by James A. Bacon

“Northam heads to hostile terrain — VMI — to speak to 1,700 cadets.” That’s the headline on the Washington Post’s latest update on the hardball politics of racism and anti-racism at the Virginia Military Institute.

The headline is a stretch, even if you believe, as the Washington Post has insisted, the military academy is a hotbed of racism, sexism, and “fierce resistance to change” (arguably untrue) and where “many students and alumni” are furious at Governor Ralph Northam for slandering the institution (arguably very true).

But “hostile terrain?” The governor will not be walking into the lion’s den. The truth of the matter is that the new VMI leadership is in sync with Northam’s campaign to rid the military academy of  allegedly “systemic” racism and sexism. The Board of Visitors and Superintendent Cedric Wins have acceded to Northam’s agenda of purging Confederate-era symbols and embracing “anti-racism.” A telling sign of the new direction is the creation of a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion bureaucracy, which, if DEI initiatives at other universities are any indication, will highlight racial slights and grievances and instruct cadets on the proper way to think about race.

Northam, an alumnus, asked to give the speech, which is scheduled for Monday night in VMI’s basketball arena. According to the correspondence I’m seeing from unhappy VI alumni, cadet attendance at Northam’s speech will be mandatory, but the event “will not be open to the public.” In other words, alumni not invited. It goes without saying that the cadets will be expected to behave with decorum. There won’t be any “Let’s Go Brandon” chants. No turning of backs on the governor. Northam is guaranteed a full house and an accommodating audience.

In other recent developments, the VMI administration has rejected an alumni request to honor the previous Superintendent, J.H. Binford Peay III, who has many admirers for raising the institute’s national profile, and whom Northam had pressured into resigning. Administrators also have squatted on an student newspaper, “The Cadet,” resurrected from a publication that ceased operation in 2016, backed by alumni. Cadets want to keep it independent but, backers say, the administration wants to keep it under the control of the administration or the alumni association.

The more interesting part of the Washington Post article was anticipating the conflict to come when Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin grabs hold of the VMI tar baby. Youngkin was vague about his intentions, but he signaled a willingness to reconsider Northam’s approach to the institute. In an interview with the Spirit of VMI political action committee, which endorsed Youngkin over rival Terry McAuliffe, he said he would convene a group of alumni and cadets to hear their views on “how best to reestablish the great reputation of VMI.” He would be willing, he said, to veto budgets that don’t provide VMI with adequate funding.

But will Youngkin be willing to play the same kind of political hardball that Northam and fellow Democrats used to impose their will on VMI? Could he stand up to the inevitable charges of racism?

At least one VMI alumnus is worried what Youngkin might do. Shah Rahman, described as “one of the college’s most vocal alumni in favor of the reforms,” extrapolates from Youngkin’s campaign against high-school “critical race theory” to the ongoing VMI controversy. Said Rahman: “He might think that all these changes at VMI need to be eliminated and that the schools needs to be brought to the way it was before.”

Time well tell. Be assured, resistance to any rollback will be fierce.

Share this article


(comments below)


(comments below)


28 responses to “Northam to Address VMI”

  1. Wonder if WaPo will be there.

    1. Donald Smith Avatar
      Donald Smith

      There’s no need for it to be there. It will get all the leaks it needs. Probably in real time. (Come to think of it, how will VMI prevent leaks and recordings? Will it forbid the cadets to bring phones and other recording devices).

      Northam, Shapira, Rahman and those people are probably right to fear that Youngkin’s distate for CRT bodes ill for the damage those people have done to VMI’s reputation. CRT reduces American rich and complex legacy to a shallow tale of white oppressors versus non-white oppressed; Team Northam recast the Civil War as a fairy tale where every Confederate—even VMI men killed in battle—was either Simon Legree or a KKK enthusiast. (Or, to be more precise, Team Shapira and the WaPo did the recasting; Wreck-It Ralph simply rubber-stamped what they did).

      Glenn Youngkin strikes me as an honorable man, so it’s likely that he’ll remedy any dishonorable actions of his predecessor. I’ll stipulate that the Confederate presence on VMI was way overstated, especially in this day and age. But Team Northam set out to erase that presence (not moderate it) and bullied VMI in the process. Governor Youngkin should not hesitate to set right the damage that Northam and his SJW cronies did.

  2. Guy Wilson Avatar

    Shapira carefully avoids the parent furor that swept the Dems out of office. But he hardly hides his own woke opinion. He hates that some of the pressure of the government boot is off the neck of VMI. Northam could have “investigated” any other VA school and found it worse or similar to VMI, all in need of some improvements. But VMI was targeted because of it’s military mission, it’s Confederate history and it’s values clearly in opposition to the Woke neo-Marxism of CRT, 1619 and intersectionality. Youngkin/Sears campaign promises over K-12 could well apply to VMI and higher education. It will be interesting to see if Wins and the BOV will modify their plans going forward. Non- partisan, ideological diversity is not so easily achieved in 2021.

  3. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
    James Wyatt Whitehead

    What a G.I.N.O. That is all Northam is now.

    1. John Harvie Avatar
      John Harvie

      Probably ever was, James?

  4. Carmen Villani Jr Avatar
    Carmen Villani Jr

    As a 1976 graduate of VMI, here is the message I sent to the governor:


    I try very hard to not mention you by name because I find your actions to fall well short of the high standards set by the school that I have held near and dear to my heart – The Virginia Military Institute. As a former President of the Honor Court myself, I find your dishonesty very troubling.

    The thought of you speaking at VMI is absolutely unacceptable to me. As in my 2019 letter to you, the Corps of Cadets deserve better. By association, your October 19th letter labels them racists and being a part of an “appalling culture.” How dare you! Unless you are going to VMI to apologize to these young men and women, stay away.

    You have done enough harm to a school that has produced so many graduates that have been an “honor to our country and our state.” Since you seem to have forgotten so much of what you learned at VMI, those are the words of Colonel J.T.L. Preston and can be found on the Parapet!

  5. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    Youngkin said that “he would be willing to veto budgets that don’t provide VMI with adequate funding.” What an empty promise! VMI has always been able to get what it wanted out of the General Assembly and with Tommy Norment, another alumnus, as the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance, it will not have any worries in the foreseeable future.

    1. Donald Smith Avatar
      Donald Smith

      Perhaps. But, as the old saying goes, the process can be the punishment. I suspect the GOP-led House of Delegates can make life pretty uncomfortable for the statue-pulling, CRT-worshipping faculty heads at VMI. They should hold lots of public hearings. At the very least, the outright bullying of VMI, and threats to shut it down, by House progressives should stop,

      1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
        Dick Hall-Sizemore

        You are being contradictory. On the one hand, you refer to the House GOP making life uncomfortable for the “statue-pulling CRT-worshipping faculty heads”, but then you complain about bullying and threats to shut VMI down from the progressives.

        1. Donald Smith Avatar
          Donald Smith

          You don’t fully grasp what I’m saying? No worries; I’ll gladly clarify!

          The bullying was done by the current, progressive-led House of Delegates, which has now been consigned to the trash heap by rational Virginia voters. Some of those progressives had threatened VMI’s funding, and even its existence, if it didn’t implement changes the progressives wanted.

          Now, the GOP-led incoming House of Delegates can exact some payback, and hone in on the culprits in the VMI leadership that caved to Team Northam, instead of standing up for BG Peay and the honor of VMI. I’m thinking especially of the BOV and faculty. The Barnes-Thornburg report showed that the VMI faculty was much more supportive of sweeping changes to VMI than either the cadets or alumni were. Seeing as most of those faculty members are professional academics, I suspect many of them are woke progressives, eager to remake VMI into a place that would make Robin DiAngelo proud and the Chinese Army laugh. It is these folks that I hope the GOP-led House pursues mercilessly.

          How’s that?

    2. Jake Spivey Avatar
      Jake Spivey

      Norment is 75 yrs. old and comes up for re-election in 2023. Assuming that at age 77 y/o he’s had enough of Virginia politics, there will be no (zip, zero, zilch, nada) VMI alumni in the General Assembly. Worse than that prospect is the fact over 50% of the members of the House and Senate are non-native Virginians. It is for these reasons the Spirit of VMI PAC was formed. To champion legislators who will do right by the Institute.

  6. Donald Smith Avatar
    Donald Smith

    I’m confident that the wave that swept the Democrats out of the three top offices in the executive branch AND the majority in the House of Delegates, was fueled in part by the widespread disgust over how Team Northam treated VMI.

    When obvi0usly-weak men and women bully and humiliate a proud institution, because they know they can get away with it…well, honorable people take note of that, and resolve to get even.

  7. DJRippert Avatar

    We’ll see what Norham has to say but, on first blush, it seems like a pretty cowardly act. Why isn’t the public invited? Why is attendance mandatory? Presumably because Northam wants to lecture the cadets without any of the pesky demonstrations against him that non-cadets would certainly bring. And it’s mandatory because Little Ralphie would be embarrassed if he ended up lecturing a lot of empty seats.

    1. Jake Spivey Avatar
      Jake Spivey

      More likely Coonman wants to blather about all the wonderful work (changes at VMI) he is responsible for.
      The Corps could care less. The studious cadets will be unhappy with atteding b/c it cuts into their study time. Those on confinement will be listening for only one word (amnesty), and the rest will just want to get on with whatever they would normally be doing on a Monday night.
      Afterall, they’re college students. Going to mandatory speeches isn’t what college students enjoy doing.

      1. It would be interesting to see the WiFi load during that time period…..

  8. Baconator with extra cheese Avatar
    Baconator with extra cheese

    “Let’s Go Coonman!”

  9. Bob X from Texas Avatar
    Bob X from Texas

    When they took down Stonewall Jackson’s statue I changed my will to not give VMI any money.

    1. Jake Spivey Avatar
      Jake Spivey

      Bob X, please consider realigning your contributions to The Spirit of VMI PAC,
      Stonewall won’t return to the Institute, but working with the incoming Youngkin/Sears/Miayres administration course corrections will happen.
      As I stated in an earlier post, Youngkin will, over the course of his governorship, change 62% of the BoV membership simply by appointing new members to the Board when these 10 current members’ terms expire. He will also have the opportunity to replace the 6 members who’ll be eligible for reappointment. In my review of these 6 individuals, 2 have backgrounds ill-suited for understanding higher education and so could (very) justifyably be replaced. Should the Gov not want to shake things up too much, reappointing the other 4 to a second 4-year term would suffice.

      1. Donald Smith Avatar
        Donald Smith

        “Stonewall won’t return to the Institute”

        Why not? All it takes is a crane, a good truck and the will to tell the snowflakes to sod off and grow up.

        Bringing Stonewall’s statue back to VMI would be the perfect middle finger to the snowflake crew. And it would lift the spirits of the vast majority of VMI cadets and alumni.

        “Should the Gov not want to shake things up too much”

        Actually, I think Virginians told us this month that they WANT to shake things up. Just who is the governor scared of irritating? The SJWs? The Beth Barts think-alikes?

        1. Jake Spivey Avatar
          Jake Spivey

          I appreciate the idealistic viewpoint. Please read the minutes from the Board of Visitors and the Naming and Commemorations committee from the past year. Stonewall is not coming back and Gov-elect Youngkin isn’t going to order a crane to go snatch him off whatever dunnage he is resting on and put him back, in front of the soon to be unnamed arch, between Washington Arch and Marshall Arch.
          As I indicated in my prior post, most elected legislators are not native Virginians. I suspect most of the state’s population isn’t either. Shaking things up for them was about education K-12, not replacing former monuments in Lexington.

          1. Donald Smith Avatar
            Donald Smith

            Yes, it’s idealistic, but not irriational. Those same people on the BOV and Naming and Commemoration Committee must have seen this month’s sweeping election results. The progressives in Richmond got their butts kicked. One of the biggest flaws in the CRT philosophy that voters rebelled against, was the idea that America’s past needed to be sanitized. Removing Jackson’s statue from VMI, which the Barnes and Thornburgh report makes clear was NOT what the cadets and alumni wanted—was an example of that.

            I’m not a VMI grad; I’m a UVA grad. But I am a son of Virginia. And Jackson, in my eyes, is a Virginia hero. No, I don’t expect Governor Youngkin to get into the cab of the crane truck and drive to New Market himself. But, if VMI cadets and alumni want Jackson’s statue back—and it appears that many of them do—they should try to get it back. The opportunity is there, if VMI cadets and alumni want to seize it. The effort may fail, but it’s worth a try. Moving Jackson’s statue was a symbol of CRT-driven overreach—an overreach that Virginia voters have repudiated at the polls.

            I’m not concerned about Jackson’s greater legacy. Sons and daughters of Virginia will honor it at New Market, Lexington and elsewhere in the state. If VMI doesn’t care about Jackson’s legacy, then the rest of us will.

          2. Jake Spivey Avatar
            Jake Spivey

            First, that wasn’t the purpose of the B&T report. In re: Jackson’s statue, sub-heading 4 of the report unmistakenly makes clear association between VMI, the Confederates of America, and the War of Northern Aggression should be “tempered”. Second, explicitly the report calls for a reduction of iconography, issue 4(a), while calling for input form the Corps 4(b). Stonewall isn’t coming back. Third, it’s not a matter of “VMI” caring about Jackson’s legacy. There isn’t any monolithic “VMI”. I have classmates holding opinions across a ridiculously wide spectrum regarding the Jackson statue and I’m a member of just one class. Expand this amalgamation of “VMI” to include friends, family, widows, and marginally interested parties and depending on who and how many people you asked, you could find consenus on any number of helpful or harmful positions regarding “what to do about Jackson’s statue.
            Finally, the young mothers in northern VA, the good ol’ boys in southside VA, and the suburban voters around the state who voted for Youngkin were opposing CRT in their childrens’ schools. They were not trying to put Stonewall back on his now-razed concrete pedestal.

          3. Donald Smith Avatar
            Donald Smith

            Poor choice of words on my part, when I said “If VMI doesn’t care about Jackson’s legacy, the rest of us will.” I overstated things there. Having said that…

            The B&T report, regardless of its original purpose, makes very clear that the vast majority of cadets and alumni surveyed didn’t want to see Jackson’s statue go. There may be a wide array of opinions on the issue—but there’s no doubt where the majority opinion lies. The data makes it clear.

            One of the best reasons for bringing Jackson’s statue back: it’s obvious that, for a lot of people, taking the statue away was a way to humiliate VMI. (I wrote a BR article on this earlier). Forcing VMI to take down the primary statue of its most prominent combat leader was a great way to embarass the institution—and I suspect that’s exactly what Northam, Shapira, wanted. Bringing the statue back to VMI would be a great way to spike the ball at their feet. If VMI doesn’t bring back Jackson, Team Northam/Shapira will claim victory.

            VMI is awash in Confederate iconography, and most of it commemorates people that no one’s heard of. (You even have a statue to Edmund Ruffin, the secessionist fireater?). Why not “reduce” that iconography?

            And, if the old Jackson pedastal has been razed, build a new one. Americans are known for building things.

            Lastly, I’m not saying that Governor-elect Youngkin and the GOP House of Delegates should ignore the fight against CRT, or the needs of Virginia’s schools, in order to return Jackson’s statue to Lexington. They can certainly multitask, and get it all done.

            I’m saying that VMI has a chance to throw it back in the faces of the powers-that-be who tried to humiliate it, and I recommend it takes it.

          4. Jake Spivey Avatar
            Jake Spivey

            In re: “throw it back in the faces of the powers-that-be who tried to humiliate it…” will be the first place the progressive crowds starts when they return to control of the executive and legislative branches. And eventually they will return. Take a look at the election’s results,
            Fewer than 70K votes out of 3.2M cast, is the difference between Gov-elect Youngkin and the other guy. In the HoD, some winning delegates won by fewer than 150 votes. Most high school senior classes are 3-4 times larger than that winning margin. Deliberately and vociferously restoring TJJ’s statue to Post will be akin to putting Trump on the ballot. In the 2023 elections such action would provide an object to vote against rather than a candidate to vote for.
            Finally, Jackson’s statue was never an 1839 founding fixture. He isn’t going to be placed back in front of barracks nor in some far away corner of Post. No individual or organization is going to successfully champion that cause.

  10. Word on the street is that the original WaPo piece was titled ‘Coonman Comes Home’

  11. owen dunlap Avatar
    owen dunlap

    so I just read Gov Northams speach he gave to the corp last night… a big word salad of nothingness and pandering . But it was striking for what was not said — nothing about the investigation into his “systemic rascism” verdict he laid on VMI and its alumni – nothing about Gen Peay’s service and how he was dismissed – nothing about how VMI was now going to request more state money to fulfill the new DEI VMI – nothing about how he tarnished VMI with his inability to remember if he dressed in blackface at a medical school party or not . I did note that he implied that when he was a rat he was exposed to the confederate flag and the playing of dixie . I was a rat the very next year and the only confederate flags i saw were associated with the new market ceremony and dixie was never heard

  12. Jake Spivey Avatar
    Jake Spivey

    VMI rings have two sides, an Institute side and a class side.
    The class side for the class of 1981; Northam’s.

Leave a Reply