W A Roper Vaughan
151 Silver Sage Ct
Weatherford, TX 76087 VIA: US Mail Email
June 28, 2021
Washington & Lee University Lexington, Virginia 24450
Almost 60 years ago when I was considering my college options, I was singularly drawn to Washington & Lee University. As a lifelong Virginian at the time, I was attracted to the traditions, history, and values embraced by a university with such a rich legacy. The Honor system, the speaking tradition, and commitment to academic excellence were all specific factors that encouraged me to apply to this well-recognized university. I was so passionately committed to W&L that I applied--and was accepted--for early admission. The pride that I experienced then, throughout my four years as a student, and for the next five decades was palpable. Accordingly, at our 50th Reunion, having participated with the class agent for years in the Annual Giving program and sitting on the Reunion Committee, my wife and I committed significantly to the University in our estate plan.
In the several years since the 50th Reunion and certainly more visibly in the past few months, I, as well as many of my classmates, have witnessed the relentless undermining of the University's "history, values, and traditions", those characteristics that formulate the culture, the very essence of Washington & Lee. This movement manifests itself in "woke" theology that now permeates the university, CRT, and DEI, at the expense of those cultural elements that made the university a special place over the centuries. All associated with the university support greater inclusiveness and diversity in students, staff, faculty, and the board, however, that diversity must include, just as importantly, diversity of thought. As to the “Equity” component, I am not aware that anyone at W&L has explained what is meant by that initiative--but to the extent that it is used in a neo-Marxist sense, it has no place on the W&L campus. CRT undermines all that has been accomplished in race relations over the past 50 years, and "woke" theology attacks the concept of free speech in violation of the US Constitution and the university's commitment to the Chicago Principle.
It is the Board’s responsibility to ensure that the administration/staff, faculty, and students that participate in the W&L community are committed to protecting, enhancing, and nurturing the W&L traditions, values and culture--recognizing the contributions in leadership and example of its two benefactors. To the extent that this is a failure point, W&L is just another liberal arts school that attempts to be everything to all. It is here that the administration and board are, in fact, failing.
The Board of Trustees has agreed that a name change is not necessary--a decision most support. However, that was the easy decision--some might describe it as the convenient decision as any other decision would have devastating financial impact. The remaining Board decisions are mostly in support of “woke” dogma with one exception perhaps- the commitment to student internships. Even the plan for “need-blind” admissions tends to draw those totally disinterested in or indifferent to the university’s culture. The Board threw the traditionalist a bone by retaining the name, but that was the extent of it.
The decision to change the name of Lee Chapel--a National Historic Landmark--is an abomination. Lee, the one gentleman who perhaps contributed the most to the existence and success of the university, is being relegated to a 2nd class citizen on campus. Lee Chapel which has borne its name for over a century and a half, is the edifice that houses the remains of the entire Lee family and is situated precisely opposite Washington Hall as a focal point of the famous W&L Colonnade. Washington Hall and Lee Chapel at center campus--a divine symmetry of campus design that will be lost forever with the Board’s recent decision.
Accordingly, I regret to inform you that I am suspending the final payment to the university arising from my 50th reunion pledge and put the university on notice that our estate plan pledge is in jeopardy of withdrawal. I remain committed to what I recognize as the "essence" of W&L. To the extent that the administration and Board continue failing to protect and nurture this essence, I will be refocusing my energy and resources elsewhere.
With deep respect for the W&L traditions-
W A Roper Vaughan
Class of 1967
21 July 2021
Members of the Board of Trustees Washington and Lee University Lexington, Virginia 24450
As a graduate of Washington and Lee in the 1960's, an era in which the school was unabashedly proud of its namesakes, I have always felt enormously blessed to have passed my formative college years in the ambiance of the towering examples of Robert E. Lee and George Washington, who, for me and countless fellow students, were models of honorable personal conduct and unimpeachable probity of character, after which we could confidently pattern our lives. We strived to be the "gentlemen" that President Lee enjoined the Washington College students of his own day to become. Remarkably, in retrospect, I never heard during my four years at W&L a single disrespectful or irreverent word directed at Lee or Washington by either a student, a faculty member, or an administrator. The two men were revered alike as great Americans and were uniformly respected as such, although then as now it was recognized that they were ineluctably men of their own times and shared in some of the errors of those times. But we of my generation knew how to understand and how to forgive, while retaining before us the inestimable treasures of Lee's and Washington's virtues as a source of inspiration and transformative influence in our lives.
Understandably, then, I was elated at the Board of Trustees' recent announcement that the name of the university would be retained. But that welcomed decision immediately began to ring hollow with me when in the same Trustees' announcement came their further decision to strip Lee's name from Lee Chapel and to implement additional measures meant to efface his connections with the building -- despite the facts that while president of Washington College Lee conceived the idea of a campus chapel, raised the money for it, and directed its construction; that he and his family were buried therein; that for its Lee connections the building is currently designated a national historic site by the federal government; and that, until now, it was the only general-use building on campus bearing Lee's name, an honor he richly deserves, as much now as in the past.
I have watched with concerned but patient detachment the fractious controversy that has embroiled the W&L community over the last few years, but with the Trustees' action on Lee Chapel, something in me snapped. I consider the chapel decision as inexcusable, an errant disgrace upon the Trustees and upon the university. Appearances indeed suggest that under cover of the distracting glare of the headline issue of the name change, the Board, in stealth, took the opportunity to advance an obviously ongoing campaign to expunge from the campus all things relating to Lee, in this instance taking the step of removing Lee's name from the chapel building -- in preparation, it would seem, for revisiting the name change issue at a later date, after protest has died down, more older alumni have either passed off the scene or become inured to "inevitable" change, and after a more thoroughly "cleansed" campus has had its effect of dulling sensibilities.
In even the most generous appraisal of the Trustees' action on Lee Chapel, they, to all appearances, betray a telling ambivalence by retaining Lee's name in the name of the university while, at the very same time, stripping it from the chapel. Either the Board has no clear and settled posture on Lee, or its posture is as noted above, one of deliberately expunging all things Lee from the campus by calculated degrees, as opportunity arises and as resistance softens with time and with forgetfulness of the enormities of previous purgings.
I was, and remain, struck with disbelief at the Trustees' action on the chapel, an action rising in my own mind to a level of viciousness not to be palliated by any arguments of expediency. The action shocked me for the first time into the full realization that W&L, in its fundamental essence, is now no longer the school I knew and loved as a student, but rather has become alien to me in direction and values, and been transmogrified into an institution with which I can no longer identify. With lingering reluctance, and with unabated sorrow and sickness of heart, I am therefore eliminating all mention of W&L from my will, where it was formerly designated as the sole beneficiary of my estate. I will also be requesting that for the foreseeable future no further solicitations for financial support of W&L be addressed to me, although I have liberally supported the school in the past.
Kenneth G. Everett
W&L Class of 1964
July 16, 2021
To the Washington and Lee Board of Trustees,
After much thought and deliberation, I am writing to express a lack of confidence in President Dudley’s ability to lead Washington and Lee University. Our community needs a strong leader who is willing to stand up for the ideals, history, and traditions of our institution even when that position is out of consensus with current national trends. Instead of demonstrating a willingness to lead by example and take a courageous national stand indicative of the consensus view of our community and our University’s ideals, President Dudley has pandered to a small vocal population expressing out of consensus opinions.
To effectively lead our community toward healing and reconciliation, President Dudley should demonstrate the courage and willingness to vocalize and reflect the consensus view on the traditions, values, and history of Washington and Lee University. Pandering to the outvoted minority is not reflective of this leadership characteristic but instead represents an attempt to undermine and discredit the consensus and trust of the community.
President Dudley finds himself struggling to justify his actions to an informed and invested community interested in preserving the unique and important history of Washington and Lee. A strong and effective leader could have avoided this predicament and guided our University through the current social climate while adhering to the values and desires of the consensus.
When the demands to force unneeded change were first proposed, President Dudley could have acknowledged the request and educated the community on the financial, educational, and important contributions that General Washington and President Lee provided to the University, setting an example for the rest of the country. Instead, he allowed a fringe group to use incivility and threats of public shame to drag the University through a costly and unnecessary vote on the name of our institution.
Instead of promoting the rich and full history of the University, President Dudley supported the unsubstantiated claim of past racism committed by the University community. He has failed to provide any instances or facts to support this claim.
Besides being unfounded, the implicit accusation is of a racist and insensitive community that previously failed to take proactive action to promote civility, inclusion, and discourse.
Instead of implementing a compromise that addresses the concerns of the minor faction and the desires of the consensus, President Dudley supported and even promoted the unnecessary changes to the University’s diploma and the layout of Lee Chapel. Providing options for all students is a more inclusive and reasonable compromise reflective of the consensus community view.
If it has not already occurred, the out of consensus decisions of President Dudley will ultimately cause a reduction in financial giving. If the vocal minority in each new generation gets to determine the criteria upon which the previous generation is judged, how can any alumnus make a substantial and lasting gift to the University? He or she will have to weigh every decision made, word spoken, or action taken to determine if that one thing could lead to censure, reproach, and removal from his or her place of recognition.
These decisions are not reflective of a strong leader but of one who ignores the ideals of the majority to adhere to the out of consensus political trends of the day.
For these reasons and others, I want to express my lack of confidence in President Dudley. I urge the board to prayerfully consider the type of leader that Washington and Lee needs and to decide if President Dudley is that leader. Change is hard but can be necessary when needed.
I do not need to remind this group of the University’s motto, Non Incautus Futuri. That future can be promising with the right leader or challenging without.
Gaius “Whit” Whitfield, VI, ‘04
Letter from Rector Mike McAlevey, '86, addressed to Tom Rideout of TGR
Dear Mr. Rideout,
The Board of Trustees of Washington and Lee University acknowledges your group's July 4 message.
We strongly support President Will Dudley, who continues to lead the University effectively through one of the most challenging periods in its history. Your characterization of his leadership is rife with misinformation.
We take exception to your claim that your views and those of your group have not been heard. The trustees and senior administrators hear regularly from many different alumni, and your group has frequently expressed its views in writing. Moreover, as you know, the board just concluded an extensive examination of the University’s name and related issues, providing numerous opportunities for all community members to share their views. We listened carefully to every voice.
It is your right to disagree, but we stand by all of our decisions and look forward to working with the administration to advance them.
Mike McAlevey '86
On behalf of the Board of Trustees of Washington and Lee University
Response from Tom Rideout of TGR to Rector Mike McAlevey
The Generals Redoubt
Post Office Box 1097
Lexington, VA 24450-1097
July 11, 2021
Dear Rector McAlevey:
Thank you for your email note of July 8th in response to The Generals Redoubt (TGR) message to the Board of Trustees dated July 4, 2021.
To begin, you state that our “characterization of his (President Dudley’s) leadership is rife with misinformation.” Our group has been at this for 4+ years. We have extensive archives. A key overseer of this information is a Phi Beta Kappa alumnus of the University, a published Ph.D. historian who spent his career in education, and someone deeply steeped in the moral teachings of the University’s namesakes. The details of your broadside would be very helpful to our shared purposes, if you would take the time to elucidate where you feel we are mistaken. Such a cataloging could then be the basis for conversations with you and your trustee colleagues about your concerns. We would be more than happy to apologize, if we find we are mistaken.
Such occasions might also be useful for your group to reveal the sources of regret you announced about “the university’s past veneration of the Confederacy and its role in perpetuating ‘The Lost Cause’ myths that sustained racism.” TGR joins you in your statement to “repudiate racism, racial injustice and the denial of fundamental dignity to any individual in our society.” But did what you describe really go on? We were here collectively over the years when the namesakes and accumulated lessons were taught or reaffirmed. And many of us were taken at various stages of our individual lives with the character-focused work of Dr. Martin Luther King and his brilliant colleagues. No one we have asked, including faculty and former staff, can recall such practices as described in your quote. As a result, we believe it is time for the apology tour to come to an end, allowing all of us to celebrate the history and achievements of our university and its alumni.
We believe such conversations with both trustees and key administrators could well begin to put our institutional communications on a mutually beneficial basis. For we all share the stated values in the first of your paper’s bullet points: “We are committed to free and critical inquiry, civil discourse, developing students with honor and integrity, and preparing students for responsible leadership, engaged citizenship, and service to others.” And TGR has a mission to seeing this done at a university that has not abandoned its history, values and traditions. This legacy seems at great risk, unless some reasonable adjustments are made to the recently announced decisions. A suggested start is outlined at the end of this letter.
As to your assertion that we have been heard, we admit to having sent numerous communications to the Board of Trustees. Frankly, we believe our group has not been heard simply because there have rarely been responses to our written outreach other than a few from President Dudley or yourself. Neither of them ever offered an invitation to have a conversation about a particular issue. We happen to think it a good idea to talk to alumni, particularly those with reasonable thoughts and community equity, as a highly useful way to strengthen the institution.
More specifically, the only conversational invitation TGR has ever received resulted in a Zoom meeting hosted by University Advancement on June 15, 2021, during which six representatives spoke with trustees Chris Williams and Craig Owens. This was post your June 4th announcement. Twice during that meeting our members asked about the possibility of future formal conversations with the trustees, a query that has been made previously a number of times and formally rejected. And twice during this meeting we were politely turned down, as it would require too much work to provide similar privileges to 8-9 organizations. Yet, you selected only three advocacy organizations for the extensive post June 4th programming with trustees. Don’t get us wrong. We were pleased, finally, to have an invitation, to speak with members of this board. It was a real breakthrough, after years of trying.
We want these conversations to continue.
In reference to the extensive listening tour plans you announced last summer, we recall hoping this would lead to a TGR conversation or two. But, alas, it did not. Was this deliberate or an accidental oversight? This is unknown to us. We will also acknowledge that we were invited several months ago, along with perhaps three other organizations, to a listening session hosted by Alumni Engagement. No trustees were involved. Our participants recall asking the staff host for feedback, such as notes of the collective findings. There was no response. We hardly think this session qualified as outreach, but rather was convened to research the state of alumni thinking at this later stage of the naming decision study.
In closing, there are some short-term items where engagement between TGR representatives and those of both the administration and trustees might be very useful. They fall under the shared educational objectives discussed above. These are:
The recently announced required vaccination policy for this coming semester harbors potential health risks for Washington and Lee students. These risks also represent potential legal exposure for the university. We are hearing very serious concerns from members of our parents' group, in particular those who have sons or daughters who have had Covid-19 and should not need vaccination. There are apparent health risks associated with administering the vaccine to this age group. Time is of the essence to resolve this conundrum by considering some flexibility.
The diploma decision eliminating the namesakes’ images entirely. The original request from law school students was simply to have the option. In the spring of 2020, some undergraduate students joined that request. Many students currently enrolled, matriculating this fall and coming in the future would like to have the option of a diploma with the images, perhaps to match that of a sibling, parent, or grandparent. Such an accommodation should be easily achieved. This current decision seems draconian, almost like a punctuation mark on the campaign to eliminate the legacy of our alma mater’s namesakes. It is hard to understand how those who voted 22-6 to keep the name would eliminate student choice on a likely emotional matter for a number of students.
We presented to Messrs. Williams and Owens in our June 15th session the suggestion to use anonymous grading in the undergraduate program along the lines of the system used in the Law School. We understand it has been in use there now for 50 years or more. This should be easily done and would provide major relief from the existing ideological indoctrination and grading penalty situation.
In closing, thank you for sending us your brief acknowledgement note and keeping the lines of communications open. We are offering a variety of ways whereby our members might work with the trustees and administration to develop policies and processes that can enable Washington and Lee to become a place that produces students well fit to lead lives of great impact for their families, communities, professions and the nation.
We do look forward to your response and the opportunity to converse about these and other issues.
Thomas P. Rideout
The Generals Redoubt
Recent Letters Regarding Name Change and More:
Conservative student, Kamron Spivey has recently been treated unfairly by students and faculty at W&L and written letters to William Dudley and to the Board of Trustees to complain of the treatment and the lack of response to his original letter. Following up on the situation, TGR has communicated displeasure with the treatment Mr. Spivey has experienced with a letter to President Dudley.
Letters to the Editor through April 2021:
Judith Conlon: follow up to 2 February 2021 Parents Want to Retain the Name
Allen R. Gillespie: June 28. 2020 Response to President Dudley's Letter of June 23, 2020.
Kazimierz J. Herchold: Letter to Washington and Lee President Dudley and Board of Trustees.
Chris Dalton: Letter to Washington and Lee President Dudley, June 29, 2020.
William Rasmussen: June 28, 2020 Letter to Washington and Lee University President William Dudley, The Rector and Board of Trustees.
Bill Becker: January 29, 2020 letter to Rector Mike McAlevey
To submit a letter, email for consideration to: email@example.com