LEXINGTON, Va. – Statues and buildings scatter the Virginia Military Institute (VMI), commemorating those who fought for the south during the Civil War.
VMI does not plan to erase any physical symbols of the Confederacy. However, institute leaders plan to take action to address and fight racism.
VMI Director of Communications and Marketing, Col. Bill Wyatt, said the military college can’t erase its past and doesn’t want to.
“We can’t undo our history,” said Wyatt. “VMI does not define itself by our statues or by any of the things that we have on Post. Rather, VMI defines itself by its values: the honor, the integrity, leadership, and civility.”
Instead, VMI plans to relocate flags that are centered around the Stonewall Jackson monument to the monument dedicated to Gen. George Marshall Jr., who won a Nobel Peace Prize for creating the Marshall Plan.
The institute will also accentuate the Daniels Courtyard, which is named after civil rights hero Jonathon Daniels. He was shot and killed while saving an African American teenager’s life.
VMI will expand an annual parade to honor all of VMI’s fallen, not just those who died during a key Civil War battle.
The college will launch a new class, called “American Civil Experience” and teach Virginia history from multiple perspectives and with proper context.
Cadets will go through new leadership and diversity training. VMI would also like to recruit more diverse students and teachers.
“Underserved populations,” said Wyatt. “We want to be able to recruit faculty, qualified faculty and diversify the faculty, as well.”
In a letter, VMI Superintendent Ret. Gen. J.H. Binford Peay III wrote: “We will learn from the past and take the best from our predecessors in shaping our cadet citizen-soldiers for today and tomorrow.”
“There’s no place for racism or discrimination at VMI. There never has been,” said Wyatt.
These changes will be built upon and implemented this fall.