By BEN FINLEY, Associated Press
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 VMI failed to address institutional racism and sexism and must be held accountable for making changes.
Love’s resignation was announced Thursday by VMI’s first Black superintendent, retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Cedric T. Wins, and was first reported by The Washington Post.
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.
VMI didn’t accept African Americans until 1968 or accept women until after a 1996 U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Almost 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 VMI 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 in an email Friday.
Superintendent 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 a political action committee called The Spirt of VMI.
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 VMI’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, VMI 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 VMI’s campus in April to lead mandatory staff and faculty training, during which Brown said “DEI is dead,” the Post reported.
Rahman, the 1997 VMI graduate, worries the school could become out of synch with the U.S. military if it strays from its diversity goals. VMI has said over the years that 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.”