Race & Racism at the University of Richmond

Westhampton College Traditions

In recent years there have been controversies surrounding one Westhampton College’s most cherished events: Ring Dance. In 2015, the University changed the some of its policies surrounding Ring Dance, such as instructing women to wear a black dresses instead of white ones, as well as disallowing escorts. The changes were subsequently broken and made for a tumultuous event. Although the policy changes were well-intentioned and “meant to ‘align the Ring Dance with the inclusive missions of Westhampton College and the University of Richmond,’” many students still feel excluded from the event. Despite the financial assistance for Ring-Dance related cost given to students who qualify, the event still manages to exclude those who are not comfortable with the event, such as if they do not have a father, think they cannot afford to attend, do not conform to typical gender norms, or do not see people of their race attending in years past.

The University of Richmond has a coordinate college system, meaning that it has a college for women, Westhampton College, and a college for men, Richmond College. The lake separates the two sides of campus, and it wasn’t until 2002 that men and women began living on both sides of the lake. Each college has its unique traditions as well.

Traditions, such as Ring Dance, help connect generations, and highlight values that the group considers to be important. Through time, many of Westhampton College's traditions have slowly faded away. These traditions, although relics of the past, provide a glimpse into the college's past, forming the white, upper class definition of womanhood on campus. This exhibit features four Westhampton College traditions or organizations: The Women’s Lifestyle Committee, the annual Panty Raids, May Day, and Rat Week. It will examine aspects of each that contributed to a campus culture of racism, classism, and sexism.