Students report multiple incidents of harassment in Lexington and on campus

“Every single one of us deserves to feel safe and welcome at W&L and in the surrounding area,” said President Dudley in an email

Kaelan McCabe

The Washington and Lee University Department of Public Safety has sent four safety alert notices this fall, reporting at least six cases of student harassment by members of the community.

Most recently, two white men described as college-aged shouted a racial slur towards a class meeting on the lawn between Gaines and Graham Lees, Director of Public Safety Ethan Kipnes said in an Oct. 1 email.

Katie Palmer, ‘22, and the members of her yoga class noticed an SUV circling the block around the grass area before the insulting remarks.

“They passed by a couple times and then finally they rolled down the window and yelled the n-word and drove away,” Palmer said in an interview.

Palmer and her classmates were hesitant to leave at the end, feeling uncomfortable after the situation, Palmer said.

Multiple students reported the incident to Public Safety, including Palmer, who also notified Dean of Students Sidney Evans and Dean Tammi Simpson, Associate Dean of Students and Dean of Seniors a couple hours after the incident.

Public Safety and the Lexington Police Department are investigating the situation.

President William Dudley responded to Thursday’s event and the pattern of harassment reports Friday morning.

“I was dismayed and angered last night to read the notice from Public Safety regarding a racist slur directed at an outdoor class from the occupant of a passing car,” he wrote in an email to the student body. “This incident is the latest in a troubling trend of student harassment within the city of Lexington in recent weeks.”

Several of the recent incidents have been motivated by race or gender, he said in the email.

“We take pride in our location, and in our relationships with the communities of Lexington and Rockbridge County, so it is especially concerning to receive a number of similar reports in a short period of time,” he said. “Some of these events have been racially motivated. Others have been based on gender.”

In another report, two men wearing Halloween-style masks followed a student in her car after staring at her while stopped at a stoplight. Kipnes’ Sept. 14 email said that the student waited to let the men drive through the light first, but they reversed and followed her after she turned at the light.

And just three days before, a student reported that an older man asked her to get into his vehicle, a pickup truck with farm use tags, while she was walking off-campus. This was one of two reports involving the same man in the same truck.

Another student reported being harassed and followed by a man in his car while she was jogging off-campus. A group of people walking harassed another student with verbal remarks and other behaviors.

“Every single one of us deserves to feel safe and welcome at W&L and in the surrounding area,” Dudley said in the email. “Harassment is unacceptable and we will not tolerate it.”

Any concerning activity or harassment can be reported to public safety at (540) 458-8999 or the Lexington Police Department at (540) 463-9177 or 911.

If you are walking alone and feel unsafe, contact public safety for an escort home