Tag Archives: Virginia Military Institute

The VMI Alumni Association as Self-Perpetuating Oligarchy

By Larry Repress and Sal Vitale
Virginia Military Institute Class of 1961

NOTE: This OPEN Letter was originally Sent to Mr. Thom Brashears, VMI Alumni Association COO with a request it be provided to all VMI Alumni in advance of the Special Meeting of the Association scheduled for 11 June 2022. On June 6, 2022 Mr. Sam Stocks, President of the Association Board, refused to distribute this to alumni stating, in part: “There is nothing to be gained at this point by any further back and forth over the contents and many of the assertions made in your letter…. Your complaints have been numerous and have been widely spread. From my perspective, they, like other similar efforts, have been a grave disservice to the alumni body at large, the cadets and to the Institute… You have a right to make them by whatever alternative means are available to you.”

“Nous Accusons”
An Open Letter to the Membership of the VMI Alumni Association

According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, oligarchy is defined as: “a government in which a small group exercises control especially for corrupt and selfish purposes.” We invite the reader to keep this definition in mind when reading further.

History buffs among VMI alumni/ae may recall the infamous chapter in French history when its army brass and civil government, the so called Third Republic, collaborated to falsely accuse, frame and convict a Jewish army captain, Alfred Dreyfus, of treason. This conviction led to his imprisonment at the infamous Caribbean penal colony on Devil’s Island. The conviction was later shown to have been the product of rampant anti-Semitism in the French army, a sentiment widely shared in the broader French society. The vindication of Dreyfus was catalyzed by an open letter penned by the French author and journalist Emile Zola accusing the army of framing Dreyfus. Its effect was to eventually turn public sentiment against the government resulting in an investigation that led to Dreyfus’ exoneration by the Government that had convicted him. Zola’s letter, published in a prominent Parisian newspaper, opens with the declaration “J’accuse…. (I accuse)”

In the tradition of Zola, we accuse (“nous accusons)” the Board of Directors of the VMI Alumni Association of cynically depriving the membership of its right to meaningfully participate in the affairs of the Association. It succeeded in this effort by effectively disenfranchising the membership and working to rig elections to the Board of only those of its own selection. How was this effect achieved by such a small number of persons? It was astonishingly easy. Here’s how. Continue reading

Peay’s Service at VMI Honored

by James A. Bacon

A  year and a half after he was forced into resigning amidst allegations of “relentless racism” at the institution he ran for 17 years, J.H. Binford Peay III, has been honored by the VMI Board of Visitors.

The board bestowed upon him the title of superintendent emeritus and ordered that a planned leadership building be named Peay Hall in his honor, and its dining room be named for his wife Pamela Peay. Further, General and Mrs. Peay will be honored at VMI’s Founders Day celebration Nov. 11. Superintendent Cedric T. Wins announced the recognitions at a class-of-1962 alumni reunion dinner April 26.

Stated the press release: “The Institute celebrated many successes during Peay’s 17 years as superintendent, including improved academic and co-curricular programs, major renovations of many buildings, and the construction of Third Barracks, Marshall Hall, and the Corps Physical Training Facility. During his tenure, the former superintendent was dedicated to an environment of excellence where cadets were provided countless opportunities to develop traits of successful leadership—honor, respect, civility, self-discipline, and professionalism.” Continue reading

Dissident Alumni Open a New Front in the Higher-Ed Culture Wars

by James A. Bacon

A Saturday meeting of the VMI Alumni Association, convened to elect a new board of directors, broke up in acrimony and confusion. In a series of votes, dissident alumni voted to remove the existing board and replace it with a hybrid slate comprised of some old board members and some new. But association President Sam Stocks declared the votes in violation of the association’s bylaws, and the meeting concluded with no new board being chosen.

The fracas reflects deep divisions within the Virginia Military Institute alumni community since The Washington Post, former Governor Ralph Northam, and the Northam-instigated Barnes & Thornburg report declared VMI guilty of “systemic racism.” The Northam-anointed superintendent, Cedric Wins, is implementing recommendations of the report by building up Diversity, Equity & Inclusion programs that some traditionalist alumni fear are antithetical to the hallowed Rat Line and Honor Code. Dissident alumni perceive that the VMI Alumni Association has sided with Wins in the ongoing controversies and has not been transparent in its activities.

The aborted Saturday election has significance beyond VMI. Dissident alumni groups — including The Jefferson Council at the University of Virginia and the General’s Redoubt at Washington & Lee University here in Virginia — are organizing around the country. There is a widespread sentiment that established alumni associations have been captured by university administrations, function mainly as fund-raising arms for their institutions, and, as self-perpetuating cliques, are unresponsive to the concerns of conservative alumni.

The effort by dissident VMI alumni to gain control of the VMI alumni association represents a new front in the campus culture wars. This is the first time, to my knowledge, that conservative alumni have ever tried to take control of an association. And, in my estimation, it won’t be the last. Continue reading

African-American Alums Support VMI, General Wins

From left, Phil Wilkerson, Adam Randolph, Harry Gore, Jr. and Richard Valentine were among the first five Black cadets accepted to Virginia Military Institute in September 1968. Photo courtesy of Harry Gore, Jr., published in the Richmond Free Press.

Letter from VMI Senior African American Alumni to the VMI Board of Visitors.

The numerous articles about the Virginia Military Institute, both from alumni and non-alumni, have been troubling to us as Senior African American Alumni (SAAA) [several members of the classes of ’72 to ‘76] of VMI. We have known the Institute to be a premier leadership institution and we have also experienced racial incidents. When wholly considered, VMI is an outstanding institution of higher-learning to which many of us owe a debt of gratitude.

This letter is in support of The Virginia Military Institute and Superintendent MG Cedric Wins, VMI Class of ‘85. As Senior African American Alumni, each of us has immensely benefited from the VMI experience. In 1968, VMI welcomed five African American young men to become part of the Corps of Cadets and to be the first black students. By all accounts, it was successful because VMI prepared for it to be successful. At the end of the previous academic year, the upcoming First-Class was challenged to lead the way for the integration of these “new” students into the Corps of Cadets. They were told, if these five black cadets failed, the First-Class would have failed to do its job.

It has been disappointing to hear that various alumni have downplayed that racial incidents happened. Even more, it has been disheartening to read how certain alumni have questioned the integrity of MG Wins and members of his administration, something unheard of until he was appointed Superintendent. As stated by a member of the SAAA, “for every one distasteful and belittling act that took place when I was there, I could count ten uplifting and enriching things. On the whole, VMI was life-enhancing for me and many others.” Continue reading

Keep CRT Out of VMI

by Carmen Villani, VMI Class of 1976

Governor Glenn Youngkin was elected in large part to remove “inherently divisive concepts” such as Critical Race Theory (CRT). While his Executive Order #1 speaks to “K-12 public education,” his recent speech to the Jefferson Society at the University of Virginia suggested extending the ban to higher education. In South Dakota, Governor Noem just signed into legislation a bill banning mandatory CRT training.

As with other colleges in the Commonwealth, the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) is dealing with the issue of CRT. While VMI officials have denied the existence of CRT on Post (VMI Campus), documents, briefings by former Chief Diversity Officer Dr. Janice Underwood, and the hiring of outside consulting firms with clear ties to CRT suggest otherwise. For those reasons, VMI alumni have initiated a petition calling for Attorney General Jason Miyares to direct the appropriate agency to conduct an investigation into whether the tenets of CRT under the guise of DEI are in fact being woven into the fabric of the VMI Experience. The petition also requests a hold on any DEI contracts until the investigation is completed.

After less than two weeks, the petition has well over 900 supporters. I urge all Virginians opposed to the institutionalizing of divisive concepts in Virginia colleges and universities to join the alumni, cadet parents and grandparents , friends of VMI and military veterans in signing it. To sign the petition click here. Continue reading

DEI Training Comes to VMI

by James A. Bacon

As other Virginia universities rushed to build Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) programs over the past decade, the Virginia Military Institute was long a holdout. In the mythos of the military academy, the infamous Rat Line — an adversarial system that leveled all first-year students and built them back up as cadets — was a great equalizer. It didn’t matter where you came from or how rich your mommy and daddy were, you were a brother Rat.

But American society moved faster than VMI, with historical roots in the ante-bellum South, could evolve. Former Governor Ralph Northam installed a Superintendent and Board of Visitors eager to purge Confederate iconography and embrace Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Now VMI leadership is implementing a DEI plan that includes “diversity” training.

VMI has issued a notice of intent to award the diversity-training contract to NewPoint Strategies, a McLean-based diversity-training firm. (The contract has not been signed yet.) I have not seen a copy of the proposal, but I have reviewed the RFP that it responded to. The RFP provides insight into how VMI under the leadership of Superintendent Cedric T. Wins intends to use DEI to transform the culture of the military academy. Continue reading

No Woke-ism to See Here, Move Along Now: VMI Edition

A correspondent has forwarded to me a communication to all Virginia Military Institute employees from the VMI chief of staff:

The Office of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion would like to offer a voluntary workshop (with certification) for employees who would like to learn more about working with the LGBTQIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, queer, intersex, asexual +) community in a military context. Please read the following link https://modernmilitary.org/portfolio-items/rainbow-shield/ to learn more about what topics are covered in the certification. If you are interested in participating, please complete the survey below; the suspension is Friday, March 11 COB. If there is enough interest will try to have the training in collaboration with W&L.

Thank you in advance for your participation in this survey.

The creation of a bureaucratic machinery for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at VMI came in response to allegations of systemic racism and, to a lesser degree, sexism. It looks like VMI will be treated to the full DEI experience, including LGBTQIA+.

At least the certification is voluntary.


VMI Conflict Now Focused on DEI Implementation

by James A. Bacon

Aside from the occasional Washington Post hit job, the Virginia Military Institute has faded from the daily headlines. But the controversy over race has not diminished in the slightest, and several conflicts are percolating out of public view. For now I’ll settle for outlining the big picture, and I’ll fill in the details in subsequent posts, as I can.

Two things are going on. First, Superintendent Cedric T. Wins and VMI’s Board of Visitors are undertaking to implement the recommendations — or to put it more more accurately, the spirit of the recommendations — of the Barnes & Thornburg report that claimed to have found evidence of systemic racism and sexism at VMI. Second, many alumni are fighting back, and they hope to enlist the help of Governor Glenn Youngkin, who seeks to reorient Virginia’s policies about race away from Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI), with all of its social-justice implications, to Diversity, Opportunity & Inclusion.

VMI leaders, appointed by Governor Ralph Northam, are pursuing a DEI makeover of VMI on two main fronts. The first is a $6.1 million budget request to implement Wins’ “One Corps, One VMI Unifying Action Plan,” by funding 21 new positions and four existing positions. Wins maintains that 12.8% of the request is dedicated to DEI efforts and the rest toward “cadet life, academic support, and competitive salaries for faculty and staff.”

However, VMI alumni have issued a white paper contending that 100% of the budget request is designed to build DEI bureaucracy and related initiatives, and that the Wins team is playing semantic games by suggesting otherwise. The white paper also suggests that the hires go beyond anything actually called for in the Barnes & Thornburg report. The funding request now is in the hands of House and Senate budget conferees. Continue reading

No Clear and Compelling Justification

by Donald Smith

Governor Northam’s November speech to the VMI cadet corps has been widely panned for many reasons. Here I offer a new reason: The speech violated a cardinal principle of American leadership: you must be able to articulate compelling reasons for your decisions and actions.

When Northam spoke to the assembled Corps of Cadets, his previous treatment of VMI hung over his head like a dark cloud. Among the many animosities he had inspired was the banishment of Stonewall Jackson’s statue from Main Post, followed by an assault on the general’s legacy at VMI. Statues are symbols — of people, events or traditions we want to honor. They reflect upon the people who create and honor them — and also on those who tear them down.

With his speech, Northam had a chance to confidently and compellingly explain why Jackson’s statue had to go and why his legacy should be erased from the military academy. Continue reading

Fact Checking Northam’s VMI Speech

In his recent speech to the Virginia Military Institute, Governor Ralph Northam had a lot to say about traditions and practices at the military academy when he attended in the 1970s. He recalled numerous details that supported his narrative about the “appalling” racism that justified his launch of an investigation that wound up confirming his allegation. Thank goodness for the fact- checkers at The Cadet, the Virginia Military Institute’s unsanctioned, independent student newspaper. It turns out that some of what Northam remembers just ain’t so.

The following has been excerpted from the most recent edition of The Cadet. — JAB

Gov. Northam from the Speech: “Shining my shoes and my brass. Straining. Rolling my hay up every day, and my dyke’s. Memorizing the Rat Bible. Pumping out push ups while 3rd classmen looked on with pleasure. Most of all—doing everything I could to avoid being singled out.”

Gov. Northam Statement: “That day was incredibly special for me, as the first VMI graduate to serve as Governor in more than 100 years.”

Fact Check: TRUE Continue reading

Diversity “Training” Coming to VMI

by James A. Bacon

In the waning days of the Northam administration, the Virginia Military Institute has issued a Request for Proposal for “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Consultation and Training.” The due date for submitting proposals is December 14. The period of the contract will extend from the date of the award through June 30, 2023.

The services solicited in the RFP include:

  • DEI training that includes “guidelines, cultural sharing, … bias intervention programs, and DEI language that best fits the VMI community.”
  • Opportunities for individuals to “embrace DEI concepts, explore allyship, and a framework for lifelong learning.”
  • Discussions of cultural and identity oppression in the context of current culture as it relates to VMI.
  • Design and execution of an “organizational DEI cultural assessment” while “understanding the VMI philosophy.”
  • Ongoing DEI support within the ranks of Institute executives.

Continue reading

A Speech Notable for Its Banality, Vanity and Hypocrisy

by William L. Respess

“A hypocrite is the kind of politician who would cut down a redwood tree, then mount the stump and make a speech for conservation.”
Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965), former governor of Illinois and twice unsuccessful democratic candidate for president against Dwight Eisenhower.

I assume most persons aware of the turbulent year that the Virginia Military Institute just transited have also informed themselves of the content of Governor Northam’s speech delivered on the evening of November 15 just past. As an alumnus (class 0f 1961), I expected it likely to be as memorable as his now famous (perhaps “notorious is a better descriptor) letter of October 19, 2020, in which he and a cohort of other Virginia Democrat politicians flayed VMI, his alma mater, with the accusation of “our deep concern about the clear and appalling culture of ongoing structural racism” at the Institute. Burdened with that expectation, I thought reading it would propel me into a state of high dudgeon. It didn’t. Instead, I found the speech to be flaccid and unmemorable. Continue reading

VMI Alumnus Redirects Intended $900,000 Gift

by James A. Bacon

Colleges and universities have long been prone to clashes between strong-willed presidents and prominent alumni. Over the years there have been numerous well-publicized episodes of donors retracting their benefactions after some run-in with the forces of political correctness. But as “wokeness” becomes the prevailing ideology on many college campuses, and as many alumni have decided they’re mad as hell and aren’t going to take it anymore, these episodes are occurring with ever-greater frequency.

One such incident occurred at the Virginia Military Institute in connection with Governor Ralph Northam’s recent speech at the Institute. On Nov. 14, an alumnus sent the following email (bold face in the original) to Superintendent Cedric Wins and other figures in the VMI leadership:

Good evening. I am a 198- [date redacted] VMI graduate. Two requests, please:

  1. Please immediately cancel Ralph Northam’s speech at VMI Monday, 15 November. He’s a disgrace and a woke buffoon. Don’t subject the Corps of Cadets to his lunacy.
  2. If you won’t accommodate request number one above, then please make his talk optional and not mandatory for the Corps of Cadets. Continue reading

An Open Letter to the VMI Corps

by Carter Melton

Ladies and gentlemen of The Corps, greetings. My name is Carter Melton, a history major from Salem who graduated in 1967. For 30 years I was the president and CEO of one of the largest hospitals in Virginia and served two terms on the Virginia Military Institute Board of Visitors.

I know exactly what you’re thinking: “Oh, no… a liberal-arts relic from The Old Corps.”

Please, just hear me out.

Last Monday evening you heard from the Governor of Virginia.

He stood before you and presented himself as a man who had been on the road to Damascus, met Jesus, and had an epiphany of the heart. In fact, he is a politician who got caught with his political pants down and, given the nature of his dilemma, pivoted to a strategy of racial redemption to save his political skin.

As for the Governor’s deep love and affection for VMI, you might want to consider the following: Continue reading

Deciphering the Latest Events at VMI

Cedric Wins

by James A. Bacon

In my past couple of posts about the Virginia Military Institute, I observed that VMI Superintendent Cedric T. Wins and the Board of Visitors have caved into the demands of the Northam administration for transforming the racial climate of the military academy — not just by updating traditions and iconography relating to the Confederacy but hiring a director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, a sign of obeisance to woke orthodoxy. At times I may have conveying the impression that Wins is in the same side of the culture wars as Governor Ralph Northam and Washington Post reporter Ian Shapira, who have done more than anyone to push the VMI-as-racist-hellhole narrative.

We won’t know the degree to which VMI has adopted the premises of wokism until Wins has had time to to carry out his “One Corps – One VMI” action plan.  Wins’ vision for VMI expresses a desire to balance “diversity and inclusion” with, in its words, honor as a way of life, the forging of leaders with character, and building an ethic of competing and winning.

One should not read too much into VMI’s acceptance of Governor Ralph Northam’s request to deliver a speech to the cadets Monday night. The Governor is Virginia’s commander in chief, and to have rejected the request would have been highly irregular for anyone who believes in respecting the chain of command. Meanwhile, it is abundantly clear that VMI regards Washington Post reporter Shapira as a hostile actor. Earlier this week VMI took the step of publishing a transcript of a recent Shapira interview — along with some pointed commentary. Continue reading