Thursday, July 10, 2014

A Letter to W&L University

The writer, Bill Dennison, posted this letter to Facebook and noted that contact information was removed because Facebook does not allow it. The letter is reproduced here with Mr. Dennison's kind permission.
July 10, 20114

Mr. Kenneth Ruscio, President
Washington and Lee University

Mr. Daniel Wubah, Provost
Washington and Lee University

Mr. James D. Farrar, Jr., Secretary of the University
Washington & Lee University

Ms. Katherine Brinkley, Executive Assistant to the Board of Trustees
Washington & Lee University

Re: Restriction and Removal of Southern Confederacy Related Items, Action and Speech

Dear Sirs and Madam:

The purpose of this letter is to express my concern regarding action(s) announced by President Ruscio relative to the Army of Northern Virginia regimental flag replicas surrounding the Edward Valentine sculpture, "The Recumbent Lee", the Lee-Jackson Day parade entering onto the Washington & Lee campus and the censorship of presentations made by private groups in Lee Chapel.

Straying a bit from the heart of the matter at hand, I would point out two things that I would have thought would have been obvious. First, because of the location in Lexington of Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s home, his burial place and the presence of the Virginia Military Institute where Jackson taught and which produced many renowned Confederate leaders, coupled with the fact that the final resting place of Gen. Robert E. Lee is on the campus of Washington and Lee University that many credit Lee with saving from extinction because of his efforts there, people throughout the South, the nation and the world hold the City of Lexington as an almost iconic place and travel great distances to visit.

With that thought in mind, I would submit that while the physical location of the flags and the others symbols of the Confederacy may be situate on the Washington & Lee campus, in a larger sense they belong to the people of this country, particularly those of us who happen to be Southern and especially we Virginians.

I know that "The Committee" claims, that the flags symbolize slavery and because of that they find them “offensive”. I would submit to you that a thorough review of Confederate history will demonstrate conclusively that the issues were, and are, far more complex than that simplistic viewpoint and that these people are “offended” primarily because they choose to be. In fact, one of them, at least, was in his third year of law school before the "offense" became intolerable. Contrary to current "progressive" thought, no one has an unalienable right not to be offended. To paraphrase a comment from another who opined on the matter, for a student holding sentiments such as those of "The Committee" to apply to and attend a university named Washington and Lee is akin to someone enlisting in the Navy when they know they are prone to seasickness.

I included this observation in an earlier letter, but I think it bears repeating. The targeted flags are regimental battle flags representing some of the regiments that Lee commanded in the Army of Northern Virginia. They are soldiers' flags, not, as many would have you believe, symbolic of anything other than the brotherhood of valor that comprised that gallant body of men, Lee's "boys". Those flags are there representing the devotion and respect of those veterans for their old commander, "Marse Robert".

President Ruscio's statement that, " “The purpose of historic flags in a university setting is to educate. They are not to be displayed for decoration, which would diminish their significance, or for glorification, or to make a statement about past conflicts . The reproductions are not genuinely historic, nor are they displayed with any information or background about what they are. The absence of such explanation allows those who either ‘oppose’ or ‘support’ them to assert their own subjective and frequently incorrect interpretations.”, is disingenuous at best and a bald-faced distortion of the true history of how the flags came to be there in the first place, and why. They were not placed there to be "in a university setting" at all. They were placed there to honor the man who led those regiments and the fact that the current flags are reproductions and have no information or background regarding them is moot . . . neither did the originals and the reason there are reproductions there at all is because the originals were deteriorating. The entire statement is pure spin, and amateurishly done at that.

Finally we get to the "marching" and the addresses in the Chapel. The only "marching" that transpires is a single event on a single day out of an entire calendar year is by people who gather in Lexington for the Lee-Jackson Day parade and memorial service in Lee Chapel. This is done solely to honor the memory and service of two great Virginians, not to espouse or advance any agenda. Whether "The Committee" likes it or not, Lee Chapel is an icon, a beacon that draws people from all walks of life and from all parts of the country for this one hour service, once a year. To deny them this privilege for the sake of the demands of .4 of 1% of the total enrollment of the institution is outrageous.

The final restriction on what may or may not be said during lectures or presentations in Lee Chapel is pure, unadulterated censorship, completely out-of-place in a venue where freedom of thought and expression should be encouraged and defended.

This entire exercise in nothing but a thinly veiled effort by the university administration to kowtow to the racially charged demands of a vocal minority and relegate salient portions of the true history of the university to the dustbin of history. It is unfair, unwarranted, based largely on fallacy and is, above all, cowardly.

Very truly yours,

W. A. Dennison, Jr.
I will have more to say about this, and other W&L related items in future posts. ~Connie

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