President Taylor Reveley sent the following message to the campus community on Aug. 14, 2015.
Dear William & Mary Community,
We want to be a place that is welcoming to everyone who is part of our university’s life. We are also an institution deeply rooted in history and committed to understanding our part in it.
A commemorative plaque in the Wren Building (naming soldiers from William & Mary who fought for the Confederacy) and the College Mace (a gift of alumni, students and faculty in 1923, carried in university ceremonies) both contain likenesses of the Confederate battle flag. The mace also includes, among many other indicia of William & Mary’s history, the Confederate seal. It is time for change.
The plaque has gone to special collections in Swem Library to join other historic artifacts describing William & Mary’s past. It will be replaced on the Wren wall with a plaque that provides as complete an account as research permits of all the William & Mary people who fought on both sides of the Civil War.
The mace is a living artifact. One of its emblems (the College seal) was replaced in 1938, and the name of each new William & Mary president and chancellor is engraved on it. The committee that created the mace wished it to be “owned in common by all former, present, and future students” and to “prove of incomparable value in bringing home to countless generations the full conception of the part the College of William & Mary has played in the life of the nation.” The Confederate battle flag and seal will be replaced on the mace before it returns to ceremonial use. Though the new emblems have yet to be determined, they will reflect the College’s history, including the Civil War.
We do not seek to put William & Mary’s part in the Civil War out of sight or mind. The College barely survived the physical, financial and human carnage of that conflict. Nor do we seek to avoid examining and learning from William & Mary’s role in slavery, secession and segregation.
I have taken these steps in consultation with our Board of Visitors. In my judgment, they will allow William & Mary to move forward together without ignoring our past.