Ralph Northam announces probe into racism at Virginia Military Institute

Gov. Ralph Northam co-wrote a letter Monday to the Virginia Military Institute ordering an investigation into the school’s “clear and appalling culture of ongoing structural racism.”

“Black cadets at VMI have long faced repeated instances of racism on campus, including horrifying new revelations of threats about lynching, vicious attacks on social media, and even a professor who spoke fondly of her family’s history in the Ku Klux Klan,” the letter states.

The letter was sent to the VMI Board of Visitors President John Boland, and it was co-written and signed by Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, Attorney General Mark Herring and eight state delegates.

The officials plan to fund an investigation via a nonpartisan national organization to review the school’s “culture, policies, practices, and equity in disciplinary procedures.” Preliminary results will be sought before the end of the year to allow time for possible legislative action in the next General Assembly session.

The state’s chief diversity officer and education secretary also will convene with the board at least three times before the end of the year. They will help conduct a review of campus culture best practices and funding and provide support for a diversity plan.

Mr. Northam graduated in 1981 from the nation’s oldest state-funded military college, where he served as president of the Honor Court.

The governor came under fire last year when he said he was in a picture from a 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook that showed one person in black face and the other in a Ku Klux Klan robe. The next day he retracted the statement but said he did wear blackface in 1984 when he entered a dance contest impersonating Michael Jackson.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters