Tag Archives: Virginia Military Institute

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

Principled Leader or Pandering Politician?

by Carmen Villani

As a Virginia Military Institute graduate and former [resident of the Honor Court, I find the remarks made by the Governor of Virginia Monday night before the Corps of Cadets appalling. I do not mention him by name intentionally because I believe that he has placed “personal gain above personal honor.”

On full display was a pandering politician, instead of a principled leader. He spoke of his “pride” and “love” for VMI,  yet his October 19, 2020, letter to the VMI Board of Visitors started with: “We write to express our deep concerns about the clear and appalling culture of ongoing structural racism at the Virginia Military Institute.”

As VMI graduates, we are called upon to “defend” and “vindicate,” not “throw the Institute under the bus.” Continue reading

In Speech to Cadets, Northam Defends His Treatment of VMI

Photo credit: WBDJ TV

by James A. Bacon

A year after denouncing the “clear and appalling culture of ongoing structural racism” at his alma mater the Virginia Military Institute, Governor Ralph Northam extended an olive branch of sorts. Delivering a speech last night to VMI’s 1,700 cadets, he offered praise of the Institute while also justifying measures he took to transform it in line with his vision of diversity and inclusion.

“We have a strong and thriving Virginia — a Commonwealth that opens its arms to people from around the world. The diversity that we’ve embraced in Virginia makes us stronger,” Northam said. “You will be out in this world, and no matter where you go — the military, or to a private sector job — you are going to encounter a wide variety of people, of all faiths and backgrounds.”

Implicit in those remarks is that VMI was a racist institution until the installation of new leadership in the past year. While Northam tactfully did not call VMI racist in his speech, he did allude to the flying of the Confederate flag, the playing of “Dixie,” and the glorification of the Lost Cause 44 years ago when he was a cadet.

Since then, Northam said, he has come to understand “what a large and diverse world we live in” and he has learned the importance of “diversity, being inclusive, being welcoming, and treating people fairly and with dignity.”

It is not immediately evident from the text of the speech what Northam was hoping to accomplish. My take is that Northam has residual feelings of loyalty to the Institute, which he credited with giving him a “world-class” education, and that he was trying to make peace with a community that he angered with his sweeping denunciations and heavy-handed tactics. Without waiting for the results of the investigation last year, he forced the resignation of the previous superintendent, J.H. Binford Peay III. He also installed a Board of Visitors willing to accelerate the removal of Confederate statues and iconography from the “post,” as the campus is known, and enact a progressive “diversity” agenda, such as hiring a chief diversity officer. Continue reading

Northam to Address VMI

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. Continue reading

VMI, Recognize Binnie Peay’s Distinguished Service

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

Understanding the Jackson Statue Controversy

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

VMI, Media Bias, and Lies by Omission

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

VMI, Character and the Blessings of God

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

Extirpation of Memory

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

All Equal. All the Same. Structured and Systemic.

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

VMI Alumni PAC Endorses GOP Ticket

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

VMI Officer Commissions Among Minorities

Pseudo Shame at VMI

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

Disrespecting Stonewall Jackson Dishonors All Those Who Fought Under Him

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