Posted on February 22, 2023

Oldest US Military College Breaks Out in Chaos as Former Students Launch Online Warfare Against Its First Black Superintendent

Keith Griffith, Daily Mail, February 22, 2023

The oldest senior military college in the US has found itself embroiled in a very modern form of cultural warfare, after a group of alumni organized a campaign furiously protesting the school’s recent diversity push.

The controversy at the Virginia Military Institute has been simmering since October 2020, when then-Governor Ralph Northam ordered a probe into reports of widespread racism at the institution, and the school’s board voted to remove a Confederate statue on campus.

In a twist of fate, the two sides in the VMI culture war are led by ‘brother rats’, as VMI classmates are known, who both graduated from the college in 1985, according to a Washington Post report on Tuesday.

The belligerents are retired Army Major General Cedric T. Wins, 59, who is VMI’s first black superintendent, and Matt Daniel, 60, a white former Marine who founded a PAC dubbed ‘Spirit of VMI’ that has launched ads and lobbying efforts opposing Wins’ diversity push.

‘Reject the woke assault on VMI, close ranks,’ one of the PAC’s websites states, adding: ‘We stand for a strong VMI with a proud history and a bright future.’

The PAC has lashed out at Wins and the VMI board, questioning its decision to award him a $100,000 bonus, on top of his $656,000 annual salary, after the school suffered a 25 percent drop in freshman enrollment.

Spirit of VMI has also posted cartoons mocking Wins, who appointed the college’s first chief diversity officer.

VMI is one of six US senior military colleges, the state-run institutions designated by federal law to offer military Reserve Officers’ Training Corps programs.

Founded in 1839, VMI became a key source of Confederate officers during the Civil War, and did not admit black cadets until 1968, or women until 1997.

The college remains majority white, and majority male, with black students making up about 8 percent of the 1,500 cadets, and women accounting for 13.5 percent.

In October 2020, a Post article alleging ‘relentless racism’ at VMI prompted Northam to order the state probe into the allegations.

Days later, VMI’s Board of Visitors ordered the removal of a statue of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson from the campus, and the following month the board appointed Wins as temporary superintendent, later making the appointment permanent.

Wins was tasked with leading VMI through a turbulent time, leading the response to the state-ordered probe, which came out in June of 2021 and found that the school tolerated and failed to address institutional racism and sexism.

Initially, his former classmate Daniel was publicly supportive of Wins, writing an encouraging note in the alumni magazine that said: ‘If there was ever a leader to take the helm and navigate VMI through such odd and dark, shark-infested waters, it is Cedric Wins.’

But as Wins has overseen reforms such as the removal of Confederate emblems from campus, and hired consultants on diversity, equity and inclusion to advise the college, he has faced the wrath of Daniel’s Spirit of VMI PAC.

‘Often described broadly as a form of political correctness, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) is a Marxist doctrine at the center of the malignancy of identity politics,’ the group said in a statement earlier this month.

‘Akin to a pervasive cancer that seemingly overnight has metastasized across the country, DEI sows division, destruction, and discord where ever it has been allowed to fester,’ the PAC added.

Wins has rarely responded directly to the group’s allegations, but he did take to Facebook in a rare post last year, slamming a VMI alum who accused to school of being overrun by critical race theory.

‘That is categorically false,’ wrote Wins. ‘We are moving forward, forward-focused, with the bedrock of Institute fundamentals defended and even brighter days ahead, with all that is essential intact and the continuing to produce citizen-soldiers.’

In December 2020, Wins issued a statement defending the removal of the Stonewall Jackson statue, which was moved to be displayed in the New Market Battlefield State Historical Park.

‘It is an understatement to say the relocation of the statue has evoked strong opinions on both sides of the issue,’ said Wins.

‘VMI does not define itself by this statue and that is why this move is appropriate,’ he added. ‘Though change can sometimes be difficult, it is time for our beloved Institution to move forward, to strengthen our unique system of education and training, and grow the leaders of tomorrow.’

Davis Estes, a close friend of Wins who also ran track with Daniel and attended his wedding, told the Post that he believes Daniel and the PAC are unnecessarily demonizing equity.

‘In my estimation, the PAC’s long-term fear is that VMI will no longer cater primarily to young white males, and white male enrollment will decline and be overshadowed by minority and female matriculation,’ said Estes, 59, a black former financial adviser.

‘They will promote DEI and any cultural changes the superintendent fosters as critical race theory and as the boogeyman poised to destroy VMI,’ he said. ‘They will utilize conservative print and radio media to promote their fight against change and maintain themselves as victims.’

In the summer of 2021, an independent law firm issued its findings into a probe of racism allegations at VMI, undertaken on Northam’s order.

The report stated that ‘racial slurs and jokes are not uncommon’ and ‘contribute to an atmosphere of hostility toward minorities.’

Among other findings, the report found that a racial disparity exists among cadets who have been dismissed by the school´s student-run honor court. Cadets of color represent 23 percent of the corps but make up 41 percent of those dismissed since 2011.

The report also said that sexual assault is prevalent yet inadequately addressed at the nation´s oldest state-supported military college. A survey found that 14 percent of female cadets reported being sexually assaulted, while 63 percent said that a fellow cadet had told them that he or she was a victim of sexual assault.

‘The racist and misogynistic acts and outcomes uncovered during this investigation are disturbing,’ the report states. ‘Although VMI has no explicitly racist or sexist policies that it enforces, the facts reflect an overall racist and sexist culture.’

The report said the state should require VMI to submit quarterly reports on diversity and inclusion efforts, adding that VMI ‘will likely follow through on its promised reforms only if it is forced to do so.’

Wins responded at the time that the school has already been moving toward becoming more inclusive and welcoming.

Wins added that he developed an action plan following ‘deep dives’ into VMI’s policies that will help to better unify cadets.

‘And so now it’s up to us to take the report, along with our Board of Visitors, and look at it and understand what the recommendations are,’ Wins told The Associated Press during a phone interview. ‘And we’ll certainly have conversations with state agencies … and chart a path in terms of the direction that we need to go.’

VMI was founded in 1839 in Lexington, a historic town in western Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. The school educated Generals George Patton and George Marshall.

In anticipation of the report’s release, VMI highlighted recent diversity and inclusion efforts earlier in 2021.

They’ve included forming a committee focused on diversity, equity and inclusion. The school also hired its first chief diversity officer and created a cadet-led cultural awareness training program.

The school said that enrollment of cadets of color rose from 12.7 percent in 1992 to 23.4 percent in 2020, and that people of color make up 11 percent of full-time, tenure-track faculty members.

VMI also said it is one of the highest producers of minority commissioned officers in the US military.

VMI also pushed back against some of the news coverage, saying: ‘(W)hatever work lies before us – the ‘clear and appalling culture’ of ongoing institutional racism attributed to us at the outset of this investigation is simply inaccurate.’