Tag Archives: Virginia Military Institute

VMI Eschews Standards of Excellence, Devalues Diploma

by Joseph D. Elie

As an alumnus living in Florida, I have a dearth of information about what is happening at the Virginia Military Institute on a day-to-day basis.

I see the superficial social media postings from the public relations department, the Superintendent, and the Commandant; but I crave the scuttlebutt that tells the truer story.

The recent editorial, “Class of 25: The Elephant in the Room,” in The Cadet was very enlightening, provided much-needed insight and served, in effect, as a detailed report on the Institute.

The editorial also revealed why the administration didn’t want a student newspaper committing acts of journalism – as it validated my own suspicion that Breakout and the entire Rat Line itself have been rendered much less difficult.

From this year’s Breakout videos, the Rats seemed to merely be going through the motions when compared with videos from past Breakouts. The energy, enthusiasm, and the spirit were gone.

The Cadet editorial outlines how VMI’s core standards have been made less rigorous for the sake of maintaining the enrollment retention rate, particularly with regard to the nature and rigor of the Rat Line.

The Rat Line energizes the entire Corps of Cadets. It is an annual rite of passage that the upper classes have historically zealously preserved.

The Rat Line was once extremely difficult to complete and doing so resulted in justifiable pride and a tremendous boost of self-confidence.

Continue reading

The Rats Return

VMI Rats

by James A. Bacon

Good news from the Virginia Military Institute! After seeing a drastic falloff t0 374 entering students last year, 491 students matriculated this fall. Last year’s decline capped off years of disastrous public relations stemming from a campaign by The Washington Post and the Northam administration to depict VMI as a racist, sexist institution. The Post has since redirected its venom to conservative VMI alumni, taking the heat off the institution, and Northam is history.

Last year, according to VMI officials, the administration ramped up its recruitment efforts, focusing on geographic areas with larger populations of military families and low-income or minority students. About 85.5% of this year’s cadets are men, and 14.5% are women. Interestingly, VMI did not provide a breakdown by race/ethnicity, even though achieving racial diversity has been a top priority.

Meanwhile, controversy continues to roil the military school. As Bacon’s Rebellion noted two weeks ago, Board of Visitors Chairman Thomas R. Watjen had asked VMI’s University Counsel, who reports to Attorney General Jason Miyares, to investigate allegations that VMI officials had sought negative press about The Cadet, the independent student newspaper that has been a thorn in the side of Superintendent Cedric Wins and his administration. But now, reports Cardinal News, Watjen says VMI “will handle the matter internally.” Continue reading

An Investigation… into an Alleged Attempt to Discredit a Student Newspaper… that Criticized the VMI Administration

by James A. Bacon

There appears in the minutes of the Virginia Military Institute Board of Visitors meeting of July 13, 2023 an abbreviated mention of a very hot topic:

Mr. [Thomas E.] Gottwald raised concerns about the administration’s continued conflict with The Cadet newspaper. Five news articles have been written regarding a challenge to the Virginia Press Association’s awards given to The Cadet. [Board President Thomas R.] Watjen suggested a conversation be had to better understand the administration’s involvement with the news articles.

That would be the same independent student newspaper whose denigration by The Washington Post we have chronicled here on Bacon’s Rebellion. Although Superintendent Cedric Wins has publicly praised The Cadet for its prestigious award, allegations have been circulating that negative stories about The Cadet were prompted by the VMI administration itself. I have refrained until now from reporting on those charges, but they have surfaced in the VMI board meeting, in an online petition, and again in an article appearing in Cardinal News. Continue reading

VMI Superintendent Praises Student Journalists

by James A. Bacon

I increased my respect for Cedric Wins. In his personal Facebook page, the Virginia Military Institute Superintendent congratulated Lt. James Mansfield (class of ’22) and Cadet Russell Crouch (class of ’24), co-editors of The Cadet student newspaper last year, for winning the Virginia Press Association’s Journalist Service and Integrity Award.

That couldn’t have been easy. The student journalists had been critical of the Wins administration’s implementation of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and its approach to student mental health. But Wins proved he is capable of setting aside any personal pique he might have and applaud the cadets for their significant accomplishment.

Wrote Wins: “The Virginia Military Institute lauds these cadets’ commitment to the free exercise of expression and looks forward to working with those cadets who follow in their footsteps.”

Yes, this the same student newspaper that The Washington Post slammed with allegations of plagiarism and conflict of interest — perhaps the first time in history that a newspaper of such global stature stooped to undermining a prestigious award for a student newspaper of a small college. The Post’s vindictive criticisms — I use the word “vindictive” because The Cadet articles contested a racial-oppression narrative peddled by the Post for two years — successfully triggered a VPA investigation into the allegations. The findings of that investigation, however, found that the contest rules provided no mechanism for reversing the award.

Wins looks like a bigger man, and The Washington Post looks petty and mean- spirited. Continue reading

WaPo Eats Crow, Students’ Journalism Award Stands

Credit: Bing Image Creator. Journalist eating crow.

by James A. Bacon

It is sweet indeed to read the latest Washington Post article about the Virginia Military Institute: after calling into question a top journalism award bestowed upon The Cadet independent student newspaper, media reporter Paul Farhi found himself gulping down a serious helping of crow in a follow-up story headlined, “VMI student paper award upheld after plagiarism, conflict-of-interest probe.”

The series of Cadet articles, which were critical of the VMI administration’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion initiatives, won the Virginia Press Association’s top community service award — the first for a student newspaper in Virginia. Rather than praising the young journalists for their accomplishment, Farhi criticized them. He contended that the series of articles contained plagiarism and that the Cadet had failed to disclose a conflict of interest to judges.

But Conrad M. Shumadine, a retired Norfolk attorney hired to determine if there were grounds for canceling the award, wrote that the honor was made “in accordance with applicable rules and regulations and is not subject to an after-the-fact challenge…. An award should be a celebratory event not an invitation to disparagement.” (Read his report.) Continue reading

VMI’s DEI Chief Resigns — “Vitriolic” VMI Critics Implicated

Jamica Love

by James A. Bacon

Virginia Military Institute’s chief diversity officer, Jamica Love, has resigned nearly two years after taking on the job of implementing Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at the military institute.

While Superintendent Cedric T. Wins noted that Love served with distinction and professionalism, VMI gave no reason for her resignation. She has issued no statement and turned down an interview request.

My purpose in writing about Love’s resignation is not to highlight her role in the ongoing controversy over DEI at VMI — my sense is that she did exactly what was expected of her — but to explore how The Washington Post has framed her departure. Writer Ian Shapira takes the opportunity once again to recite the litany of racism allegations against VMI and cast the controversy as a good guys/bad guys melodrama with the black hats worn by “a political action committee of mostly White conservative graduates called The Spirit of VMI.” Continue reading

Update: Dissident VMI Alumni Lawsuit

by James A. Bacon

Last week Bacon’s Rebellion published a column by Bob Morris which mentioned a lawsuit that dissident Virginia Military Institute alumni had filed against the VMI Alumni Association. The petition demanded records that would allow dissident alumni access to 20,0000+ alumni emails to communicate with other alumni ahead of the association’s annual meeting.

The lawsuit argued that all “members” of a Virginia nonstock corporation — in this case, all VMI alumni — were allowed access to all corporate records, including the email addresses. That lawsuit was heard in Rockbridge County Circuit Court a week ago Thursday. The bottom line: dissidents got the postal mailing addresses but not the email addresses, and the alumni association’s annual meeting was not postponed.

Says Morris, who was not a party in the case but who collaborates with the plaintiffs: “Not a complete victory, but not a complete loss.” Continue reading

“DEI Is Dead” at VMI

by James A. Bacon

The Youngkin administration has just unloaded a HIMARS rocket attack on Virginia Military Institute’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion program.

Speaking Friday in a session of mandatory “inclusive excellence training,” Martin D. Brown, Youngkin’s chief of Diversity, Opportunity & Inclusion, left steaming rubble where VMI’s DEI program had been standing.

“Let’s take a moment right now to kill that cow. DEI is dead,” said Brown. “We’re not going to bring that cow up anymore. It’s dead. It was mandated by the General Assembly, but this governor has a different philosophy of civil discourse, civility, treating — living the golden rule, right?”

VMI recorded the speech and made it available to Washington Post reporter Ian Shapira, who proceeded to consult a half-dozen DEI supporters and quote them extensively to suggest that there is widespread concern about the Youngkin administration’s position. Continue reading

Free Speech and Open Inquiry Are “Non-Negotiable”

Aimee Guidera, Secretary of Education

by James A. Bacon

Governor Glenn Youngkin made a national name for himself by standing up for parents’ rights in public education. His administration has engaged in bruising battles over transgender policy, critical race theory, and educational standards in K-12 schools. His approach to higher-ed issues has been far less contentious. Other than fighting for a year-long freeze in college tuition & fees, which he won, Youngkin’s higher-ed policy has generated few headlines.

That doesn’t mean Youngkin has neglected higher education. Rather than take a confrontational approach, such as seen in Florida and North Carolina, the governor is trying to work within the system. In a keynote address delivered to the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) Friday, Amy Guidera, Virginia’s Secretary of Education, described the administration’s philosophy.

The purpose of higher education is to equip students to become more productive and constructive members of society, Guidera said. Allowing free speech, free inquiry and intellectual diversity is critical to achieving the larger goal. It is important, she said, for students to “be confronted with ideas and beliefs [they] have never encountered before.”

Rather than enact legislation, Youngkin has chosen to work with the Council of Presidents, comprised of the presidents of Virginia’s public colleges and universities. He has met with the Council every quarter, something that no previous governor did, Guidera said. In those meetings he has been clear about his support for “a culture of free expression.” Continue reading

Aside from Insinuating Matt Daniel is Anti-Semitic, Shapira’s Latest Piece Wasn’t So Bad

by James A. Bacon

The Washington Post’s Ian Shapira has finally published his piece about Matt Daniel, head of the Spirit of VMI PAC and one of the more vocal critics of the current VMI leadership. It may be the most balanced piece Shapira has ever written in his coverage of VMI — admittedly, an extremely low bar to clear. Even though Daniel declined to answer his questions, Shapira made a decent effort to present his point of view by quoting from the public record. 

I cannot say what accounts for this departure in Shapira’s journalistic practice, but it cannot entirely be coincidence that Daniel had pre-empted a feared hit job by publicly releasing a list of questions that the WaPo reporter had emailed him shortly before publication. (Bacon’s Rebellion reported on those questions here.)

Still, Shapira can’t help being Shapira, and he described two incidents that grotesquely insinuated that Daniel has Nazi and/or anti-Semitic proclivities. Continue reading

Spirit of VMI Preempts WaPo Hit Job

by James A. Bacon

Looks like Washington Post reporter  Ian Shapira is loading up the big guns to fire another salvo in his unrelenting war on Virginia Military Institute alumni who are critical of the new leadership’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion policies. This time, instead of attacking traditionalist alumni as a group, he appears to be focusing on Matt Daniel, head of The Spirit of VMI PAC, as an individual.

Shapira obviously has done a lot of digging. Since his Nov. 21 article insinuating that dissident alumni are racist for criticizing VMI’s African-American Superintendent Cedric Wins, he has published only one other article (on a topic unrelated to VMI). Three months after his last hit, the WaPo hatchet man emailed a lengthy list of questions to Daniel that hint at specific allegations the article will make.

One question, for example, sets up the VMI grad and former fighter pilot on charges of anti-Semitism for a blog post in which he criticized leftist mega-donor George Soros — not for Soros’ ethnic identity but his role bankrolling leftist causes. 

Anticipating a hatchet job, The Spirit of VMI has published Shapira’s email, and you can read it here. And you can read The Spirit of VMI’s response here.

“What is obvious from the tone, type, and number of questions is that Mr. Shapira … will try to doxx and cancel another VMI Alumnus who has attempted to freely speak and react to to the corrosive actions of the Northam Administration,” said the Spirit of VMI statement. The statement continued: Continue reading

Shapira Hits All-Time Low in VMI Coverage

Superintendent Cedric T. Wins at a VMI ceremony. Photo credit: The Washington Post.

by James A. Bacon

New rule at The Washington Post: it’s OK to insinuate that conservatives are racist for disagreeing with an authority figure who happens to be Black. No evidence of bias required.

The democracy-dies-in-darkness newspaper set a new low yesterday in an article published Monday describing how conservative alumni of the Virginia Military Institute decry the implementation of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion by the Board of Visitors and Superintendent Cedric T. Wins. Reporter Ian Shapira never comes out directly and calls the dissident alumni racist, but he makes the implication unmistakable. His rhetorical devices are a case study in slimy journalism that stops just short of libel.

Let’s start with the headline, which may or may not be Shapira’s composition but accurately reflects the tone of the article:

“VMI’s first Black superintendent under attack by conservative White alumni”

See the trope? The superintendent is Black, the alumni are conservative and White. The headline doesn’t say explicitly that the alumni are attacking the superintendent because he is Black. But the phrase invites readers to assume that there must be a link between the superintendent’s race and the race of the alumni — why else would race be injected into the headline, which by its nature is sparing and economical with words? Continue reading

Why a VMI Alumnus Yanked a $1 Million Bequest

Bye bye!

An open letter to the Virginia Military Institute Board of Visitors, Virginia Military Institute Alumni Association, VMI Corps of Cadets, VMI Alumni/ae, Parents Council, and The Cadet Newspaper.

November 11, 2022

I am a member of the VMI class 1975. In the nearly 50 years since my graduation, I have taken great pride in being one of the over 20,000 who can claim that honor. Therefore, I take no pleasure in writing this letter to make known my growing concerns about the future of VMI, and my conviction that the path VMI is embarked upon will destroy the Institute. And I don’t mean the buildings and other physical features of VMI, but the traditions and other intangibles woven into the VMI experience from which I have benefitted and which is the source of my pride. I am confident that many other alumni share this view. My convictions have become so strong since Maj. Gen. [Cedric T.] Wins and his administration took charge that recently I reluctantly took the step of amending my last will and testament to excise a bequest of $1,000,000 for the benefit of VMI through the Alumni Agencies.

In the brief span of just two years since the abrupt dismissal of General [J.H. Binford] Peay as Superintendent, the Institute has traveled far down the path of political correctness. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), and the tenets of Critical Race Theory (CRT) ideology, have sunk their toxic roots into the fabric of VMI life. The recent recognition of Gen. Peay with the New Market medal is not a step forward but simply long overdue. Even that effort was besmirched by a crass appeal for donations by the Alumni Association immediately following the Board of Visitor’s (BOV) announcement of the award, an act that only demonstrated how VMI and the Alumni Association are trying to simply capitalize and profit from what they cravenly avoided doing long ago. Continue reading

Transparency and Accountability at VMI… and Every Public University

by James A. Bacon

Virginia Military Institute Superintendent Cedric T. Wins was awarded a $100,000 bonus after his FY-2022 performance review, and the Spirit of VMI PAC (SOVP) wants to know what criteria the Board of Visitors used in granting him the award.

The bonus, which was four times his previous $25,000 award, lifted Wins’ total 2022 compensation to $725,000. The bonus was paid with private contributions.

“SOVP questions what performance metrics the BOV used to make such a generous award and sharp increase,” stated the organization in a press release last week. “FY-2022 was an academic year that generated major concern among alumni and friends about VMI’s direction, and included large increases in attrition from the Corps. Also notable was a sharp drop in applications, which triggered the elimination of the application deadline and the SAT requirement, and led to a 25% drop in New Cadet Matriculation. This failure occurred the first year after General Wins asked for the resignation of the most successful Director of Admissions in VMI’s history.”

While the Spirit of VMI’s differences with Wins reflect issues unique to VMI, the press release raises a matter of broader concern: what criteria do the boards of Virginia’s public universities use to award bonuses, and shouldn’t those criteria be part of the public record? Continue reading

Racism at VMI? Not That This Hispanic Alum Ever Saw

Virginia Military Institute alumni share much of their correspondence with me. I can’t come close to publishing it all on this blog. But sometimes a letter illuminates aspects of the ongoing discussion about VMI’s future that have not yet made it into the public domain. The letter below comes from José J. Suárez, an Hispanic alumnus, class of 1982, who was interviewed by the Barnes & Thornburg investigative team that slammed VMI for sexism and racism but feels his views were not reflected in that report. (I have made minor edits for punctuation and style.) — JAB

Dear Members of the VMI Board of Visitors, and the VMI Alumni Association.

I am a proud graduate of the VMI class of 1982. I came to VMI from Puerto Rico, with limited command of the English language. I was one of three (3) Hispanic cadets at VMI during my cadetship.

The cadre, my Brother Rats, the faculty, and the administration helped me to make it through VMI, and to have a great career in the Engineering and the Construction Industry, and consulting, where I advanced to be the  Chief Executive of a $3 billion-plus division/company.

I have experienced racism in the U.S. Navy, and in my civilian career, but not at VMI. For this reason, I was flabbergasted by the attack that VMI received via The Washington Post, and the fact that neither the Board of Visitors, the VMI Alumni Associations, and the VMI administration, fought back publicly against these attacks. Continue reading