The Columns

A Message Regarding the Commission on Institutional History and Community

— by on August 31st, 2017

To: The W&L Community
From: President Will Dudley

I have been gratified to receive enthusiastic messages of support from many members of the Washington and Lee community in response to the appointment of a Commission on Institutional History and Community. Running through them all is a deep devotion to the university and an understanding of the critical importance of this work.

I am delighted to report that Brian Murchison, the Charles S. Rowe Professor of Law, has agreed to chair the commission. Professor Murchison has been a member of the W&L faculty since 1982. His teaching and scholarship focus on administrative law, mass media law, jurisprudence, torts, and contemporary problems in law and journalism. He has served in numerous other capacities in the Law School, including interim dean, director of the Frances Lewis Law Center, and supervising attorney in the Black Lung Legal Clinic. In addition to his active participation on numerous university and Law School committees, Professor Murchison has taught several undergraduate classes, most recently a Spring Term course on the separation of powers in the U.S. Constitution.

Joining Professor Murchison on the commission:

Faculty
Ted DeLaney ’85, Associate Professor of History
Melissa R. Kerin, Associate Professor of Art History

Students
Elizabeth Mugo ’19, Irmo, S.C., Executive Committee Vice President
Heeth Varnedoe ’19, Thomasville, Ga., Junior Class Representative to the Executive Committee
Daniele San Roman ’19L, Port Jefferson Station, N.Y., Law Strategic Planning Task Force

Staff
Thomas Camden ’76, Head of Special Collections & Archives, University Library
Mary Main, Executive Director of Human Resources
Trenya Mason ’05L, Assistant Dean for Law Student Affairs

Alumni
Cynthia Cheatham ’07, Washington, D.C., Alumni Board Member
Mike McGarry ’87, Charlotte, N.C., Alumni Board President
Phil Norwood ’69, Charlotte, N.C., Rector Emeritus

I have asked this commission to lead us in an examination of how our history — and the ways that we teach, discuss and represent it — shapes our community. One of its first tasks will be to refine the scope of the work, determining how to involve interested community members and gathering input on the important questions that we need to examine. One such question is how we can best present our physical campus to take full advantage of its educational potential in a manner that is consistent with our core values.

The commission will create various opportunities to engage in conversation with all corners of the community. It will also meet with existing groups whose ongoing work relates to some of these issues, including the Working Group on the History of African-Americans at W&L, the University Committee on Inclusiveness and Campus Climate, and the University Collections of Art and History Advisory Committee.

Please send comments and suggestions to historycommission@wlu.edu so that they are available for the entire commission to review. The commission will keep the community apprised of its work through a website that will be established in the next few days.

This commission and its work will set a national example by demonstrating how the divisive issues confronting us can be addressed thoughtfully and effectively. That is what a university should do, and it is especially what Washington and Lee should do. I am grateful to the members of the commission for this important service and look forward to the conversations ahead.