Washington and Lee students demand name change

Washington Without Lee
Published: Mar. 23, 2021 at 6:57 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Va. (WDBJ) - Washington and Lee University students gathered Tuesday with signs, t-shirts and even masks that made clear what they wanted after they walked out of classes: Change the name.

“We will only be made better by creating a more inclusive campus,” sophomore Amber Morrison told the crowd. “In my view, W&L has been given a second chance to be on the right side of history.”

“A lot of students feel like there’s no point arguing because we don’t have the support and we don’t have the people,” she said later. “But we do, and I think this really shows that.”

It’s a demand that, while easily articulated, may not be easily understood.

“I value the opportunities and I value the people – there are so many great opportunities here,” Morrison explained. “There’s great classes, I love my professors, I love the other students. But that doesn’t ignore that there are problems here and if we don’t address that, then we’re not truly making this school better.”

The protesters numbered in the hundreds, a scale that surprised even organizers, although support is not unanimous. First-year history student Kamron Spivey came to see if he could change some minds.

“I expressed my views to some people,” Spivey said. “Some people didn’t want to hear my views out, which is fine.”

But he’s not optimistic that he will graduate from a Washington and Lee in three years.

“I don’t think it’ll be the same, and it’s unfortunate in my opinion that the name is probably going to change,” he said. “But I don’t expect it to stay the same by 2024.”

The university issued a statement, supporting the students’ right to free expression, and saying in part:

“The Board of Trustees continues its detailed review of the university’s name and related issues, and the trustees’ highest priority has been to engage with and listen carefully to the views of every audience associated with W&L.”

The board isn’t planning to meet again until May.

The students would prefer action somewhat quicker than that.

As Clara Albacete told the crowd: “Inaction is complacency. Inaction allows for the continuation of abuses until someone finally stands up and says: Enough!”

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