A Statement from Gen. J.H. Binford Peay III '62
Members of the VMI Corps of Cadets, Faculty and Staff, and the Classified Team, Alumni, VMI Agencies, George C. Marshall Foundation, and Friends of the Institute:
There has been significant activity addressing the opening of the Institute this fall in the current COVID environment. These efforts have dominated the energies of the VMI team and selected leaders in the Corps of Cadets. Communications in this regard were published (and on the VMI website) in VMI’s Operations Plan AY 2020-21, dated 1 July 2020, outlining VMI’s plans to safely open and execute the fall semester.
This is a season of change in America with social unrest and reforecast budget challenges competing with the pandemic and return of the Corps. As you know, these social issues were sparked by the wrongful death of George Floyd, which ignited frustrations resulting in desires by many to take new action in response. The nation experienced a precursor to this social upheaval several years ago following the Charlottesville tragedy and we responded with a statement on 12 September 2017. Today’s movement is calling upon all of us to do more.
Outlined below is VMI’s plan with four overarching goals and five pillars providing a comprehensive set of actions that VMI will be taking. These reflect our thoughts that will mature and, in time, inevitably will bring refinement. These goals are: (1) to retain the foundation of values and principles set in the Institute’s early years; however, we will shift the emphasis and celebrations to the remarkable history of our second century; (2) enhance recruiting, especially among marginalized youth, and meet the need for a more diverse faculty; (3) provide greater historical and leadership education for our cadets and thus a civil and respected environment on post, with cadets well prepared for leadership roles after graduation; and (4) provide greater access to our alumni network for all graduates.
The five pillars: Education; the VMI Corps of Cadets; Promoting Increased Commissioning; VMI Symbology; and our Alumni, describe a comprehensive set of actions we will be taking.
VMI has no place for racism or mistreatment of others for any reason. We have and will continue to act swiftly when such incidents occur.
As an institution that was founded in the early 1800s there are obvious historical elements that we cannot change. Today, we make the best decisions we can, trusting that future generations will be equally respectful of our best attempts to do the right and courageous things. I hope you will see that these four goals and five pillars take us positively to the future and address in deeper ways racism and equity than the simple means of removing statues and renaming buildings. We cannot eliminate our history nor do we desire to do so. Instead, we desire to build upon our past and will do our part to continue to build a strong Institute. Although the letter is lengthy, I ask you to take the time to read it in detail.