The Virginia Military Institute, the oldest state military college in the United States, will not remove any Confederate monuments or rename any buildings that are dedicated to Confederate leaders. VMI also announced that the school will change certain traditions and place an emphasis on attracting a diverse faculty and student body.
Retired Army Gen. J.H. Binford Peay III, the Virginia Military Institute’s superintendent, announced that the school would keep the Confederate statues that are currently on campus and they will not rename any buildings.
“We do not currently intend to remove any VMI statues or rename any VMI buildings,” Peay wrote in a seven-page letter that was released this week. “Rather, in the future we will emphasize recognition of leaders from the Institute’s second century.
“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,” Peay said. “It is not to in anyway condone racism, much less slavery.
“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,” Peay wrote. “It is also very clear that the VMI community consists of passionate individuals with deeply held beliefs.”
“Some of our African American cadets and alumni have expressed that parts of the VMI experience did not live up to the standards that it should have, and I am committed to addressing and fixing any areas of racial inequality at our school,” Peay said.
“Enhance recruiting, especially among marginalized youth, and meet the need for a more diverse faculty and staff,” the letter to the VMI community stated.
The Virginia Military Institute, which was founded in 1839, has a statue of Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson on campus. The Confederate general, who owned six slaves, taught at VMI. He was a professor of Natural and Experimental Philosophy and instructor of artillery at VMI from 1851 until 1861 when he went to fight for the Confederacy in the Civil War.
Multiple buildings are named after Jackson and other alumni and faculty who fought for the Confederacy.
VMI rolled out a plan to “retain the foundation of values and principles set in the Institute’s early years,” but the school “will shift the emphasis and celebrations to our remarkable history of our second century.”
“The tall and massive parade ground flagpoles will be re-centered on New Barracks; this will change the symbolic focus from General Jackson and Old Barracks, and signals VMI’s move to the future,” the letter read.
The Lexington-based school is relocating its cadet oath ceremony to school grounds. Previously, the ceremony was held on the New Market Battlefield, which is where 10 VMI cadets died fighting for the Confederacy.
Every Virginia Military Institute cadet will be required to take a course called “American Civic Experience,” which will “emphasize American history and civics within the context historically of national and world events, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and slavery.”
“We anticipate hiring a respected scholar to occupy a new academic chair that will further the development of this curriculum,” Peay said. “The new course will also provide the framework for advanced elective courses offered on the African American Experience, 19th Century South Africa, and Africa in Pre- and Modern Times.”
Author: Paul Sacca