- The Washington Times - Friday, April 18, 2014

A handful of law students attending Washington and Lee University say campus authorities should ban the flying of the Confederate flag and at the same time admit that Gen. Robert E. Lee — whom the school is named after, in part — was racist.

The Roanoke Times said seven students have banded together and formed what they call “The Committee” to demand school officials “acknowledge and apologize for participating in chattel slavery.”

As Breitbart reported, the students also want campus administrators to start recognizing Martin Luther King Jr. Day and to put a stop to the celebratory practice that occurs each year in honor of former Confederate generals — a practice they refer to as “neo-Confederates” marching “to the Lee Chapel on Lee-Jackson Day.”

The students have threatened to stage acts of civil disobedience until the school caves to their demands.

“The time has come for us, as students, to ask that the university hold itself responsible for its past and present dishonorable conduct and for the racist and dishonorable conduct of Robert E. Lee,” they said, Breitbart reported.

The students also said in their letter to the Board of Trustees that they were driven to make the demands because of the “alienation and discomfort” they felt while viewing the Confederate symbols — including the Confederate flag — on the Virginia campus, the Associated Press reported.

The university president, Kenneth Ruscio, released a letter to the campus community that said administrators would “take these students’ concerns seriously,” AP reported.

One third-year law student said The Committee members reached their boiling point in January when political consultant Donna Brazile was introduced as a speaker at the Lee Chapel, amid a background of flying Confederate flags, and that her presence brought on a lot of hate mail.

The student, Dominik Taylor, 24, said in the AP report: “A lot of students of color have felt sort of ostracized during their time here.”

Washington and Lee is in the Shenandoah Valley, three hours from Richmond. It began in 1749 as Augusta Academy, but took on George Washington’s name a few years later. Gen. Lee served as the president of the university after the Civil War — and following his death, the university added his name.

Mr. Taylor, meanwhile, said “The Committee” members knew of the university’s roots before applying and attending but decided the value of a Washington and Lee law degree was too high to pass.

He said the thought at the time was “Hey, it’s only three years. It can’t be that bad,” AP reported. “[But] when things such as Lee-Jackson Day happen, you’re just sort of feeling left alone and isolated and alienated.”

• Cheryl K. Chumley can be reached at cchumley@washingtontimes.com.

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