Zoe Iseri ’23 Letter to the Board of Trustees

Dear Esteemed Members of the Whittier College Board of Trustees,

I write to you today with a heart brimming with love for Whittier College, and with the hope that my words will inspire reflection, action, and ultimately positive change for our beloved institution. I hope that through this letter, I can convey the deep passion I have for this college, and the genuine desire I have for us to work collectively to preserve and enrich the legacy of Whittier.

Whittier College has a special place in my heart. I cherish every aspect of it, from the huffing and puffing as I ascend the stairs to Turner, to the dogs frolicking on the upper quad, the comforting smile of Vice President and Dean of Students Deeana Merino-Contino, and the camaraderie of late-night library sessions. I relish the memories I have made within the walls of the chapel, the breathtaking sunsets framed by the Wardman Hall arches, and the intellectual stimulation provided by our incredible faculty.

My heart swells with pride when I think of the legacy I am a part of, embodied by the Athenian Society and the values and traditions passed down since 1929. I am grateful for the life-changing skills that professors like Mike McBride have instilled in me, extending far beyond the classroom, and for the smiles and laughter that pervade our campus, from orientation to midnight madness.

I love Whittier College, but I recognize that love alone is not enough. There is an urgent need for change. While my experience has been fulfilling, I realize that it is the product of my own meticulous curation. I cannot ignore the growing discontent among my fellow students, many of which do not share this fondness for our soon-to-be alma mater.

My intention is not to offend, but to inspire positive change and uphold the values that Whittier College represents. I ask that you carefully consider my words, as I speak on behalf of all those who envision a brighter future for our school.

Numerous students have expressed concerns about various aspects of campus life. These anonymous comments provide further insight into the areas where improvements are needed. For instance, several students pointed out the disparity in the quality of dormitories, with some suffering from maintenance issues such as clogged drains, infestations, and outdated facilities.

Furthermore, accessibility and inclusivity on campus are essential to fostering a supportive and welcoming environment for all students. Several students have highlighted the need for better accommodations, such as air conditioning in dormitories and improved accessibility for individuals with disabilities. They have also expressed frustration with the limitations on-campus employment opportunities for non-work study students, which can hinder their ability to connect with the school and their peers. The inadequate compensation for the hardworking cleaning staff was also mentioned, suggesting the need for a review of their wages and working conditions.

Moreover, some students feel that they have missed out on unique traditions and experiences that used to define the college. One such example is the once-common practice of students visiting Wardman House for events and gatherings. Sadly, students who began their academic journey here in the fall of 2019 have not had the opportunity to participate in these memorable occasions, further disconnecting them from the rich history and camaraderie that our college has to offer. Additionally, Whittfest, a much-anticipated annual concert event that used to attract a large number of attendees, has seen a significant decline in participation. This year, fewer than 100 students attended the concert, reflecting a marked shift in the campus community’s engagement and enthusiasm for events that once brought us together in celebration and unity. The erosion of these traditions not only weakens the bond between students and the institution but also threatens the lasting legacy of Whittier College as a place where lifelong connections are forged and treasured experiences are shared.

Students have also noticed a decline in student life and extracurricular activities, with fewer events being held and even fewer students attending them. This has led to a lack of school spirit and a sense of disconnect within the student body. The recent cuts in athletics programs have also left many students feeling disheartened and unsupported, further impacting campus morale.

Lastly, students have shared concerns about the future of the college, noting the decline in enrollment and the potential impact on the quality of education offered. They fear that as the school loses faculty and resources, the value of their degrees will diminish. They urge the administration to prioritize the needs of the students and work towards rebuilding a strong, thriving community that embodies the core values of Whittier College.

In light of these testimonies, it becomes clear that there is a pressing need for change in administration and a renewed commitment to the well-being of students. We must strive to create an environment where all students can have an amazing college experience, as it is not only about preserving the value of our degrees but also about nurturing a community that we can be proud of.

I believe that change must come from the top. The president of an institution should serve as its face, being both present and active on campus. This means hosting events, attending student-led activities, and fostering open and transparent communication. As a leader in various capacities on campus, I have seen firsthand the importance of transparency, presence, and addressing issues head-on.

Unfortunately, it has become apparent that President Oubré has not been fulfilling these vital responsibilities. Her lack of presence on campus and engagement with students has fostered a growing sense of distrust in the administration, with some students contemplating leaving while others have already made the difficult decision to leave Whittier College. This perception of indifference towards students can have a profound impact on morale, leading many to question the value of their educational experience and the level of commitment that the college’s leadership has for their well-being and success. Such an environment can be detrimental to both the short-term experience and the long-term legacy of our cherished institution.

By taking action now, we can create an environment in which every student has equal opportunities to flourish and achieve their full potential. As a proud soon-to-be graduate, I want my degree to stand as a testament to the exceptional education I received at Whittier, and I hope future students will be able to say the same.

This letter is not an attack, but rather a heartfelt plea from the students of Whittier College. We implore you to enact change and do so transparently, allowing us to breathe easy in the knowledge that our degrees will retain their value, that our college will not shut down, and that we can take pride in our alma mater. We yearn for the assurance that future generations will have the opportunity to partake in the cherished experiences and traditions that have defined Whittier College for decades.

In the spirit of progress and unity, I ask that we come together as a community to address the challenges that our college faces. Let us embark on this journey of transformation with open hearts and open minds, embracing the possibility of a brighter future for Whittier College.

Thank you for your attention to this matter, and for your unwavering dedication to our institution. I have faith that you will not only hear our voices, but listen to our concerns, and work collaboratively to create a better future for Whittier College. If the board would like to discuss further, I am more than willing to provide details regarding my specific concerns and engage in a constructive dialogue. Together, we can preserve the legacy and ensure that the love we hold for this institution continues to be shared by generations to come.

With sincerest hope and optimism,
Zoe Iseri
Whittier College ‘23

Student Activities:
Secretary General, Model United Nations of the Far West
President, Athenian Society
First-Year Class Council, ASWC

Zoe Iseri: Why I Chose Whittier (Sophomore Year, 2021)

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