly address Whittier College administrators with their concerns. The town hall was hosted by the Associated Students of Whittier College (ASWC) Senate Campus Relations Director first-year Kole Joachim and third-year Senator Emily Olague. Attending administrators included Dean of Students Joel Perez, Director of Facilities Jonathan Estrella, Associate Director of Residential Life Joseph Melendez, and President Sharon D. Herzberger. This meeting was created as an opportunity for the Whittier College student body to publicly speak to administrators about their school.
The town hall addressed the burning of an LGBTQIA+ flag on-campus by an unknown man. Administration said that Campus Safety has increased its on-campus patrols. They are also actively monitoring social media for future threats of a similar nature and stand by their choice to wait before alerting students of an incident. Administration is concerned that if they send students more alerts, students will not be able to determine as easily if they are in immediate danger, because they have become accustomed to hearing from Campus Safety.
Students raised concerns about parking, as many find the search for parking spots to be a struggle. “It was not that there was a lack of parking on campus,” said Joachim. “It is that there is a lack of convenient parking on campus, which brought about [a] discussion of who should be parking [where].” Commuter students argued that they should have parking lots closer to their classrooms, since they are coming and going from the school, unlike residential students who do not need to drive home. However, as a number of administrators pointed out, on-campus residents should still have access to on-campus parking, as they may need to leave the school. Melendez is working to interview both residential and commuter students to find a general idea of student opinions on parking issues.
Administrators also addressed recycling rumors occuring on campus. “Students questioned whether or not Whittier actually recycles because there [is] a rumor on campus that Whittier does not recycle,” said Joachim. Estrella explained that facilities workers do sort out Whittier College’s trash and recycling, denying the allegations that the College throws everything away. In related news, ASWC Environmental Representative fourth-year Andy Bertelsen plans to speak with Estrella about implementing smart bins on campus. Smart bins are a sort of high-tech trash can. This would help facilitate the chance to see which bins are getting full, and which are completely full.
A commuter student asked why their access to residential halls is limited on the weekends, saying that they feel left out from the College community because they could not get in to see their friends. Administration replied that commuter students have access to the dorms on the weekend until 8 p.m. “A lot of students believe after 8 p.m., [the dorms] should be reserved for the people who are living on campus because they’re paying to live on campus,” said resident Joachim. “If you wish to visit friends after hours, you could just text them.”
“A member of the public urged [the administrators present] to discuss the [the possibility of moving] the Whittier Scholars Program soon because there is talk about the construction of a lounge for the program. If [administration] should move it, it should be soon before they [have to] begin paying for the lounge,” said Joachim. While there is some discussion within the Whittier Scholars Program of building a lounge, the school will need to choose a building to house the department in before commencing with any construction plans. President Herzberger suggested moving the department from Wardman Hall to a different building, because the building is not easily accessible to students with disabilities — entering Wardman hall requires ascending a flight of stairs. Concrete plans, for the future of the lounge and new location, have yet to be made.
The Town Hall permitted students a chance to speak to administrators, and it will become clear in the coming months if this will lead to any visible on-campus improvements.