W&L Alumni Revolt Gains Momentum

by James A. Bacon

The Washington & Lee alumni outcry against an initiative to remove Lee’s name from the university is morphing into a powerful constituency demanding influence in university decision-making. Under the name of The Generals Redoubt, alumni protesters have formed a nonprofit, raised $456,000 in funds, and articulated a coherent alternative vision for the institution.

“The Generals Redoubt is dedicated to the preservation of the history, values, and traditions of Washington and Lee University,” states the website.

While not directly addressing the administration’s embrace of social justice issues, the Generals Redoubt calls for a student body with “a variety of economic backgrounds and life experiences” as well as “greater political and ideological diversity” in hiring faculty and administrators. The group also seeks “freedom of expression” on campus and the restoration of public prayer (participation optional) at ceremonial functions.

Another goal is to critically evaluate the curriculum to ensure that Western Civilization is “at the core of the Washington and Lee student journey,” coursework based on “Identitarian Ideology” is downplayed, and students are taught skills and competencies that allow them to thrive in their personal and professional lives.

Dissenting alumni seek to pursue a “constructive dialogue” between The Generals Redoubt, the administration, and the Board of Trustees. Furthermore, they are advocating increased transparency in Board decision-making and the restoration of direct alumni voting for board positions.

The organization has taken no position yet on whether people should contribute to W&L. “That is a decision for each individual to make,” say annual fund co-chairs Neely Young and Jack Schewel in a communication to supporters.

Some of the members of TGR have made the decision to suspend donations to the university, and we are hearing of others who have made a similar decision. We are still reluctant to recommend to others what they should do. However, in light of the current circumstances, we do suggest that individuals consider conditioning their gifts to Washington and Lee on maintaining the name of the university.

In the meantime, supporters are invited to donate to The Generals Redoubt. The group has raised $456,000 since its inception in the spring, and has announced a second annual fund goal of $500,000. It is using the money to build an organization. Goals for the upcoming year include:

– Public Relations- We have hired a highly accomplished group of public relations professionals to work with us over the next six months and possibly longer to maintain the name of the university and to assist with other public relations issues. The cost of the initial engagement period is $180,000 plus expenses.

– Legal/Contingency Fund- It is our greatest desire that the name of the university not be changed, but we believe we must be prepared for any outcome. Therefore, we plan to establish a contingency fund in the neighborhood of $500,000 to $1 million.

– Support of Student Speaker Series- In order to attract high quality speakers to the campus we have budgeted $25,000 an appearance for two speakers a year. This comes to $50,000 annually.– Operational expenses- As mentioned above, we have ongoing expenses in areas like our network site, legal and incorporation fees, audit and accounting fees. etc. Fortunately, we have been able to keep these costs very low and anticipate spending only about $25,000 in this area. 

Bacon’s bottom line: As I’ve noted before, the alumni of Virginia colleges and universities have been remarkably passive as their beloved institutions have been taken over by leftists under the banner of diversity, inclusion, and social justice. This is not, let me emphasize, a revolt against opening up these institutions to minorities. Rather, it is a reaction to the effort to delegitimize hallowed traditions and values. Alumni associations of most universities are captive organizations that function as house organs of the administrations — sponsoring reunions, hyping sports events, and cheerleading the institution. I expect W&L is no exception, or there never would have been a reason for The Generals Redoubt to exist. One might say that many alumni have had enough and aren’t going to take it anymore.

As nonprofit entities, higher-ed institutions have become captive to their internal constituencies, which pursue goals increasingly at odds with those of the alumni. At W&L, the alumni have revolted. They are fighting, in effect, for control of the institution. It looks like something similar could be happening at the University of Virginia. The battle for the heart and soul of higher-ed is long overdue.

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17 responses to “W&L Alumni Revolt Gains Momentum

  1. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    I found some thoughtfully considered letters at the Generals Redoubt. Some powerful counter arguments are made by concerned alumni. I wish the very best in the outcome of the W and L debate.

    https://www.thegeneralsredoubt.us/letters

  2. It’s happening all over like this “renaming” issue message recently sent to W&M Olde Garde members soliciting comments:
    https://www.wm.edu/about/history/reconciliation/working-group/design-imperatives-principles/index.php

    I’m also reminded of the short lived tenure of one W&M president Gene Nichol a few years ago who caused great alumni consternation by temporarily removing the cross from the Wren Building chapel.

  3. ” July 7, 2020 at 6:40 p.m. EDT

    When Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee died in 1870, the faculty of Washington College called for the school’s name to be changed to reflect the contributions Lee had made as its president. The trustees agreed and renamed the school Washington and Lee University.

    On Monday, faculty again asked trustees of the prestigious Virginia university to change its name.

    Seventy-nine percent voted in favor of a formal resolution: “The Faculty of Washington and Lee calls for the removal of Robert E. Lee from the name of the University.”

    In 1870, “Lee was a symbol of who that faculty wanted to be, and who they were,” said Alison Bell, who leads the Faculty Affairs Committee. “The faculty is back 150 years later, asking the university for a name change because Lee does not represent who we are and who we want to be. … Lee just cannot symbolize our community any more.”

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2020/07/06/faculty-resoundingly-votes-change-name-washington-lee/

    • The really should go all the way. Washington, too, was a famous traitor. He rebelled against his King, just as Lee rebelled against his Constitution. He killed his fellow countrymen. He lived in the real plantation economy (not the one DJ still sees…) and exploited slave labor. But their school, their issue, and they name it what they will. Don’t look too deep into the Crown’s finances when William and Mary lived in the palace….That movement starts, I’ll care.

  4. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    I usually do not retain the sermons I hear at church for more than a few days. But I heard a sermon at the Happy Creek Primitive Baptist Church in Front Royal a few years back that has managed to stick for a good while now.

    The preacher reminded the congregation that all of the things in this world that I love will be taken from me. All of the people that I love in the world will be taken from me or I will be taken from them.

    The agents of change in this cultural revolution need to remember that this is going to happen to them as well.

    I approve of the equity in this inescapable natural law.

  5. Well now, perhaps there is hope for history in general and the Republic in particular! For years I’ve been saying that this will come down to alumni donors with deep pockets pushing back on the nitwittery of the day. Good for them. And I hope they can get the job done. Institutional passivity is worse than the SJWs because it demonstrates outright cowardice. Case in point, the Virginia Historical Society (or whatever their current name change is). where were they when Monument Avenue was being dismantled without discussion or planning?

  6. Pingback: James Bacon breaks down the problem with higher education in America

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