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Ruscio Responds To Law Students' Letter

  • Written by Darryl Woodson

4:30 p.m. - Moments ago, W&L President Ken Ruscio sent a message to the W&L community responding to the letter sent to the school's board of trustees last week by a group of law students about issues relating to making the climate more welcoming for "students of color." The letter was the subject of a story in today's issue of The News-Gazette.

The following is the full text of Ruscio's comments:



Last week, some members of the Board of Trustees and I received a letter from 12 Law School students expressing concerns about the climate for students of color at Washington and Lee.

In their letter, the law students issued the following four demands:

               1. That the University fully recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day on the undergraduate campus.
               2. That the University stop allowing neo-Confederates to march on campus with Confederate flags on Lee-Jackson Day and to stop allowing these groups to hold programs in Lee Chapel.
               3. That the University immediately remove all Confederate flags from its property, including those flags located within Lee Chapel.
               4. That the University issue an official apology for the University's participation in chattel slavery and a denunciation of Robert E. Lee's participation in slavery.

In recent days, reports about the students' demands have appeared in several media outlets, and additional media attention will likely be forthcoming.

I first want to assure the community that we take these students' concerns seriously. The issues they have raised are important, and we intend to address them.

Upon receipt of their letter, I immediately responded to the students and asked that, as a first step, a meeting take place with them and members of the University Committee on Inclusiveness and Campus Climate (UCICC). That committee, chaired by Marc Conner, associate provost, consists of students (both law and undergraduate) and members of the faculty, staff and administration. We created UCICC in 2008 as "an institutional platform to address issues of inclusiveness and diversity, in response to concerns within the campus community." Throughout this year, UCICC and the Office of Student Affairs have been holding focus groups with students to discuss some of the very issues that the law students are raising.

I also asked Provost Daniel Wubah to schedule a meeting with the law students.

As we consider these questions as a community, I think it is important to state several key facts as background for the discussions.

First, as you undoubtedly are aware, Washington and Lee does recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day each year with a University-wide MLK Legacy Week, which features a prominent guest speaker. This year, Donna Brazile spoke in Lee Chapel, on Jan. 26. Other recent speakers have included Terrence Roberts, Andrew J. Young and Julian Bond. In addition, we make available the panels, symposia and programs that we organize not only to the University community, but also to the Lexington-Rockbridge County community.

The Law School participates in the observance by holding its own programs and by cancelling classes on King Day.

We hold undergraduate classes on King Day. In accordance with the University's governing process, the faculty approves academic calendars and any adjustments to the class schedule. The law faculty controls the calendar in the Law School; the undergraduate faculty controls the undergraduate calendar. These two calendars are different in many respects, not just in terms of King Day.

Lee Chapel displays replicas of eight battle flags that represented different armies of the Confederate States of America, at the back of the chapel's main floor, near the statue called "The Recumbent Lee." These replicas are designed for historical and educational purposes. I am aware of no similar flags displayed anywhere else on our campus.

Based on Lee Chapel's policies for the use of the facility by non-University groups, a private group has reserved the chapel for a lecture on Civil War history as part of Lexington's community-wide events commemorating the Commonwealth of Virginia's holiday, Lee-Jackson Day. This is not a University-sponsored event, and W&L does not observe Lee-Jackson Day.

Finally, last year I impaneled a special committee to explore the history of African Americans at Washington and Lee and to provide a report to me and to the community. Elizabeth Knapp, senior assistant to the president, is convening that group. While we are aware of some of that history, I believe we should have a thorough, candid examination. That group has to date met in only a preliminary manner.

Let me conclude by reiterating that the students have raised important questions that relate to ongoing discussions at the University. I welcome their contributions and those of all members of the University community. I am certain we can address these matters in a manner that is both respectful and productive.

I welcome your thoughts on these issues.

Sunday Morning Beer Sales To Start In County

  • Written by Ed Smith

 Beer and wine can now be purchased in Rockbridge County on Sunday mornings.

The Board of Supervisors on Monday lifted the prohibition of beer and wine sales in the county between the hours of 6 a.m. and noon on Sundays. The change brings the county into conformity with what's allowed in Lexington and Buena Vista.

County Attorney Vickie Huffman drafted the ordinance to repeal the Sunday morning prohibition at the request of South River Supervisor Ronnie Campbell. A retailer in Campbell's district who saw he was losing customers to businesses in the cities sought the change.

A Virginia ABC law prohibits the sale of alcoholic beverages for off-premises consumption between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m. everyday. This statewide law remains in effect, as does one that prohibits on-premises sales after 2 a.m. Localities have the option to further restrict sales on Sunday mornings.

No one spoke at a public hearing on the repeal of the county's ordinance, which the supervisors adopted unanimously without comment.


Virginia Canal Society Meeting Here

  • Written by submitted

The annual conference of Virginia’s canal preservation organization, the Virginia Canals & Navigations Society, will take place at Glen Maury Park April 25-27, with activities focused on the Maury River.

Friday’s activities will get under way with a tour of the archaeological dig at Jordans Point that has been undertaken by students at Washington and Lee University.  Jordans Points was a busy port beginning with the batteau era.  Students are finding artifacts from the 19th century industry located there.

At 6 p.m. that Friday, there will be a gala reception at the Paxton House, followed at 7 p.m. by talks on Scenic Rivers and Water Trails by Jennifer Wampler and Lynn Crump with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.

A rafting trip on the Maury River from Lexington to Buena Vista is planned for Saturday with stops at the historic locks along the way. Concurrently, there will be a walking tour of the canal locks from along the Chessie Nature Trail. These will conclude with an afternoon tour of the Buena Vista flood control project.

The organization’s annual meeting and banquet will be held at the Paxton House Saturday evening with local historian Dr. Horace Douty speaking.

On Sunday, a driving caravan will take participants on a tour of the locks and dams below Buena Vista along River Road. Participants will stop in Glasgow to honor Frank Padget, who lost his life saving others on the James River in the 1800s, and then proceed to the overlook near Balcony Falls to see where Padget died.

The conference is open to everyone. For additional information and to register, contact Philip de Vos at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. at (434) 299-5249.

VDOT Plans Work On Bypass

  • Written by submitted

The Virginia Department of Transportation will close the U.S. 11 bypass on-ramp at Va. 60 in Lexington for nighttime work on April 27 to 30.

Crews will be brush cutting in the area nightly, 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. on those days.  VDOT asks motorists to be alert for signage and aware of possible delays in the area during this work.

Sups Propose 4.5-Cent Tax Hike

  • Written by Ed Smith


A 4.5-cent increase to Rockbridge County's tax rate is contemplated in a proposed budget that's being taken to a public hearing.


The Board of Supervisors on Wednesday voted 5-0 to advertise a real estate tax rate of 71.5 cents per $100 assessed value. There's actually quite a bit of uncertainty over the budget because of an impasse on a spending plan at the state level.


“The Board agreed to move ahead using the most conservative state figures,” said County Administrator Spencer Suter, who prepared a budget document with Steve Bolster, the county's director of fiscal services.


The budget includes step increases for eligible county employees that would take effect July 1, and 1 percent raises for all county employees, effective Dec. 1. The latter of these proposals is based on the latest proposed pay hikes for state employees.


Among the planned new expenditures in the county are $71,737 for a human resources officer that would cover salary and benefits, $400,000 for contracted ambulance services and $110,000 for a major upgrade to the Lake Robertson pool.


A more detailed account of the proposed budget will be in the April 16 print edition of The News-Gazette. A public hearing hearing on the proposed budget will take place Wednesday, April 23, at 6 p.m. Adoption is scheduled for the following week on April 30.