Community Update: January 26, 2018

From late October through early December, 2017, the Commission gathered input from many within the W&L community. We hosted eight sessions for W&L law and undergraduate faculty, sixteen sessions for University staff members, four telephonic sessions for alumni (totaling more than 400 alumni listening in or speaking), one telephonic session with black alumni, and eight sessions with current students (members of the Student Bar Association, Black Law Students Association, Student Association for Black Unity, College Dems, Panhellenic, College Republicans, Student Judicial Council, and the Interfraternity Council, with input still expected from a number of other student groups).

In advance of these sessions, the Commission sent out questions as a way of organizing the conversations. The questions stemmed from President Dudley's charge to examine how W&L's history — and the ways in which we teach, discuss, and represent that history — shapes us as a community. The questions were essentially these: How do we teach, discuss, and represent our history, and should we do any of these things differently? Given that W&L has the least diverse student body among peer institutions, and a concern that this fact may influence highly qualified students to choose another school, how might we increase diversity within the student body? Are there any spaces on campus, or any content on the website or in our publications, that are inconsistent with W&L's core values (integrity, civility, and citizenship in a global and diverse society)? What traditions are important to maintain as part of the W&L experience? To alums in particular: How did W&L's history and culture affect you as a prospective student, and are these things of continuing importance to you as a graduate?

In the midst of these sessions, members of the Commission also met with representatives of other campus groups: the University Collections of Art and History Advisory Committee, the University Committee on Inclusiveness and Campus Climate, the Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program, the Working Group on the History of African Americans at W&L and Lee Chapel. The Commission also met with several individuals who are involved in researching the university's history.

The Commission met on January 19-20 for two days of discussion, reviewing the input we received from all constituencies and beginning to address the content of our recommendations to the President. The Commission discussed in detail issues relating to the physical campus and the need for accurate telling of the University's history. We will spend February writing initial drafts of our report. We will have weekly meetings beginning in February to review our progress and discuss additional issues and questions that arise. We remain hopeful about completing our recommendations to the President by the end of the academic year.

— Brian Murchison, Chair