President of Washington and Lee University Kenneth P. Ruscio announced in an email that the school will be removing its Confederate flags from its Lee Chapel. He also apologized for the school’s past ownership of slaves after a group of black students protested that the Virginia school was unwelcoming to minorities.
According to the Washington Post, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee served as the university’s president after the Civil War, and his crypt is kept beneath the chapel. The Confederate banners that adorn the campus chapel are battle flags that Lee’s army flew as it fought Union forces.
University officials reportedly said previously before the announcement that the flags were a nod to history and were not meant to offend anyone. Obviously, others viewed the flags as hate symbols representative of slavery and racism. For some reason, the school decided to justify its choice to proudly "nod" to its racist history instead of being sensitive and understanding that the flags are offensive.
Washington and Lee found redemption, however, when a group of black law students (also known as the committee) wrote to the Board of Trustees, urging the university to make changes so minorities would feel less threatened.
Unsurprisingly, black students said they felt uncomfortable attending school events in the chapel, where the Confederate flags were visibly hung. “Students don’t have to sit in the same room as the flags anymore,” law student Brandon Hicks, a member of the committee, told the Washington Post. “I feel like we made a tremendous difference.”
According to U.S. News, students also felt uncomfortable pledging to an honor code in the flags' presence at the Lee Chapel.
But of course, for every decent human attempting to make a positive difference, there is at least one person who tries to knock down any progress. “It’s a disgrace for them to besmirch Lee’s military honor,” Brandon Dorsey, commander of a unit of the Sons of Confederate veterans based in Lexington told the Post. “As far as I’m concerned, they should go ahead and remove his name from the school. I don’t think they’re worthy of his name.”
Although the flags will no longer be at the Chapel, unfortunately, they will still have a presence at the university. The school’s Lee Chapel Museum will display the flags' restored original form on a rotating basis.