Back in August of 2002, on the day of my birth, Whitman College gave me my first diploma (second one currently in progress). It reads, “To Rachel Husband. Diploma of good health and lifelong learning.” As an infant largely unqualified for any sort of diploma, I received this award because I was the progeny of a Whitman College alumnus. So when I accepted my offer from Whitman, I was hopeful that these were the things I would find.
My father, who graduated in the class of ‘91, likes to tell me there’s something special about the folk who go to Whitman. Despite my instinctive urge to always disagree with my dad, I have to concur on this matter. We show up in the strangest places (I’m using “we” loosely here): orbiting the earth from space, driving the worst car known to man in NASCAR, starring in perverse Broadway productions of Dr. Seuss musicals and becoming charming little capitalist business people who own sports teams. We do interesting things, even as weeny undergraduate students: researching in the Arctic, planning and executing restoration projects on campus, doing well in athletics (I guess), creating essential outreach programs and filling in the gaps in the institution. Many of the very best things about Whitman were and are student-created and organized. Quite frankly, the student body kicks ass.
These are the multitudes of things that the college is more than happy to display in its magazines and brochures, suckling at the teet of alumni donors and entrapping new students. “Look at our students,” they say. “Look at these cool things they’re doing.” Okay. Fine. I can handle a little propaganda every three months in my mailbox. I can scroll through the posts on Instagram. The experience of Whitman is sold as the product of an institution and not of individuals. It’s easy to feel like just a little guy within a grander money-making scheme that has little to do with the supposed continuation of your lifelong learning or good health.
Whitman beautifully balances praise and profit, uplifting voices while capitalizing on the success of students in their endeavors. It feels exactly like eating a McRib: delicious, dangerous and when the crap is coursing through your body like mud, you tend to have a lot of questions like, “Should I be mad?” “Is this fair?” “Who’s responsible for this, me or the institution?” It’s enough to make a girl’s armpit hair split!
So, what have I found at Whitman? Sometimes good health and learning. I’ve found myself frustrated to no end with the institutional issues surrounding Whitman. In these moments, my dad asks why I don’t consider transferring. I’ve wondered this myself, but truly, the people and the students are what make it all worth it. They define the Whitman experience more than anything else.
Source: Whitman Wire