Petition being created to remove ‘Lee’ from Washington & Lee

Exact language of petition remains to be seen

LEXINGTON, Va. – Conversations about race continue across the country in the wake of the death of George Floyd, including a conversation now about changing the name of Washington & Lee University.

In the words of Bob Dylan, the times they are a changin'.

Washington & Lee is no stranger to change.

“(The) removal of flags from the chapel and the renaming of some buildings,” said associate economics professor James Casey.

But Casey said George Floyd’s death got people wondering if change needs to happen faster.

That’s where a petition, organized by faculty, to remove Lee’s name from the university comes in.

“As a faculty, we just recognize we’re one voice and we know that if we approach our administrators and the Board of Trustees respectfully and intelligently that we will be heard,” said Casey.

Exactly what the petition will say and how the process will work was still being developed Thursday, but the goal was to get the petition to the university’s trustees soon.

In order for the name change to be worthwhile, though, Casey said other changes also need to happen.

“We have a list right now of five actionable items that we are debating,” said Casey; however, because they were still being debated, he didn’t want to reveal them.

“I’m glad they’re having a conversation about it. It ought to be a constant conversation,” said alumnus Doug Harwood about the name change.

Like Casey, Harwood hopes a name change won’t overshadow bigger cultural issues at the university that he says need to be addressed.

“It’s going to take a long time to change cultures and attitudes,” said Harwood.

The university declined to comment on the petition, but on Tuesday the president published a letter saying he is listening to the questions people are asking and the calls for action.