Feature Stories Campus Events

W&L Welcomes Class of 2017

Washington and Lee University welcomed its Class of 2017 on Saturday, Aug. 31, when the 480 new students checked in and began four days of orientation prior to the start of classes on Wednesday, Sept. 4.

This will be the 265th year of undergraduate instruction at W&L.

“These are exceptional young men and women who bring a diverse set of interests and talents that will enrich the campus,” said William Hartog, dean of admissions and financial aid. “Not only do they possess outstanding academic credentials by all the measures, but they also have excelled in a wide variety of activities beyond the classroom. We are excited to see all that they will achieve during their four years here.”

• Complete move-in coverage on the #wlu17 Storify page

The students come from as nearby as Rockbridge County High School, which has four students in the class, and as far away as Shanghai, China, which is home to three of the entering students.

Members of the class come from 40 states and the District of Columbia and 18 foreign countries. The top states are Virginia with 60 students, followed by North Carolina (38), Texas (31), New Jersey (24), Florida (24), New York (24), Georgia (23), and California, Connecticut and Pennsylvania with 20 each.

There are 383 different secondary schools represented, divided evenly between public and private.

W&L selected the Class of 2017 from a pool of 6,222 applicants. The University offered 18 percent of those applicants a place in this year’s class.

In terms of their academic credentials, the average SAT score is just under 1390 on critical reading and math sections, and the average ACT composite score is 31. There are 21 National Merit finalists and scholars in the class, while 31 were either valedictorians or salutatorians of their respective high school classes.

In addition, 138 served as presidents of major student organizations, 229 were varsity team captains, 321 belonged to the National Honor Society or the Cum Laude Society, and more than half reported performing 100 hours or more of community service.

Almost half of the class (47 percent) has received more than $9.1 million in grant assistance from the University; the average grant for students receiving an institutional award is $39,950. That group includes 40 recipients of a Johnson Scholarship. This is the sixth class of Johnson Scholars to enroll at W&L since the University received the $100 million gift that established the Johnson Program in Leadership and Integrity. The scholarship recognizes students with exceptional leadership potential, personal promise and academic achievement regardless of their ability to afford tuition and other expenses.

Children of W&L alumni compose 7 percent of the class. More than 19 percent of the class are members of American ethnic or racial minorities, first-generation college students or recipients of Pell Grants.

The orientation program features a variety of mandatory and voluntary sessions that help students become acquainted with the University. In addition to meetings with resident advisers and with faculty advisers, students attend a mandatory, student-led session on the Honor System, which is a central feature of the University, and learn about W&L’s emphasis on student self-governance.

W&L will formally launch the academic year with the Fall Convocation on Thursday, Sept. 5, when W&L alumna Alston Parker Watt, executive director of The Williams Family Foundation of Georgia, presents the convocation address.

Exhibit in Williams Gallery, “Serious Play,” Runs until Dec. 30

An exhibit of paintings and works on paper, “Serious Play,” by Kathleen Carey Hall, is on display at the Williams Gallery in Huntley Hall at Washington and Lee University until Dec. 30.

The exhibit is sponsored by W&L’s Williams School of Commerce, Economics, and Politics and is free and open to the public.

Hall works from observation in painting, drawing and printmaking. Much of her current work resides somewhere between still life and landscape. In her studio, a combination of toys, found objects and detritus come together into ambiguous environments. The union of these diverse elements, each with their own histories, begets unusual narratives.

Hall also draws from art history and is particularly influenced by early Italian and northern Renaissance painting.

She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia and her M.F.A. from the University of New Hampshire. She has also studied at the New York Studio School and at the University of Lyon in France.

Some of the works on exhibit are landscapes from a trip to Ascoli Piceno, Italy. Hall currently lives in New York.

The hours of Williams Gallery are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

W&L Athletic Hall of Fame to Induct Five on Sept. 6

Washington and Lee’s athletic seasons open today (Friday, Aug. 30), and next weekend the University will be honoring the five newest members of the Athletic Hall of Fame during ceremonies on campus.

This will be the 26th class inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame. The weekend begins with the banquet on Friday, Sept. 6, and continues with the Generals’ first football game of the season, against Franklin & Marshall, on Saturday, Sept. 7. The new Hall of Famers will be introduced at halftime of the game.

The Hall of Fame Ceremony will be streamed live on the website starting at 8:15 p.m. on Friday, and the football game against Franklin & Marshall, including the halftime events, will be live at 1 p.m. Saturday.

The new Hall of Famers:

Christian Batcheller, of the Class of 2000, a three-year letterwinner in both football and baseball. A quarterback, he held 13 school records, including career passing yardage and career total offense, when he graduated. He won the ODAC triple crown in baseball as a freshman when he batted .490 with nine home runs and 45 RBI.

Matt Dugan, of the Class of 2001, was the all-time leading scorer in lacrosse when he graduated with 290 points. He was a four-year starter and was Player of the Year in the ODAC following both his junior and senior seasons. He was named Division III Attackman of the Year in 2001.

Eloise Priest Southard, of the Class of 2002, was captain of the lacrosse team in her junior and senior seasons. She was named a first team All-America player as both a junior and senior and was the Division III Defender of the Year in 2002.

Erika Proko Hamilton, of the Class of 2002, was nationally ranked in both singles and doubles during all four seasons of her tennis career at W&L. She won three ODAC titles and made it to the quarterfinal round of the NCAA tournament all four years, finishing third in 2002 and as runner-up in 2003. She won an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarships and was a finalist for NCAA Woman of the Year.

Mike Walsh served as athletic director at W&L for 17 years, from 1989 until 2006. He led the Generals’ athletic program through a period of expansion and excellence. Under his leadership, W&L added three new varsity sports and upgraded or built new athletic facilities. Generals’ teams won 103 conference titles during his tenure and captured the ODAC Commissioner’s Cup as the top program in the conference 10 times in the 12 years it was presented while he was athletic director.

The newest inductees will bring the total number of former athletes, teams, coaches and administrators enshrined to 122.

W&L International Law Expert Discusses Syria (Audio)

An expert on international law at Washington and Lee University’s School of Law sees the shadow of Iraq looming large in the current crisis over how the world will respond to alleged chemical attacks against its own people by the Syrian government.

Mark Drumbl, director of the Transnational Institute at the W&L School of Law, notes that the use of force by one nation against another is legal only when either authorized by the United Nations Security Council or on the grounds of self-defense.

“It’s difficult to make the argument that the use of chemical weapons within Syria itself rises to the level of an imminent threat to interests outside the country,” said Drumbl.

“That leaves us with the following situation. Can countries use force against another country that harms its own citizens, on humanitarian grounds? And the answer to that is, not really.”

All of the conversation about Syria, Drumbl adds, is happening under the shadow of the force that was used in Iraq a decade ago. At the time, the coalition built by the United States operated outside the framework of the U.N. Security Council.

“There was a lot of concern at the time that when the United States the coalition used force against Iraq, it would liberalize the use of violence in international relations to punish rogue states and rogue dictators. In actuality, it’s had the opposite effect in the Syrian case,” Drumbl said.

Because no weapons of mass destruction existed in Iraq despite the assurances that they did, countries are now nervous about going into Syria.

“The shadow of Iraq hasn’t increased the use of force, but has actually shrunk that space. In this sense, when it comes to protecting human rights, Iraq was not only controversial at the time, but now, if you believe that missile use would deter further chemical weapon attacks in Syria, you have the situation where the shadow of Iraq has shrunk that space for the use of force in that context.”

Drumbl has just returned from speaking at the 7th Annual International Humanitarian Law Dialogs, a historic gathering of renowned international prosecutors and leading professionals in the field of international criminal law. The subject of the conference was “The Hot Summer after the Arab Spring: Accountability and the Rule of Law.” Drumbl addressed the work of all the international criminal tribunals this year, focusing on accomplishments and challenges.

He is the Class of 1975 Alumni Law Professor and the author of “Reimagining Child Soldiers in International Law and Policy” (Oxford University Press, 2012).

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W&L's R.T. Smith Wins Carole Weinstein Prize in Poetry

Washington and Lee University writer-in-residence R. T. Smith has won the 2013 Carole Weinstein Prize in Poetry awarded each year to a poet with strong connections to the Commonwealth of Virginia. The award will be presented on Saturday, Oct. 19, at the 16th Annual Library of Virginia Awards Celebration Honoring Virginia Authors and Friends.

In addition to serving as writer-in-residence at W&L, Smith is editor of W&L’s literary journal “Shenandoah” and author of a dozen books of poetry.

The prize recognizes significant recent contribution to the art of poetry and is awarded on the basis of a range of achievement in the field of poetry.

“Rod represents the full range of what we look for in honoring a Virginia poet with the Carole Weinstein Prize in Poetry,” said Don Selby, one of the four-member board of curators that awarded the prize.

“His most recent poetry collections ‘Messenger,’ ‘Outlaw Style’ — both honored with the Library of Virginia Poetry Prize — and this year’s ‘The Red Wolf: A Dream of Flannery O’Connor’ continue his long career of brilliant writing. And his distinguished editorship of ‘Shenandoah,’ one of our country’s crucial literary journals, is just one of many examples of the broader extent of his commitment to the art. This was an easy, happy choice for us.”

Smith said he was surprised and delighted to receive the prize, and “I thought it was so much better than finding a copperhead in the wood pile in the morning. I rejoiced and danced. They may say it was an easy decision but I’m sure it wasn’t. I’m sure there were at least a half dozen people who are all worthy and ready.”

Smith added that he was very glad that Carole Weinstein created a prize for poets, whom he described as being “among the tribe of creative writers considered obscure, if not rogue. Ask someone to name a living American poet and the reply would be ‘why do I need to?’ But ask someone to name a living American novelist and they will reel off the names.”

According to Smith, poetry has more recently retreated into the shadows although it has existed for much longer than prose writing. Every culture had its cultural epic poem such as The Iliad and The Odyssey, whereas novels only arrived in the late 18th century. “So the fact that poetry is being wheeled into the light a little bit through this prize is such a rewarding thing. And Carole Weinstein has done this in a generous way and it is absolutely commendable,” he said.

Smith is joining an impressive list of poets who have won the prize before him, such as Charles Wright, Claudia Emerson and Eleanor Ross Taylor, all major forces in American poetry.

“I can think of so many people the judges could have given the prize to other than me” said Smith, “and I would have said ‘that’s right, that’s the appropriate person.’ So I stand in the slightly awkward position of feeling like I’ve been bumped to the head of the line through no responsibility of my own, for which I thank the judges heartily. Maybe they looked at how old I am and decided that if they were going to give the prize to me they’d better hurry. We poets live a hard life.”

Elizabeth Seydel Morgan, another judge, said “I have been reading Rod Smith’s poetry for two decades and cheering for ‘Shenandoah’ under his editorship for almost as long.”

Smith observed that, in citing his editorship of “Shenandoah” (which won the Virginia Governor’s Award for the Arts in 2008), the judges were reminding everyone that the literary journal is important and should be read and thought about.” It is not a negligible factor that they took my editing of ‘Shenandoah’ into consideration. I’m thankful for the journal all the time and I’m glad to see that the judges are as well,” he said.

Smith is the former editor of “Southern Humanities Review,” as well as former Alumni Writer-in-Residence at Auburn University. His poetry has also been published in “Best American Poetry,” and his stories have appeared in “Best American Mystery Stories,” “The Pushcart Prize Anthology,” “New Stories from the South” and “Best American Short Stories,” as well as in three earlier collections, and his 2011 collection of stories, “Sherburne.” He has edited “Shenandoah” since 1995 and was named writer-in-residence in 2009.

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New Exhibit to Open at McCarthy Gallery in Holekamp Hall at W&L

“Relics,” an exhibit of photo documentation of sculptures installed in Italy, by Char Norman, will be on display at the McCarthy Gallery in Holekamp Hall at Washington and Lee University from Sept. 1 to Dec. 30.

The exhibit is sponsored by W&L’s Williams School of Commerce, Economics, and Politics and is free and open to the public.

The artist’s numerous trips to Italy fostered an interest in shrines, icons and tabernacles found throughout Florence and Rome. This fascination, along with the realization that “the natural landscape had become essentially obliterated by stonework in the magnificent buildings and pavements of the Renaissance, led to an examination of the layers of history, culture and religion,” Norman said.

This feeling, along with her reverence of nature and her concern with environmental issues, made her want to build shrines which venerated natural elements from the area and referenced pagan religious beliefs upon which Christianity is based.

“The resulting small sculptures employ detritus of nature as objects of veneration much as a bone fragment of a saint is revered in religious traditions,” Norman said. Her sculptures were then installed in niches in the historic cities. This exhibition shows the photo documentation of these sculptures printed on and embedded in handmade paper.

Norman is a fiber artist specializing in papermaking and fiber sculpture. She received a B.A. from Scripps College and an M.F.A. from Claremont Graduate University. She has lectured and exhibited both nationally and internationally, developed and conducted workshops for all ages and worked as a consultant to schools, colleges and community arts organizations.

Norman is dean of faculty emeritus at Columbus College of Art & Design and has recently returned to her professional practice as a full-time studio artist.

The McCarthy Gallery hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday.

Alston Parker Watt To Address Opening Convocation (Watch Live)

Alston Parker Watt, executive director of The Williams Family Foundation of Georgia and a 1989 graduate of Washington and Lee University, will address W&L’s 2013 Fall Convocation at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 5. She has titled her convocation address “Make It Count.”

Convocation, held on the Front Campus in front of Lee Chapel, marks the official opening of the University’s 265th academic year and the 165th year of the School of Law. Classes begin in the School of Law on Sept. 2, while undergraduate classes begin on Sept. 4.

Watt was the first undergraduate woman to serve on the Washington and Lee Board of Trustees, from 2003 to 2011. As a member of the first coeducational class at W&L, she served on the student Executive Committee, the Student Activities Board and the Student Recruitment Committee. She won the 1989 Ring-tum Phi Award for outstanding leadership and dedication to the University. A two-sport letter winner in swimming and diving and in lacrosse, Watt captained the lacrosse team from 1987 to 1989.

In addition to her bachelor’s degree in economics from W&L, Watt holds a master’s in health science from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Watt has been active in national and international public service, working with CARE-USA in Haiti and Bangladesh. In 1994, she directed community development for the North Luangwa Conservation Project in Zambia.

She has served as a trustee of the Bryn Mawr School, in Baltimore, is a founding board member of Hands on Thomas County, in Georgia, and is a founding committee member of the Georgia Grantmakers Alliance.

The Williams Family Foundation supports programs that focus on children, preservation and conservation, with a geographic focus in southwest Georgia.

Alumna's Website Helps Sandy Hook Families

Back in 2007, when a close friend of Washington and Lee alumna Adina Erdman Bailey became ill, family, friends and neighbors immediately offered meals for the family. That is not a new scenario, of course; nor is the issue of how to coordinate all that goodwill so that three lasagnas don’t arrive on the same night.

So Adina, of the W&L Class of 1996, and Scott Rogers, a friend in her hometown of Harrisonburg, Va., created a website — TakeThemAMeal.com — that is a free online tool to coordinate the delivery of meals to someone who is in need. People have created more than 2 million meal schedules with the site.

A meal coordinator sets up a private TakeThemAMeal.com account and then gives access to friends and families to a customized, online sign-up sheet with phone numbers, driving directions, food allergies, etc.

That original concept has now grown to include a second website-based service —PerfectPotluck.com, which coordinates meals for groups — plus a partnership with Harrisonburg-based A Bowl of Good, to offer meals that you can send to individuals in need of food.

This month and next, TakeThemAMeal.com and A Bowl of Good have partnered to provide meals to the faculty and staff of Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Conn., as they begin the first school year since last December’s shootings. They’ve been gathering sponsors for the $50 meals, and Adina’s husband and fellow W&L alumnus, Michael Bailey, of the Class of 1998, will join the site’s co-founder to hand deliver them to Newtown next month.

In a story about on WSHV-TV in Harrisonburg, Adina said: “We’re thankful for the privilege to be able to care for the Sandy Hook Elementary School community in this way at this time. After the fact, it really is helpful for them to know that we haven’t forgotten them and we still care.”

For information, go to the special page on the TakeThemAMeal site.

Commentary: A Prosecutor's Response to “Too Much, Too Many”

The following is a response to “Too Much  & Too Many,” the cover story of the most recent issue of the W&L Law alumni magazine. The author is Christopher Russell, Commonwealth’s Attorney for the city of Buena Vista, Virginia and director of the public prosecutor’s externship program at W&L Law. 

I wish to offer a few thoughts in response to Stephanie Wilkinson’s well-written cover article “Too Much & Too Many” examining faculty perspectives on the criminal justice system.

As Justice Kennedy wrote in a recent U.S. Supreme Court opinion, “criminal justice today is for the most part a system of pleas, not a system of trials.” (1) It is true, as Professor King notes, that defense lawyers sometimes meet a client for the first time in the courthouse hallway on the day of trial. Prosecutors wonder why this occurs given the resources of the defense bar.(2) Some of the same defense lawyers who cannot manage to speak to a client before the trial date often find ample time before trial to file procedural objections with an eye towards a plea deal. For example, a 2009 Supreme Court ruling that reversed decades of Confrontation Clause jurisprudence has needlessly stalled prosecutions of drunk drivers and drug dealers and others who threaten our public safety. Defense lawyers use the ruling as a bargaining chip. An objection is waived in return for lenient treatment of a guilty client.(3)

Plea deals almost never result from innocents who are wrongly accused yet choose to mitigate their misfortune by voluntarily agreeing to suffer some punishment. Instead, they overwhelmingly result from prosecutors who agree to requests for leniency, probation and other alternatives to incarceration, all of which saves the justice system time and money. To Professor Bruck’s point that by having a death penalty at all, “we create the illusion that every other punishment is mild,” the reality is that in huge percentages of cases involving drug crimes, property crimes, non-felonious assaults and traffic crimes including DWI, punishment is mild. Don’t take my word for it. Visit your local courthouse when sentencing hearings are conducted.

As esteemed Virginia Beach Commonwealth’s Attorney Harvey Bryant noted in a recent op-ed in the Virginian-Pilot responding to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s comments about incarceration levels in our country, “it’s not that easy to get into a penitentiary. Those who contend that there are loads of nonviolent, low-level offenders serving lengthy sentences need to provide the names and criminal histories of those prisoners. … Almost no one goes to prison for their first-offense burglary, grand larceny, car theft or other nonviolent offenses.”(4) Furthermore, many first-time drug offenders, even those who admit their guilt, receive deferred adjudications; in other words, they are not even convicted, let alone incarcerated.(5)

As Judge Louis Trosch commented in the article, probation officers are indeed overloaded with work.(6) A big part of that problem is that success on probation can be elusive. Prosecutors and probation officers spend significant time proceeding against recidivist convicts who did not go to jail for their crimes and yet did not follow the rules of probation supervision.(7) Having been given a second chance, their own actions make the case for more stringent forms of retribution and deterrence.

There is no better example of why some Americans believe in the need for more, not less accountability than in the tragic realm of domestic violence and sexual abuse. These conditions exist at epidemic levels in our society. Yet persons who abuse intimate partners and other family members are treated with more leniency by our criminal justice system than nearly any other group. Even abusers who are not exonerated generally suffer fewer consequences and fewer probation restrictions than first-time drug offenders or teenagers who get speeding tickets.

Worse yet, vigorous prosecution of domestic abusers has negative consequences for victims. Their experience during the course of a prosecution can be analogous to a re-victimization. The trend is especially evident in cases involving child victims of sexual abuse, but touches many who suffer at the hands of a family or household member. To borrow some phrasing from Professor Luna in the article, this comment is not intended as a slam against defense lawyers, but a lawyer’s duty to her client, when the client is alleged to be a child predator, brings its own issues, its own collateral consequences.

Domestic abusers need to experience meaningful accountability when they inflict physical injury on others, sometimes even when the victim has ‘forgiven’ the offender and asked the Commonwealth not to pursue a criminal charge. Cases like those, most of them misdemeanors, are common even in a tiny jurisdiction like Buena Vista, Virginia. A frequent complaint I receive for pursuing such a case to trial goes something like: “why are you pushing this case when the family wants it dropped?” I have spent some time considering these questions during the past 12 years. Apart from my desire not to sanction the intense pressure an accused abuser frequently exerts on a victim to recant, I have concluded that more appropriate questions are: “why does physical violence exist within families in our community, and: what can the justice system do to impress upon batterers that violence will not be tolerated?” Unfortunately, for many victims, the consequences for offenders and repeat offenders are “Too Little & Too Few.”


1. Laffler v. Cooper, 132 S. Ct. 1376, 1388 (2012).

2.Public defenders, many of whom are paid higher salaries than their prosecutor counterparts, handle a significant portion of the indigent criminal cases in Virginia. (2012 statistics demonstrate that Assistant Public Defenders have a starting salary of $48,183. By contrast, entry level Commonwealth’s Attorneys earn $45,385. Some Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorneys earning $45,385 handle capital murder cases. A separate Capital Defender office where lawyers earn a minimum of $73,216 handles the public defense for these crimes.) Some defendants who initially request and qualify for a court-appointed lawyer find the means to hire private counsel before trial. Many indigent defendants are assigned other lawyers like Professor King who are not employed by the public defender commission. Private practice lawyers throughout Virginia actively seek court-appointed criminal defense work. Apparently they are not deterred by a fee cap, for in some nearby jurisdictions, private lawyers compete for priority on a court-maintained roster.

3. Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, 129 S. Ct. 2527 (2009). The case prompted a significant revision of Virginia’s criminal procedure code that encouraged defendants to more aggressively assert their age-old right to cross-examine state forensic scientists. Defense lawyers in drug cases and impaired driving cases now routinely file a demand for the state to arrange the cross-examination, invariably delaying trial in order for the Commonwealth to subpoena the scientist who tested the drugs or blood in a laboratory. But when trial day arrives, these lawyers actually question the scientist in court in only a miniscule percentage of cases in which a demand is even filed. It is easy to conclude that the procedure is almost always employed as a bargaining tool.

4. http://hamptonroads.com/2013/08/too-many-prisoners-not-really. Harvey Bryant is a board member of the National District Attorneys Association, the Virginia Association of Commonwealth’s Attorneys, and the Virginia Sentencing Commission.

5. See, for example, Virginia Code § 18.2-251.

6. So are rape crisis shelter workers, child protective services staff, civil legal aid attorneys, and public mental health advocates to name just a few other occupations that fit the description.

7. As of August 2, 2013, the Rockbridge Regional Jail housed 123 inmates, 30 of which (24%) were incarcerated in connection with probation violations.

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W&L Law Welcomes Class of 2016

On Monday, August 26, Washington and Lee University School of Law enrolled 112 students in the J.D. Class of 2016.

In addition, one student from Afghanistan entered the School’s LL.M. program. Hussain Moin received the Friends of the Public Private Partnership for Justice Reform in Afghanistan’s LLM Scholarship to support his legal education in the U.S. W&L previously hosted LL.M. students from Afghanistan under this program in 2009.

“Last year’s class was larger than we planned because of an unexpected yield from our pool of admitted students,” said Dean Nora Demleitner. “Recognizing the challenges new graduates are facing in a changing legal economy, we were determined this year to keep the class size closer to our historic norms.”

The median LSAT score for the entering class is 164, and the median undergraduate grade point average for the class is 3.51. The average age of class members is 24; students range in age from 21 to 34. The class is 47% female, and 21% of the class has identified as being a member of an ethnically diverse group.

The first-year students hail from 31 states and earned undergraduate degrees from 90 different institutions. The class includes six students who attended Washington and Lee for their undergraduate degree. Political Science remains one of the most popular undergraduate majors (22), with English (16), History (12) Economics (5), and International Studies (5) also well-represented.

64% of the class worked for a year or more before entering law school, including at top accounting firms, for political campaigns, in web technology and for the military. Volunteerism is a common interest of the class, with members participating in Relay for Life, Habitat for Humanity, and the Peace Corps, among many other volunteer activities.

A number of the members of the Class of 2016 have traveled extensively. Consistent with this international orientation, members of the class speak a variety of languages including Arabic, Cantonese, Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, and Twi.

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