Earlier today Washington & Lee University shared its Report of the Commission on Institutional History and Community on its website. The report is incredibly detailed and reflects a good deal of hard work by the commission’s members, which included faculty, students, staff, and alumni.
I have not had a chance to read the entire report, but a few of the recommendations that caught my include the following:
- Require each undergraduate student to take a seminar that explores W&L history, including the involvement of the namesakes, the contribution of enslaved persons, the role of W&L in the creation and dissemination of the Lost Cause narrative, the training of soldiers on campus, and the impact of our graduates on the institution and the world.
- Refer to Robert E. Lee as “President Lee” rather than “General Lee,” including in formal documents, on the website, and the like.
- Convert Lee Chapel and Museum building into a museum, which would serve as a teaching environment with a well-appointed classroom, offices, and state-of-the-art exhibition space.
- Display only portraits of Lee that portray him in civilian attire, not as a Confederate general.
- Re-name Robinson Hall immediately. The hall’s association with slavery at Washington College – i.e., that the Robinson bequest included enslaved persons who labored at the institution until the institution sold them to others – gives special urgency to this proposal.
The commission recommended that the school not change its name at this time. Again, this only scratches the surface of the list of recommendations.
It will be interesting to see how the W&L community responds. I suspect that they will see resistance from older alumni, who may find it difficult to acknowledge how memory of the Confederacy has shaped race relations and the broader racial culture on campus.