Executive Summary of Our Requests to the Board
We write to the Board of Trustees in a spirit of love for the University, and with respect for the work the Board has already done on behalf of the University, to offer ourselves as partners in the mission to improve one of the best liberal arts universities in the country and ensure its future viability.
To those ends, we call on the Board of Trustees at Washington and Lee University to:
Accelerate the implementation of Community Initiatives in the Strategic Plan
To deliver on its goals related to equity, diversity, and inclusion, the Board needs to drive the conversation, provide the necessary resources, and hold University leaders accountable. The Board and University leadership have laid out an excellent plan. In order to be who we say we are in that plan, our actions must match our words in a timely fashion.
Immediately address problems of exclusion inherent to campus climate
Make swift and bold decisions to address campus climate, which allows racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and other forms of threatening, exclusionary, and marginalizing behavior to derail the community that the Board describes as “our most valuable asset.” Such problems have been acknowledged and experienced by members of the W&L family for decades. It is time to reform or eliminate systems, organizations, and events that maintain and/or foster exclusion and division on campus.
Diversify the Board of Trustees
The Board should demonstrate its commitment to diversity and inclusion by taking advantage of the next 9 appointment periods (October 2020 through May 2023), in conjunction with its ability to expand to as many as 40 members, to intentionally add members who are women, BIPOC, and LGTBQIA+.
Remove Robert E. Lee from the name and brand of the University
Lee is divisive, not unifying. An honest examination reveals that the University’s perceptions of Lee as educator and healer have been clouded by apologist sentiments and misinformation; to the rest of the world he will always be a Confederate General and symbol of white supremacy. In fact, Lee was an unrepentant white supremacist until the end of his life. Lee’s name is an obstacle to the University’s current and future success, especially as the rest of our nation sheds itself of narratives and symbols that promote white supremacy.
Removing Lee from the name of the school does not erase history. It corrects myths, in keeping with the principles of lifelong learning that are foundational to the University, as well as the principles of honesty that are foundational to its Honor System.
We commit to support the university with our time, energy, and money as it makes these critical improvements with a sense of intentionality, purpose, vision, and urgency.