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University community gathers on Sunday to address Friday’s KKK leafleting on campus

Student Affairs, the Executive Committee and the Student Judicial Council organized the event to challenge the community to support each other.

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A banner hangs in Elrod Commons that says,

A banner hangs in Elrod Commons that says, "Love Will Win!" Photo by Hannah Denham, '20.

A banner hangs in Elrod Commons that says, "Love Will Win!" Photo by Hannah Denham, '20.

Hannah Denham

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At least 100 people gathered in the Elrod Commons living room on Sunday evening to talk about the KKK leaflets distributed across campus on Friday.

The event was organized by Washington and Lee University’s Student Affairs, the Executive Committee and the Student Judicial Council. EC President Elizabeth Mugo, ‘19, opened the event with a challenge to support others, both on campus and in a national context.

“I, unfortunately, have no wisdom to share and continue to process this news myself,” Mugo said. “But I hope that in this time and forever, we will be a community that continues to stand by one another—one that dedicates ourselves to cultivating the beloved community that Dr. King Jr. discusses when he imagines a place where racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry and prejudice is replaced by an all-inclusive spirit.”

Associate Dean of Students Tammi Simpson told the crowd she was grateful they came.

“We all have roles to play so we can’t necessarily share that emotion,” Simpson said. “But I’m emotional now because it heartens me to be here and see that we will not succumb to hate.”

English Professor Deborah Miranda said she was disheartened last week when rainbow flags posted around campus during Pride Week were trampled. The LGBTQ student organization Generals’ Unity organized Pride Week.

She published a Facebook post challenging the community to fix it. She said she was pleasantly surprised to return to campus the next day and see the flags restored.

“Now, when I walk on campus and see those flags, I feel like people have my back,” Miranda said.

One sentiment that many students emphasized was that they wished Washington and Lee’s community would stand behind them when it is other university members that threaten the community’s safety.

“It means a lot to know you’re there in the worst times, but please be there in the bad times, too,” Sasha Edwards, ‘20, said.

Various students had suggestions for improving campus climate: changing the name and separating the connection to the university’s Confederate history, increased attendance for student events organized by cultural organizations and calling out peers who make racist comments.

Micah Wilson, ‘21, said he lived in Lexington this past summer after the KKK passed out similar pamphlets across the town after the Red Hen restaurant asked White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave. He said he woke up with the threatening pamphlets on his doorstep.

“Is this the line it’s always going to take for y’all to show up, for someone to feel like their life is threatened for y’all to realize there’s a problem on this campus?” Wilson said.

Director of Public Safety Ethan Kipnes said his office is working on an investigation with local, state and federal law enforcement to uncover more information about Friday’s incident.

“This situation is by no means over for us,” Kipnes said.

Mugo said President Will Dudley couldn’t be present for the gathering on Sunday night because of an unavoidable conflict.

On Monday morning, Dudley asked for members of the community to sustain the university’s values of inclusion and respect in a second email since Friday’s incident to students, faculty and staff.

Dudley said in the email that every member of the community can play a role:

Other national events, including the shooting that left two African Americans dead in a Louisville Kroger on Wednesday, followed by the mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on Saturday, serve as further, heartbreaking reminders of the senseless violence that is so prevalent in today’s society and of the physical and emotional threats experienced by so many in our country and around the world…At a university whose mission includes developing engaged citizens, it is critical that each of us recognize the role we can play in rejecting hateful propaganda and the violence it engenders.”

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Hannah Denham, Arts and Life Section Editor

Hannah Denham, '20, is one of the arts and life section editors. She is majoring in journalism with a minor in women, gender and sexuality studies. She's...

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University community gathers on Sunday to address Friday’s KKK leafleting on campus