Preparing for the Board's Decisions

To: Students, Faculty, and Staff
From: President Will Dudley
Date: May 17, 2021

Earlier this month you received a message from Rector Mike McAlevey with an update on the Board of Trustees' deliberations on the university's name, diploma, and related issues.

I know that for many members of our community, this process has been yet another source of stress and anxiety in a year that already contains too much of both.  The board's decisions on the issues under consideration will be felt by all of us in different ways.  The demonstrations, leaflets, and signage on campus in recent months reflect the breadth of views and depth of feeling on our university's name and namesakes.  I appreciate the thoughtfulness with which you have expressed your opinions, and your patience as the process nears its end.

In the days and weeks following the board's announcement of its conclusions, we will provide opportunities for students, faculty, and staff to talk to each other and share their thoughts with the trustees.  Student Affairs will facilitate student conversations throughout the summer and will have a dean on call at all times.  Students in need of support should contact their class dean, the dean on call, or the director of university counseling, who can direct students to resources here on campus or in their local communities.  Human Resources will offer a professional development program to help faculty and staff engage with each other productively on challenging issues that affect our community, and the Carilion EAP will be prepared to support employees in need of counseling services.  We are also aware that this announcement may draw attention outside our community, and we are working with local, regional, and state law enforcement and security experts to protect the safety of our students, employees, and campus.

The difficulty of conversations about the path forward will be exacerbated by the physical distance that has challenged us all year.  As we all grapple with our personal feelings, it will be especially important to be kind and generous to each other, and empathetic with those whose experiences and reactions differ from our own.

It is also important not to lose sight of all that we have accomplished together in this extraordinary year.  We successfully completed the academic year on campus.  Our undergraduate students have been awarded a record number of national fellowships.  Athletes and artists returned to competing and performing in front of live audiences this spring.  The Law Class of 2021 celebrated its commencement in person on May 7, and our seniors will do the same next week.  The Harte Center for Teaching and Learning is nearly complete and will open its doors in Leyburn Library next fall.  We are about to renovate Elrod Commons to create the new Center for Inclusion and Engagement.  And we have just recruited the most accomplished and diverse class of undergraduate students in the history of the university.

The board's decisions, and our responses to them, will help to define our course as a university.  While much work lies ahead, there is also a great deal of which we can be proud.  I am grateful for your dedicated efforts this year on behalf of W&L.  And I wish you the best in the remaining weeks here on campus.