“I do think the Honorary Degree Committee knew that it was making a controversial decision with the Hayner nomination, but I suspect many did not know how controversial,” stated President David Maxwell in his defense of the nomination of Jeanette Hayner to receive and Honorary Degree in the spring of 1992. Hayner’s nomination—and confirmation by the Board of Trustees—inspired widespread backlash from Whitman’s faculty and students. Hayner, the Washington State Senate majority leader at the time, had a history of voted down anti-discrimination laws that would have protected homosexuals. Ultimately, the Board of Trustees voted to give Hayner the honorary degree despite faculty and student outcry. An April 16th letter to the editor stated that “We feel that to bestow an honorary degree on Senator Hayner would offset the efforts the college has made in combatting issues of discrimination such as racism, homophobia, and classism.” Widespread student outrage at Hayner’s award fell on deaf ears, and the entire episode indicates a social disconnect between the students and the administration in the early nineties.
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“Jeanette Hayner,” Whitman College Archives, accessed January 29, 2023, https://www.whitmanarchives.org/omeka/items/show/56.