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Washington & Lee Name Change Petition Draws Criticism

June 29, 2020

Faculty at Washington & Lee University have proposed taking "Lee" out of the college's name, WSLS News has reported. The name refers to Robert E. Lee, commander of the Confederate States Army and former president of the university, who is buried on campus. Faculty have said they are working on a petition to send to the college's Board of Trustees, but that petition has not been released.

"The name is not just a symbol, but it represents an association and an allegiance with a dark past whose only place at this point in history is only in a museum," Domnica Radulescu, a professor of comparative literature, told WSET News.

The college administration has acknowledged concerns around the association with Lee, emphasized recent diversity and inclusion efforts, and created a cabinet-level position called director of institutional history and museums, but it has not directly spoken to whether a name change will be considered.

"We will continue to engage our community in the exploration of our history and its significant connections to American history, including the lives of African Americans at W&L and the roles Robert E. Lee played as both Confederate general and college president," President Will Dudley wrote in a message to campus.

The name change proposal has drawn criticism from a woman with ties to the university's early history. Tina Tabor, a descendent of Robert Alexander, president of the institution when it was called Augusta Academy, said she is very angry.

“I feel like because it’s a name, it shouldn’t be messed with. It’s history. If we don’t learn from our past, we’re doomed to repeat it,” she told WSLS News.


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