Paul L. Caron

Thursday, August 6, 2020

W&L Law Prof: University Must Drop Both Robert E. Lee And George Washington From Its Name

Brandon Hasbrouck (Washington & Lee), White Saviors, 77 Wash. & Lee L. Rev. Online 47 (2020):

W&L Logo (2020) (3)It is time for Washington and Lee University to drop both George Washington and Robert E. Lee from the University name. The predominantly White faculty at Washington and Lee recently announced that it will petition the Board of Trustees to remove Lee from the University name. This is the first time in Washington and Lee’s history that the faculty has drafted such a petition. It is worth exploring why the faculty has decided to make a collective statement on Lee now and why the faculty has not included a demand to drop Washington in their petition. The answer is simple—it is no longer acceptable, profitable, or convenient to be associated with Lee but it is for Washington. At least for now. ...

Truth and reconciliation require moremore everything. At Washington and Lee University, it starts with the following:

1. The removal of both namesakes;

2. Acknowledgement from this predominantly White faculty that you all have profited and benefitted from Black pain—through promotion, tenure, competition, and other ways;

3. Acknowledgment from the predominantly White faculty that you all have been deaf or unresponsive to Black suffering—and that the difference is immaterial;

4. Acknowledgment from the predominantly White faculty that each year you have remained silent, neutral, or worse, harm was committed against Black people;

5. Acknowledgment from the predominantly White faculty that your (at best) neutrality perpetuated racist thinking and policy decisionmaking;

6. Acknowledgment from the predominantly White faculty that it has been students, particularly law students and students of color, who have demonstrated leadership, courage, and advocacy on issues of race and racial justice and equality;

7. Commitment from the predominantly White faculty to antiracism consistent with the resolution I sponsored for the law school. Antiracism demands that we are proactive in dismantling racist systems, not reactive. It requires that we support—in actions—antiracist policies;

8. Commitment to hiring, retention, and promotion of faculty and administrators of color at all levels of recognition for scholarly achievement and university leadership, including, but not limited to, department chairs, endowed chairs, deanships, provost and president positions, and the Board of Trustees. A further commitment from each school to have majorityminority permanent faculty and Board representation by 2030 (the state of Virginia is projected to be majorityminority during this decade);

9. Commitment to increase diversity in our student body to reflect at least 50% students of color by 2030 (again, the state of Virginia is projected to be majority-minority during this decade);

10. Acknowledgment that during Lee’s presidency of Washington College, students committed atrocities against the local Black community. For that reason, it is necessary to repair deep fractures between the University and local Black community. To that end, we must develop partnerships with the local Black community to help serve our broader community;

11. Fund critical race and ethnic studies and make those courses a general-education requirement. Emory University just voted to approve a general-education requirement across the college for critical race and ethnic studies.38 In addition, there should be a commitment by the predominantly White faculty to diversify courses;

12. Develop and fund a center for antiracist research; and a

13. Commitment to create a reparations committee to identify the enslaved Black people whose labor—and sale—Washington and Lee, as owners, directly benefited from.39 A further commitment to establish a reparations fund to assist the living descendants of those this institution enslaved.

Unless some are afraid of too much racial justice and equality

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I do not know how to respond to this. It makes everything worse.
I was alive in the 60s – race relations were harder/more contentious. But I spent 1965/1966 in a forward combat unit in Nam in the Ia Drang valley. A good day was when no live rounds were shot our way. We had NO racial issues. (Maybe the REMFs did.) I made my two best friends (black) there 55 years ago. We talk every week.

When I spoke to James last week, we talked about how it was wrong when whites got ahead because of the color of our skin. It is just as wrong to give blacks an advantage now. If they pie is going to get divided base on skin color, it is going to get really ugly.

Thank God I am old. (Apparent to those who can do the math.) I served my time, helped a lot of clients pay less tax, and funded my retirement. I will just watch you people screw up the best country.

Posted by: aircav65 | Aug 6, 2020 7:52:06 AM

So would it then become “And University”?

Posted by: Anon | Aug 6, 2020 9:10:37 AM

Washington and Lee has been a single sex institution until the mid-1980s, and continues to be an extraordinarily sexist institution ever since. Perhaps the predominantly male faculty at the school could acknowledge this sexist history and commit to anti-sexism.

Posted by: Sexism Too | Aug 6, 2020 12:29:19 PM

Strange that Professor Hasbrouk does not take on the nearly all white W&L Board of Trustees and who would have the power the enact the changes that he wants at any time but have not done so for years; as opposed to the faculty, who at best can recommend changes.

Posted by: Josiah | Aug 6, 2020 12:39:18 PM

"Acknowledgment from the predominantly White faculty that it has been students, particularly law students and students of color, who have demonstrated leadership, courage, and advocacy on issues of race and racial justice and equality;"

Why is this necessary? Because Professor Hasbrouk was a student and he cares more about who gets the credit than what happens. Politically, one who wants to effect change must be generous with sharing credit with allies - otherwise allies may just think this is an ego trip.

Posted by: Foxy | Aug 6, 2020 4:27:54 PM

Because symbolism like this produces radical change, right? To be truly consistent, and intellectually honest, the entire university should really dismantle itself, physically I mean, and return the property to its natural pre-colonial state, and turn it back over to descendants of the Shenandoah Indians who inhabited the region.

Then I'll be satisfied that this isn't merely token PC rubbish.

Posted by: MM | Aug 6, 2020 7:32:46 PM

Beautiful comment, aircav65.
MM makes a good point.

Posted by: Anon | Aug 7, 2020 6:44:32 AM

Anon: Close. No cigar. The new name would be "& University".

Posted by: Kneave Riggall | Aug 7, 2020 5:47:49 PM

@ Kneave Riggall: I knew I was close; thank you!

Posted by: Anon | Aug 19, 2020 9:40:50 PM