Part I: Methodology

Part I: Methodology: Outreach and Response

I. Outreach

The commission considered the importance of gathering input from a broad range of community members. The commission created four sub-groups to host formal outreach sessions. Student members of the commission led conversations with student groups and organizations. Faculty members of the commission led conversations with groups of faculty members who attended and participated. Staff members of the commission led conversations with a wide array of staff members, including administrators, administrative support staff, library staff, dining and facilities employees, and others. Alumni members of the commission led structured telephone sessions. These conversations influenced how the commission examined and prioritized a myriad of concerns related to W&L's history and community.

From October through March, the commission hosted the meetings and phone calls. There were eight sessions for W&L law and undergraduate faculty; 16 sessions for university staff members; four telephone sessions for alumni totaling more than 400 alumni listening in or speaking; and one telephone session with the Black Alumni Working Group. There were also nine sessions with current students, including members of the Executive Committee, the Student Bar Association, the Black Law Student Association, the College Democrats, the Panhellenic Council, the College Republicans, the Student Judicial Council, the Student Association for Black Unity, and the Interfraternity Council. In addition, the student sub-group attended student organization meetings and held weekly office hours through the end of March.

The commission also met with faculty members of the Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program, the University Committee on Inclusiveness and Campus Climate, the vice president for University Advancement, the vice president for Student Affairs and dean of students, the provost, the associate dean for Administration and Student Affairs at W&L Law, the vice president for Admissions and Financial Aid, and additional groups (see Appendix B).

Across all outreach meetings and call-in sessions, the commission asked similar questions:

  1. What are our core values? What elements of our campus reinforce or are in conflict with these values? How could our campus better reflect these values?
  2. How do our curriculum, programs and initiatives reflect our core values?
  3. What story or stories does our physical campus tell? Are those stories accurate? What images and motifs create discomfort?
  4. What specific aspects of the culture of W&L affected your decision to work/study here, and what specific aspects directly affect your experience here? How does it affect your current engagement as an alumnus or alumna?
  5. In what ways do you feel that our culture and history affect the experiences of our diverse students, staff and faculty? How might we increase diversity within the student body?
  6. What traditions are important to maintain as part of the W&L experience?

II. Response

Consistent themes emerged across the sessions:

For a detailed summary of comments received in the outreach sessions, emails and form submissions, please see Appendix B.

Some of the specific comments received from faculty and staff:

Some of the specific comments received from students:

Some of the specific comments received from alumni:

In President Dudley's message announcing the membership of the Commission on Institutional History and Community, he called for the commission to:

  1. Examine how our history - and the ways that we teach, discuss and represent it - shapes our community. 
  2. Create various opportunities to engage in conversation with all corners of the community.
  3. Set a national example by demonstrating how the divisive issues can be addressed thoughtfully and effectively.

With this charge as the benchmark for the report, the commission has engaged with students, staff, faculty and alumni. The university community has asked for transparency in the examination of its history and recommendations for change.

Recommendation No. 1

Release the commission's report in full to the university community and post on the website.