Dear President Dudley,
In the 10 years since I’ve left W&L I’ve grown increasingly embarrassed to mention the name of the university I attended. When I do, it comes with immediate qualifications or joking deflections that feature a summary of all of the worst ways in which the university failed to be inclusive of Black and brown folks. Saying the name “Lee” out loud means that every conversation about W&L that I have with a stranger, starts with an acknowledgement of how problematic that is. Though I see the changes W&L is taking to make the campus a better place to be for BIPOC faculty and students, incremental change in the right direction will never be the lightening rod that the name “Lee” is.
I often feel shame when I think back about how obliviously content I was at W&L, ignorant of the different experiences being had on campus by non-white students. I think what a privilege it would have been to learn from and be part of a student body that was more representative of the country we live in — but how could that student body, one that would have the support and care of the university behind them and the force in numbers to shake the foundations of ignorance that weigh down the university — be expect to look with pleasure at the prospect of attending a university carrying the name of Robert E. Lee.
I know there will be donors that might withhold funds if the name changes, but I’ve been withholding my donations for 10 years because of the moral and emotional mire I feel about W&L. I can’t imagine that I’m alone in being ready to give when the name changes.
Let’s change it. Now is the moment.
Lisa Reppell ’09