LEXINGTON, Va. – After months of debate, VMI’s Board of Visitors voted Thursday afternoon to move the college’s Stonewall Jackson statue.
Director of Communications and Marketing, Bill Wyatt, said that VMI will move it from “the front of the historic barracks to an appropriate location, perhaps the Battlefield at New Market.” The administration will handle the orderly movement of the statue.
“The board should consider addressing social issues, and that’s what we are here to address today," said J. William Boland, the VMI Board of Visitors president, during the meeting.
Back in July, the military college’s superintendent, Ret. Gen. J.H. Bindford Peay III, announced the decision to not remove any of the school’s Confederate statues.
The Board’s decision comes after Peay’s resignation on Monday after 17 years at the college.
The campus currently has statues of Stonewall Jackson and Francis J. Smith, who both served in the Confederate army, as well as a New Market Monument, which honors the VMI cadets who fought at the Battle of New Market for the Confederacy.
Along with moving the Confederate statue, the board of visitors wants to implement more actions to increase the school’s diversity. They plan on creating a permanent diversity office, establish a building and naming committee, creating diversity initiatives to include a focus on gender and direct the adoption of VMI hiring practices and a diversity hiring plan.
Board Vice President Richard Hines said the public has misperceived what the statue represents, and that misperception does not reflect VMI’s values.
“That we are now nothing more than a bigoted crowd with a cancerous coupled connection to the Confederacy. That myth must be eradicated," said Hines.
The board recommended considering some of VMI graduate and Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy’s recommendations to improve the institute. They include a single sanction policy for racism, sexism and bullying, which means that any student who violates that policy would be expelled.
However, Boland expressed concerns that these changes could negatively impact the school’s mission.
“It has to be held up against our adversative model of education. The Rat system, the Dyke system, the regimental system, the class system and everything that we know about and see what impact, if any, it’s going to have on that because those two aspects are what make us VMI. And we need to be extremely protective and careful of those while advancing the interests of social justice that we are attempting to do today,” said Boland.
Board Member the Honorable Joe Reeder wanted to ensure the policy would be defined and discretions would evaluated and punished justly.
“There are degrees. Some could call some thing bullying and we ought to make sure that we don’t rubber stand a one-shoe-fits all," said Reeder.
The board also discussed launching a dashboard to evaluate the diversity of cadets, staff and applicants to direct VMI’s hiring and recruiting process.
Lastly, the board appointed member Gene Scott, a black man, to head up the search committee for the next superintendent. Boland asked the board to submit their desired qualifications for the next superintendent to Scott within the next 10 days. The process of finding a replacement superintendent could take about five months.