Washington and Lee is a warm and welcoming community, with numerous opportunities to pursue individual interests and to develop skills outside the classroom. One of the key foundations for this kind of campus community is the Speaking Tradition, an informal but valuable custom by which members of the W&L community - students, staff and faculty alike - routinely greet one another as they pass on campus. This simple act of courtesy and respect for others, a longstanding practice at W&L, is frequently noted by prospective students, newer faculty, visitors and alumni as an impressive, bonding and distinctive feature of the university.
With more than 130 student organizations and countless activities from which to choose, W&L provides a vibrant student life with numerous opportunities for students to pursue their extracurricular interests and to take on leadership roles early in their W&L careers. The Student Activities Office sponsors a variety of speakers, concerts, movies and other events in the John W. Elrod Commons and elsewhere on campus throughout the year.
W&L's Lenfest Center for the Arts provides a professional venue for numerous student productions, as well as a wide range of professional touring productions, through the Concert Guild Series, Sonoklect and the Lenfest Series. The facility hosts more than 127 public performances each year.
A major feature of student life is the Washington and Lee Mock Convention, a quadrennial tradition in which student delegates predict the presidential nominee of the political party then out of the White House. Renowned for their accuracy based on careful research and interactions with state and national political leaders, the student delegates have been correct in 19 of the past 25 presidential elections, including the selection of Mitt Romney as the Republican nominee in 2012. The next Mock Convention will be held in early February 2016.
The university is making significant changes to campus housing patterns. The first-year residence halls have undergone major renovations as part of a $22.5 million project, creating a strong sense of community during the important first year. In 2014, the trustees adopted a requirement that students live on campus during their first three years, rather than only the first two. A new housing village of 350 beds in apartments and townhouses will be ready for occupancy by the 2016-17 academic year, augmenting existing residence halls, theme houses and 19 national fraternities and sororities, which provide housing for a portion of upper-division students.
There are 11 IFC fraternities, six NPC sororities, and four historically black Greek letter organizations at W&L. There are 17 fraternity and sorority houses that serve as residences for between 15 and 25 students each and provide meals for their members. To allow students to get their academic footing in the first term, formal Greek recruitment is held in the winter term of the first year. A high percentage of first-year students participate in rush, and in recent years more than 80 percent of our students choose a Greek organization.
These organizations have evolved as the W&L student body has evolved in the past 15 years. Many of the organizations have service relationships with local community and non-profit organizations. Most social events held by Greek organizations are open to the student body. The Panhellenic and Interfraternity councils regulate sororities and fraternities in the first instance, respectively, with oversight by the Student Affairs Committee of faculty, administration and students.
Washington and Lee is committed to increasing the diversity of the university community and bringing diverse people together in an inclusive environment built on core values of honor, intellectual engagement, civility and commitment to community. This commitment was formally adopted in a 2002 statement by the Board of Trustees, which cited the need for members of the community to live with and understand different cultural backgrounds in preparation for a changing world. The board further acknowledged the obligation to create "a climate that builds on our core values to welcome and nurture all members of the Washington and Lee community." (See go.wlu.edu/board-diversity) The university prohibits discrimination, including harassment, on the basis of race, color, religion, national or ethnic origin, sex, sexual orientation, age, disability, veteran's status and genetic information in its educational programs and activities and with regard to employment.