I can appreciate the immense pressure you face in leading the university community at this time. I graduated in 2011 and truly cherished my time at W&L. I could not have received a better education within the classroom. The instruction and mentorship I received in college well prepared me to go on to complete my doctorate degree and pursue a career in public service and research. I even had the pleasure to teach a course at W&L in 2017. I care deeply about this school, but I also have reservations about my affiliation and support of it moving forward unless action is taken.
The lack of diversity has long been a problem at W&L, and while recent steps have edged the school closer towards inclusivity, they will be ultimately unsuccessful until the university’s name is changed. One cannot reasonably expect an increase in representation of people of color among the university community while retaining the current name. I know this is one letter of many you are receiving, so I will keep my comments brief (though would gladly engage with you, your staff, or the Board in a longer format should you be available). Most simply put, the name Lee is problematic and antithetical to the value and the potential W&L claims to hold. There will of course be individuals within the university community and on its periphery who object to a name change, just as there were many who objected to the university accepting women in 1985. I am certain that the decision makers at that time have not looked back as it is undeniable that the university is a better and stronger institution because of that decision. I hope the decision makers today again make a choice to that exemplifies leading rather than succumbing to “tradition.” As an institution for learning and scholarship, W&L needs to demonstrate its capacity to reflect on and learn from its own past to make changes so that it may adapt and thrive into the future. I trust that the university will make changes to reflect its integrity and commitment as an institution of higher education.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Kara Fitzgibbon ‘11U