In a 22-to-6 decision, the Washington & Lee Board of Trustees voted today to keep the Lee in its name. There is no consensus in the W&L community regarding the name change, said the board in a statement. But the board explicitly repudiated racism, apologized for the university’s past veneration of the Confederacy and the “Lost Cause” narrative, and expressed regret for the fact that the university once owned slaves.
The statement also expressed the Board’s commitment to “free and critical inquiry, civil discourse, and developing students with honor and integrity.”
The private university has been sharply divided on policies relating to race. A movement to delete the last name of Robert E. Lee from the university was especially polarizing. Some members of the W&L community denounced the Confederate military commander as a slave holder and a traitor to the United States. Others defended retaining the name on the grounds that Lee was widely admired for his character, he played a critical role in reunifying the country after the Civil War, and he rescued the institution, named after George Washington, University from oblivion. Continue reading