Report finds racial slurs a ‘common experience’ among VMI cadets

Cadets said racial slurs included the n-word

LEXINGTON, Va. – Racial slurs have been a “common experience” among cadets at Virginia Military Institute, according to an interim report conducted by an independent law firm.

The interim report, published by Barnes & Thornburg on March 8, is a little over 100 pages long and details the climate that current and former cadets experienced at VMI. The full report is expected to wrap up by June 1.

According to interviews with current cadets and cadets that have graduated within the past 25 years, it has been a “common experience” to hear racial slurs among cadets, including the n-word.

This investigation comes after a Washington Post article published in December, which revealed that while Black students make up 43% of cadets expelled between the fall of 2017 and the spring of 2020, they make up just 6% of the student body. In a Washington Post article earlier this week, a VMI employee told the paper that Black students at VMI are disproportionately targeted by the school’s student-run Honor Court system.

In the report, a current cadet reported being called the n-word, and a Black cadet who graduated between 2018 and 2021 reported being called the n-word “many times.” Another Black graduate described hearing the n-word used over an audio recording, which was reported, but the cadet who used the racial slur was not punished.

A white cadet who graduated between 2010 and 2013 detailed incidents where cadets who used racial comments were demoted and required to walk penalty tours.

Another white cadet who graduated between 1998 to 2001 said racial slurs were “common” during his time and “absolutely a part of life in the barracks.”

“I think a lot of the findings, while they’re preliminary, they are very disturbing and the investigation needs to continue, it needs to continue unencumbered, and I urge the folks at VMI to cooperate and allow the firm that we retained to do an open and independent investigation,” said Gov. Northam during his press conference on Tuesday.

VMI has released the following statement in response to the report:

VMI is currently reviewing the report, the detailed assertions therein, and the numerous attachments. We continue to cooperate fully with the investigators. We have turned over 44,000 pages of documents and continue to encourage cadets, faculty, staff and alumni to cooperate.

In brief, VMI is deeply troubled by the accounts detailed in the report. Reported allegations of racism and sexual improprieties are immediately investigated by the Institute. If found to be substantiated, action is taken. VMI will, of course, continue to foster a culture where all members of its community are treated with dignity and respect.

Although the investigation began in October, the investigative team said several factors have slowed down the process, including logistical issues interviewing current cadets and VMI’s desire to have school lawyers present at every interview with cadets, alumni or faculty members even if they don’t represent the individual.

The investigative team also said VMI has been hesitant to provide documents, despite reassurance that the school wouldn’t inadvertently violate any federal or state laws.

Investigators said they are still missing “large batches of documents that are essential...”

The report also details that members across the VMI community said discrimination and treatment of female cadets may be more concerning than conditions for racial minorities.

You can read the full report below:

VMI Interim Report by WSLS on Scribd

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