Is the Washington & Lee University Controversy Over?

Kevin Levin has been assiduously covering a story coming out of Washington & Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, where a group of students, styling themselves “The Committee,” made several demands of the university administration concerning that institution’s links to the Confederacy, Robert E. Lee (who served as the institution’s president between 1865 and his death in 1870), and Lee Chapel, where the general’s body is entombed. Recently the university administration offered its response to these demands, and many people have found their proposals reasonable.

A few remain unhappy, of course, and no one more so that good old Jerry Dunford, a supporter of the Virginia Flaggers and a go-to resource on the Facebook group Dixie Talk & News, where Carl Roden often endorses his sentiments (although he’s been very careful not to endorse this particular post). Here’s what Jerry has to say, and these statements stand out:

These bastards, the blacks students as well as the University leaders who made this agreement should all be sent packing and replaced with people who have character and a backbone.This step by freaking step to erase our Southern history, culture and to convert our facilities into desecrated places that indicate no connection to the past they are connected to historically, is wrong, and we need to oppose this.

Like many other Flaggers, Jerry has a way with words. I guess the settlement involving the return of a real Confederate flag that Lee himself may have seen over cheap replicas turns the general’s final resting place into a “desecrated” place.

I can see it now: “Restore the Honor! Return the Replicas!”

But that’s not all …

These black students voluntarily went to W&L, and for them to demand such was wrong of them, if they don’t like something, then go some place else, and also wrong was the leaders to give in to these troublemakers. I urge you, to tell as many people that this is the new W&L, and not to send sons and daughters to a University ran by cowards.

I think that students who attend W&L should be privileged over a ranting old bigot when it comes to what goes on at W&L. Moreover, if Jerry doesn’t like it, he can follow his own advice and leave Virginia.

It seems rather important to Jerry to note that the students are black.

We have still to hear from The Committee. But we have already heard from another one of the usual suspects:

W&L Flagger Two W&L Flaggers one

No word yet on whether Susan Hathaway will make an appearance at Washington & Lee … and you can ask the folks at Glavé and Holmes why. Since this project is finished, maybe she’ll be a bit braver than she currently is when it comes to flagging the VMFA.

I’ll leave it to others to follow this story in detail. But it’s nice to know that some things never change.

16 thoughts on “Is the Washington & Lee University Controversy Over?

  1. Andy Hall July 9, 2014 / 12:20 pm

    Because the “Boot Elrod” campaign worked so well in 2012, right?

    It will be interesting to see what the Flagger crowd does, beyond making really bad Photoshop images and fluffing each other on Facebook. I suspect they will find that not very many in the W&L community — staff, faculty, students, alumni, donors — are particularly torqued about this change in policy and, as with their protests over Lexington’s flag ordinance, they have to bring in protesters from out-of-town to have a photo-op “advancing the colors.”

    Say what you will about “the Committee,” unlike the Virginia Flaggers they actually pay tuition and have a stake in the university.

  2. Virginia Bourne July 9, 2014 / 2:01 pm

    Dr. Simpson,
    Long-time lurker, first-time commenter here…
    I left a question at jerryd14 (deleted by admin, natch) asking about how he and the rest of the folks upset with this decision keep using the word “agitator” to refer to tuition paying students there on campus with a vested stake in the university (as Andy Hall points out above). Seems to me this is the same word used by segregationists during the Civil Rights Movement in an attempt to portray civil rights activists as outsiders when more often than not the rank-and-file activists where just local, southern African Americans who were just sick and tired of being sick and tired (to borrow from Fannie Lou Hamer). Resurrecting the term “agitator” in this case really is dog-whistle racism. (The way Dunford uses combines “black” and “agitator” when ranting out for other neo-confederates borders on redundant for them, but maybe that is more revealing of his animosity than anything else.) FWIW, likening these students’ activism to the now-debunked “knockout game” as the Florida blogger has done is exactly the same rhetorical move.

    Anyway, I find it interesting that the “heritage” crowd has so mastered the language of the civil rights movement when they need to paint themselves as victims, but are falling back on the language of “agitators” with such little self-awareness and in a way that points backwards to what they are really upset about.

    • Jimmy Dick July 9, 2014 / 3:53 pm

      The heritage crowd wants to portray themselves as victims. Their own rhetoric shows that they are not victims at all. I would not worry about being deleted off of Jerry’s blog. It is not like it is a bastion of academic thought or any thought for that matter.

  3. Goad Gatsby July 9, 2014 / 2:08 pm

    I don’t know if you read such comments from Manny Vega, “Who is serious in here? Not just in spirit. Who will go down to Lexington and make a stand?” or from Craig Westbrook “Surround the whole place with armed SCV and dare them to reach for those flags.” I would usually brush this off as fringe members of the flaggers but these comments were liked by the Virginia Flagger’s page. I doubt the group will apologize for making it seem like they support having its members out for blood.

  4. Spelunker July 9, 2014 / 7:34 pm

    Brad Griffin has stated that the LOSers will be protesting this. This is a great opportunity for them, because they can ride the coattails of the “Rainbows” for a photo op with more than 10 people and maybe recruit 5.

    • Goad Gatsby July 10, 2014 / 4:52 pm

      He was even bold enough to post on their fb page.

  5. Bob Huddleston July 9, 2014 / 7:57 pm

    It is no doubt irrelevant but how many, if any, of the Flaggers and other protesters have attended W&L? From their command of written English, probably none.

  6. TF Smith July 10, 2014 / 6:39 pm

    Lee gave his life for Virginia?

    He lived to a ripe old age and died in his bed, which was an easier end than hundreds of thousands of loyal Americans his cause sent to THEIR end…

    The more one reads from these yokels…

    • Joshism July 11, 2014 / 5:14 pm

      My thoughts exactly!

      • TF Smith July 12, 2014 / 10:54 am

        These “scholars” out-Faulkner Faulkner in terms of wish fulfillment; although Faulkner was honest enough to admit it only works when one is 14 years old…

  7. Pat Young July 10, 2014 / 7:21 pm

    This was posted over at Civil War Talk and is supposedly from the North Carolina SCV. Note the reference to the black students involved as the “commie committee.”

    “Washington and Lee University flag fiasco update.

    Folks, please be aware that the SCV’s National Chief of Heritage Operations, VA Division Commander, VA Division Heritage Officer, the Lexington, VA SCV Camp Commander and I, the ANV Heritage Coordinator, have been working on and monitoring this situation since early April when the “Committee of 7” issued their demands to the school.

    The question was asked, “What are the SCV and UDC doing about this?” I cannot answer for the UDC, but the SCV has been involved since the first notice was issued. As late as last Thursday, we were informed by an SCV member close to the University that, and, I quote, “There has not been any further action based upon the threats and demands by the commie “committee” at W&L. We do anticipate the issue will flare up again towards the end of August as September 1st was the deadline for their demands to be met before they committed “civil disobedience.” The recent announcement by the President of W&L to remove the flags was not expected.

    My questions in a previous post about Commonwealth Statutes relating to the desecration, tampering and removal/theft of items at a gravesite were for gathering information which may be useful. Currently, we cannot ascertain without legal advice if such a Statute(s) exists in the Commonwealth. The Virginia Division SCV will hold a Division Executive Council meeting on Saturday, July 12, to discuss the W&L situation and the possibility of retaining an attorney to research the Statutes. The VA DEC will notify National of any actions that are decided upon and if any assistance is required.

    Surrender is NOT an option. We must keep in mind, however, Washington and Lee University is a private institution, on private property. The President, Board of Directors, some faculty, the Lexington Mayor, City Council and the demographics of the Lexington business owners are against our Cause. Send correspondence (letters preferably), email or call the university to lodge your complaints. Be polite, tactful, but adamant about your concerns. If you are a contributor to the University in any capacity, stop sending your money. Instead, send your contributions to the Virginia Division Heritage Defense Fund or the National Heritage Defense Fund.

    In a recent, similar situation at the Citadel in Charleston, the violation went in our favor when the SC Adjutant General ruled that the flag in question was protected by South Carolina’s Heritage Preservation Act. The school did poll the callers and found that over 50% were in AGREEMENT to removal of the flag. Should our efforts to retain the flags in Lee’s Chapel, let’s turn those same efforts into getting statutes passed to protect our gravesites.

    I have said it before; we MUST be united in these heritage violations. The SCV, UDC, OCR, Flaggers, MechCav and MOS&B have a greater Cause than their individuality. Divisions need to support each other in these fights. The proverbial snowball is moving too quickly down the hill and it will take all of us who believe in our Confederate heritage to stop it.”

    Ronnie S. Roach
    Communications Officer of the N.C. Division SCV.

    • Andy Hall July 11, 2014 / 6:56 am

      “. . . Instead, send your contributions to. . . .”

      You had to know that was going to be in there.

      • Bill Wimsatt July 12, 2014 / 6:01 am

        While I don’t support what these students did, I don’t think calling them awful names does anything to help the cause. I would rather the flags be restored, but I also realize that I don’t pay anything to W&L. It’s a shame that traditions are done away with in such ways, and for no good reason other than to placate a few dissenters.

        • Andy Hall July 12, 2014 / 7:14 am

          As I commented elsewhere, one thing I think most of us don’t know is how the Committee’s complaint played out among the W&L community at large. It was only a handful of students who publicly challenged the school in writing, but there may have been wider support for them among other students, faculty, staff, donors, alumni, etc. I’m sure that also played a role in the W&L administration’s actions.

  8. taxsanity July 15, 2014 / 5:11 am

    Here is a solution — leave the Confederate flags up, honor Lee till the cows come home, just post Lee’s slave ledgers too. Put his a list of prices he paid — for which girl. Yes, he bought girls. He paid bounty hunters, not just for his own escaped slave girls — and he had apparently over 50 slaves that tried to escape — put up the prices Lee paid for women and children that were NOT escaped slaves at all.

    Lee had his soldiers round up blacks in the North during the Civil War. How many of you even know that much? But a close reading of Elizabeth Pryor’s artful dodger book, wherein she does her darndest to minimize, excuse, gloss over and use Orwellian double speak, has some very interesting information about Lee’s purchase of “others” from his bounty hunters. Pryor puts it carefully — “Lee failed to fill out the time consuming paperwork” for the “others”. Lee’s bounty hunters sold him escaped slaves — but also the Orwellian “others” they grabbed in the North.

    150 years of Orwellian BS about Confederate leaders, their motivations, their actions, is enough. How long do we have to wait — another 150 years? Two more 150 year periods?

    I suggest its time to stop writing about Confederate belt buckles and the name of Lee’s pet chicken, and expose what happened, in simple, true sentences. Who did what to whom. This is what history should be — who did what to whom.

    It’s clear now that whenever you get away from simple true statements – as the goofy distorted and false myths about Lee, Davis and the Confederacy show — it might sound academic and learned — but it’s BS.

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