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.

In a related matter, VMI has issued a RFP to hire a diversity training firm. Dissident alumni say that a McLean firm specializing in DEI training, NewPoint Strategies, Inc., has submitted the winning contract and that VMI is days away from signing it. Worried that the training contract is extremely “woke” and diametrically opposed to the direction Youngkin wants higher-ed to go, VMI alumni are frantically trying to reach members of the administration to warn them. If the contract is accepted, it could provide an off-the-shelf training program for any university in Virginia’s public education system that wants to implement it.

The political fault lines at VMI have shifted dramatically. The Washington Post, which ignited the furor over alleged racism in multiple articles a year-and-a-half ago, has pivoted from attacking VMI to making dissident VMI alumni the issue. Relations between Post reporter Ian Shapira and VMI administrators had been so touchy that VMI had taken to recording and publicly posting transcripts of his interviews. But once it was clear that Wins and the Board embraced DEI, Shapira turned his sights on alumni who were fighting to preserve VMI’s core traditions and values.

In a January 28 article, Shapira highlighted a confrontation between VMI alumnus Carmen D. Villani, Jr., an outspoken defender of VMI traditions, and General Wins. Interviewed on WRVA’s John Reid Show, Villani had urged legislators to scrutinize VMI’s $6.1 million budget request and suggested that “critical race theory” had “entered into the VMI realm.”

Wins took the step — highly unusual for a college CEO — of responding publicly and directly to Villani. “VMI’s funding request will pale in comparison to that of the other public colleges in the state,” he wrote on a VMI Facebook page for parents. “You have no understanding of [Diversity, Equity and Inclusion] or what it means, or how much of the funding for DEI is represented in our request.”

Here is how Shapira framed the new dynamic:

Since Wins took the helm of the 182-year-old Lexington campus in November 2020, he has tried to modernize the college’s culture without alienating conservative donors or alumni deeply wedded to VMI’s traditions and history. But 14 months into his tenure, Wins, who graduated from VMI in 1985, is still confronting resistance to change from alumni and students.

Shapira pointed to the Spirit of VMI Political Action Committee as the source of much of the opposition, which includes wealthy alumni who donated to Youngkin. Among those were Thomas “Teddy” Gottwald, Class of 1983, and, Grover Outland III, Class of 1981, both of whom, as Shapira explained it, resigned from the VMI Board of Visitors before it voted to remove the statue of Stonewall Jackson from the grounds. While many Spirit of VMI supporters were distressed by the purge of every trace of Jackson, whom they revered because he was a VMI military hero not because he fought for the Confederacy, they also objected to the portrayal of VMI as a racist institution, resented Northam’s dismissal of J.H. Binford Peay III as superintendent to make way for Wins, and feared for the integrity of the honor code and the Rat Line.

Many wealthy VMI alumni had supported Northam in his bid for Governor, and felt betrayed by the way, as they perceived it, he turned on Peay and VMI after his blackface scandal. Northam had been scheduled to address VMI’s graduation ceremony when the scandal erupted. With Northam’s political survival in question, Peay deemed it prudent to dis-invite him. Peay later invited then-Vice President Mike Pence to speak at the military academy — a move that some criticized at the time as partisan. Many VMI alumni believe that Northam developed a personal grudge against Peay as a result, and that his firing of the VMI superintendent and subsequent decrying of the Governor’s alma mater as a “systemically racist” institution was born of personal pique.

I have been unable to find any evidence to prove or disprove that theory, but the fact remains that many VMI alumni are convinced that the Northam-initiated war against VMI was illegitimate, and that the Barnes & Thornburg report ordered by Northam reached politically ordained conclusions about racism and sexism. These alumni now are determined to prevent the institutionalizing of a DEI regime based on a false premise.

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12 responses to “VMI Conflict Now Focused on DEI Implementation”

  1. beachguy Avatar

    If you are trying to identify the racists in this pitiful saga, start with those who dressed up in blackface.

  2. James McCarthy Avatar
    James McCarthy

    WAPO hit jobs? “No evidence” of Northam’s motives? Wins for Twins? Disgruntled unknown number of alumni? What’s the beef and where is it? Lotsa sound and fury.

  3. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    Just to provide you a budget summary:
    VMI requested about $6.0 million in each year in GF for its One Corps, One VMI program
    Governor’s budget provided that much but split it between new GF and NGF (NGF) usually means fee revenue in higher ed
    House cut the GF approp by about $1 million each year–did not specify what was being cut
    Senate–increased the GF appropriation for One Corps, One VMI by $1.4 million in first year and $1.0 million in second year. With Tommy Norment, a VMI alumnus and strong supporter of the school, being the ranking Republican on Senate Finance and a member of the conference committee, the school usually gets what it asks for.

  4. Jake Spivey Avatar
    Jake Spivey

    VMI’s predicament is the work of its BoV…, and Northam.
    GEN Peay’s 29 July 2020 letter outlining his 5 pillars, must have had BoV review prior to distribution. We don’t/won’t know if the Board counseled for more substantive changes. No matter. For the Institute’s opponents, the changes offered weren’t enough.
    GEN Peay, supposedly, didn’t get along with Ms. Howell who certainly conveyed to him her desire to have Stonewall moved off-post. The BoV must have known this, but they stuck by Peay instead.
    Had they involved themselves more in the issues about race and Title IX when GEN Peay was Superintendent, things might not have evolved to the point that the Roanoke Times and WaPo got involved writing articles about racism at VMI. But, I suspect GEN Peay didn’t tell the BoV the WHOLE story when he briefed the Board at its regular meetings. (That seems to becoming a recurring theme).
    Which of course led to Coonman’s investigation.
    Which led to the aerial simian’ s report.
    So, when the Board of Visitors, all either directly appointed or re-appointed by Coonman, was confronted with the report, something their sponsor as a sitting Board member called for, they simply did the easiest (& most cowardly) thing they could do and “accepted” it.
    No rebuttal. No refutation. Not even a “we’re going to take time to review it.”
    It’s the Board of Visitors as individuals and as a board, that has failed VMI.
    We can also blame the citizens of the Commonwealth for electing two of the worst governors the state has experienced, McAuliffe & Northam.
    The former, a scam artist (see Jim’s multi-post expose on McAwful and electric cars), the latter a physician-idiot.
    Had the doc been honest (“I made a mistake in my youth) or resigned, VMI probably wouldn’t be in its these straits. Instead, ‘ol shoe polish-face used the power of the Governor’s office for his own racial reputation rehabilitation.

    Anyone think VMI is better or improved now? Think it’s alumni base, who it counts on for a significant sector of its annual funding, is happy?
    Allegedly, Coonman was persuaded to remain in office by some non-BoV, VMI alumni. If true, those alumni carry an exceptionally heavy burden, greater than the Board’s members, for encouraging the fool stay in office.

    Look what the fool hath wrought.

  5. walter smith Avatar
    walter smith

    CRT comes to VMI…all as penance for Governor Coonman Blackface, because, give the Marxists credit, never let a good crisis go to waste.
    There is a closed loop of indoctrination of Marxist thought from the academy and our government funding and student loans and student loan forgiveness for “working” for a “non-profit” to advocate for more government spending and funding…
    Here is the website for the VMI “training” –
    Please note it is a “women-owned” business. What this means is under the huge federal teat that is NoVa, this company gets preference to spread its indoctrination (and it is indoctrination and in noxious ideas).
    I have a better idea – try the Golden Rule. And that is free.
    You do not erase racism by engaging in racism. You do not erase sexism by engaging in sexism (and that is a stupid concept, but third wave feminism is stupid, sorry for all you people insisting that a man needs menstrual supplies after “transitioning”). Men and women are…different! Vive le difference!
    I looked at Purdue’s website – it says diversity and inclusion. I couldn’t find equity running through it like at our illustrious Commonwealth schools…
    “Equity” is about “equal” results, measured by racial composition, which is explicitly racist. Except for sports teams…

    1. James McCarthy Avatar
      James McCarthy

      Equity in the dictionary is the character of being fair and impartial. Application of those two criteria can produce results that are not perfectly equal but acceptable. Scattering disjointed buzz words like Marxism, CRT, and the like contribute zero to the discussion however satisfying they are on the keyboard.

      1. walter smith Avatar
        walter smith

        And the language in all the CRT/DEI mumbledy bumbledy is written to obscure and is purposefully deceitful. Shall I send you UVA’s culturally responsive training to see if you can make any sense of it?
        No one objects to the concept of “equity” which used to be actually believed in as equality under the law. As used by Marxists, it means equality of outcomes based on superficial racial or other organizing characteristics in service of our power dynamic. I am marginalized and demand equity! I’m left-handed! I’m a hated white male! The problem with racialism applied to “equity” is that it is explicitly racist. But to the true believers on the Left, to say all lives matter or content of character is “racist.” Welcome to NewSpeak…

        1. James McCarthy Avatar
          James McCarthy

          What is being obscured and deceitful? Your interpretation of equality under Marxism? Too many conservatives feel marginalized and offer mumbledy bumbledy as substantial criticism “in service of our power dynamic.” Good grief, Robin!!

          1. walter smith Avatar
            walter smith

            You know very well and object only because people are paying attention. The innocent sounding words, good things in reality, are evil as practiced.

  6. Eric the half a troll Avatar
    Eric the half a troll

    “I have been unable to find any evidence to prove or disprove that theory…”

    “…but I’m not going to let that stop me from publishing and promoting it.”

  7. Bob X from Texas Avatar
    Bob X from Texas

    CRT and “Departments of Equity and Inclusion “ are repackaged Bolshevik ideas from the 1930’s.
    Stalin and Chairman Mao are very proud of Ralph Northam.

  8. Bob X from Texas Avatar
    Bob X from Texas

    CRT and “Departments of Equity and Inclusion “ are repackaged Bolshevik ideas from the 1930’s.
    Stalin and Chairman Mao are very proud of Ralph Northam.

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