Webb Rewind: Where we are, how we got here, and what the future holds

The+light+post+banners+around+campus+celebrate+the+school%E2%80%99s+centennial+year.+Webb%E2%80%99s+updated+logo+and+colors+can+be+seen+on+these+displays+that+are+posted+around+campus.+

David Hastings

The light post banners around campus celebrate the school’s centennial year. Webb’s updated logo and colors can be seen on these displays that are posted around campus.

As classes winded down and students celebrated the new year over winter break, the community had its longest opportunity to decompress after an eventful first half of the school year.

For many reasons, the 2021-2022 year has been monumental for Webb: the community is celebrating 100 years of academic achievement, and this centennial celebration was aimed to be the theme of this school year. This celebration is symbolic of the traditions that have been upheld at Webb to this point, while also signaling the community’s willingness to revise these traditions in respect of these changing times.

Yet, we have felt the impact of COVID most strongly. Whether we want to admit it or not, it has been the focus and has clouded the centennial celebration. Webb’s culture feels more lost than ever.

There is a very specific feeling and “vibe” that I have associated with Webb, even before I attended here. I always admired the excitement of the Webb community, the ferocious Gauls spirit, and the set-in-stone traditions.

Admittedly, my point of view is unique because I have grown up around Webb longer than most, but nonetheless, I sensed that my peers had the same notions as me when I enrolled during my sophomore year. Experiences, such as attending packed volleyball games while wearing foam Gaul helmets with the rest of the student body, only cemented the “vibe” for me.

This, of course, was all put on pause when the 2019-2020 school year closed out with online classes from our homes. At that time, there was still hope that we could return to “normal” soon. It felt as though the “vibe” had been put on hold because everything was changing for everyone, but it was going to be brought back soon, right?

Well, another school year that was anything but typical passed, and the world began to acknowledge the pandemic as a new normal. Any return plans at this stage were going to include significant modifications to comply with COVID protocols. Still, ahead of our return to campus, the administration implemented longer-lasting changes aside from COVID that would more deeply alter the “vibe.”

The first example of these changes came nearly exactly one year ago. As 2021 began, Webb finalized a rebranding that updated the school’s branding with new color shades and logos that would ultimately lead to a more singularly unified institution between VWS and WSC. This redesign was in the works prior to the pandemic. However, the rebrand was finished and announced while students were still taking classes from their beds.

As a result, these changes were striking for the community, especially since its members did not have as much input as they would have if COVID ceased to exist. Arguably the most noticeable difference was the larger focus on the Alf Museum’s peccary as a representation of the school, as opposed to the Gaul.

Dormitory changes for VWS and WSC were also implemented ahead of the return to in-person learning. As another way to promote equality between VWS and WSC, Jameson was made a dorm for VWS, and North Hutch was made into a WSC dorm.

Historically, VWS dorms were within enclosed buildings and students usually had a roommate. In contrast, WSC students were allotted dorms with access to the outside and typically had single rooms. This change created a more equal balance of single-to-double rooms and inside-to-outside dorms between the two schools.

These changes have set the scene for the centennial celebration this year. Webb is continuing to adjust to changing times, while also attempting to celebrate its traditions. The issue has been, however, that Webb is not completely back to normal. Programs such as Sunday chapel and community dinners have been sporadic, if not scrapped completely.

It has been difficult to memorialize Webb’s traditions when they have been altered so severely due to the pandemic. Half of the student body is on campus for the first time and is initially going through a Webb experience that is in an altered state. When you include the more permanent changes that were instituted on top of this already confusing landscape, it is easy to see why everything feels off.

The school looks like it will continue to go through changes. After the 2022-2023 school year, Associate Head of Schools Dr. Theresa Smith is set to take over as the new Head of Schools after Mr. Stockdale. Her challenge for the next few years is going to be reinstating the school’s culture. This will become more difficult if the pandemic continues to rage on, meaning more students on campus will not have a normal year.

In conclusion, the school is at a pivotal point, and it is completely understandable with everything that has happened why the “vibe” is not what it was. Hope is not completely lost, however.

Webb will continue to open little by little and we could be seeing Sunday chapels and continued community dinners after the break. Not everyone enjoys community events, but if we want to reinstall Webb’s culture as best we can, the student body must embrace these opportunities of normality so that we do not lose tradition and the “vibe.” This is especially true for upperclassmen, whom I encourage to set the standard when we return from break.