EC begins renewed effort to revive Speaking Tradition

New ‘Traditions Task Force’ to promote W&L customs and history

Washington and Lee’s Executive Committee plans to increase awareness about the Speaking Tradition and boost its presence on campus through a specially-created Traditions Task Force.   

The Traditions Task Force is the EC’s newest task force, spearheaded by EC representatives Heeth Varnedoe, ‘19, Caroline Bones, ‘18, and John Houser, ‘15, now a W&L law student.

According to the EC minutes from a meeting on April 25, “The W&L Traditions Task Force will promote W&L’s history and help to revitalize campus traditions such as the Speaking Tradition. They will be working with organizations like Kathekon to find ways to inspire enthusiasm for the school’s history.”

Bones said that the purpose of the task force evolved to address more than just the speaking tradition.

“Heeth and I started talking to a handful of professors last year,” she said. “Heeth started the task force mainly to be about the Speaking Tradition, then we made it more broad so that the focus isn’t so narrow.”

Although the committee’s main goal is to revitalize the Speaking Tradition, it will also focus on the tradition of the EC as a whole, the buildings at W&L, and making people more aware of the greater history of the school and surrounding community.

According to Bones, the Traditions Task Force will focus on the incoming freshman class and sports teams in order to spark a renewal of the Speaking Tradition.

“For next year, we’re targeting the incoming freshmen class, and getting [the Speaking Tradition]  ingrained in them,” she said. “Students are so engrossed in their phones all the time, and we want to avoid that during O-week. We want to reach out to sports teams and captains since they’re leaders on campus.”

The hope is that if the first-year class and members of sports teams follow the Speaking Tradition, others will follow in their footsteps.

Opinions about the Speaking Tradition and whether or not its prevalence on campus is decreasing vary from student to student.

SarahCate Harrison, ‘19, believes the Speaking Tradition remains prominent on campus.

“I think it’s still prevalent, not everyone may say it but it’s definitely still real. People I don’t know say hi to me at least once a day,” she said. “It’s more than you would get at any state or city school.”

Bones expressed her disappointment about her perception of the Speaking Tradition’s dwindling presence on campus.

“I get really frustrated when I walk by and someone doesn’t say hello,” she said. “[The Speaking Tradition] helps define the campus community. What is it if we’re just ignoring people every day?”

Houser, in his fifth year on the Washington and Lee campus, believes the strength of the tradition has only grown.

“I’d say I’ve noticed there seems to be more awareness of it now than when I was a first-year,” he said.  “That’s a great thing; hopefully it’ll lead to more people recognizing the good upholding the Speaking Tradition does for our university. It’s a small, simple thing… but I think it encourages the civility and sense of community that W&L strives to be about.”