Top stories in 2015 from William and Mary

The Virginia Gazette
William and Mary notable stories 2015

Some of the biggest stories from the College of William and Mary in 2015 included its efforts to archive the past; seek solutions to fight racism and sexism; and it's $1 billion fundraising goal.

This summer, officials in South Carolina removed a Confederate flag that had hung in front of the statehouse for decades after it was used as a symbol of hatred in the killing of seven people.

At W&M, officials removed a plaque with the Confederate flag, and re-fashioned a mace that also bears the symbol and seal of the Confederacy.

The university announced the change in August.

W&M president Taylor Reveley made the decision after consulting with Rector Todd Stottlemyer, Board of Visitors and also senior staff, including Susan Kern, a noted historian and executive director of the historic campus, according to university officials.

The Confederate plaque, which was erected in 1914 by the Board of Visitors and alumni in the hall of the Wren building, recognizes W&M students and faculty who left the college in 1861 to fight in the Civil War for the Confederacy. A College Mace was given to the university in 1923 as a gift, and has a ring of symbols on it, one of which was the seal of the Confederacy.

University officials faced criticism on social media over the decision, but said overall the reaction to the decision was positive.

Looking for solutions to fight racism, sexual assault and sexual violence

In 2015, William and Mary established and continued the work on task forces to tackle two serious issues: race relations and sexual assault.

The task force was formed in March following a series of race-related incidents throughout the nation and in the campus community, including social media responses to a Black Lives Matter and "die-in" held in Swem Library.

These and other incidents, like student parties that included racially insensitive themes and costumes and a "call to action on racism at William & Mary" from students, prompted Reveley to form a task force.

A series of forums for students, faculty and university staff about campus race relations were held in November.

The university continued the work of a different task force formed in 2014, the Task Force on Preventing Sexual Assault & Harassment, making its recommendations on how to help students report sex crimes a reality in the fall semester.

To inform students about services available to them, university officials gave those who moved into campus dorms a pamphlet with their room keys detailing what to do if they experience sexual violence. In the hallways and on bathroom walls, posters were hung reading:: "I've been sexually assaulted ..." The poster include details how to:

•Get medical help.

•Have a confidential conversation about the incident.

•File a report.

Raising money with a 'Bold' goal of $1 billion

This year, William and Mary launched the largest fund-raising effort in the university's 323-year history, "For the Bold: The Campaign for William and Mary."

Its kickoff was announced with the pomp and circumstance of a black-tie event and then a rally with students in the Sunken Gardens.

By early November, the university had raised more than $532 million, putting it more than halfway to its campaign goal, Brian Whitson, senior associate vice president of university communications, said in a news release about the "bold' campaign.

Whitson said the latest total is more than the $517 million the university raised in its last campaign, which ended in 2007. In its history, William and Mary has held three large-scale fund raising campaigns. The $1 billion goal makes it the smallest public university nationwide to embark on a campaign of this magnitude, he added.

Canty can be reached at (757) 345-2341.

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