Climbing on the Roof Not Advised by Security, RAs

Whitman students study hard, but they also know how to have fun, which can often involve climbing onto the roofs of any and all buildings around campus.

In his time at Whitman, junior Fernando Medina has heard tell of several ways to climb to the tops of buildings, from the reachable sides of Olin East to even the use of trees in other situations.

“[Apparently] there’s a tree over by the theatre that people climb to get on top of [Harper Joy Theatre],” he said.

As resident assistants of Jewett Hall, Medina and junior Kaitie Ivory have been able to learn about roof climbing through their experience of overseeing first-year students.

“You could be really stupid and climb Jewett to try and get on the roof,” said Medina, who presides over 4-East.

The RAs are keen to the propensities of students, and even common techniques for trying to get on the roof.

“With Jewett a bunch of people climb out of Lyman windows to get on top of the dining hall,” said Medina, who notes that windows in Jewett are also utilized but are a lot more obvious, especially to the RAs, as are the windows are in the section lounges.

Students don’t try to find the easiest ways to climb on a roof just for the apparent ease of it. Sometimes, it is the more physically difficult and more foolhardy ways that attract bold students.

“One of my freshman friends climbed out of his fourth floor window onto the roof. He stood on the windowsill and did a chinup on the roof,” said Ivory.

When asked about the incident, Medina noted the very apparent physical risk that the student took, which is concerning for an RA.

“It was lucky enough that he didn’t fall down and hurt himself,” he said. “So that’s the stupid way to get on top of the roof … ‘Whoops, my hand slipped. My arms are broken.’”

But Ivory has encountered first-years this year who seem to roof climb for the thrill of evading the watchful eyes of campus authority figures, even their own RAs.

“I’ve had residents ask me if they can and ask me how often I look out my window because my window faces the Jewett roof. They told me this year that they climbed it and they were proud that I didn’t see them do it … but I haven’t seen anyone,” said Ivory.

RAs are not the only authorities on campus that concern themselves with students attempting to get on rooftops. Fernando acknowledges this even in the case of would-be Harper Joy ascenders.

“I’ve heard some stories about security writing people up who climb on the tree [by Harper Joy],” he said.

Associate Director of Security Craig McKinnon has encountered over a couple hundred roof climbers over his 27 years working in security at Whitman.

His experience with what may seem to be a carefree activity for students is fraught with risk beyond physical harm, turning a fun night into a night with sirens.

“There has been police involvement in many occurrences, and at least one arrest since my tenure here. Police often must be called, as security have no way of knowing whether a criminal act is in progress or not,” said McKinnon.

But it’s not always a game. Given the sheer number of students that McKinnon has encountered in the act of climbing on top of campus buildings while on the job, it is easy to be caught. Aside from being a strict violation of campus policy and harmful to the buildings in question, McKinnon warns strongly against the act as a whole.

“It’s dangerous … It not only creates a hazardous situation for the culprits, but for the security staff who have to bring them down off the roof, and anyone else who may get involved,” he said. “Additionally, these flat roofs are not intended for foot traffic, and often damage occurs, costing the college expensive repairs … [It] should not be attempted for any reason.”




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