Virginia Military Institute's 1st Black Head Faces Backlash From Alumni

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A Virginia Military Institute (VMI) alumni group is questioning the "direction" of the school after its first Black superintendent is hired and given a "generous" bonus.

Spirit of VMI, a political action committee made up of alumni, parents, and friends of the school, issued a statement earlier this month scrutinizing the VMI Board of Visitors' approval of a $100,000 bonus for Superintendent Cedric T. Wins, CNN reports.

“SOVP questions what performance metrics the BOV used to make such a generous award and sharp increase,” the group said in a statement, adding there was “major concern among alumni and friends about VMI’s direction,” and a decrease in applications.

Wins, a retired Army Major General, initially assumed the role of interim superintendent of VMI in 2020 after General J.H. Binford Peay III resigned amid accusations that the public military college fostered a racist culture. Wins was officially instated as superintendent in 2021.

He makes an annual salary of $625,000. After his first year in the position, Wins was awarded a $25,000 bonus. For the 2021-2022 school year, the VMI board of visitors approved a $100,000 performance-based bonus for the school's first Black superintendent, according to Bill Wyatt, director of communications and marketing at VMI.

Wyatt cited Wins' accomplishments as the reasoning behind the "generous" bonus — Wins guided the school through the Covid-19 pandemic and an investigation into its diversity and inclusion practices and launched a DEI program at VMI.

Amid the 2020 national racial reckoning, Black VMI students, who make up about 6 percent of the school's population, and alumni came forward with allegations against the military college, which included stories of a tradition that required freshmen to salute a statue of Thomas J. “Stonewall’ Jackson, a Confederate general and former VMI professor. The practice has now been abandoned and the statue removed.

Virginia officials launched an investigation into the institute, which led to the resignation of former superintendent Peay.

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