VMI superintendent resigns, school officials deny assertion of cultural racism

Virginia News

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — After General J. H. Binford Peay’s resignation as superintendent of Virginia Military Institute, officials continued to deny the existence of widespread racism on campus after the governor announced a probe into allegations detailed in the Washington Post.

Peay’s abrupt departure Monday came one week after Governor Northam and top state officials directed a third-party review of the college.

After a bombshell report from the Post detailing allegations from black cadets, the move was prompted, detailing racist incidents from students and staff at VMI.

Along with its board of visitors president, VMI Communications Director Bill Wyatt pushed back on the notion that VMI racism is pervasive.

“To suggest that there is some sort of systemic racism here at VMI, it’s just unfounded,” Wyatt told a WFXR reporter in Lexington.

One allegation in the Post details a white sophomore threatening to lynch a black first-year student. At the same time, another alleges a faculty member remembered a family member’s membership with the Ku Klux Klan.

“These are incidents, isolated incidents that have happened over the course of three to five years. They have all been investigated by the Institute. Appropriate disciplinary action has been taken against cadets or faculty members who were involved in the matter,” Wyatt added.

Despite this, Peay’s resignation letter says the governor‘s Chief of Staff indicated Northam and other top officials lost confidence in him and hoped he would resign. 

After a tenure of over 17 years, Peay’s replacement, General Robert Moreschi has now been named acting superintendent.

Governor Northam’s office’s statement read in part: “change is overdue at VMI,” saying “diversity is a fundamental commitment.”

Responding to the governor’s initial order for an investigation, VMI’s board of visitors’ president said an investigation was welcome, but systemic racism did not exist on campus.

Northam and state officials asked for the investigation’s preliminary results to wrap up by the end of 2020.

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