The superintendent of Virginia Military Institute’s superintendent said that the school won’t remove Confederate statues nor rename any buildings named after Confederate leaders.
The announcement comes amid ongoing calls for institutions to rename buildings after individuals who held racist beliefs.
The school’s superintendent Ret. Gen. J.H. Bindford Peay III acknowledged that some of the college’s African American cadets and alumni have expressed that parts of the VMI experience did not live up to their standards, but added that the school remains committed to diversity and inclusion.
“First and foremost, I believe we all agree we want to erase any hint of racism at VMI, in our communities, and in our country. It is also very clear that the VMI community consists of passionate individuals with deeply held beliefs,” he wrote in a letter defending his decision. “Throughout the years, the primary focus on honoring VMI’s history has been to celebrate principles of honor, integrity, character, courage, service, and selflessness of those associated with the Institute. It is not to in anyway condone racism, much less slavery”, he added.
Peay says that a statue of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson that sits on the campus will remain. Jackson was a professor of Natural and Experimental Philosophy & Instructor of Artillery from August 1851 before the Civil War began.
Another statue is the New Market Monument, which honors the VMI cadets that fought in that battle. A third statue honors Francis H. Smith, the school’s first superintendent. Smith served as a colonel in the Confederate army.