The superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute confirmed this week that the school will not tear down statues or rename buildings honoring Confederate leaders, as reported by Fox News.
Ret. Gen. J.H. Bindford Peay III made the announcement in a seven-page letter to the students and faculty of the Institute, declaring that the 181-year-old campus is forever “intertwined with the history of Virginia and the Civil War.” General Peay went on to say that “We do not currently intend to remove any VMI statues or rename any VMI buildings. Rather, in the future we will emphasize recognition of leaders from the Institute’s second century.”
While admitting that “we all want to erase” racism, General Peay said that many of those honored by buildings named after them or statues erected in their memory are directly related to the Institute itself, and thus their bonds to the school are far more valuable than their connections to the Confederacy.
Among several examples were the iconic Confederate general Stonewall Jackson, who was a professor at VMI before his untimely death, and a monument dedicated to a group of young VMI graduates who died serving the Confederacy, which was itself sculpted by a VMI graduate, Moses Ezekiel.
General Peay said that retaining the memorials to Confederate alumni will continue to serve the purpose of “honoring VMI’s history” and “to celebrate principles of honor, integrity, character, courage, service, and selflessness of those associated with the Institute. It is not, in any way, to condone racism, much less slavery.”
Peay did confirm some changes that will still ultimately be made due to complaints from black students and alumni, including a greater focus on “diversity” among its staff and student body. In addition, the school’s Cadet Oath ceremony will be changed, as the original ceremony took place on the battlefield of the Battle of New Market, a part of the Civil War in 1864, and involved a historical reenactment of the battle.