Virginia Military Institute accepts third-party investigation in allegations of a culture of racism

Virginia Military Institute accepts third-party investigation in allegations of a culture of racism

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Virginia Governor Ralph Northam is hopeful a third-party investigation can root out allegations of racism at Virginia Military Institute.

“These allegations are something that we all need to take very seriously,” said Northam.

The allegations stem from a Washington Post article about repeated instances of racism at VMI, including lynching threats against Black cadets and attacks on social media.

Northam sent a letter this week to the school’s board of directors calling for an independent review of the institution’s culture, policies and equity in disciplinary procedures.

About 8% of VMI’s 1,700 students are Black. The governor wants preliminary results by the end of the year.

“We thought it best to have a third-party, an independent group come in and really look at the culture of VMI and then offer their observances, and offer recommendations on how we can move forward,” said Northam.

In a letter to the governor Tuesday, VMI’s Board of Directors accepted Northam’s directive on the investigation but noted that some of the article’s allegations were “years old” and had to do with “an individual’s lapse of judgment.”

The statement goes on to say, “systemic racism does not exist here and a fair and independent review will find that to be true.”

The statement also points out VMI was already looking at these issues through a review of 30 operational elements including traditions, ceremonies and culture. The school’s board of visitors came up with that plan forward last month.

“We want to make sure that VMI, as well as all schools in Virginia, are inclusive and they’re welcoming and that our students feel comfortable being on the campus,” said Northam.

The school currently receives about $19 million in state funding each year. Northam is threatening that funding if the school doesn’t change.

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