Superintendent of Virginia Military Institute resigns following accusations of ‘relentless racism’

General J. H. Binford Peay III announced his resignation after 17 years at VMI

LEXINGTON, Va. – The superintendent of Virginia Military Institute has resigned after state officials ordered a probe into allegations of “relentless racism” at the school, detailed in a Washington Post story.

General J. H. Binford Peay III announced his resignation on Monday after 17 years at Virginia Military Institute.

Gov. Ralph Northam co-wrote a letter last Monday with other state officials and lawmakers to the state-supported school’s Board of Visitors expressing “deep concerns about the clear and appalling culture of ongoing structural racism” at VMI. The letter said the state will fund an independent probe into the school’s culture, policies, practices and equity in disciplinary procedures, the Post reported.

Here’s the full letter from General Peay sent to John Boland, president of the VMI Board of Directors:

"On Friday, 23 October 2020, the Governor’s Chief of Staff conveyed that the Governor and certain legislative leaders had lost confidence in my leadership as Superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute and desired my resignation. Therefore, effective today, 26 October 2020, I hereby resign.

It has been the honor of my life to be the Superintendent of VMI for over seventeen years. I always have and always will love the Institute, all of our cadets, alumni and the entire VMI family. Pamela and I pass on our best wishes for the future, and will be cheering you on with great admiration and fondness as your work continues to serve the nation so well."

Below is the full statement from Boland:

"Today, our Superintendent tendered his resignation to the Board of Visitors. We accepted it with deep regret.

General Peay has served VMI as superintendent exceptionally well for more than 17 years. General Peay is a great American, patriot, and hero. He has profoundly changed our school for the better in all respects.

General Peay and his wife Pamela serve as a model of dedicated service to our nation and the Commonwealth.

We wish them well in their future endeavors.

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. 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."

Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax released the following statement on Monday:

“We must break with the past and chart a different future for VMI and for all of the Commonwealth’s institutions — a future that is finally free of racism and welcoming to all. The departure of one person does not fix a systemic problem we must confront in a comprehensive manner.”

We can not continue to pretend that racism directed at African American cadets are singular incidents disconnected from a culture of longstanding systemic racism.” He added: “We must face the challenges of systemic racism in an honest way to defeat an unjust past and forge a new and inclusive future that is welcoming for all. VMI must prioritize this mission.

The symbols of, and reverence for, the confederacy and the well-documented culture of racial discrimination and oppression that have long been perpetuated at VMI and other institutions can not continue to be publically funded.

Just as I have protested honoring “Stonewall” Jackson and Robert E. Lee in the Senate of Virginia and as monuments to the confederacy and the “Lost Cause” are being removed from our Commonwealth’s common public square, we must take a bold stand to create real, lasting change.

We should not be allocating $19 million annually to a VMI that steadfastly refuses to change at a time when lower income students and diverse communities are refused free lunches and adequate educational opportunities. The “living monuments” to the confederacy must come down just like their bronze and stone counterparts.

As noted by Governor Wilder and others, this intolerable situation has gone on too long. If the symbols of racism and the culture they encourage at VMI are not removed by the time I take office in 2022, they will be during my Administration."

Virginia Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy, who graduated from VMI, had this to say when asked by 10 News:

“Now is the time to come together to reimagine the future of the Institute, which has a valuable role to play in shaping leaders equipped to handle 21st century challenges. I look forward to being a part of that process, and doing whatever I can to help VMI produce leaders that center diversity, inclusion, integrity and respect.”

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