Posted by Professor Lesley Wheeler
One does not have to be named in "The Bracket" to experience Washington and Lee as a hostile work environment due to its publication. The piece was seriously toxic and exacerbated a climate of fear for many students. You'd think I'd be immune to those poisons, as a full professor and a department chair, but it made me feel unwelcome. How might a first-year student have felt, picking up that issue in the throes of deciding what class to take, what party to go to, what kind of person to be? "The Bracket" made many people aware that all kinds of behavior are under intense surveillance for any sign of difference from the apolitical, anti-intellectual, straight upper-middle-class norm.
I love teaching small classes of extremely bright students at Washington and Lee--we're all lucky to have such talent and such good resources around us. I hate, however, signing transfer forms for all those students who say, "love the academics here, but the social scene is so miserably narrow." I hate having students scared to show how smart they are in class, and crying in my office because of the latest vicious email campaign. I realize that this one noxious article is only one manifestation of this climate and by no means the main cause. However, anyone who thinks that those words didn't help poison this place for all of us is just not thinking this through.