Law Students Seek Diploma Option

Portraits Would Be Removed If Student Desires

Washington and Lee law students are requesting the option to have the images of George Washington and Robert E. Lee removed from their diplomas.

In a recent online petition to university administration and President William Dudley, students, alumni and faculty expressed their desire for students to have the chance to opt-out of diplomas with the namesakes’ portraits.

“The goal of establishing this option is to create a diploma that alumni are proud to prominently display in their homes and places of work,” the petition reads. “Given the aftermath of the 2017 Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville and the heightened awareness of making Washington and Lee an inclusive and compassionate environment to all students, we believe this request provides alumni the ability to honor their alma mater without the presence of the portraits that some may find controversial or offensive.

“We are not asking for a mandatory change to the diplomas, but rather the option to have a diploma without portraits,” the request reads, signed by over 230 individuals as of Tuesday morning.

Dudley and Brant Hellwig, dean of the law school, responded to the petition in a public statement to the law community Friday.

“We fully support the right of all members of our community to express their opinions, and we commend those, including the student petitioners, who do so in a civil manner,” Helwig and Dudley wrote. “We encourage all students, faculty, staff and alumni, especially when engaged in conversations on contested topics, to strive in their words and actions to conduct themselves in a manner that reflects our shared aspirations.”

Helwig and Dudley said that though the petition has not been formally delivered, the University board of trustees has the final decision over the request as it has the sole authority to confer degrees.

The News-Gazette

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