Washington and Lee College, the non-public liberal arts faculty in Virginia, won’t change its identify after a monthslong evaluate over whether or not to take away its reference to the Accomplice common Robert E. Lee, the college introduced on Friday.
The college’s board of trustees voted 22-6 on Friday in favor of conserving its present identify, which developed as an acknowledgment of a donation given by George Washington within the 18th century and Lee’s tenure as faculty president after the Civil Battle. The vote got here after an almost yearlong evaluate of the college’s identify and the symbols linked to its historical past and campus environment in Lexington, Va.
Final July, amid nationwide protests in opposition to racial injustice and debates over Accomplice monuments and symbols, the college’s board of trustees acquired requests from college students, college and alumni calling for modifications on the faculty. These included requests to rename the establishment itself and alter the design of its diploma, based on the college.
“Over the previous 12 months, we’ve engaged in deliberations over these requests and different essential points referring to range and inclusion on campus,’’ the college mentioned in an announcement. The college added that it had “discovered no consensus about whether or not altering the identify of our college is per our shared values.”
“We’ve been guided by our accountability to make sure the college’s future success in a posh and altering world,’’ the college added.
Initially based as Augusta Academy in 1749, the college has repeatedly modified its identify throughout its historical past. It turned Liberty Corridor Academy in 1776, and Washington School in 1813, after the primary president gave it a big monetary reward.
The college’s board of trustees invited Lee to guide the faculty in August 1865, solely months after he surrendered within the Civil Battle.
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His legacy and that of one other Accomplice chief, Stonewall Jackson, have loomed over Lexington for nicely over a century. Each 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 Resort, now known as The Gin, and the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery, now often known as Oak Grove Cemetery.
However lately, attitudes concerning the metropolis’s well-known Accomplice forebears, who each owned enslaved individuals, started to alter. In 2017, the Grace Episcopal Church eliminated Lee from its identify. In 2019, the native Boy Scout council eliminated Jackson’s from its council identify. And final 12 months, 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 identify from the college.
College officers mentioned they’d heard from greater than 15,000 college students, college, employees, alumni and fogeys who shared their views in surveys, letters and listening classes.
“We’ve listened fastidiously and are grateful for the considerate method by which you may have shared your views and experiences with us,’’ the college mentioned.
The board did determine to make one identify change. Lee Chapel, the place the previous Accomplice common labored and attended providers, shall be renamed College Chapel in line with its unique Nineteenth-century identify of School Chapel.
The board mentioned it could oversee and approve inside modifications to revive its unadorned design and to bodily separate the auditorium from the Lee household crypt and a Lee memorial sculpture. As well as, the college’s Founders Day, which was historically held on Robert E. Lee’s birthday, shall be discontinued.
The college additionally mentioned it could undertake a brand new design for its diplomas, eradicating some pictures. Scholar levels have historically featured the portraits of Lee and Washington, who additionally owned slaves.
Moreover, the college mentioned it could create a board committee on range, fairness and inclusion to “convey extra perspective to our work and assist us oversee, direct and help the administration’s initiatives.”