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Washington and Lee University faculty calls for name change

Published: Jul. 7, 2020 at 7:06 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Va. (WDBJ) - “I think that the motion that the faculty approved yesterday to retire Lee from the name of the university is one in a series of historical requests to adapt the name to suit the current community,” said Washington and Lee University Professor Alison Bell.

Indeed, the school has been known as everything from Augusta Academy to Washington and Lee in the nearly 300 years since its founding. But rarely has a name been summarily removed.

“I think everyone involved in the question of the name at Washington and Lee realizes it is the tip of the iceberg in terms of it being a symbol,” Bell said.

The sculpture of Robert E. Lee inside Lee chapel once lay under Confederate battle flags, and the faculty group calling for the name change says it wants a more inclusive student and faculty experience.

“To achieve those goals,” Bell explained, “Many believe it’s necessary to reframe once again the name of the university as part of a much larger and more multifaceted strategy of improving day-to-day life and experience for all students and faculty who are here.”

The choice actually falls on the university’s Board of Trustees.

They announced the creation of a committee of ten members who will “conduct a thoughtful and deliberative process, soliciting widespread input from all of our constituencies, gathering and analyzing data, and consulting experts as needed to inform its work.”

No timetable is set.

“They have a lot to juggle and they’re hearing from a lot of perspectives,” Bell said of the board. “And I think the faculty just felt obligated to offer their voices in this conversation as well.”

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