Wabash College is renowned for its rich history of traditions, each bearing a unique mark on our campus culture. Some of these traditions have a relatively short history, such as the Senior Arch, while others have stood for decades, like the cherished Chapel Sing and the ever-beloved Sphinx Club. These traditions are held dear by the Wabash community and actively supported by the institution itself, fostering a sense of continuity and pride.
However, amidst this tapestry of sanctioned traditions, there exists one which stands out as a testament to the enduring spirit of the Wabash student body. This tradition, which persists year after year, receives no official endorsement from the College. A small dirt path, no longer than 15 feet, emerges along the walkways of Martindale and Baxter, crafted from the feet of students attempting to access a quick shortcut.
At first glance, this may seem like a minor, inconspicuous tradition, lacking the pomp and circumstance of its sanctioned counterparts. Yet it holds a special place in the hearts of those who witness its continuation. It is a tradition born from literal and metaphorical grassroots, devoid of College backing, devoid of social media fanfare and absent from the formal discussions held during Student Orientation. Despite the absence of official recognition, this path continues to emerge year after year.
As each year passes, without fail, the dirt path between Martindale and Baxter is restored with fresh sod, only to be promptly trodden upon by the eager footsteps of our students. It’s a ritual that persists without acknowledgement or strategic intervention from the administration. It begs the question: What should be done about this enduring tradition?
There are a few viable options on the table. The first involves maintaining the status quo, with Campus Services continuously laying down new sod and erecting temporary fences to preserve the lawn, only to have it immediately replaced by the path. While this does uphold the tradition, it comes at a cost to the College, both in terms of financial resources and workforce.
These resources could arguably be put to better use on other essential campus maintenance projects. Alternatively, we could embrace the dirt path as a permanent fixture. Allowing the dirt path to remain without the replacement of sod would create a continuous pathway.
However, this option is not without its challenges. The elements, particularly rain, would inevitably lead to muddy conditions, potentially causing problems for students navigating the area.
The final option, perhaps the most proactive, involves creating a permanent brick path where the dirt path currently resides. Extending this path an additional 15 feet from where the current path ends honoring the wishes of Wabash men who have demonstrated their desire for a path but also present a unique fundraising opportunity.
Inviting alumni to sponsor individual bricks engraved with their names as a way to commemorate their commitment to the College, similar to what exists at the Caleb Mills house. In my opinion, this is the optimal choice for several compelling reasons. It pays homage to a cherished tradition of Wabash, affirming the desires of students for a pathway.
The transformation would not only enhance campus aesthetics but also offer a robust, weather-resistant solution that ensures the path’s longevity. Simultaneously, it offers a unique fundraising opportunity that strengthens the ollege’s connection with its alumni, enabling them to leave an indelible mark on the institution while commemorating their commitment.
The creation of the path, a seemingly simple act, embodies the resilience and camaraderie that define the Wabash College experience. It reflects the unwavering dedication of students to upholding the traditions we hold dear, even in the absence of institutional support or external validation. The path between Martindale and Baxter serves as a reminder that traditions, no matter how humble, can endure and thrive through the sheer determination and unity of a passionate community.