Board of Washington and Lee University Votes to Keep Lee’s Name

Washington and Lee University, the personal liberal arts college in Virginia, won’t change its title after a monthslong evaluation over whether or not to take away its reference to the Confederate normal Robert E. Lee, the varsity introduced on Friday.

The college’s board of trustees voted 22-6 on Friday in favor of conserving its present title, which developed as an acknowledgment of a donation given by George Washington within the 18th century and Lee’s tenure as college president after the Civil War. The vote got here after a virtually yearlong evaluation of the varsity’s title and the symbols related to its historical past and campus environment in Lexington, Va.

Last July, amid nationwide protests towards racial injustice and debates over Confederate monuments and emblems, the college’s board of trustees obtained requests from college students, college and alumni calling for adjustments on the college. Those included requests to rename the establishment itself and alter the design of its diploma, in accordance to the college.

“Over the past year, we have engaged in deliberations over these requests and other important issues relating to diversity and inclusion on campus,’’ the university said in a statement. The school added that it had “found no consensus about whether changing the name of our university is consistent with our shared values.”

“We have been guided by our duty to make sure the college’s future success in a fancy and altering world,’’ the college added.

Originally based as Augusta Academy in 1749, the college has repeatedly modified its title throughout its historical past. It grew to become Liberty Hall Academy in 1776, and Washington College in 1813, after the primary president gave it a big monetary reward.

The college’s board of trustees invited Lee to lead the faculty in August 1865, solely months after he surrendered within the Civil War.

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His legacy and that of one other Confederate chief, Stonewall Jackson, have loomed over Lexington for effectively over a century. Both males are buried within the small school city — as are members of Lee’s household — and their names are seen all through the town, together with on the Robert E. Lee Hotel and the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery.

But lately, attitudes concerning the metropolis’s well-known Confederate forebears, who each owned enslaved individuals, started to change. In 2017, the Grace Episcopal Church eliminated Lee from its title. In 2019, the native Boy Scout council eliminated Jackson’s from its council title. And final yr, as cities across the nation re-evaluated imagery and symbols of slave homeowners, 79 p.c of Washington and Lee’s college voted to strip Lee’s title from the varsity.

University officers mentioned that they had heard from greater than 15,000 college students, college, workers, alumni and dad and mom who shared their views in surveys, letters and listening classes.

“We have listened rigorously and are grateful for the considerate method through which you might have shared your views and experiences with us,’’ the college mentioned.

The board did resolve to make one title change. Lee Chapel, the place the previous Confederate normal labored and attended companies, can be renamed University Chapel in line with its unique 19th-century title of College Chapel.

The board mentioned it could oversee and approve inside adjustments to restore its unadorned design and to bodily separate the auditorium from the Lee household crypt and a Lee memorial sculpture. In addition, the varsity’s Founders Day, which was historically held on Robert E. Lee’s birthday, can be discontinued.

The college additionally mentioned it could undertake a brand new design for its diplomas, eradicating some photos. Student levels have historically featured the portraits of Lee and Washington, who additionally owned slaves.

Additionally, the college mentioned it could create a board committee on variety, fairness and inclusion to “carry further perspective to our work and assist us oversee, direct and help the administration’s initiatives.”