J.H. Binford Peay III. Official portrait as vice chief of staff.
Here follows a letter from Salvatore J. Vitale, class agent of the Virginia Military Institute class of 1961. — JAB
I am a graduate, and proud to be one, of the Virginia Military Institute’s Class of 1961. Since last summer, I and others of the VMI alumni have been pleased to note that Bacon’s Rebellion has published a substantial number of articles concerning the events at VMI climaxing with the publication and fallout from the now infamous Barnes & Thornburg report commissioned by the administration of Governor Ralph Northam. The articles you published have done a great service to VMI and its alumni by, among other things, pushing back against the findings of that report and the libel of VMI in public media, principally in the “news “section of the Washington Post. That libel is that VMI is a systemically racist and sexist institution. …
The attack directed at VMI has no doubt caused injury to many. The reputations of alumni in general have been impugned because of being branded as the product of a systemically racist and sexist institution. The attack certainly raises the question whether young women and minorities in uniform will, rightly or wrongly, fear that VMI officers of higher rank lack respect for them and, perhaps equally unfortunate, transmit that fear into lack of respect for the superior
officer. There is also rightful fear that in this current political environment that VMI’s sullied reputation could harm their opportunities for advancement, particularly for young officers? If this false narrative diminishes the ranks of women and minorities who seek admission to VMI, it will be unfortunate for VMI and for those who are deterred from applying due to this distorted
Some may say that the foregoing is merely speculative. There has, however, been one injury that is beyond dispute to VMI alumni — the reputational damage to former superintendent General J. H. Binford Peay III, VMI class of 1962, following his resignation after receiving public rebuke from Governor Northam through a “lost confidence” communication. Continue reading
by Donald Smith
Perhaps you’ve noticed the discussion over the past year about the banishment… er, sorry, removal… of Stonewall Jackson’s statue from the Virginia Military Institute’s Main Post. Well, here’s another contribution. I will make the case that the powers-that-be behind the excision of Jackson’s memory from VMI weren’t trying to help the institute. They wanted to humiliate it.
The Barnes and Thornburgh analysts who studied the racial climate at VMI noted that many people attend VMI because they want a military experience. Men and women who enroll at the academy are a lot like cadets or midshipmen at West Point, Annapolis, the Air Force Academy, the Citadel and Norwich.
Military schools, and military men and women, honor leaders who showed courage, determination and excellence in battle. Military schools are normally proud of the great generals and admirals they produced. Continue reading
by Larry Houseworth
Charlie Beckett of the London School of Economics addressed journalism’s turn to emotionalism in a talk given at the 2015 Science Festival in Bradford, West Yorkshire, England (“How journalism is turning emotional and what that might mean for news.”) He stated, “the value of objective journalism is the idea that journalism can attempt to give an account that is balanced, fact-based and that gives a fair summary not just of what has happened but the context around it without the distortion of the journalist’s own feelings.”
Beckett acknowledged there is a place for tempered emotion. He said, “Making a drama of a crisis has always been part of mass media. The theatre of news is as old as broadcast journalism. … If news does not get your attention, if you do not find it interesting, amusing, frightening or uplifting than you are less likely to take notice.”
The balance of emotion and objectivity “can only be an aspiration,” he conceded. “All journalists are human and have different factors that shape their worldview and their understanding of particular circumstances. … By selecting a story for reporting you have made a choice. The facts that you omit, as well as those you include, are selective.”
To validate Beckett’s opinion, we need look no further than the media’s recent treatment of the Virginia Military Institute where the omission of relevant facts has colored the coverage. Continue reading
by Carmen Villani
At the conclusion of sporting events, the Corps of Cadets, players, and alumni join as one in singing the VMI Doxology. It ends with – “God Bless our team and V-M-I!”
During its nearly 182-year history, the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) has aligned itself with Judeo-Christian values, emphasizing character and servant leadership.
God calls upon us to not be of this world, yet the VMI leadership is making changes to align VMI with the world. Driven by the mantra of “diversity, equity, and inclusion,” “Don’t do ordinary” is on the verge of becoming “We do ordinary.” Continue reading
by Donald Smith
In deciding which Confederate iconography should remain visible at the Virginia Military Institute, the school’s Commemorations and Memorials Naming and Review sub-committee (CMNRC) identified four major items of commemoration to Stonewall Jackson at the Main Post. Most famously, there was the statue sculpted by VMI alumnus and Battle of New Market veteran Moses Ezekiel, but Jackson’s name appears on Memorial Hall, while his name is engraved on an arch at the Old Barracks, while a quote attributed to him is also displayed there.
This past November the Board of Visitors (B0V) voted to remove the statue. In May it approved the removal of drastic alteration of the other three items.
The criteria that drove these decisions appear in this document, “Finding Meaning in the Landscape and Criteria By Which To Assess It.“
A comparison of key passages from that CMNRC document and the Board of Visitors’ decision raises many questions. Continue reading
by Gilbert Piddington
Perhaps in more ways than any school in the world, Cadets at the Virginia Military Institute are all treated equally and the same in a very structured and systemic environment. Let me explain.
The VMI Honor Code, “A Cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, nor tolerate those who do,” applies equally to all Cadets. One example, no cheating means that all cadets compete fairly on all tests and assignments. This is one of many examples of systemic and structural equality, fairness, and impartiality at the Institute.
Cadets come from many different states and countries, schools, families, backgrounds, religions, nationalities, and financial circumstances. Some are poor and some are rich. Some have expensive cars and beautiful clothes … at home, but not at VMI. Cadets differentiate themselves through their character and personality, academic, military, and athletic achievements. Like other colleges, VMI offers many academic majors, each with its own unique curriculum; but nearly everything else in Cadet life is the same, equal, fair, and impartial. Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
The Spirit of VMI Political Action Committee (SoVP), formed by Virginia Military Institute alumni in response to the Governor Ralph Northam-ordered VMI racism investigation, has endorsed the Republican slate of candidates for statewide office — Glenn Youngkin for Governor, Winsome Sears for Lieutenant Governor, and Jason Miyares for Attorney General.
In making endorsements, VMI alumni have taken a different tack from dissident alumni at the University of Virginia and Washington & Lee University. The “woke” revolution transforming higher education across the country is being forced upon VMI from the outside, in contrast to the implementation of Critical Race Theory (cultural Marxism, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, or whatever you want to call it) which originates internally at other institutions. Neither the Jefferson Council at UVa nor the Generals’ Redoubt at W&L have engaged in electoral politics. Continue reading
by Phil Leigh
Virginia Military Institute graduates familiar with the drumming out process know that real shame is emotionally one of the most painful experiences we can have. It makes us want to hide like the white-collar criminal covering his face with a newspaper during a perp walk. It is soul destroying and even the stuff of suicide.
As at other military colleges, VMI cadets must pledge that they will not lie, cheat, or steal and will not tolerate those who do. Decades ago, anyone convicted of such offenses by the school’s student-run Honor Court would have been drummed out at a midnight ceremony before the entire corps. As his classmates looked-on, each of the banished would be escorted to a taxi, which he would board to leave the campus forever. Recently I had breakfast with a 1960s-era VMI grad who described the process. He shuddered when telling the story and at the end frowned, paused, and shook his head in silence before changing the subject.
Today, VMI is flogging itself for the imagined sin of racism. But the actual experience of the mea culpas by virtue-signaling whites, including VMI grad and Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, is not one of shame. It is really the opposite of shame. It is display. It is preening. It is an act of separating themselves from supposedly unaware whites. By embracing an ostensible shame, the self-flagellating whites are showing how superior they are compared to the rest of us. In their minds, each has transformed himself into a kind of honorary black person. Therefore, they reason, the guilt does not attach to them but only to other whites. . . and it is completely fake. Continue reading
Civil War reenactors as the Stonewall Brigade. Photo credit: Stonewallbrigade.net
by Donald Smith
When we think about wars, we often think of the great commanders who led the armies and navies that fought those wars. Mention World War II, and names like Eisenhower, Halsey, Rommel and Yamamoto come to mind. If you think of the American Revolution, quickly you’ll find yourself thinking of Washington, Cornwallis, Greene, etc… And, especially in Virginia, if you think about the Civil War, Stonewall Jackson will most likely cross your mind.
We remember generals for their leadership and decisions — but we also remember them for the armies they trained and led. It was the armies that won the great victories, not the generals. Patton didn’t rescue the 101st at Bastogne*; his Third Army did. Eisenhower didn’t take Omaha Beach; the survivors of the 29th Infantry Division (and many other troops) did. In that sense, the generals serve as symbols of the men who fought under them. The legacy of the general is intertwined with the legacies of the thousands of men and women he commanded.
One of the reasons that VMI’s handling of Stonewall Jackson’s legacy is so disappointing, is that it has impacts beyond Stonewall himself. Jackson has a personal legacy, as a person, a teacher and a battlefield titan. But he is also the most visible symbol of the army command he organized and led to victory after victory in the Civil War. A command which fought from First Manassas to Spotsylvania Court House, and is one of the most famous in American military history—the Stonewall Brigade. Continue reading
Kasey Meredith became VMI’s first Cadet Commander this year. Photo credit: AP
by James A. Bacon
Not only is the Virginia Military Institute a cauldron of racism, according to the recently published Barnes & Thornburg report, it is a bastion of sexism. As the executive summary puts it: “On gender, many respondents — including men — stated that VMI’s gender-equity issues are worse than its racial-equity issues.”
As evidence of the culture of sexism, the report cites from a survey in which 81 female cadets participated. Fourteen percent of those who responded reported having been sexually assaulted. Concludes the executive summary: “Sexual assault is prevalent at VMI yet it is inadequately addressed by the Institute.”
Here’s what Barnes & Thornburg never mentioned: According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women are “sexually assaulted” while attending college nationally. According to the 2019 AAU Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Misconduct, 25.9% of women undergraduates are subject to “nonconsensual sexual contact by force or inability to consent.”
In other words, using Barnes & Thornburg’s own metric, women are significantly safer at VMI than other four-year colleges. Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
A special review board appointed by Board of Visitors President John Boland will study the recommendations contained in the Barnes & Thornburg investigation into racism and sexism at the Virginia Military Institute. The reviewers will report back to the Board of Visitors before its next meeting scheduled in September.
Among its 40 or so recommendations, Barnes & Thornburg, which was appointed by Governor Ralph Northam, says VMI needs to address racial equity by making high-level governance changes such as crafting a strategic plan around Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and submitting quarterly reports on its progress to the General Assembly. Then it proceeds to itemize specific items the Institute needs to tackle.
The report admonishes VMI to set goals for recruiting and promoting minority and female faculty and staff, alter its athlete-oriented scholarship program to provide more scholarships for minority non-athletes, re-engineer its Honor Code, implement “sensitivity and bystander training,” and re-evaluate the Institute’s participation in Division I athletics. The report dives so deep into the weeds that it even recommends VMI change its policy on permissible hair styles.
In theory, VMI is free to accept or reject these recommendations — in the same way that a bank teller with a gun to his head is free to not tell the robber where the money is stashed. But the reality is that the Board must make substantial concessions or put itself at risk of political blowback in the General Assembly, which controls state appropriations to VMI and other public universities.
The issue here is bigger than VMI. Using the cudgel of racism and sexism at VMI, Governor Ralph Northam is setting a precedent that will allow him to dictate specific policies at any public college or university in Virginia. Continue reading
VMI heroes. (Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch)
by James A. Bacon
Ascertaining the state of race relations is a tricky task in these politically polarized times. The job is made all the more difficult at the Virginia Military Institute by a factor that exists few other places: tension between athletes and other students. Athletes enjoy exemptions from participation in parades, inspections and the rigors of the infamous Rat Line that other cadets do not. As it happens, 60% of all African American cadets at VMI are athletes. Does the animus that athletes sometimes feel from their peers stem from racism, a resentment of their privileged status, their perceived lack of commitment to the VMI system, or perhaps all of the above?
The difficulty of disentangling race and athletics emerged as a key issue in the Barnes & Thornburg investigation into racism at VMI. A cadet quoted in the Final Report explained the tension this way: “There is a divide in this school. However, it is not a race divide but a divide between athletes and nonathletes. The athletes do not experience the ratline the way we do, and they get special treatment throughout their cadetship. This leads to them never really becoming a true part of the corp[s] unless they actively seek to do so.” Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
The Barnes & Thornburg final report into racism at the Virginia Military Institute has done its job of generating loads of negative headlines about the military academy. “Run by White men, for White men,” seems to be the most quotable quote. Predictably, there is no evidence that a single reporter read past the executive summary, which, as I explained yesterday, was a politicized, agenda-driven distillation of the extensive research conducted by investigators who, though not without their biases, painted a complex and nuanced picture of race relations.
The B&T summary conclusion that “racial and gender disparities exist” is based entirely upon the perceptions of a handful of Black VMI cadets. The report cites no documentary evidence of racism on the part of the VMI administration. The problem is alleged to be rooted in “the culture.” Accordingly, the perception of Black cadets, as gleaned in personal interviews and a lengthy anonymous survey, form the basis of B&T’s conclusions.
Here’s what the B&T summary doesn’t tell you: Of the 540 survey responses from cadets, only twelve came from African Americans. (That fact appears only in the appendix.) For most questions, the African-American responses split down the middle — six agreed (strongly or somewhat) with statements supportive of the racism allegations while six disagreed (strongly or somewhat).
Thus, when the B&T executive summary makes statements like this — “according to survey results of current cadets, half of African American cadets strongly or somewhat agree that there is a culture of racial intolerance at VMI” — the finding was based on the responses of six cadets who felt that way — six of 102 African American cadets (2021 enrollment). Continue reading