by Jolie Baldwin
It’s September once again on the Whitworth campus, and the air is abuzz with the sound of excited freshmen. They have come with their pencils sharpened, their class schedules in hand and their personal renditions of classic love songs prepared.
However, as of this school year, one of these things is undergoing a change. For the first time, the practice known as “wooing” was not included as a part of the elaborate traditiation rituals for freshmen in Whitworth dorms.
Instead, the dorms have a new tradition: “hall-ing”. Both wooing and “hall-ing” involve giggling, self-conscious freshmen singing their hearts out all over campus, but there is a definite difference.
Whitworth was founded in 1890, during a time when the dual purpose of attending college was to acquire a degree and also a spouse. According to the US Census Bureau, up until the 1980s, the median age men and women were getting married hovered between 20 and 24.
East Hall resident assistant and junior Mackenzie Young said the marriage-related legends specific to Whitworth are numerous; catch one of the falling pinecones and you’ll be married within the year, get beaned in the head by a Frisbee and the thrower is your soul mate.
Wooing was born out of a similar notion, wherein young Whitworth men sing songs to young Whitworth women, all with an air of flirtatious teasing.
“It’s a chance for the women from every dorm to meet men from every dorm,” Young said.
At its heart, this is true; however, Young is the first to acknowledge that there are aspects of the tradition that are not as pleasant for many. The wooing ritual often involved couples who are relative strangers dancing with one another, or sitting on each other’s laps. For freshman students who are still unsure of themselves, that can be intimidating or downright uncomfortable.
“I was uncomfortable my freshman year, because I wanted to meet a man as a friend, instead of immediately trying to win him over,” Young said.
As an RA, this year is her second overseeing traditiation, and she said she approves of the changes being made.
“Now it’s more, ‘I want to meet you’, instead of ‘I want to woo you’,” Young said.
“Hall-ing”, the reworked version of “wooing”, involves entire dorms singing as a group, emphasizing a sense of community and connection that is one of the hallmarks of Whitworth. Jolyn Dahlvig, associate dean of students, affirms the new emphasis. “Hall-ing” is now an opportunity to show dorm pride, rather than an encouragement to find a potential mate, she said.
“There’s less pressure to hook up, with more of an emphasis on community,” Young said.
Young added that thus far she hasn’t heard any negative feedback from students or faculty regarding the changes.
While the idea of changing such long-held and cherished traditions can be unpleasant for some, Whitworth President Dr. Beck Taylor said that it is important for students and faculty both to remember that such rituals are not a rigid set of rules.
Taylor has fond memories of serenading his wife of 20 years when he was attending Baylor University in Texas. His song of choice was the Righteous Brothers’ 1988 hit, “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling.” But Taylor added that campus traditions, while important, are prone to change.
“Contrary to popular belief, traditions that are a part of Traditiation are not age-old. They evolve and they change over time,” he said.
Indeed, wooing is not the only aspect of Whitworth traditiation that has changed over the years. Gone are the military-esque physical tests of push-ups and sprinting, as well as the particularly unpleasant ritual known as “sliming the freshmen.” In that ritual, new students were covered with garbage from the cafeteria and required to run across campus, Taylor said. The sliming tradition has not been practiced since 1997, according to a Spokesman-Review article from that year, when complaints from uncomfortable students prompted a change of the rituals.
Similarly, it was the changing needs and desires of a new generation of students that spurred this latest adjustment, and it is the same thing that will likely prompt changes in the future.
“Traditiation has one goal; to introduce and welcome Whitworth’s new citizens to their new homes,” Taylor said.
Contact Jolie Baldwin at firstname.lastname@example.org