WLU Law — Ideas

This is a response to the June 23rd (2020) email sent by W&L to alumni and students: 

Your words in the email couldn’t sound more unaware. In response to the criticism and feedback you’ve received about the treatment of minority students, you’ve listed initiatives (minority guest speakers; more diverse faculty/students; more financial aid, etc.) that don’t touch on the main concern. If the KKK comes back on campus again, if minority students receive anonymous racist messages again, or if minority people experience any mistreatment such as those mentioned on this page, I’m sure everyone will rest easy with all your initiatives: financial aid (as reparation for future mistreatment); more diverse faculty/student body (to increase the number of oppressed people); and guest speakers to offer insight to minority students about being a minority student.

Sarcasm aside, you should actually address how your students of diversity are treated by their classmates and by the Lexington community. Yes, it also means attention given to your beloved Lee must be diverted to the legacy of minority alumni’s contributions. And, I assure you, Lee won’t notice, but your minority students and alumni (and supporters) will.

Some ideas:

1. Make the student judicial system more transparent and just. Student hearings should be heard by student’s peers (not just during appeals). If peers aren’t elected to the initial leadership positions that make the decisions, then a jury of peers is impossible. Unjust sentencing follows. 

2. Find a way to get W&L students to socialize with people who aren’t from their exact same background.

3. Read this page, solicit concerns, listen to concerns, understand, and don’t throw money at problems.

WLU ’21 — Change

Before coming to W&L, I was unaware of some of the problematic parts of our campus and community. I never understood how something like having “Lee” as part of our name could negatively impact any other student’s experience because I was raised in a “War of Northern Aggression” household and community. Being that I was white and went to a small predominantly white school, I never questioned the picture that had been painted of the Confederate general. I bought into the same narrative that W&L pushed, showcasing him primarily as an educator and savior of our university. 

I applied to the school because it checked off all of my boxes, especially my need for financial aid. I come from a low income background and was even on scholarship to my private high school so I needed to be able to afford to attend a higher institution.

Luckily, W&L was able to completely meet my needs, and I am incredibly grateful for this, especially since this is not the case for every student. Even through my first year, I was pretty unaware of some of the negative aspects of our campus. That is until I was starting to really pay attention. 

My family members came to parents’ weekend my sophomore year, and some of them were completely appalled by what they saw. They didn’t understand the necessary push for adding diversity to our campus, and I remember one of them saying how they don’t get why W&L will just let anyone in these days. I was completely taken aback because I knew exactly who they were referring to: the POC and LGBT+ students. At the time, I didn’t say anything for fear that I would come across as disrespectful, and I regret that decision because I know that they were also referring to some of my friends and peers.

After that, I started noticing more comments that peers were making: fraternity members using racist slurs, friends making homophobic comments, sorority sisters bashing lower income families. I started to question if I made the right decision of attending W&L even though I was never directly attacked. 

As I was closeted at the time, I felt like I would never be able to really be myself on campus if this was how my peers behaved. In a family group chat recently, they were complaining about the school’s recent push to add diversity, and an incredibly wealthy family member told me to “check my privilege” since she didn’t believe I could have been accepted without them wanting to fill an economic diversity spot. I began wondering if I had peers who thought that about me as well, and I cannot even imagine what it is like to be a student of color or an open member of the LGBTQ+ community if this is what my own family thinks of me.

Our campus has aspects of elitism, misogyny, and racism built within its walls, and as a white student that has come out to only a few friends, I will never fully understand or experience the negative parts of our community. 

Having “Lee” in our name can only further perpetuate these behaviors among students, faculty, alums, and family members. It makes our campus feel unwelcoming to marginalized groups since the university has catered to these mindsets to maintain funding and prestige among elitist and close-minded members of our community. 

It is a small stepping stone, but taking Lee out of the name pushes our university in the right direction for change.

WLU Current — Silenced

I came to W&L for the very same reason that a lot of POC students decided to come here – financial aid. I remember talking to my counselor in high school and she suggested W&L because they were diversifying their student body, which gave me a higher chance of getting in and receiving funds. Being a scholarship student in a private school for privileged people in my country, I thought I was ready for the challenge ahead, especially when my presence in the school was to serve towards a quota. 

Yet, the feeling of being excluded unintentionally still surprised me. People talk about the O-week trip as their once in a life time experience and a great opportunity to build bonds, but for me, that whole week was like a slap. From the very first day we met, people already forming groups, and I was always the last one in the line.

Not because my pace was slow, but because no one was noticing me. I remember a night when we were playing bonding game, people were saying their impression of each other. When it was their turn to talk about their impression of me, one of them talked about how they thought I would drop out of college because I looked like I would do that. That night, I cried in my own sleeping bag, asking myself what kind of impression I had given them for them to say such a thing. 

I have never been so silenced in my life. During the whole week, I barely talked, and I didn’t dare to. No one really talked to me, no one cared to get to know me. 

We were having group dinner and members were put in groups randomly to cook by themselves. I was thinking of offering to cook because I love to, and make them my country’s dishes, introducing them to the culture. 

But both of the members in my group ended up not listening to my idea and agree on something else. I offered to twist the dish a little bit, and they decided to do theirs separately, completely leave me out of the group.

Never did I expect that O-week would just be the start. Things got worse during the year. Slowly, I don’t even notice the microaggressions that I faced daily on campus. I choose to ignore all of those and stopped trying to fit in. 

I thought that the worst I would experience was what I went through in high school. But W&L has turned out to be way worse.

WLU Alumnus — Merit

Like many other POC students, my choice to attend W&L was influenced in large part by their generous financial aid package – the school offered me a full tuition, room, and board merit scholarship that I couldn’t turn down. I was extremely proud of that achievement – I had worked hard to graduate first in my high school class, had won many academic prizes and honors (including national competitions) throughout my life, had an SAT score in the 99% percentile, and had generally felt the accolades I had earned were deserved.

My freshman year, one of my classmates (and someone I considered a friend and am still friendly with), a white legacy student, mentioned that she had applied for the same scholarship, and didn’t receive it.

In the same breath, she said I had probably gotten it (presumably over more qualified candidates like her) because I was a minority candidate.

I have thought about that comment more times than I can count in the nearly 20 years since she said it. I am certain she meant nothing by it, and I am sure she doesn’t even remember saying it. It just simply didn’t occur to her that I could have earned that honor through merit, nor that I might have deserved it more than she did.

I graduated 6th in my class from W&L. My classmate had trouble keeping a passing GPA. And I still, *still*, wonder if maybe she was right.

WLU ’22 — Choice

At my year’s Admitted Students Day, I remember meeting another admitted student of color and bonding over our closet queerness. She gave me the name of a student at Red House who “is real with you” on what it’s like being LGBTQ+ at W&L. I went to Red House but instead only found two other students who gave assurances that it’s getting better. 

I later realized that no matter what I could’ve heard that day at Red House, it wouldn’t have changed my decision to go to W&L because I needed the financial aid, full stop. I’ve been thinking about that often, wondering how many other students of color and/or LGBTQ+ students were in the same position and for how long they’ve felt they were at the mercy of a prejudiced school because they couldn’t afford to turn it down. 

Yes, we all signed the same agreement to go to W&L, but not everyone has the same degree of choice. W&L is clearly willing to increase their number of admitted students from URMs, including students who also come from more economically disadvantaged backgrounds. 

Ask yourself why they’re happy to admit more minority students but why they haven’t been giving us proper support after we enroll. 

Why on earth should we be content with that?