A Chronology of Insults

by Phil Leigh

The Generals Redoubt (TGR), a Washington & Lee alumni group with an email list of 10,000 supporters, announced Monday resolutions of no confidence in university President William Dudley. You can read the resolutions here and here. Provided below is a four-year chronology of events that drove them to their decision.

January, 2017 — President Dudley takes office

Spring, 2017 — Admissions tours of the interior of Lee Chapel are halted and later restored.

Late summer, 2017 — Tragic events occur in Charlottesville.

Spring, 2017 forward — Members of the English department issue a statement talking about “safe spaces”, “white supremacy,” and Robert E. Lee’s “problematic” connection to the university. Other online posts by faculty in 2017-2018 present a grim picture of Lee and of the situation at the University. It is apparent that the faculty are the main drivers of a “revisionist” history of Lee and of Washington & Lee.

Fall, 2017 — President Dudley calls for a Commission on Institutional History and Community to be formed at Washington & Lee and picks the members of this Commission. This, notwithstanding events at the University of Virginia and in Charlottesville that have nothing to do with Washington & Lee. President Dudley does not provide the Commission a set of working parameters and allows it a completely open field. The Commission, in essence, is a solution in search of a non-existent problem. Several of the members of the Commission seem determined to find problems that they can decry and root out of the University.

Spring, 2018 — Banning of children’s book on Lee’s horse, Traveller, from the shelves of the Lee Chapel bookstore and the University bookstore. The request for this action comes from a faculty member. The book is ultimately restored to the bookshelves.

June, 2018 — The Report of the Commission contains several recommendations opposed by a significant number of alumni. One that caused particular consternation is that “The name of the University should not be changed at this time.” This opens the door for a discussion of possibly changing the name. There are also several questionable historical assertions in the report.

Fall, 2018 — Based on the recommendations of the History Commission, the Board changes the name of Robinson Hall to Chavis Hall. TGR responds that in honoring one prominent figure in the Washington & Lee’s history, the University had dishonored another, perhaps more significant, figure.

October, 2018 — Neely Young meets personally with President Dudley to discuss his concerns and those of many other alums that there is a developing crisis at Washington & Lee and that steps be taken to “right the ship.” President Dudley is polite but essentially says nothing, not even acknowledging that problems are occurring. This establishes a pattern of communication between President Dudley and concerned alums (who would soon organize in a newly formed group, The Generals Redoubt) whereby we point out issues which need to be addressed and he ignores them or brushes them off.

June 30, 2019 — Annual fund giving declines from previous year for the first time in history. This is a clear indication of growing alumni concern and of President Dudley’s ineffectiveness as a fund raiser.

November, 2019 — Law School students request that they be given the option of removing portraits of George Washington and Robert E. Lee from their diplomas.

Spring, 2020 — The Board of Trustees denies the option of removing portraits of Washington and Lee from diplomas and reiterates its position that the name of the University will not be changed. President Dudley appears to take no part in this issue or any other controversial issue, always stating that it is someone else’s responsibility.

June 30, 2020 — Annual fund giving declines again. There is also a decline in the number of participants.

Late summer, 2020 — The Board announces decision to reconsider the naming of the University.

Late summer, 2020 — In the midst of widespread political unrest in the country, a Washington & Lee professor announces that he will be teaching a course entitled “How to Overthrow the State.” TGR contacts President Dudley suggesting that the title of the course is unnecessarily provocative and reflects poor judgement. President Dudley sends a tepid response to TGR and refuses to take any action.

Fall; 2020 — A plaque honoring Robert E. Lee is removed from the wall of Lee Chapel Terrace. TGR discovers this was done with the knowledge and support of the administration. TGR contacts President Dudley who disavows any responsibility for the removal of the plaque and refuses to take any action.

School year, 2020-2021 — There are numerous problems with the enforcement of COVID-19 regulations. Several students and parents see the rules as discriminatory and unfair. They contact the administration and President Dudley, who, once again, does nothing.

School year, 2020-2021 — TGR makes continuous efforts to present a more balanced view of Robert E. Lee and his legacy at an official, on-campus event, whether via zoom or some other medium. President Dudley and the administration either ignore or rebuff such efforts. They do nothing to promote true freedom of speech and ideological diversity on campus but instead allow the faculty to push a one-sided political agenda. TGR contends that there really is no free speech if only one point of view, primarily that of the faculty, is allowed to be presented.

Spring, 2021 — Numerous examples of dishonorable behavior by faculty and students presented to President Dudley, first by a student, then by other alums and TGR. Both the student and TGR plead with President Dudley to issue a statement condemning such behavior, calling for an end to it and stating that future actions of this type will be dealt with severely. In his comments to the student, President Dudley basically states, “This is not his responsibility.” When TGR reiterates the need for President Dudley to issue such a statement, he does not even bother to respond.

Spring, 2021 — Hiring of controversial new Dean of the College, Chawne Kimber, allowed and, presumably, approved by President Dudley. It appears that the search committee and President Dudley either did not do their homework on this candidate or did do their homework and proceeded with this appointment any way.

June 30, 2021 — We anticipate that there will be a drop in annual giving for the 3rd straight year and that this year’s decline will be the most precipitous yet.
We do not refer here to the numerous cases in which students and professors have behaved in an uncivil manner towards others. Nor do we refer to the power which professors have over the grades which students receive or how they are treated, generally, by their professors. This has had a chilling effect on free speech at the University whereby many parents and students do not feel that they can express how they really feel about issues. President Dudley has failed to even recognize that such a problem exists.

President Dudley has refused to take responsibility for developments at the university and has not exercised effective leadership.

Phil Leigh is the author of “Causes of the Civil War.” This column has been republished with permission from his blog, Civil War Chat.

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12 responses to “A Chronology of Insults”

  1. WayneS Avatar

    Whether one agrees with TGR’s positions or not, one has to wonder: If, as President William Dudley claims, he has no responsibilities related to any of the issues raised by TGR, exactly what does he do for the university?

    1. emjak Avatar

      Apparently, President William Dudley is emulating Sgt. Schultz (of the Hogan’s Heroes TV series) by repeating variations of “I know nothing” and “I see nothing”, supplemented by “I do nothing.”

      1. William O'Keefe Avatar
        William O’Keefe

        The analogy is perfect. Dudley being president dishonors the values that REL possessed and instilled in students.

    2. Matt Adams Avatar
      Matt Adams

      “ask not what you can for the University–ask what the University can do for you.”

      I think someone famous said that one time.

    3. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
      James Wyatt Whitehead

      Dudley is pulling a Roger Stone. Admit nothing. Deny everything.

  2. dick dyas Avatar
    dick dyas

    I’m surprised TGR has only 10,000 members.

  3. TGR may have an email list of almost 10,000 people, a number of whom are not opted-in subscribers, but it is inaccurate to refer to them collectively as “supporters” since a number of those individuals most certainly have different views. And the image shown is not that of President Dudley.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      Yes, but SOP in BR….these days. Stuff is published that lacks the transparency that BR jumps up and down about with who they criticize sometimes.

      I also question how many alumni there are and how many active ones there are.

      Does this group REALLY represent a significant number of alumni or is it a poser?

      1. Matt Adams Avatar
        Matt Adams

        If you find the writing so egregious why do you come here? Perhaps instead of complaining about it, you should write a piece with all your free commenting time.

    2. How does the new photo suit you?

  4. Stephen Haner Avatar
    Stephen Haner

    Should do some research. My maternal grandmother was a Dudley, and I bear that as a middle name (all those Mountie jokes growing up….). Another famous Bill Dudley, a.k.a. Bullet Bill, was a somewhat removed cousin.

    I’m not seeing any sign these groups are causing any consternation at the schools, W&L or UVA. Tuition remains $56,000 at W&L and I assume they are getting kids who can pay it every year. I can imagine this guy’s ideas on the causes of the War of the Rebellion….

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