After almost a year-long assessment over its relationship with Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, Washington and Lee University decided Friday that its name will not change.
The Board of Trustees at Washington and Lee University reached a vote of 22-6 on Friday, June 4, concluding that its name which took inspiration from the former President George Washington and Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, be kept unchanged.
“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.
“While we heard broad support for advancing our commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion on campus, we found no consensus about whether changing the name of our university is consistent with our shared values,” the school explained. They added that the decision was influenced by conflicting views on how much success renaming would bring going forward.
According to the statement, the university took Washington in its title as the U.S. President George Washington contributed to its Liberty Hall Academy in 1796. Seventy-four years later, it adopted Confederate General Lee’s name for his service as the school’s president, who played a key role in “saving and transforming the school after the devastation of the Civil War.”
The subject of adjusting the Virginia university’s name was brought up last year, with members from the school faculty and student body citing racial injustice regarding Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. After a vote of 188-51 from the teaching staff to push for the removal of Lee’s name from the university, a committee was tasked with evaluating his historical role with the school to decide whether the change should be essential.
The move was endorsed by many students, too.
The Roanoke Times reported that a campus walkout by the university’s students on March 23 demonstrated their push for the name change.
“We want [the Board of Trustees] to realize that pushing it off is not going to make us forget, even if they try to push it off to the summer when no one is on campus,” said Otice Carder, a sophomore who was among those that organized the event.
“Idolizing Robert E. Lee and wanting to increase the number of Black students on your campus is irreconcilable,” Anekwe-Desince, one of the students who joined the walkout, said. “I am eternally grateful for the opportunities that this school has provided me. But I won’t act like it hasn’t come at a cost.”
Consistent with Washington and Lee University’s Friday statement, support for keeping the name as is was significant.
The Roanoke Times added that banners that read “Retain the Name” have been emerging throughout Lexington, from the school’s Elrod Commons campus to billboards and signs outside the school facility. The outlet also listed pamphlets of Confederate Lee’s work as the school’s president, which were left at the school’s entrance.