Letter of Resignation as an Elected Faculty Representative to the Board of Trustees

To: Mike McAlevey, rector of the W&L Board of Trustees

Will Dudley, president of W&L

CC: W&L faculty

From: Toni Locy, professor of journalism and mass communications

Re: Resignation as an elected faculty representative to the Board of Trustees

February 10, 2021


I can no longer in good conscience serve as an elected representative to the Board of Trustees

because of the flawed process the board used in reaching its decision to rewrite the university

bylaws to remove the faculty’s oversight of students for all non-Honor System disciplinary

issues.


The board did not seek input from elected faculty committees—not even the elected faculty representatives to the board—and acted impulsively to appease angry parents and students who were upset over the postponement of fraternity and sorority bid nights and new member

education.


The debate over whether faculty should possess oversight over discipline of students and student organizations is contentious. Some faculty don’t want the responsibility. They want Student Affairs to handle it, especially Greek organizations. They say they simply want to teach.


But the problem is that the Greek system permeates everything on our campus. It is at the core of the student body’s culture. The exclusive nature of Greek organizations twists the social scene for our young men and women. That means it’s in our classrooms no matter how hard we try to keep it out.


I am in the other camp. I fervently believe faculty should maintain oversight of all non-HV

disciplinary matters. As I told Mike on Monday, Feb. 8, I have no interest in managing the daily operations of sororities and fraternities.


But I want to know that I have a voice in determining the university’s response when a fraternity hosts a party that leads to a drunk-driving car crash that kills a student and seriously injures two others. I want to know how administrators are dealing with fraternity brothers who used a cattle prod on a pledge. I want to know that I can voice my concerns about Greek organizations’ plans to host bid nights and new member orientation in the middle of a global pandemic. I also want to know that I can provide input into how the university administration deals with sexual assault and misconduct, as well as hazing by non-Greek organizations.


The issue for me comes down to this: A small liberal arts university such as ours needs a system

of checks and balances that includes meaningful cooperation, communication and trust among

trustees, administrators and faculty. Empowering faculty with oversight over student life

provides a check on Student Affairs and top administrators who often find themselves under enormous pressure from well-connected parents and their children. The rewriting of the bylaws sacrifices the balance of discretion and damages shared governance at the university.


It is disturbing and disappointing that the trustees squandered an opportunity to seek more

information about the Greek life postponement. At least six faculty members, all elected as

representatives to the board, attended the Feb. 5 morning plenary session. We represent every

part of the university, including the C-School, the Law School and the College. We could’ve

provided crucial background and context for the faculty’s insistence that new member orientation be delayed because of public health concerns in the COVID-19 pandemic.


All you had to do was ask. But you didn’t.


You didn’t even bother to mention to the faculty representatives to the board that you were

considering such an important step. Instead, you slipped into secrecy to consider only one

version of the Greek life postponement decision.


In doing so, you risked characterization of your decision as a petty form of revenge against

faculty. This round of board meetings made it clear to me that several trustees are livid with

faculty over our resolution last summer for Robert E. Lee to be dropped from the university’s

name. Those trustees appear to have gotten back at faculty with the rewrite of the bylaws.


The process you employed in this instance stands in contrast to the methodical approach you are using in contemplating a possible name change. You have spent seven months gathering

information and discussing the issue. But you voted to rewrite the bylaws less than four weeks

after faculty insisted that Student Affairs delay bid nights and new member education.


You say it’s taken you months to consider the university’s name and symbols because you are

carefully considering both sides of the issue. But you allowed one side to put its thumb on the

scale. At the Feb. 5 plenary meeting, former trustees hijacked the session for several minutes.

The ex-trustees were provided with what amounted to an open mic night for Generals Redoubt

supporters to level threats that they will cease donations and write the university out of their wills if the name is changed. It was a stunning show of force by people who used their privilege and access to take advantage of a powerful platform that alums on the other side of the issue were not afforded.


But then again, you also listened to only one side of the Greek life postponement controversy.


Like a name change, rewriting bylaws to remove oversight of one entity over another is also

serious business. The repercussions could be broader than any of us can imagine in this moment. But there was no opportunity to think about or discuss what could happen in the future, not only for Greek life but student life in general, because of your rush to judgment.


In closing, your process was flawed because you relied on incomplete information. You also

were deceptive. You pretended to be transparent with faculty representatives during the Feb. 5

morning session. You never mentioned what you planned to discuss. You then met in secret to

alter the balance of power at the university.


What’s worse, you waited until late in the afternoon of Monday, Feb. 8, to inform faculty representatives.


Finally, you made the change to the bylaws on the university’s website without immediately

calling the community’s attention to it—as if you were correcting a mere typo.


Effective today, I hereby resign, in protest, as an elected faculty representative to the Board of

Trustees.

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