Solidarity and Anti-Racism Statements

Faculty Resolution
Dean's Message
Student Organization Statements

Faculty Resolution

WHEREAS, the faculty recognizes the ongoing, systemic and perpetual racial and societal injustices in this country, which have been passed on from generation to generation; and

WHEREAS, the faculty recognizes that these injustices have existed since the original sin of slavery and been furthered by Jim Crow laws and the unequal treatment of Black Americans in our judicial system; and

WHEREAS, the faculty especially notes and is appalled by the numerous killings that have been committed against Black Americans under the color of law; and

WHEREAS, the faculty recognizes the lack of accountability for these injustices; and

WHEREAS, the faculty recognizes the senseless brutality being committed by far too many of those employed to serve and protect who are operating under a pattern, practice and culture fostering unequal treatment; and

WHEREAS, the faculty recognizes the need to have uncomfortable talks and real, honest and transparent conversations directed towards addressing these injustices; and

WHEREAS, the faculty recognizes and feels the sadness, anger, outrage, frustration, pain and grieving caused by police killings; and

WHEREAS, the faculty recognizes the need to understand how so many feel helpless, frustrated, invisible, and disillusioned, resulting in constant fears for their personal safety and leading to bearing psychological and emotional scars; and

WHEREAS, the faculty recognizes that racism is an incessant malady and a scourge to an otherwise organized, civilized society; and

WHEREAS, the faculty recognizes that systemic discrimination and unjust racial inequities continue to appall and to plague our nation; and

WHEREAS, the faculty recognizes the unique burdens upon us as members the Washington and Lee University community in light of the history of our institution and its connection with slavery and racial discrimination; and

WHEREAS, the faculty recognizes that we should not accept apathy, indifference or silence to such ongoing violence and inequities, which otherwise allows hatred, prejudice and intolerance to fester and grow; and

WHEREAS, the faculty recognizes the need to engage in peaceful protest and constructive acts to make a meaningful difference towards societal change; and

WHEREAS, the faculty recognizes that we have an obligation to fight ignorance and intolerance, model inclusivity, and embrace our differences and the power that diversity represents; and

WHEREAS, the faculty recognizes the need to stand with Black people as effective allies; and

WHEREAS, the faculty recognizes the need to stand in ongoing support of our students, staff, fellow faculty, and their families who are persons of color:

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the faculty acknowledges that members of the Washington and Lee School of Law community often labor under a heavy and particular burden as they work and learn in the shadow of our institution's history, and further acknowledges that we as a faculty owe a special obligation to our community to strive to lift that burden;

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the faculty acknowledges that racism is an affliction that we must never enable but should all be active antiracists in taking responsibility to condemn and to end, that we need to identify and challenge systemic prejudice wherever it exists, that we are all accountable for doing the work necessary for policy changes that dismantle structural systems of oppression that perpetuate racial inequities in our society, that we will strive to be better listeners and supporters of those who are the victims of racism, that we will never rest until every American feels safe, free and accepted in our country, and that we will continuously abide by the goal of providing respect and equal treatment to all in upholding the rule of law.

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, this resolution be preserved in the records and minutes of the Washington and Lee Law Faculty and prominently displayed on the Washington and Lee Law website.[1]  

Adopted this 5th day of June, 2020, by the unanimous vote of the faculty of Washington and Lee University School of Law.    

Prof. Brandon Hasbrouck
Resolution Sponsor  

[1] We stand in solidarity with Penn State Dickinson Law, where a similar resolution originated, and all other institutions joining in the hard work of justice.  

A Message from Dean Hellwig on Our National Crisis

June 4, 2020

Dear members of the W&L Law School community,

Earlier this week, I wrote a brief message to the returning members of our student body to convey my sadness and utter bewilderment that our nation had witnessed, yet again, another senseless killing of a Black man by those empowered to protect society.  While that degree of injustice inflicts searing damage to the soul of our country, that pain and degradation is focused on members of the Black community whose daily existence puts them at risk of harassment at best and, at worst, racially-motivated violence.  That prospect is something that I, and many others in our community, simply cannot imagine.  Yet for the Black community, the typically unimaginable can be commonplace.   

Of course, racially-motivated denials of human dignity are nothing new; they have been with us since the founding of our country and before.  A poignant sign I saw at a peaceful protest on the streets of downtown Lexington yesterday afternoon - one I am proud to say was organized by recent graduates of our school - read "George Floyd's last 8 minutes and 46 seconds was 250 years in the making."   Mr. Floyd's death, coming in the wake of so many other killings of members of the Black community that are difficult to fathom, appears to have broken the dam on outrage, sadness, and pleas for mercy that have been building for years as a result of systemic racism.   

And yet, despite this harsh reality, there exists reason for optimism.  Over the past days, we have seen numerous student groups step forward to express solidarity with Black Americans by reiterating their commitment to the pursuit of justice and equality, both in our law school and in the legal profession they will soon enter.  Those statements of mutual support and concern are strong, profound, and ultimately uplifting.  They speak to the true aspirations of our community.   

I and my colleagues on the faculty and staff are fortunate that we can play a role in helping prepare our students for this work.   To advocate to right individual wrongs.  To identify and challenge structural inequities in the legal system.  To promote civil liberties and human rights.  To pursue equal treatment under the law, both as written and as applied.  Yet we also recognize the need to focus on the environment in which our students engage in this preparatory work.  I am proud of the community we have at W&L Law, but I also understand that progress awaits.  A key step in that progress is to ensure that every student feels a true sense of belonging at our school.     

Belonging.  Increasing that feeling among all members of our community, and particularly those who too often have found themselves on the margins, is how I would define success.  This may not be a quick or easy fix, but I look forward to working with all of you on that path.   

Brant Hellwig
Dean and Professor of Law

Messages from Student Organizations

Asian Pacific American Law Students Association

Black Law Students Association

Christian Legal Society

Journal of Civil Rights and Social Justice

German Law Journal

Jewish Law Students Association

Kirgis Fellows

Moot Court Executive Board

Student Bar Associaiton

Washington and Lee Law Review

Washington and Lee Veteran Advocates

Women Law Students Organization

The Executive Committee of the W&L Student Body


Recent graduates from W&L Law, who were joined by many members of the W&L and Lexington communities, organized a protest yesterday seeking change in our criminal justice system and equality for all.

As one organizer said: "The horrific events of this week have highlighted what people of color in this country have always known - that our criminal justice system has historically disadvantaged and failed black people. We've been hurting and listening, angry and frustrated, looking for a way to express those feelings. We hoped that our demonstration today would remind vulnerable people in our community that we see them and voice to Lexington as a whole that black lives matter, there will be no peace until there is justice, and we cannot be silent about racial inequality and police brutality. The overwhelming turnout today from students, faculty, and community members, along with the support from our local police force, was a beautiful reminder that, though we do not all face the struggles that people of color face in this country, we are fighting together for equality for all. There is a lot of work to be done, but coming together as a community was a glimmer of hope that perhaps more people are listening to the cries for justice than ever before."