Monthly Archives: June 2021

W&L Alumni Leader Resigns

(June 30, 2021) Bob Fitts, who is the President of the Washington & Lee alumni chapter in Miami, resigned this week. A copy of his letter to the Director of Alumni Relations is provided below.

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Dear Beau, 

I hope this note finds you doing well. I apologize in advance for any consternation that the broader publication of this letter may cause, but I believe the course of events merits such measures. No disrespect to you is intended.

Beau, it is with great regret that I resign as president of the Miami alumni chapter effective immediately. This ends nearly forty years of my service to the university. I am resigning as the school is apparently no longer aligned with my values nor with its own historical values: Hundreds of students and parents have provided myself and others with examples of how honor, civility, diversity of thought and respect for one’s fellow community members are now being denigrated on campus, ironically often in the name of diversity and inclusion; violations of honor that comport to the current leftist beliefs are left uninvestigated; faculty are allowed to publicly engage in unprofessional and unethical behavior that most students would be sanctioned or expelled for; and, hardest to imagine, a disturbing number of parents and students have written to express their fears of academic and other forms of retribution by professors who are hostile to these students’ political and other views. How far the University has fallen from grace. 

The retention of Lee’s name has been much publicized, yet without honor, civility, and diversity and inclusion that is inclusive of diversity of thought, it really doesn’t matter whose names are on the school’s doors for no such school would be worthy of the names of Washington nor Lee nor would such a school be the institution of higher learning they envisioned. And such a school would certainly not be worthy of the years of service and donations generations of alumni have contributed to perpetuate the school’s mission to educate and to develop honorable and civil citizens. Will W&L continue on a path that will lead to the destruction of its culture to be replaced by one that is atomized and uncivil and therefore not communal and honorable? Or will the school return to its traditional values while being non incautus futuri? A number of the Board’s decisions seems to indicate the former, sadly.

While it’s perhaps a lengthy story of how we have gotten here, it’s pretty clear who is responsible for that we did. There is no question that President Dudley has worked assiduously with the Board’s backing to change the culture of W&L to one reflecting his radical leftist values, although he is deft enough of a bureaucrat to couch his actions in high-minded Ivory Tower language, to put his apparatchiki in positions of authority to do his bidding and to distance himself from as much fallout as possible. The school needs intellectual, moral, and administrative leadership and it gets little of any from Dudley that is consistent with its values and history.

The school is at a crossroads and I believe that if the situation isn’t addressed immediately, the damage to the school’s intellectual and cultural foundations may be irreparable. I believe the first step in any solution is for Will Dudley to be terminated as president of Washington and Lee University immediately for the following primary reasons:

  • The appointment of Chawne Kimber as Dean of the College is the latest and perhaps best example either of Dudley’s incompetence or his hostility to the school’s values, or both. Kimber is known nationally as the F*ck Quilt Lady for quilting that and other worse words and posting them and promoting them on social media. I would encourage you and the Board of Trustees to look at this post of hers on Instagram – Kimber and to review her account @CauchyComplete. That President Dudley wouldn’t vet someone for such a position is sheer incompetence and if he did vet her and still offered her the position knowing of such posts, which is certainly what occurred, then there can be no clearer example of how antithetical President Dudley is to the traditional culture of W&L. Any one of any race, any ethnicity, any gender/identity, any religion or of any political persuasion who posts such items so far beneath the dignity of the position in question should be asked to resign or be terminated and whoever was responsible for that hire should bear the consequences as well. Dudley hired her. He knew of her posts and her ideology and he knew what he wanted to accomplish and he must now pay the price and be terminated.
  • The Chicago Principles, adopted by the Board of Directors in 2015 to demonstrate the University’s commitment to freedom of speech and freedom of expression on campus, have clearly not been implemented or adhered to. Diversity of thought is dead at Washington and Lee. Sadly, it’s that simple and it’s embarrassing and maddening to those of us who remember the school differently, those whose children attend the school and to those who attend the school or work there who do not agree with the culture that is being imposed upon them or with these policies and politics. Dozens if not hundreds of students and parents have voiced their concern to me and others that conservative students cannot express their opinions, political and otherwise, openly and without fear of retribution. Is this honorable? Is this respectful of others? Is this civil discourse? Does this reflect a “vibrant commitment to free and open inquiry” as the Chicago Principles espouse? Does this reflect an environment where peoples of all walks of life, ethnicities, genders/identities, political and religious beliefs and creeds can interact and learn from those with different views and from professors who, regardless of their personal views, can facilitate, challenge and expand their students’ analytical reasoning skills and knowledge? Clearly not, but aren’t those among the most important reasons one goes to college to begin with, particularly one as exclusive, expensive and reputable as Washington and Lee? Apparently no longer and the man responsible for this drastic but poorly cloaked change is Will Dudley.
  • Dudley’s Commission on Institutional History and Community has been more about erasing Lee than contextualizing him, despite his lip service to the alumni to the contrary. The school has literally closed the doors on Lee, disposed of many related artifacts, removed his name from his formerly named chapel and removed his image from its diplomas. The University should find a creative way to embrace Lee, for whom the school is better known than Washington, yet the man in charge will not allow that to happen and the BOT has further empowered him to continue his whitewashing of our history. If Lee stays, and he apparently is for now, then Dudley must go as he has no intention of truly allowing himself to be associated with Lee except perhaps as his undertaker. 
  • The philosophy professor Dudley is ill suited for his position and not the competent leader a university of such distinction as ours merits and demands. His grasp of issues in front of distinguished alumni has been unimpressive. He has claimed ignorance of any lack of implementation of the Chicago Principles in such conversations, bringing either his competence or candor into question. His administrative hires appear to have been more ideological than competence based, with F-Quilt Kimber and Lena Hill being the two most egregious examples. His stewardship of the University through the COVID crisis was pusillanimous and less adroit than even area prep schools. While the Board’s actions seem to indicate that he is evidently one of their own and they are fully supportive of him and are even expanding his mandate, the school can and should do better than Dudley as its future and its future endowment depend on it and now is the time for his removal.

As I believe President Dudley is leading the destruction of the University and I believe the current Board of Trustees is enabling him, I can no longer be a part of the University’s infrastructure that is furthering this movement nor am I going to raise money on the school’s behalf. Actually, I plan on encouraging as many people as possible to stop donating to the school as money appears to be what the Board of Trustees listens to most. I further feel that the name was retained mainly as the Board knew it would be economic suicide not to retain it and they cynically simultaneously further empowered Dudley and his radical leadership team to continue on their destructive path. Dudley and his team must be stopped and removed and the Board must be repopulated and I will do whatever I can to make that happen. Given that those are my intentions, I can no longer serve as the school’s representative in South Florida.

I am also hereby resigning from my reunion committee and I would be grateful if you would inform the Development Office of my decision. Please also inform them that I will not be sending the amount that I had previously pledged. I have instead donated that amount to The Generals Redoubt and going forward I will donate my time and/or money to TGR or any other organization that arises that is more aligned with my values and that is willing to advocate for Dudley’s removal and for saner governance of the University. I will actively encourage others to do the same. I also would like to be put on the University’s “do not call and do not solicit” list and I would appreciate you facilitating that as well. I also will not be attending future reunions, so please remove me from any such communications.

Beau, I’m very sorry it has come to this. I have expressed my love for the University my entire adult life through nearly 40 years of service on its behalf in a wide variety of capacities in various cities throughout the country. Ending this relationship is a difficult decision and the circumstances are painful, but I can no longer support an institution whose current leadership and their objectives and methods I abhor. I remember Ronald Reagan’s line that he didn’t leave the Democratic Party. The party left him. Well, I feel that my school has left me, led by a predominantly incompetent, left-wing Board of Trustees with the identity socialist, Will Dudley, and his minions as their agents.

In closing, I have enjoyed working with you, Tom and the Alumni Office staff over the years. And, while I don’t know your views on the subjects above, I do know that you are a good man and I appreciate your service to Washington and Lee. I wish you and yours all the best.

Sincerely, 

Bob Fitts 
W&L Class of 1986

Did Robert E. Lee Oppose Confederate Statues?

At least twice during the postbellum era Robert E. Lee opined on Confederate memorials. The first time was in December 1866 when the Republican-controlled Congress refused to seat the Senators and Congressmen elected in the reunited Southern states. He correctly worried that the Radical Republicans wanted to disfranchise former Confederates notwithstanding the South’s white state governments had helped ratify the Thirteenth Amendment ending slavery. At the time he felt the  building of such statues might prompt vindictive Republicans to pass laws unfavorable to the South. Thus, when a group of former soldiers proposed to build a statue to Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, Lee wrote, “As regards the erection of such a monument . . .  my conviction is that . . . the attempt . . . would have the effect of . . . continuing, if not adding to, the difficulties under which the Southern people labor.”

Three years later in 1869, Lee was invited to a meeting of Union and Confederate officers to mark the placing of a memorial honoring those who took part in the battle of Gettysburg. But Lee again recognized it was a dangerous time to provoke the Republican-Controlled federal government. Although Virginia had avoided ex-Confederate disfranchisement in a plebiscite earlier that same year, it had not yet been readmitted to the Union. Consequently, he responded to the 1869 Gettysburg reunion: “I think it wiser not to keep open the sores of war but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife, to commit to oblivion the feelings engendered.” As a result, Virginia was readmitted to the Union in January 1870 with universal black male suffrage and little disfranchisement of ex-Confederates. Black suffrage was guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment whereas an aroused Republican Congress might have chosen to ignore the state-wide plebiscite. 

During all five of his postbellum years ending with his death in 1870, Lee conscientiously tried to avoid angering Washington Republicans. Even though his dad had once been Virginia’s governor, Lee turned down the “prevailing wish” that he seek the office in 1867. He responded to a leading petitioner, “It is important in selecting a candidate to choose one not liable to the misconstruction which their choice of one objectionable to Washington Republicans would be sure to create.”

Significantly, however, Lee undeniably wanted to memorialize the Confederate soldier. In 1866 he resolved to write a history of his Army of Northern Virginia because he believed he owed it to his men. “I want that the World shall know what my poor boys, with their small numbers and scant resources, succeeded in doing. . . The World has never seen nobler men than those who belonged to the Army of Northern Virginia.” Unfortunately, he was never able to collect enough source material to satisfy his standards and never wrote the history. He was particularly frustrated that he could not get a reliable estimate of the comparative strength of the Union and Confederate armies. 

Nonetheless, he was proud of his men and sought to memorialize them in a book.

Battlefield Trust Anti-Southern Propaganda

(June 26, 2021) Although the American Battlefield Trust proclaims that their chief mission is to preserve America’s battlefields by acquiring land, it appears that their real objective is to demonize Southerners by misrepresenting the Civil War, the Confederacy, and her leaders. Three months ago, for example, they updated their article “The Lost Cause: Definition and Origins” to pack it with anti-Southern propaganda. 

First, it names slavery as the chief cause of the war by citing parts of the “Declaration of Causes for Secession” among the first seven states to secede. But there are two problems with that method.

One: it ignores the reasons the North chose to fight. They could have let the first seven states depart in peace. The real reason the North fought was to avoid the economic consequences of disunion, which would have resulted from a low tariff country on their Southern border.  Here’s what the Boston Transcript had to say one month before Sumter: 

“(March 18, 1861) Alleged grievances in regard to slavery were originally the causes for the separation of the cotton States, but the mask has been thrown off, and it is apparent that the people of the seceding States are now for commercial independence. . . The merchants of New Orleans, Charleston, and Savannah are possessed with the idea that New York, Boston and Philadelphia may be shorn . . . of their mercantile greatness by a revenue system verging upon free trade. If the Southern Confederation is allowed to carry out a policy by which only a nominal duty is laid upon imports, no doubt the businesses of the chief Northern cities will be seriously injured.”

Two: The Confederate Constitution lists several factors other than slavery. 

(A). Prohibitions of subsidies for private industry.
(B). Prohibitions against public works spending. 
(C). No protective tariffs.
(D). Amendments could only be proposed by a convention of states, not Congress.
(E). President gets only a single six-year term. 

Second, the article erroneously claims that the Southerner’s argument that the South was beaten by the enemy’s overwhelming resources was a fabricated narrative only created after the war. But Union General-in-Chief Ulysses Grant disagreed because on July 22, 1865 he wrote War Secretary Stanton:  “The resources of the enemy, and his numerical strength, were far inferior to ours. . . I therefore determined . . . to hammer continuously against the armed force of the enemy and his resources, until by mere attrition, if in no other way, there should be nothing left to him but . . . submission. . .”

Third, the article wrongly claims that General Robert E. Lee’s legendary status was also a postbellum fabrication. In truth, Lee was undoubtedly the commander most respected by his own troops in either army during the War. After nine months of temporary duty in Georgia and Tennessee, Lee’s third corps joyfully rejoined his Virginia army a week before its first battle against Grant. When the soldiers caught sight of Lee during a welcoming review, one wrote: “[A] wave of sentiment swept over the field. Each man seemed to feel the bond which held us all to Lee. The effect was that of a military sacrament, in which we pledged anew our lives.”

Again, General Grant’s own words contradict the Lee-legend-as-postbellum-creation-myth when he wrote Major General Henry Halleck on May 5, 1865—less than a month after the Appomattox surrender: “All the people of the South except a few politicians will accept whatever Lee does as right and be guided by his example.”

There are more insulting assertions in the article, but I shift my remarks to the Trust’s failure to stand up for Confederate monuments even at National Battlefield Parks. 

The trust has declined to take a stand on House Bill 7608 (now in the Senate) which requires that all Confederate memorials and markers be removed from all parks. If you honor your Confederate ancestors, be aware that the Trust wants your money, but they don’t give a damn about your forebears.

Four years ago, the Trust surveyed subscribers to their Hallowed Ground magazine and learned that 97% wanted Confederate statutes to remain on the Parks. Almost 85% did not want Confederate monuments removed from other locations. Over 90% endorsed a statement that Robert E. Lee is “worthy of respect today” whereas only 9% endorsed a statement that Lee is unworthy “of respect in society today.”

Significantly, nearly two-thirds of the respondents were descended from Union soldiers. In fact, only 22% were from the former Confederate states. Nonetheless, the Trust ignored the survey results. They did not even issue a press release. Their silence was just one more green light from a so called respectable historical organization that acquiesced to the mob destruction of Confederate memorials. 

Honor Code Violations at W&L?

(June 24, 2021) Prompted by Robert E. Lee’s legacy, Washington & Lee University has a strict student-run Honor Code system that requires entering freshmen to pledge that they will not cheat, lie, or steal and will not tolerate such conduct by others. If the recent experience of freshman Kamron Spivey is an example, however, it appears that Honor Code violations are ignored if the offenders are among those who want to strip Robert E. Lee’s name from the school.  

Kamron is the most outspoken student advocate for keeping Lee in the name. First, after months of research in May he prepared 400 copies of a multicolor tri-fold brochure documenting Lee’s accomplishments at the school. After distributing them on campus, the school’s Public Safety staff was prompted to investigate his action as a possible safety violation. Apparently, nothing came of that except the intimidation of the conscientious freshman. 

Second, he received permission from the Student Activities Director to suspend a six-foot-by-two-foot banner in the campus commons. In less than a week, students twice stole the banner. After a Public Safety officer recovered it the first time, he refused to identify the student who stole it thereby enabling the offender to evade the Honor pledge. 

Third, the Student Affairs Director also gave Kamron permission to post “Save the Name” posters on bulletin boards but nearly all were ripped down daily. In one case a professor waited nearby while he posted one and then immediately ripped it down in his presence. She (or possibly he) carried it over to him and demanded to know if he had permission to post it. When Kamron responded in the affirmative, the professor demanded proof. At this point, Kamron was shaking like a leaf but told her to contact the Student Affairs Director to confirm his claim. She continued to harangue Kamron until he showed her a copy of the Director’s email granting him permission. Only then did she return the damaged bulletin and walked away in a huff without any apology for her boorish behavior. 

Fourth, following the above incidents Kamron visited with W&L President William Dudley to ask that Dudley send an email to students, faculty and administrators urging that they respect the free speech rights of politically conservative students and Lee defenders. Dudley refused. 

Fifth, after meeting with Dudley Spivey learned that the Student Judicial Council had charged him with “Conduct Unbecoming of a Washington and Lee Student” for distributing the tri-fold brochures. Even though a Public Safety Officer had told him earlier that he “was not in trouble” for circulating them, he had to battle this trumped-up charge. Fortunately, the Council dropped the charges, but offered no apology. 

Sixth, on May 14th Kamron wrote the Board of Trustees describing all the preceding incidents. They gave no reply.   

Finally, on June 6th he wrote The Generals Redoubt (an alumni group favorable to Lee) to share his correspondence with President Dudley and the Board of Trustees. He concluded, “I am disheartened by every member of the student body, faculty, administration, and Board of Trustees who repudiate the teaching of history while endorsing criminality and oppression of Conservative thought and opinion. I hope that, by sharing my story, members of Washington and Lee University—past, present, and future—can see how unwelcoming our institute has become, and advocate for a change.”

Presumably, Kamron Spivey is eighteen or nineteen years old. If such a youth can demonstrate the kind of industry and courage that he has in defense of Lee, we should be ashamed to stand by and do nothing. Perhaps The Generals Redout can use its connections to Tucker Carlson and get Kamron on Tucker’s show. Perhaps you have connections that can get Kamron the publicity we need to protect Lee. Email me with your ideas.

Pseudo Shame at VMI

(June 23, 2021) VMI graduates familiar with the drumming out process know that real shame is emotionally one of the most painful experiences we can have. It makes us want to hide like the white-collar criminal covering his face with a newspaper during a perp walk. It is soul destroying and even the stuff of suicide.

As at other military colleges, VMI cadets must pledge that they will not lie, cheat, or steal and will not tolerate those who do. Decades ago, anyone convicted of such offenses by the school’s student-run Honor Court would have been drummed out at a midnight ceremony before the entire corps. As his classmates looked-on, each of the banished would be escorted to a taxi, which he would board to leave the campus forever. Recently I had breakfast with a 1960s-era VMI grad who described the process. He shuddered when telling the story and at the end frowned, paused, and shook his head in silence before changing the subject. 

Today, VMI is flogging itself for the imagined sin of racism.  But the actual experience of the mea culpas by virtue-signaling whites, including VMI grad and Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, is not one of shame.  It is really the opposite of shame. It is display. It is preening. It is an act of separating themselves from supposedly unaware whites. By embracing an ostensible shame, the self-flagellating whites are showing how superior they are compared to the rest of us. In their minds, each has transformed himself into a kind of honorary black person. Therefore, they reason, the guilt does not attach to them but only to other whites. . . and it is completely fake.

VMI’s new Superintendent, Cedric T. Wins, is a 1985 graduate of the school where he was a star black basketball player. Even as far back as 1982, VMI was eager to demonstrate that it did not single-out blacks for punishment. Although none of them were members of the Honor Court, Wins and three other black athletes were invited to observe a trial from start to finish for a fifth black athlete. During the trial they merely observed and talked things over among themselves. Afterwards, however, Wins agreed with the Court’s guilty verdict, an opinion he was invited to express during a “decertification” process.  

VMI has long attracted scholarship-seeking black athletes more interested in playing their sport than in getting a military education. Since it is a Division One school, VMI offers players a big stage upon which to exhibit their skills including televised games on ESPN and other channels. Consequently, Ian Shapira of The Washington Post discovered that blacks account for 43% of VMI’s code-related expulsions whereas they represent only 6% of the student body. Predictably, he concludes the imbalance is due to racism, although he admitted in an interview with Emily Richmond that many VMI black athletes don’t care “a whit” for a military education. There are more likely other causes Shapira overlooks. A student with a fully funded athletic scholarship, for example, may be more tempted to cheat on exams if his pre-admission academic preparation was deficient. That is not unusual for star basketball and football players, particularly concerning mathematics.   

Nonetheless, due to a biased exposé prepared by Shapira for the Post, Superintendent Wins is looking at ways to water-down the Honor Court standards. His goal is to strictly maintain the code against cheating, lying, or stealing, while simultaneously giving some of the convicted a second chance. His challenge is to structure the procedures in a way to primarily give blacks a second chance without incorporating race as a selective standard.  

It’s a Fool’s Errand demanded mostly by so-called enlightened whites seeking to make amends for non-existent systemic racism. Chief among them is Governor Northam who was himself once a VMI Honor Court officer. Later in medical school in 1984, however, he was evidently photographed wearing either a KKK costume or blackface outfit. At first, he admitted to being in the photo, but later about-faced during an unseemly news conference. After his belated denial, Northam promised to deliver clarity on the origins of the photo, but he never has. It is the most conspicuous photo on his page in the applicable medical school yearbook.

The Honor Code standards of the 1980s would require Northam to stop pretending and tell the truth. Perhaps one reason he allocated one million dollars of Virginia taxpayer money for a racism witch hunt at VMI is to give himself a second chance with a diluted Honor Code. If he can give himself a second chance, he will be able to rationalize a third, fourth or Nth chance. If he instead remains loyal to the code upon which he judged others when at VMI, he will simply tell the truth.  

Stolen Authority at Washington and Lee

(June 22, 2021) Last week Washington & Lee Assistant Professor of History, Dr. Nneka D. Dennie, published an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education warning that W&L’s recent decision to keep Lee as a namesake makes her doubtful that the Board of Trustees “will appropriately evaluate scholarship on race and racism, or scholarship by faculty of color.” 

Perhaps she should instead be more worried that they may evaluate it on the quality of a professor’s research. Her “Assault on Black Academics” article, for example, states that two-and-a-half years ago the Ku Klux Klan left pamphlets on the W&L campus urging, K-K-Keep the name the same! But her source is an October 26, 2018, article in The Ring-tum Phi student newspaper that states the pamphlets were only “possibly distributed” by the KKK. The distribution may alternatively have been managed by a group of name-change advocates who wanted to smear Lee’s reputation by associating it with the KKK. Certainly, the latter would have more impact, but there is no proof of either premise. 

Dr. Denni also accused Lee of whipping “fugitives from slavery” and cites as her source a June 12, 2020, Associated Press article by a so-called fact checker. The article cites an alleged incident summarized by one Wesley Norris, a former Arlington House slave of Lee’s father-in-law, George Custis. The AP incorrectly states that Norris’ summary was from court testimony, whereas it was truly from an article in The National Anti-Slavery Standard on April 14, 1866, which was a year after the Civil War. Concerning Norris’s article Lee wrote a friend, “the statement is not true, but I had not thought it proper to publish a contradiction.” And later added, “There is not a word of truth in it.” 

Additionally, Amanda Parks, who was the sister of one of the alleged victims, remained on good terms with Lee. After the war she tried to visit him at his hotel when he was temporarily in Washington in February 1866, but he was out of the building. When he returned to Lexington he wrote her on March 9, 1866, stating his regrets, adding that he often thought of Arlington’s ex-slaves and hoped that they were all prospering. In short, Norris’s accusations have long been known, and never proven.

Finally, Dr. Denni states that Lee ignored “the sexual violence that white male students committed against young Black girls.” She cites as her source a June 14, 2017, article by Adam Serwer in Atlantic magazineSerwer’s source is Elizabeth Pryor’s Reading the Man book. Pryor, in turn, cites an article written by one John M. McClure included in Virginia’s Civil War, a book published in 2005.

Although McClure concludes that such incidents likely happened, he provides no proof, because none can be provided. None of the students were ever convicted whereas they could have been prosecuted in a military tribunal composed of Northern officers if the military authorities felt that the black girls would not have been represented adequately in a civilian court. Virginia remained under military rule until 1870, the year Lee died. Additionally, McClure admits that a Freedman’s Bureau Teacher stated that a suspended black girl willingly cohabitated with a white man and that such an arrangement was “sadly commonplace.” 

It is surprising that the Chronicle of Higher Education accepted a draft from a professor who documented historical events with citations from recent articles in such ordinary publications as the Associated Press, Atlantic magazineand a W&L student newspaper. Deeper scholarship should be required from a professor with a PhD from any college, but especially one that wants to retain its hard-earned reputation for academic excellence. Professors at venerable institutions who are praised for works based upon sloppy research are relying upon “stolen authority” to build their reputations.