When the commission was formed, its first task was to lead the W&L community in an examination of its history. Commission members have spent the past nine months engaged in research and extensive conversations with members of our community and with each other. It has been a privilege to study W&L intensively and to get to know the university in a deeper way. We have gained a better understanding of the university's past; its role in education in the United States; and the progression of the institution from a modest grammar school that pre-dates the history of the nation to a 21st-century leader in liberal arts education. There is much cause for institutional pride.
But our assignment was not to catalog the university's many accomplishments or its positive attributes. We were asked to examine the university critically, and to propose how the university might teach and present its history more truthfully and effectively. This report has focused on areas where the university can improve. As such, it is necessarily critical.
One of the lessons learned was that 12 people could come together from different backgrounds, professions and perspectives, converse honestly and openly for months, and produce a report of this kind.
Another lesson was that the one thing that is constant is the need for change. During our 269-year history, the school has never been satisfied or complacent. That being said, W&L is generally cautious in the way it responds to societal change and acts only after considerable debate and consideration. The issues included in this report have all been raised and discussed by our community for some time. We think now is the time for Washington and Lee to take action.
Martin Luther King Jr. often stated in public addresses, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice." He also spoke eloquently about "the Beloved Community," which he considered "the end goal" of all the great modern movements for justice. These statements reflected a belief in the possibility of progress — as long as people work for it, sacrifice for it, and make it happen. Guided by the mission of developing every student's "capacity to think freely, critically, and humanely," W&L is poised to take important new steps and should embrace that opportunity.