The culture at Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia, has once again come under fire, leading the school’s superintendent to issue a warning to all students that he will not tolerate misconduct.
Superintendent Cedric Wins was responding to a Washington Post report featuring more than a dozen women at VMI who described incidents of sexual assault and harassment on social media and an expectation of backlash if they filed complaints.
“The fact that this type of behavior is reported to have come from individuals who have worn the VMI uniform is repugnant,” Wins said in an email to the school’s 1,700 students.
He urged female cadets to feel confident that if they did file complaints, they would not be punished in any way.
“The allegations contained within the story are unacceptable,” Wins said. “No one should be subjected to the type of behavior detailed in the article.”
Wins, a retired U.S. Army major general and 1985 VMI graduate, took over as VMI’s first Black superintendent earlier this year while the school faced allegations of pervasive racism.
In June, Virginia released a five-month independent investigation that found VMI had a “racist and sexist culture.”
The investigation, conducted by the law firm Barnes and Thornburg LLP at the request of the Virginia State Council of Higher Education, found that “institutional racism and sexism are present, tolerated and left unaddressed at VMI.”
Gov. Ralph Northam and other state officials ordered the investigation after reports surfaced of pervasive racism at the school.
The 145-page report said allegations made by students, faculty and alumni were “disturbing” and argued that, unless the school implements comprehensive reform, VMI will “remain a school for white men.”
The latest trouble has led to calls for the school to lose funding. It just received nearly $22 million in state funding for FY 2022.
“I think the threat has to be over their head,” said Democratic Del. Mark Levine. “They must take it seriously.”
In an interview with WTOP, Levine claimed that racism and sexism were “endemic to Virginia Military Institute.”
“If it continues, we shouldn’t be funding it. It’s that simple,” Levine said. “It’s time for VMI to shape up.”
Levine said one thing he would like to see the school do would be to create an independent agency, potentially appointed by the governor, that functions as a safe place for students to report misconduct.
“If the people you are complaining to are the same people who are going to defend the institution and punish you, then it’s not going to be reported,” Levine said. “They’re very brave when survivors come forward in any context and they need a safe place to do so. Clearly VMI is not providing that at the present time.”
VMI is the nation’s oldest state-supported military college.