Wake Forest University Commission To Examine School's History With Slavery And Race

Aug 6, 2019

File photo of the Wake Forest University campus.
Credit Ken Bennett / Wake Forest University

Leaders of Wake Forest University are creating a commission they say will examine the school's history with slavery and race relations. 

University President Nathan Hatch says he wants the commission to come up with recommendations to create a more equitable learning environment. His announcement came shortly before this weekend's mass shootings in which one gunman appears to have posted a racist manifesto online.  

José Villalba, Wake Forest's vice president for diversity and inclusion, says racist rhetoric will likely be an issue the commission considers.

“I think for the commission specifically, but for higher education in general, it becomes impossible for us to put those things in a vacuum and act like they don't impact, or play no role or add no context to the discussion,” Villalba said.

The commission also comes months after the university acknowledged current administrators were pictured in decades-old yearbooks with a Confederate flag.  

A former student also published a social media post that suggested building a wall between Wake Forest and Winston-Salem State University, which is a historically-black institution.

Villalba said the school has been working to accommodate students who feel threatened.

“For us, it really has been more of a developmental approach,” he said. “If individuals - whether it's staff, faculty or students - think that we're not doing enough, it's very hard for us to argue with them if their lived experience is telling them that's their reality.”

The commission will come up with recommendations that could include changes to school policies, Villalba said.