The Resistance Gathers: VMI Edition

by James A. Bacon

A group of Virginia Military Institute alumni have created a political action committee, The Spirit of VMI, to raise money to support political candidates who are friendly to the preservation of VMI institutions and traditions.

“Our mission and objectives are to stop the decay of VMI caused by outside legislative influence,” declares the Spirit of VMI website. The unpaid organizers behind the PAC will consult with “seasoned politicians and operatives” on how to spend the funds it raises. “We have a long way to go, but have a pretty strong start.”

In its own words, the group is dedicated to protecting the following:

  • The VMI honor code
  • The education of young women and men
  • The regimental system (VMI’s leadership system)
  • The class system (the foundational system building camaraderie and lifelong friendships among VMI years/classes)
  • The VMI ratline (the crucible for all freshmen)

VMI alumnus Matt Daniel discusses the thinking behind the PAC in an interview with WRVA’s John Reid. He makes it clear that the wave of negative publicity engendered by The Washington Post and the racism investigation ordered by Governor Ralph Northam were the impetus behind the group’s formation.

Northam, a VMI alumnus himself, struck a nerve when he joined state legislators in decrying the “clear and appalling culture of ongoing structural racism” at VMI in a letter to the college’s board of visitors. Some VMI alumni, said Daniel, felt “betrayed.” Many VMI alumni who had supported Northam in his run for governor now feel “buyer’s remorse.”

While conceding that there may have been “isolated cases” of racism of the type that could occur anywhere, Daniel told Reid he saw no sign of “systemic racism” when he attended the military academy in the 1980s. The military culture there is “equally hard on everyone.”

Bacon’s bottom line: The alumni rebellion is growing. Alumni are sick and tired of how Leftists are destroying the traditions and standards of their cherished alma maters. While Washington & Lee alumni with the Generals Redoubt and University of Virginia alumni with The Jefferson Council are focusing internally — working inside the system, engaging with the university presidents and boards — The Spirit of VMI is the first to get actively involved in electoral politics. The VMI group acknowledges the reality that changes on campus are being driven increasingly by outside forces.

Once upon a time, Virginia’s higher-ed system was thought of as highly decentralized. Each institution had its own governing body and was given extensive latitude to handle its own internal affairs, subject to limited oversight by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV). But the Northam administration is dictating a “diversity, equity & inclusion” agenda based on the premise that Virginia’s colleges and universities are “systemically racist.”

The investigation into VMI is the spear tip of the assault. Northam’s entourage essentially wrote the RFP and selected a firm dedicated to fight against racial injustice. The law firm hired to conduct that investigation, Barnes & Thornburg, has been instructed (a) to compare VMI to other public Virginia colleges and universities, and (b) to submit recommendations for change. Many VMI alumni believe that the investigation will find what it wants to find. Alumni of other institutions should worry that “remedies” applied to VMI will be foisted upon their alma maters as well.