Blink twice if you’re not surprised that a university named after the commander of the Confederate army in the state of Virginia is not necessarily bending over backwards to welcome black students.
Nevertheless, a group of these students attending Washington and Lee University is urging administrators to change up their Confederate heritage and the “dishonorable conduct” of namesake Robert E. Lee to reflect a better environment for minority students.
Washington and Lee University is located in Lexington, Va., and black students make up about 3.5 percent of the total student population.
According to The Washington Post, third-year law student Dominik Taylor, a descendent of slaves on his father’s side, said he felt betrayed by admissions representatives who touted the school’s diversity.
“They assured me it was a welcoming environment where everyone sticks together as a community,” Taylor said. “Then I came here and felt ostracized and alienated.”
Taylor, along with a group of students, have urged the board of trustees to make the university more welcoming for minority students. Known collectively as the Committee, the students wrote a letter to the trustees with a list of “demands,” and promise acts of civil disobedience if they see no action before Sept. 1.
The list of demands include the removal of Confederate flags from the chapel; and they want administrators to ban Confederate re-enactors and sympathizers from campus on the Lee-Jackson holiday in Virginia.
They also ask that the university’s undergraduate school cancel classes on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
The Washington and Lee law school began observing the King holiday in 2013, but the undergraduate students still attend classes. Although Lee-Jackson Day, the Friday before the King holiday, is not a formal holiday on campus, the school does honor Lee annually around his birthday on Founder’s Day.
University president, Kenneth Ruscio, responded via an open letter to the students’ requests, stating that he has asked a “special task force” to study the history of African-Americans at the school.
“While we are aware of some of that history, I believe we should have a thorough, candid examination,” Ruscio wrote.
Many feel that the students should have known before hand that the university’s history was shrouded in racism, before applying to attend.
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