There continues to be fall out at the Virginia Military Institute, following the resignation last week of the school’s superintendent, Army Gen. J.H. Binford Peay III.
Peay, 80, stepped down from the post amid “ongoing structural racism” at the college.
John William Boland, president of the school’s Board of Visitors called Peay a “great American, patriot and hero,” who “profoundly changed our school for the better in all respects.”
But there were problems that surfaced and continued on Peay’s watch. These problems were chronicled in The Washington Post, leading political leaders—including Virginia’s Gov. Ralph Northam—who graduated from VMI, to call for an investigation. More than a dozen Black cadets and alumni recounted the horrors of facing racism, including lynching threats and a white professor talking in class about her father’s membership in the Ku Klux Klan.
“It is outrageous that this behavior was able to go on for so long unchecked,” said Kenneth Parker, a higher education expert who researches issues of diversity and inclusion at colleges and universities. “It is hard for me to believe that no administrator at the school was unaware of these complaints before they hit the media. There has to be a thorough investigation about who knew what and when.”
Boland said that the school’s top priority is to find a new superintendent to lead the Lexington, Virginia public institution that boasts an enrollment of about 1,700 students.
“The Board of Visitors must immediately turn its attention to the search for our new superintendent. In doing so, we will stay focused on our mission of preparing citizen-soldiers from all walks of life,” said Boland. “I ask that our alumni remain focused on the positive mission and support the Institute and Board as we secure a future in which the Institute continues to contribute in unique and vital ways to our nation and state.”
But at least one student who was considering enrolling into VMI told Diverse Military that he is planning instead to attend another institution.
“The stories and the constant racism that Black cadets had to face is too much for anyone to bear,” the student said. “What they detailed in graphic detail indicates to me that there is a culture of racism that exists at VMI. And to be honest, I am not sure that culture can be fixed overnight or with the Board of Visitors simply deciding to hire a new Superintendent. I think radical changes have to be made.”