Dear Mr. Toles, Mr. Owens, and other Distinguished Trustees:
There occasionally comes a time when a large and diverse group agrees that change is needed. That time is now. Achieving our shared goal of continuously bettering the University will lack meaningful progress until we effect a change in culture. Our best, first, and next step must be changing the name of the University. As much as I loved Lee as an undergrad, I now recognize that the University’s future interests are best served by turning away from the “Lost Cause” idolatry.
Through my alumni friends I have read various differing accounts of life on campus and how the campus “Confederate Culture” impacted them. Hurtful and harmful to some, disappointing to others, and dishonest to the rest, the false and idealized version of Lee that we were given does not match any serious scholarship on his life and actions. Lee failed to live up to the ideals of the “Gentleman Scholar” that we were told he professed. For better or worse we were encouraged to live up to an ideal that we now recognize he does not represent. That ideal may have made us better citizens, but we now recognize it was built on false foundations. It is possible to carry these values forward without the continued veneration of a toxic leader.
As encouraged as I am with the large cross-section of alumni that have come together to push for this name change, I am simultaneously disgusted by the actions of the “Generals Redoubt.” Their subtle threats against figures such as Professor Locy, against the Tenure System, and their seeming unwillingness to engage in any serious debate show that they also fail to live up to the ideals of the “Gentleman Scholar” that our school is said to represent.
I stand with my reasonable, thoughtful, and considerate alumni friends in encouraging you and the Board to drop the Lee name from the University. Let us continue to respect our history while choosing to venerate the right figures into the future. The sooner the better, and then we can move forward with that new name to a place of inclusion and increasing diversity. My wife and I will be happy to serve a renamed school through annual giving and volunteer work.
Thank you for your time and consideration,
-Doug Brown, ‘97 Computer Science, Kennesaw MBA ‘09