Washington and Lee University hangs several Confederate flags above a statue of Robert E. Lee, but on Tuesday the university’s president announced that the flags will be removed.
The move came after law school students at W&L, known as the Committee, called on the university to recognize the Martin Luther King holiday and remove the flags.
“I am happy that we made some progress,” Committee member Brandon Hicks said, reports The Roanoke Times. “Some of our concerns were met and some of them were not. We are happy with the removal of the Confederate flags from Lee Chapel and are in agreement with the placement of flags in the museum. That met our demands and is not an area where students have to convene.”
Students had been required to pledge a code of honor near the flag, which the law students found particularly offensive.
“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,” President Kenneth Ruscio said in a statement. “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.”
William and Lee University has a tangled history with slavery since the school held its own slaves for years and officials have admitted that the university benefited from slavery.
Although university officials say they will continue to investigate the school’s relationship to slavery, Ruscio would not admonish Robert E. Lee.
“Robert E. Lee displayed his estimable skill as an innovative and inspiring educator,” Ruscio wrote. “I personally take pride in his significant accomplishments here and will not apologize for the crucial role he played in shaping this institution.”