Life is a bit turbulent at Washington and Lee University these days. A group of faculty is urging the Lexington, Virginia school to drop “Lee” from its name, given that Robert E. Lee — in the role of general — played on the varsity squad of the Confederacy in the Civil War.
But here’s the rub.
The George Washington of “Washington and Lee” was no slouch in his own right when it came to slavery. Let’s just say that our first President could have populated the starting lineup of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir with the number of slaves he owned at Mount Vernon.
Washington and Lee University, welcome to your rock and hard place!
Fear not, however. William Dudley, the school’s President, has fashioned a solution to this problem that is stunning in its elegance, grace, and simplicity. At a press conference yesterday Dudley made the following announcement:
“On September 1st, Washington and Lee will officially become Ampersand University. The references to George Washington and Robert E. Lee will be removed, leaving only the word ‘and’. An ampersand, of course, symbolizes that word, and it’s much classier than ‘and’. So I’ve decided to go with it.
“Not only does this new name drip prestige, it highlights our strategic focus on recruiting students who are not included in our current national conversation about intersectional identities. While we are all familiar with the intersectional challenges faced by women of color, for example, or gay Catholics, the burdens shouldered by the more privileged are often overlooked. Consider the rich teenage girl with a peanut allergy who has never ridden a polo pony, or the white male graduate of Phillips Exeter who blisters and burns rather than tans in the summer. Who can they tell their stories to? Who listens to them? Who reads their anguished memoirs?
“I guarantee you: We’ll be listening at Ampersand University. You are the students we are destined to serve. You are our mission.”
It looks like there will be at least one college president in the country who’ll be getting a big raise this fall.