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Petition Against Matt Walsh Event

Dear President Dudley, Vice President Evans, and All Involved in the Event Registration Approval Process,

We are disappointed. Washington and Lee’s Statement of Commitment to Diversity, approved by the Board of Trustees in 2018, promises that our university is “committed to the recruitment, enrichment, and retention of students, faculty, and staff who embody many experiences, cultures, points of view, interests, and identities.” However, W&L continues to approve speaker events that provide one-sided platforms for harmful ideologies—these actions stand in direct conflict to this Commitment to Diversity. Hosting Matt Walsh’s upcoming “What is a Woman” event on March 30th is just one example of W&L’s disregard for those with minority identities on campus. Today, we write to challenge W&L to uphold its commitments.

Matt Walsh openly refers to himself as the “Transphobe of the Year” in his Twitter bio. His words and actions prove that this self-proclaimed title is true. In his recent Tweets, he repeatedly and intentionally misgenders well-known trans TikTok creator Dylan Mulvaney, and he refers to trans women as “men dressed in womanface” on his YouTube channel. After the Club Q shooting, where five people were killed by a gunman inside an LGBTQ nightclub, Matt Walsh responded, “If [drag] is causing this much chaos and violence, why do you insist on continuing to do it?” His view of open dialogue is exploitation and harm—he even advertised a fake documentary titled “The Gender Unity Project” to lure trans individuals into interviews and exploit them in his actual, anti-trans documentary, “What is a Woman.” Matt Walsh does not create spaces for productive, academic discourse, but rather, he insists that only his transphobic viewpoint be heard.

Matt Walsh’s words have real life consequences. For example, following his repeated accusations that Boston’s Children’s Hospital was “mutilating” children who seek gender-affirming medical care, the hospital released a statement sharing that its workers were being harassed and facing threats of violence. Because he speaks to the many individuals in our society that are transphobic, regardless of what happens at W&L, Matt Walsh will continue to have a platform. The point of this letter is not to quash Matt Walsh’s right to speech. Rather, the point of this letter is that W&L as an institution can make clear that it does not stand for or support his violent words. It is one thing for Matt Walsh to say transphobic things on the Internet. It is another for him to be welcomed into our home and provided a platform to share a hateful ideology that harms our minority students.

While W&L’s Facility Use Policy states that allowing an event on campus does not imply endorsement of the views shared at the event, the school cannot escape responsibility for providing a platform for one-sided, non-academic, harmful rhetoric. Allowing Matt Walsh to headline an event on our campus advocating for unapologetically transphobic views sends a message to current and prospective students, alumni, faculty, staff, and the surrounding community that transphobia is not just accepted on our campus, but it is welcomed. It tells the world that here at Washington and Lee, we will not shut down transphobia, but instead, we will provide it room to grow.

These are not the only harmful views welcomed onto our campus this semester. During the celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a speaker came to our campus to compare the life of Dr. King with Robert E. Lee. Our colleagues in the Black Law Students Association said it best: “Emphatically, there is no co-alignment" between these figures. This event insulted the sacrifices of the civil rights movement and reduced the history of white supremacy—which this institution still has a distinct role in—to “flimsy both-sideism” that alienated Black students, faculty, and staff.

Matt Walsh does not meet the standard of honor and civility that Washington and Lee aims to uphold. Welcoming him to speak on our campus allows him to leave an impact on this community that cannot be reversed and will link him to this institution forever. We ask that the University prevent Matt Walsh from speaking on our campus and that the University live out its Statement of Commitment to Diversity by taking action to protect its minority students from future harmful events.

Editor’s Note: At the time of publication, the petition had 588 signatures.

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