White alumni battle Black superintendent over school’s diversity efforts

Diversity is a focus at the Virginia Military Institute under the school's leader, Army Maj. Cedric T. Wins.

One of the country’s military academies is under fire from conservative former students who are trying to derail a push for diversity from the school’s new leader.

Virginia Military Institute (VMI) announced the appointment of retired Army Maj. Cedric T. Wins on April 25, 2021. Wins named “diversity and inclusion” as one of his five areas of focus for the university.

“VMI must ensure that every cadet, regardless of race, gender, religion, or nationality, feels a part of the VMI legacy,” read a statement, attributed to Wins, published by the university. 

Some alumni don’t agree. The Washington Post reported that older, white alumni are upset with Wins, who is Black. VMI, in late February, hired a company to provide diversity, equity, and inclusion training at the university. 

But Carmen D. Villani, a white 1976 graduate, started an online petition asking the state’s attorney general to stop the contract pending an investigation by the state, the Post reported. Villani wants the state to determine whether VMI teaches critical race theory or other “divisive concepts,” which are already banned for certain educational institutions in the state, according to the Post.

He has also urged Virginia lawmakers to take another look at a $6.1 million funding request for, among other things, diversity offices.

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin banned critical race theory in K-12 education and removed the word “equity” from state websites. He even ordered the Department of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to be renamed the Department of Diversity, Opportunity, and Inclusion.

Villani’s actions prompted a blistering response from Wins, who said he had never commented on a Facebook post.

“You advised the (radio) listeners to urge the members of the General Assembly to ‘look very seriously’ at VMI’s funding request, a request you have no understanding about,” Wins said in the Facebook post.

“VMI’s funding request will pale in comparison to that of the other public colleges in the state. You have no understanding of DEI or what it means, or how much of the funding for DEI is represented in our request,” he said.

The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia commissioned a report, released in June 2021, to examine VMI’s culture. The report concluded the university has a history of racism and sexism.

“This investigation found that institutional racism and sexism are present, tolerated, and left unaddressed at VMI. The racist and misogynistic acts and outcomes uncovered during this investigation are disturbing,” the report said.

“Although VMI has no explicitly racist or sexist policies that it enforces, the facts reflect an overall racist and sexist culture,” the report continued.

According to the Post, the culture report also angered conservative alumni. 

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