Virginia Military Institute Superintendent Resigns After School Faces Racism Allegations

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Virginia Military Institute (VMI) Superintendent Gen. J.H. Binford Peay III resigned from his position Monday, reportedly after the school faced allegations of racism and a probe from Democratic state Gov. Ralph Northam.

Allegations of racism from more than a dozen former and current students of color surfaced since Peay began serving as superintendent in 2003, according to the Washington Post. (RELATED: Military School Won’t Take Down Confederate Statues)

The Washington Post reported in October that a black student had filed a complaint after a white professor reminisced about her father’s membership in the Ku Klux Klan during class, allegedly telling students that “KKK parties were the best parties ever.” The professor still teaches at VMI, according to the report. During “Hell Week” in 2018, a white sophomore was reportedly suspended after telling a black freshman that he would “lynch” his body and use his “dead corpse as a punching bag,” per the same report.

Peay told the Washington Post that “there is no place for racism or discrimination at VMI” and “any allegation of racism or discrimination will be investigated and appropriately punished, if substantiated.”

“I sought out the experiences of our alumni and tried to understand this notion that some cadets – because of the color of their skin – had a different VMI experience than others,” he said.

VMI was the last public college in Virginia to admit black students. The school integrated in 1968 and began letting women attend after a 1996 Supreme Court decision written by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

Northam, who graduated from VMI in 1981, ordered an independent investigation into the school after the Post’s story was published. In 2020, VMI received $19 million in state funding, according to the Washington Post.

The governor and other state officials said that they had “deep concerns about the clear and appalling structure of ongoing structural racism” at VMI, the Post reported.

“Systematic racism does not exist here and a fair and independent review will find that to be true,” VMI Board of Visitors President John Boland reportedly said in a reply to Northam. Peay also said in an email to the VMI community last week that systematic racism does not exist at VMI, per the Post.

Peay said in a Monday statement that “the Governor and certain legislative leaders had lost confidence” in his leadership, prompting his resignation.

“It has been the honor of my life to be the Superintendent of VMI for over seventeen years,” Peay said. “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.”

Brig. Gen. Robert “Bob” Moreschi, the school’s deputy superintendent for academics and dean of faculty, will serve as acting superintendent according to VMI’s website.