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VMI’s diversity, equity, inclusion officer resigns

by BEN FINLEY The Associated Press | June 4, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.
Virginia Military Cadets leave the barracks while participating in the annual end of the year parade in May 2021 in Lexington, Va. The chief diversity officer of the nations oldest state-supported military college, Virginia Military Institute, has turned in her resignation amidst a debate among alumni over efforts to create a more inclusive environment. Jamica Love's resignation was announced on Thursday. (AP/The Roanoke Time/Heather Rosseau)

The chief diversity officer of the nation's oldest state-supported military college, Virginia Military Institute, has turned in her resignation amid a debate among alumni over the school's diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.

Jamica Love took on the new role in July 2021 -- a month after a state-sanctioned report found that the institute failed to address institutional racism and sexism and must be held accountable for making changes.

Love's resignation was announced Thursday by Virginia Military Institute's first Black superintendent, retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Cedric Wins.

Love, who is the only Black woman to report to VMI's superintendent, declined to comment in an email to The Associated Press Friday.

Shah Rahman, a 1997 VMI graduate, told the AP that Love was an asset to the school and that her leaving is "a terrible thing."

Love's hiring has been part of recent diversity efforts at the school, which was founded in Lexington in 1839 and carries the prestige of educating the likes of Gen. George Patton.

Virginia Military Institute didn't accept African Americans until 1968 or accept women until after a 1996 U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Almost a quarter of the school's cadets are now people of color, while 14% are women.

The report released in 2021 said "racial slurs and jokes are not uncommon" at the institute and contributed "to an atmosphere of hostility toward minorities."

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

Recent diversity efforts have included the removal of a prominent statue of Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson, who taught at VMI, as well as the implementation of diversity training sessions.

Some in the alumni community have called the efforts "woke" or on par with "critical race theory." But others have said they are crucial for training cadets for the real world and are aligned with the U.S. military's goals.

The school's Office of Diversity, Opportunity and Inclusion will continue to exist despite Love's departure, VMI's spokesman Bill Wyatt said Friday in an email.

Wins is "still committed to preparing cadets for the world," Wyatt said. "This includes preparing them to be leaders of a diverse military or civilian workforce."

But the efforts have been criticized by some alumni, particularly by The Spirit of VMI political action committee.

A March blog post on its site said diversity, equity and inclusion efforts sow "division, destruction and discord" and are designed "to cow Americans into agreeing with the fundamental premise that white people are inherently and irredeemably racist."

Matt Daniel, a 1985 graduate who helped form the group, told The Associated Press Friday that Virginia Military Institute's diversity training for cadets initially "promoted racial division and victimhood." Daniel said the training became less divisive earlier this year and began to focus more on social problems that cadets may encounter in the military or in the business world.

This spring, the institute changed the name of the office that Love ran from Diversity, Equity and Inclusion to Diversity, Opportunity and Inclusion to match the title of Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin's diversity office in Richmond, The Washington Post reported.

Youngkin's chief diversity officer, Martin Brown, also visited the campus in April to lead mandatory staff and faculty training, during which Brown said "DEI is dead," the Post reported.

Rahman worries the school could become out of sync with the U.S. military if it strays from its diversity goals. Virginia Military Institute has said over the years it's one of the highest producers of minority commissioned officers.

"The Department of Defense, from everything I've been observing, is 100% committed to DEI," Rahman said. "And day by day, it looks like VMI is going in the other direction."

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