Board Decisions

To: Students, Faculty, Staff, Alumni, Parents
From: President Will Dudley
Date: June 4, 2021

The Board of Trustees announced three important decisions this morning:  we will continue to be known as Washington and Lee University; we will expand our diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives; and we will make important symbolic changes on campus.

Reactions to these decisions within the W&L community will undoubtedly be divergent and strong.  For some, they will be painful.  Questions of identity elicit powerful emotions.  We have deep attachments to the school where we have chosen to study, teach, or work.  Each of us wants what is best for our university but there are honest disagreements about how to pursue it.

Debate regarding our communal aspirations is healthy.  Undertaken constructively, it improves our understanding of who we are, sharpens our vision of who we might become, and catalyzes positive change over time.  The conversations within our community, and the views expressed to the board over the last year, have informed the decisions announced today.

Some things are not up for debate:  We join the Board in repudiating racism, racial injustice, and Confederate nostalgia.  We offer liberal arts and legal education of the highest quality.  We are increasing diversity in the service of our educational mission.  And we are committed to supporting the success of every member of our community to the best of our ability.

The Board's announcement reinforces these uncompromising commitments.  It accelerates the initiatives at the forefront of our strategic plan that will continue to diversify our community and benefit everyone at W&L -- including expansion of financial aid, enrichment of student opportunities, and enhancement of the curriculum.  It changes the diploma and the chapel in ways that signal we are a modern university with a long history but not a memorial to our namesakes.  And it anticipates an examination of residential and social life at W&L that aims to improve options for all students.

The name "Washington and Lee" does not define us.  We define it.  While the name has been unchanged for more than 150 years, the institution has been utterly transformed over that span by integration, coeducation, and sustained innovation.  We are now a national liberal arts university serving a diverse population, recognized for academic excellence, the quality of our students and faculty, and the success of our graduates.  Washington and Lee will be known in the future for who we are and what we do.

We all have roles to play in shaping the university and continuing to improve it for everyone.  It is important for each of us to participate in identifying opportunities and obstacles to building upon our strengths.  As a starting point, in the coming days and weeks, we will organize conversations for students, faculty, staff, and alumni to discuss the Board’s decisions.

I encourage you to participate in these conversations, but also to take some time this summer to reflect upon the things you value about our university and your hopes for its future.  While the Board’s formal process is now complete, much work remains to be done.  We have high aspirations and I look forward to working with you to make them a reality.