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At Least Half of College's Name May Go

Washington and Lee change wins support of faculty, students, and alumni
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 2, 2020 7:15 PM CDT

(Newser) – Students, faculty, and alumni have asked that Washington and Lee University in Virginia be renamed, and that could be just the start of the changes. The issue goes to the heart of the private college in Lexington: George Washington and Robert E. Lee were supporters of the private college, and Lee's tomb is on campus. Lee's legacy has been reconsidered before, the Washington Post reports, most recently after the violence in Charlottesville. A commission at that time recommended changes in the college's teaching of history but did not suggest changing its name, which alumni have opposed. But minds are changing. "For the first time ever, it seems like this effort has momentum," said a 1992 graduate. Confederate flags have been taken down in the past, but students want greater change now, including an end to the reverance for the Confederate general.

"In many ways, Lee is the foundation of a culture built on myths, lies and legends that has been actively propagated by the university and its community for 150 years," the alumnus said. Taking that away can help the school reflect its values, he said; advocating equity can ring hollow for an institution with such a history. Lee was president of the school when it was Washington University just after the Civil War; Washington had given a donation at a critical time early in the school's history. One professor wants both names dropped, saying, "Both George Washington and Robert E. Lee were perpetrators of racial terror." Another, per WSET, said, "The name is not just a symbol, but it represents an association and an allegiance with a past with a dark past whose only place at this point in history is only in a museum." The president has called a faculty vote on the matter for Monday. (Richmond is removing all Confederate statues.)

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