The Columns

W&L Board Authorizes Construction of Third-Year Housing Neighborhood at Its Fall Meeting

— by on October 29th, 2014

At its fall meeting, Oct. 24-25, Washington and Lee University’s Board of Trustees gave final approval for the construction of a new on-campus housing neighborhood for upper-division students.

The board also authorized site development for the new housing neighborhood—bulk excavation and fill and new utility infrastructure—plus an adjacent, proposed natatorium. Although actual construction of the natatorium has not been authorized pending completion of fundraising goals, site development performed at the same time would save significant costs.

The new neighborhood would house some 338 students, enabling the University to meet its requirement that all students live on campus for their first three years, beginning with the current first-year class. The $36.7 million project is planned to open in fall 2016. Construction is slated to begin soon after final approval by local governmental authorities.

The trustees on the Campus Life Committee also toured the first-year residential life facilities, including recently renovated Gaines Hall and Graham-Lees Hall, which is currently under renovation. Progress on residential life facilities is the latest development in the University’s strategic plan, adopted in 2007.

In other business, the board received a report from a special trustee task force impaneled last May to explore the impact of national trends in legal education on W&L’s School of Law. Since 2010, law school applications have decreased by more than 35 percent nationally, while the job market for legal professions has also been shrinking. The trustee task force examined the impact those trends are having at W&L and possible responses to the challenges they pose.

After receiving the task force report, the trustees directed the university’s senior administration to devise a detailed plan no later than February 2015 that will strengthen the law school and permit it to achieve financial self-sufficiency by 2018. In addition, the board approved temporary allocations from law school resources to support the school as the plan is being developed and enacted.

The trustees heard reports on the internally managed endowment, which now exceeds $1 billion and when combined with trusts held by others approaches $1.5 billion.

The board also heard an update on the progress of the University’s Honor Our Past, Build Our Future capital campaign, which now stands at $473 million towards its $500 million goal. The campaign concludes in the summer 2015.

Three new trustees were sworn in: Joseph W. Luter IV ’87 of Virginia Beach, Virginia; Laurie A. Rachford ’84L of Houston, Texas; and Lizanne Thomas ’82L of Atlanta, Georgia.