General Peay Must Go

July 5, 2013Virginia_Military_Institute_arms

Dear Fellow VMI Alumni:

I write this with reluctance, as I have great respect for those in leadership positions, particularly those who have been selected for General or Flag rank.  I have always questioned the wisdom of those sitting on the sidelines who are critical of those who are running an organization.

In recent weeks it has come to my attention that “all is not well in River City.”  That there is turmoil at our beloved Institute and that the rot begins at the very top of the organization.  Yes, I have come to the sad conclusion that General J. H. Binford Peay is sacrificing the academic reputation of VMI and its future as the premier educational institution teaching leadership in the United States on the altar of his vision that is rooted in an educational model that existed fifty years ago and is no longer relevant in the second decade of the 21st Century.

It is time for a new Superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute.  There is no question that General Peay is a dedicated servant leader, a respected military man, but whose leadership and direction for VMI is no longer serving the common weal of the Institute.

Let me list my concerns.  For the time being I shall only expand on my concerns regarding the English Department as I want to get more information on some of the other issues.

  • The mass exodus of tenured and tenure track professors from the English Department of the Virginia Military Institute.
  • The mishandling of a sexual assault case, which was highlighted in the June issue of the Rockbridge Advocate.
  • The insistence that VMI remain a Division 1 athletic school despite the continued struggles of our athletic teams in particular our football team.  A return to the Southern Conference, while admirable, will hardly suffice to fix the problem of competing at the Division 1 level.  Based on comments in the commentary section and more importantly in a telephone call from MG (ret) Tom Tait ’55 I should not have included this in my concerns.  I stand by my statement that returning to the Southern Conference is better than the Big South.
  • The decision of the Dean of the Faculty to leave his position at the end of the next academic year.
  • The decision of the Superintendent to deny Cadets charged with an honor violation the right to be represented by legal counsel.
  • The alienation of the citizens of Lexington over the plans to tear down the Knights of Pythias Hall, a center of the Lexington African-American community until recent years.  It has been pointed out that I failed to add that VMI decided not to tear down but rather move the Knights of Pythias hall.  Some have missed the point that what bothered me was that VMI even considered for a moment tearing down the Knights of Pythias Hall.  This to be me was arrogance on the part of VMI in that they were “tone deaf” to both historical and cultural considerations.

This is not easy for me to write.  I do not question the Capital improvements that have been undertaken while General Peay has been the Superintendent.  They have been badly needed and have improved VMI, made it a more attractive institution to future Cadets.  For this I will give him an A+.  But an educational institution is more than buildings and infrastructure.  Its sinews and heart and soul are its students, its academic departments, and its faculty; without them it is nothing.

The recent decision of seven members of the English Department to resign is disturbing.  Each member who resigned was either tenured or in a tenure track position.  In today’s academic marketplace one does not resign such positions.  They are rare, as most positions today in academia are adjunct positions.  This is troubling as I have it on good authority that a majority of those who resigned have been hired by other institution as tenure track instructors.  Hardly duds!

There is no question that the decision to move from an emphasis on Literature to Rhetoric and writing played a part.  This battle is being played out throughout academia.  In part members of the English Literature profession have only themselves to blame, as they have become the embroiled in academic warfare over various post-modern interpretations of literature that leave the average student bored.  Consequently enrollment nationwide has declined.  VMI is no different.

In talking with an informed source and according to the stories in the Richmond Times Dispatch, Roanoke Times, Rockbridge Advocate and the Chronicle of Higher Education this involves the belief by the faculty who departed, that they were given little voice in the changes to the English Department curriculum, the changes were driven from top down without regard of the concerns of the professors in the English Department.

Moreover they were concerned that they were not longer being rated on their job performance by the Head of the English Department but rather by a member of the Academic Staff.  According to one source they went from being heroes one year to zeroes the next.

According to both the Roanoke Times and the Richmond Times Dispatch, the American Association of University Professors sent a letter to General Peay about the situation in the English Department.  The Roanoke Times states:

According to The Chronicle, the American Association of University Professors sent a letter last month to VMI Superintendent Binford Peay objecting to lack of faculty input in the curriculum change.

The Chronicle said the resignations, six of which occurred this spring and summer, resulted from discord with the administration that began three years ago when faculty members suddenly began receiving negative performance reviews. The professors filed a complaint in October 2011 that said they were rebuffed when they sought guidance on how to improve.

Peay appointed a five-person committee to investigate the complaint, which rejected all of the professors’ allegations last summer and found that the faculty members were to blame for any hostile environment that had been created, The Chronicle reported.

MacInnis confirmed that account, but VMI did not immediately respond to a request for Peay’s report on the findings.

This story is going viral amongst the newspapers in Virginia.  The News-Gazette the weekly newspaper of Rockbridge County and not one to rock the boat of any Rockbridge County institution, weekly edition leads with the story of the English Department.  The concluding paragraph like that of the Roanoke Times is damning:

 He was on to say that, “Morale at VMI is very low, and it is not just in the English department.”

A faculty member from a department other than the English department also spoke anonymously to The News-Gazette concerning faculty evaluations and the environment at VMI.

Regarding the evaluations, “They do go through the process, but they pretty much just have it their way,” he said.

“VMI is a curious mix,” he continued, “a cross between a liberal arts college and a military institution and the pendulum is swinging towards the military side.”

A wise friend, who is a retired faculty member, remarked it is better to leave when those will remember you fondly rather than as the guy peeing down their leg.  Or as the great Mel Carico, the political reporter, once said about Senator A. Willis Robertson defeat in the 1966 Democratic primary, “He should have left with his tailpipes smokin.”

As I said this is hard for me to write, as I have a great deal of respect for General Peay and in particular his leadership of the 101st Airborne “Screaming Eagles” during Desert Storm.  The air-assault conducted by the 101st was a move of tactical brilliance that helped seal the fate of the Iraqi Army.

In today’s environment where colleges are overpriced, where the internet is delivering education without someone having to sit in a classroom, VMI is in many ways an anachronism, an anachronism worth preserving.  But it is an institution that must be nurtured and cared for through conservative and prudent leadership that seeks to retain the best of the past while changing with the times.

As one VMI graduate put it, General Peay means well but his vision is creating a very different school than we knew as Cadets.  It would appear that many aspects of VMI to include retaining world class faculty are being sacrificed on the altar of one man’s vision endangering not only his reputation but that of our beloved Institute.

I ask, I plead with General Peay to do the right thing and retire; if not I ask the Board of Visitors to do the right thing—replace General Peay as the Superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute.

I remain, with kindest regards, in the Spirit of VMI,

 

                                                            Respectfully yours,

                                                            Henry J. Foresman, Jr.

 You may contact the author of this piece directly by emai at:

keydet@me.com; or call his cell phone 540.529.2592.  The author request that all comments, emails, and calls be civil.

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. VMI Warrior says:

    Interesting. I don’t know nearly enough about the situation to offer an informed opinion one way or the other. However, I will remark on two things:
    As far as staying Div I, I saw a memo in the early ’90s outlining proposed cuts and changes in VMI athletics. One if the biggest hurdles is maintaining African-American enrollment. DOJ targets set in the 60s-70s are 14%. VMI has never even come close to that goal. So cutting expensive athletic programs (football, basketball) were non-starters since it would further erode black enrollment. Sports with little black participation (tennis, golf, swimming) had negligible budgets anyway. And at that time 98% of African-American cadets were on full athletic scholarship (despite over half of them not receiving any other Div I offers). Dropping to Div III (where VMI belongs) would not allow that many athletic full rides to be provided and would unacceptably reduce black enrollment. That’s why we’re stuck at Div I.
    Secondly, I had an interesting discussion with a BoV member last month. I pointed out that the 3rd most common career choice for graduates, after military and engineering, is law enforcement (local, state & fed), yet VMI does nothing to encourage or support this trend. I suggested adding a Criminal Justice major and adding service as a Virginia LEO as a criteria for State Cadets (I believe it’s currently limited to service in VaANG, school teacher or VDOT engineer). His response was that the focus is now on STEM and returning VMI to an engineering school.

  2. Slater says:

    VMI already is an engineering school. VMI does not have the resources to become the premier engineering school in Virginia let alone the Shenandoah Valley. But you know Schneitter is scuttling back to his old office in Nichols, too bad he isn't being chased out.

    I truly hope the BoV is able to find a scholar with administrative success at another institution for if we are to maintain our height as the premiere public liberal arts college…(Federal Academies shouldn't be judged) then we need a scholar. Maybe not a man whose PhD is in English but definitely in the guise of the liberal arts and not an engineer. VMI was effectively shepherded under the leadership of both Brower and Farrell…but then we settled on Schneitter, are you kidding me? Maybe folks thought the leadership of Bunting was a bad deal, but you know what, he was a scholar and as Superintendent laid part of the foundation that brought VMI to the forefront under his grace, Emperor Binford.

    Engingeers…I only need them to build the bridge for my tank to cross the river.

  3. tricycle says:

    VMI Warrior (and others)-

    ” His response was that the focus is now on STEM and returning VMI to an engineering school.”

    I was under the impression that it was the mission of the Virginia Military Institute to produce educated, honorable men and women, prepared for the varied work of civil life, imbued with love of learning, confident in the functions and attitudes of leadership, possessing a high sense of public service, advocates of the American democracy and free enterprise system, and ready as citizen-soldiers to defend their country in time of national peril.

    I must’ve missed the part about focusing on engineering. (Probably why I had to do so many pushups rat year). I have no issue with wanting to reestablish VMI’s reputation as an excellent engineering school, but is it necessary to do it at the cost of the other departments?

  4. Guest says:

    Please do not miss the article about VMI in the July Rockbridge Advocate, just released. It contains, verbatim, the full contents of the AAUP letter. Amazing stuff.

  5. VMI Warrior says:

    Slater, Tricycle, et al- I’m just a messenger not saying I agree they should try to THE premier engineering school…I have a LA degree in a major that doesn’t even exist anymore! I would say that I think a Criminal Justice program may be a good idea, if not as a major at least as a concentration or minor.

    • tricycle says:

      I agree. It is only fitting that young, intelligent, physically fit individuals who possess the highest level of integrity and have been conditioned against stress, violence, and mob behavior would excel in the field of law enforcement. Why not have a CJ degree?

  6. Guest2 says:

    We feel the hardships in the history department too. The department has no available funds, and the Institute charges the faculty whenever they need to make copies or print materials out for themselves or their students

  7. Guest3 says:

    Interesting. I disagree with one point though. You say that: "There is no question that the decision to move from an emphasis on Literature to Rhetoric and writing played a part" in the exodus from the English Department. But you also quote the Roanoke Times saying that "the resignations, six of which occurred this spring and summer, resulted from discord with the administration that began three years ago." That's long before any changes in the curriculum were announced. For some reason the administration is selling the story that the six left because they didn't want to switch from Literature to Rhetoric, but three of the six are Rhetoric specialists! That's 100% of the Rhetoric faculty at VMI apart from the head of the Writing Program.

    • Guest says:

      Thank you for some clear thinking. Yes, there was a change in curriculum. And it was true that not all the English faculty agreed with all points of what was announced. It was true that some thought the abandonment of so much teaching of literature in favor of rhetoric was ill advised. But in spinning this terrible conflict as one in which this curriculum change was the cause of, or in any way central to, the depressing faculty exodus, some VMI admin. people are only presenting a red herring. The curriculum change played exactly zero part. So many of the actual events and issues precipitating the crisis have not seen the light of day at all in any of the discussions and comments here. I don't believe they ever will become known beyond the faculty who experienced them and those very close to them. So many of those have been effectively silenced, as far as making public comments is concerned.

      So, what is past is past. The future might be something more worth considering. Nothing that has happened so far has solved any of the problems that caused this and remain. And no statements made by officials have anything to say about strategies for creating a better atmosphere at VMI or making repairs to its community. Not a promising thing when there is a crisis to be managed. Simply hoping to ride out this storm seems a poor leadership choice.

  8. Cpl Atwill says:

    I'm sorry, but do you currently attend VMI? So you know exactly how the Corps runs currently, or how the Dean is a self absorbed fool. Or how the English Dept's problems are so tiny in comparison to the funding issues the STEM disciplines face. As someone who recently attended VMI, I can say without a doubt that Gen Peay serves the institute better than any current alumni could. Col Trumps, though stern, is a trusted and fair Commandant who guides leadership development in the Corps.

    Maybe if you were a successful Alumni, you would stop worrying about VMI issues and worry about making the world a better place instead. VMI cadets do more nowadays with the guidance of those above them then you ever could as a cadet.

    • '12 says:

      This must be a sore attempt at sarcasm.

    • tricycle says:

      Well put, Schneitter. Why the pseudonym?

      • Off Winchester says:

        Mr. Atwill,
        "Maybe if you were a successful Alumni …," etc., was totally unnecessary and is at cross purposes with your theme. Graduates of VMI are all, "successful alumni," by virtue of having completed the VMI triathlon (academic, physical, military.) When you are a successful alumni, and have gained enough life experience to be a member of the "old corps" as many of us have … you'll realize that. Civil discourse is largely missing from the national scene … let's keep it in this forum.

    • vmijpp says:

      You should probably decline to use the name of any New Market cadet as a blog-comment callsign. May I suggest instead, for you in particular, "Scooter"? Yep, that might fit you better.

      Now, as for being a successful alumni [sic], as a recent attendee you have a lifetime of success and failure ahead of you, and with it a maturation of perspective. I'd say Colonel Foresman is quite the successful alumnus. By what measure do you say otherwise? Come see me in two or three decades and we'll see how well you've done. Until, go forth and achieve; success can be an elusive thing!

      LtCol P

  9. Ragnar Lothbrok says:

    Through this episode of General Hospital on the Maury, I still haven't seen many details. What will be the curricula be as compared to the previous one? What were the details in the bad evaluations? Can somebody post the rockbridge advocate article on the alleged sexual assault? I don't want to pay for a subscription. What is pythias hall and what does that have to do with VMI?
    While I have massive heartburn with the ratline (or lack thereof) and a few other things, these abstract blowhard assertion with lack of detail annoy me. I can agree with the Div. I fantasy, but everything utterly lacks detail. Maybe because I'm busy with work or getting long in the tooth I missed the details.
    I compare this to our sad media. Looking on the outside, you might just get the impression that if the media ran everything it would be perfect as they are in some hight position of competent authority.

    • Hank Foresman says:

      Dear Sir,

      I will be happy to answer several of your questions.

      The problem with the evaluations was the fact that a member of the staff not the Head of the English Department was responsible for the faculty evaluations. I am retired military and the rule of thumb is someone works for you, you rate them, if they don't you don't rate them.

      The Rockbridge Advocate and I paraphrase the editor why give something away for free when you can charge for it. I paid for the issue so can you.

      The Knights of Pythias is a fraternal organization associated with the Masons. The hall located along North Main Stree was constructed in the late 19th Cent by men who were hourly employees of VMI and W&L most of whom were former slaves. The land where it sits is slated to be used for the new Gym/Athletic center.

      Anything else you want to know I will be glad to answer.

      Hank Foresman '76

      • Ragnar Lothbrok says:

        'The problem with the evaluations was the fact that a member of the staff not the Head of the English Department was responsible for the faculty evaluations'. Once again this is not enough detail for me. If an enlisted person was brought up to Captains Mast with an accusation like this, the officer would be laughed at making the accusation. So was it these people resigned for the simple fact that a member of the staff was rating them and not the English department head or was it they didn't like what they saw in the evaluations? Rockbridge Advocate and Knights of Pythias…okie dokie. I don't mean be a jerk but if you are gonna pick a fight (which you did) you need more ammo than this.

  10. Duane E Ray says:

    VMI will always maintain one of the highest educations in the Country. Honor is a something NO ONE can take away.

  11. 1 of 2013 says:

    Cpl Atwill
    As a graduate of the class of 2013 I can say this much. This article and some of the proceeding comments are spot on. Furthermore, I never was under the impression that VMI was a STEM school. I heard about its stellar liberal arts and business curriculum, before I heard about any of the science majors. VMI is known national and regionally for its liberal arts programs,so why should we deviate from what we are good at and focus on STEM? Also, why the such zeal? This is an open forum to discuss and debate, which is based on opinions. Show a little respect to others opinion's will ya!

  12. Guest3 says:

    Interesting. I disagree with one point though. You say that: "There is no question that the decision to move from an emphasis on Literature to Rhetoric and writing played a part" in the exodus from the English Department. But you also quote the Roanoke Times saying that "the resignations, six of which occurred this spring and summer, resulted from discord with the administration that began three years ago." That's long before any changes in the curriculum were announced. For some reason the administration is selling the story that the six left because they didn't want to switch from Literature to Rhetoric, but three of the six are Rhetoric specialists! That's 100% of the rhetoric faculty at VMI apart from the head of the Writing Program. Whatever motivated these people to leave it was not the shift to Rhetoric.

  13. '09 says:

    This author is spot on. I graduated with an English degree and those were some of the best teachers I have ever had the joy of learning from. They were not individuals who would leave their jobs (that they loved) without reason or upon a whim. Many of those professors were good people with a brilliant flair and love of teaching and VMI has suffered a huge blow in their loss. A loss laid bare at the feet of the academic dean and General Peay.

    As a recent graduate I spoke with my rats as they prepared for graduation this spring. I have never seen them so tired and utterly drained despite graduation being only days away! When I spoke to them about the current state of the Corps I was shocked to hear how they were treated. General Peay is not just the problem, it is much larger. The majority of the commandant staff must be replaced on a regular basis. Who decided to discontinue the Computer Science degree? (A degree required for working with Air Force Drones) Since when are alumni barred from visiting the fourth stoop? Since when do the commandant staff have the authority create their own version of the blue book? (that is NOT given to the cadets) Why does Sergeant Major Neel feel comfortable in saying he can do anything he wants in barracks but alumni are now handed a list of rules upon entering? And how dare they use the honor of a cadets against themselves! The problem does not lie simply with the superintendent but with the entire staff. They have been there too long and as much as I respect all of the fine officers at VMI I am appalled to hear how they act as dictators rather than officers leading cadets.

    One of my rats once told me "VMI has changed since you were here. It is nothing but a place that breeds bully's and tears apart good kids forcing them to leave." This happened in the 4 years since I graduated. The entire staff is accountable, not just one man.

  14. Logan says:

    "The decision of the Superintendent to deny Cadets charged with an honor violation the right to be represented by legal counsel" – if this is true I would really like to hear the justification. Unfortunately I was a witness for an Honor Court proceeding, The accused had a civilian lawyer representing him and I was deposed at great length. At the end of the deposition his lawyer said to me that "I wish I dealt with as fair a system as this in my everyday practice". In my Navy career I presided over many Special Courts-Martial and in many instances the accused brought in a civilian lawyer as is allowed in the military justice system. If the Superintendent is unduly interfering in the Honor system that should be a real red flag.

    • talldiver14 says:

      I just wanted to put facts in the right place, my dyke was part of the honor court that decided to ban legal council. It was a keydet decision not one of the Sup’s ideas. They decided to do this after a couple of rolled individuals repeatedly cheated and were repeatedly brought before the court and repeatedly let off thanks to technicalities found out created by a lawyer. It was not a decision they reached easily or made lightly.

  15. Guest says:

    I'm getting sick of people saying that we need to move to D-3, especially when they were never athletes and don't pay attention to the other sports. The Football team might suck but even if we dominated D-3 where would the respect in that be? We have some good programs in Track, Basketball, Swimming, and wrestling that hold up to the standard of D-1 and most of the time go above it.

  16. Jeffrey L Minch says:

    I am a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute Class of 1973 and I have literally invested a small fortune in its continued success and excellence. I have known the current Superintendent and his predecessor, Si Bunting, in more than a passing fashion.

    I have sat on the Board of the Foundation for a number of years and while I did not win the attendance award living in Texas, I did follow the development of the Institute during the Bunting to Peay succession in great and intimate detail.

    I was there when the Institute changed hands from Bunting — a marvelous intellect and scholar, a Rhodes Scholar and an engaging man — to Peay, a man at the top of his military profession as a 4-star. Two different men perfectly right for the challenges of the Institute at their times.

    The criticisms and carping which have been leveled in this article are small, intransigent and of no significance when viewed in the context of the world class institution that VMI is and will continue to be.

    Even if all of them were to be true in their worst and most exaggerated detail, they are simply the burdens and bumps in the road of guiding a unique world class educational institution through the shoals which are part of toady's complex and rapidly changing society and political landscape.

    It is often said that VMI is a hard place to be but a great place to be from. That is true. It is a life changing experience and if done correctly, will provide one with a skill set and education that is the envy of the world and a huge competitive advantage. It is not a perfect place and the notion that it is a bit behind its times is a strength rather than a weakness.

    As an engineer, I can also tell you that the quality of the engineering education is superior both from the perspective of my personal experience but also the proud record of achievement that VMI men (and now women) earned on the EIT exam.

    VMI will not be poorly served with a bit more focus on engineering. Tough love to all you liberal artists with your nice LA Beach tans.

    As to the controversy of the English department, let me make a direct and confrontational comment — VMI is never going to be run by a bunch of English profs. While democracy is a great concept, it does not apply to everything. If they have their feelings hurt, then either engage or take your Nancy Girl panties and leave.

    If they contend that they have been subjected to a hostile work environment — which frankly sounds like a lot of baloney to me — then let the process work its magic and make the changes that are necessary. Anyone who thinks that a whimper from the English department should be on the top of the Supe's desk has a few lessons to learn about management.

    Just for the record, isn't VMI supposed to be a hostile environment at its core or corps?

    The Honor Court is of and by the Corps and the notion that professional counsel should be engaged is not an idea which is necessary to the administration of such a system. I defended Brother Rats before the Honor Court and know it to be fair, simple to administer and just. Those were the rules when you walked through Limits Gate, follow them.

    Lastly let me say something that is very personal — Gen Binford Peay is an extraordinary individual with an extraordinary body of work which encompasses the military, education and institutional leadership. VMI could hardly find a better man for the job than Gen Peay. I would follow this guy to the gates of Hell and start picking the lock.

    Grow up and understand that VMI is an institution that has survived and thrived since 1839 and these "crises" that are noted are not a pimple on the world's ass.

    Further affiant sayeth not —

    Minch, JL VMI '73
    Austin, Texas

    On Earth as it is in Texas!

    • Off Winchester says:

      The LA beach tan always worked wonders with the ladies of the Valley (perhaps the beach has been closed since we've gone co-ed.) It was just a rumor — "LA Beach" was not a one hour elective for LA majors. Engineering majors occasionally appeared on "the beach" — perhaps to check out the magic of the place. The vitamin D intake did wonders for one's disposition. Excellent points about Gen. Peay … he certainly has brought new vibrancy to the "old school."

    • talldiver14 says:

      Sir as a current keydet I just wants to say I agree whole heartedly with your comment. I would however raise one point for consideration. VMI has one of if not the best international studies and political science programs in the country, routinely placing graduates into solid government jobs including FBI, CIA, and State Department as well as a host of other equally influential private sector positions. And generally I get it the pendulum fluctuates a to which side needs the money, but why have a series of conferences telling the corps “if you’re not STEM you doing belling at VMI,” or hosting speakers such as Neil deGrasse Tyson and then not allow interested Keydets to go because of their major. And I know that there are not so many engineers as to fill Cameron completely. I can’t say how it was in the old corps but Keydets today are veritable renaissance men.

  17. Townie 76 says:

    This is an exchange between myself an Mr. Sal Vitale. In addition to me he cc General Peay, Don Jamison, Dick Weede, Dave Harbach and Lee Badgett:

    I am a 1961 graduate. In my view, the trouble with VMI is not General Peay but not enough VMI graduates teaching. With less than 30% VMI graduates on the faculty no wonder we are having problems. A non VMI professor comes to VMI and doesn’t like the system or understand the system and discord starts in the ranks.

    I would agree with you that there needs to be more VMI graduates on the faculty; to my knowledge there were none in the English Department. Having VMI faculty is good for the Cadets and the School, but too many can also be bad. But this is not about whether VMI graduates would have made a difference; rather about the majority of a Department resigning en mass. From everything I have told by those who are very knowledgeable about the situation these were good and dedicated professors who liked VMI and the Cadets, what they objected to was the arbitrary and capricious nature of the curriculum change and the fact they were no longer rated by someone in the faculty, rather by the Director of Writing Across the Curriculum, and member of the Academic Staff.

    VMI was known as an engineering school not liberal arts. Leave it to the LA’s and this is what you have. Discord! Bring back the engineering !!! Us engineers need to learn how to write and spell better! Don’t need Plato, just good sentence structure and words that make A COMPLETE THOUGHT understandable. In my day we had a great humanities course to help round us out. During several trips to Europe folks with me were surprised that an engineer could spot a Botticelli painting. (Thanks Col Raye)

    This is not about whether VMI is an Engineering School or a Liberal Arts School. I still consider VMI to be an Engineering School, despite the fact I was a History major. I have many good friends and acquaintances, to include Don Jamison who you cc on your original email. If I had been better at Math I might have been an Engineer. The first Professor of Engineering at VMI was my great great Grandfather Thomas Hoomes Williamson, and my Grandfather Sydney Bacon Williamson was the lead civilian Engineer on the Panama Canal. Various groups do not consider VMI an Engineering School primarily as I understand it because it does not have graduate school.

    I think one of the real strengths of VMI is the fact that all Cadets are required to take Math, Science, English, and History; I just wish that there had been an Engineering Course of LA when I was Cadets.

    As aside note, when working on my course work for my Ph.D in History (which I did not finish) I had conceptually developed a multi-disciplinary course that would have look at a great Engineering project such as the building of the Trans-continental railroad that have not only looked at how it was built from an Engineering perspective, but also how it was financed, what political process were involved, and the social impact. You see I happen to believe that we can learn something from other disciplines.

    Regarding the honor court, you need to make sure you know what you are talking about. Thou shall not lie, cheat or steal or tolerate those that do is very simple to understand until you get liberals involved. Is stealing a penny stealing? What about a little white lie? Is that lying? What about sex under the desk? Is that sex? According to national statistics, 90% of high school student cheated in HS. How do you convince this student now Cadet to follow a very simple honorable way of life? Do you really need a lawyer to defend you for an Honor Court offense? A parent who raised the Cadet in an honorable environment would not need a lawyer. So why was there a need for a lawyer? My guess is that person was hoping to find a loop hole and a way to discredit an honorable system. Could a person be unjustly accused? I guess that could happen, but the rule is so simple unless the liberals want to confuse the situation. We used to call it quibbling.

    There is only one standard for the Honor Court, a Cadet shall not lie, cheat, or steal. I ask not you not besmirch lawyers as my father was an Attorney and my wife is Attorney.

    Having said that I come at this position very simply. Everyone should be innocent until proven guilty. As a military officer I always insisted that my troops go to the Staff Judge Advocate before I would hear an Article 15 case. Today in the military no soldier goes before either a Courts-Martial or an Administrative proceeding without counsel. The Honor Court is a precious commodity. I want an accused to have the best representation of their choice, whether it is a faculty member appointed or an attorney they hire. Part of the complaint against attorneys was the delaying tactic they used. The Honor Court can establish firm timelines that prevent attorneys from drawing proceeding out. What I fear, is that some day a Cadet who is drummed out will successful argued in the State or Federal Courts that he or she was denied due process and then our Honor Court will be supervised by either the Department of Justice or the Federal Courts. Choose your poison, but I would rather bend over backward on the front side that gets bent over by the Federal Courts on the backside.

    This is not an issue of liberal or conservative, this is an issue about what is right and proper, which protect the rights of the accused, protects the Honor System from outside interference, and puts our beloved Institute in the best light.

    VMI has lasted all these years because it was founded on solid principles of honor and duty. General Peay has distinguished himself beyond a shadow of doubt in trying to instill this to Cadets and in a civil manner. Furthermore, in my view, he is doing his best to see that VMI remains in the forefront of military academic institutions without giving up VMI’s basic principles especially honor. How can you be a man without being an honorable man?

    To be a gentleman you must not only be honorable but willing to give of yourself to things greater than yourself. Selfless service and honor are the two enduring things which VMI has taught its graduates since its founding in 1839 and I hope continues to do so for many years in the future.

    Concerning the Lexington resident feelings about the destruction of a wonderful old building let me be very clear. Without VMI and W&L Lexington would be a depressed community and in my view could not survive. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.

    First of all I was born and raised in Lexington Virginia. You are correct without VMI and W&L Lexington would be a depressed community. VMI and W&L over the years have destroyed more of historic Lexington in the name of progress, than General David Hunter did. The Knights of Pythias Hall was the center of the African-American social community from when it was built until recent years. It was also the location of the Lexington American Legion post that was all Black and established because African-American veterans of World War I and II, and Korea were denied membership in the Floyd-Davidson American Legion Post in Buena Vista. So this is about preserving a building that is of historical significance to a portion of Lexington’s citizens. A portion of its citizens who have been employed over the years by both Institutions to cook their food, bow and scrape to Alumni, clean their toilets

    I agree that VMI has changed. So has the upbringing of future Cadets. My hope is that we must continue to strive to bring VMI back to a way of life that is simple and easily understandable and have a faculty that signs on and promotes VMI’s basic principles necessary to produces citizen soldiers. This is not an easy task especially when we must constantly fight half truths and bull which is so easily put on the internet or other social media. In my view General Peay is the right man at the right time to insure we don’t lose VMI to a bunch of people who would like to see us die.

    As I said in my post I give General Peay an A+ for what he has done on the physical plant and putting VMI on a firm foundation militarily; however I am concerned that the sinews of VMI academics are not being taken care of. As I have said VMI is a precious commodity and must be nurtured through prudent and conservative management.

    Thanks for the opportunity to respond. Sal Vitale Jr., VMI 1961 and proud of it.

    I appreciate your comments and understand that I did not rashly publish the post that General Peay must go. I realize that he is a peer of yours, and I have stated I have a great deal of respect for him, but all of us know when it is time to move on. Henry J. Foresman Jr. VMI Class of 1976.

  18. Slater says:

    So Mr. Minch,

    You're informing all of us that you'd rather VMI destroy the reputation it had built as the premier PUBLIC LIBERAL ARTS College, and create something that it is not. That hill of science that Preston spoke of was not "science" but rather: knowledge.

    You spoke of Josiah Bunting, he was a unique fit for VMI at a unique time. One thing I could say that General Peay failed to do was extend the hand of mentorship to all first classmen beyond that one dinner we received at his quarters that year. I honestly believe he has become an anachronism, much like Gordon Gee did when he said Louisville wasn't a high class educational institution and he was pretty wrong about that. General Peay was able to push the military part of the stool pretty effectively and we now have world class military training facilities which should be attractive during the draw down.

    Why should not the destruction of a department be of concern and the push towards an agenda that would tear out a huge piece of the education I received and that a large part of the Corps has received. However, one think I noticed was that there seems to be all this money for visiting chairs…yet I never saw a single one nor took a single class from one of those profs. And yes I attended Scott Shipp High, but you know that's where the excellent part of the education was. To be cultured by great talent was an intense joy. And yet, "liberal" arts meaning wide view, I had classes in New Science and Mallory although none in Nichols as they chunked "Rocks for Jocks".

    But you're also speaking with one who bought into the ideal and idea of what VMI is, a place that is pure because of the sacrifices we made. By my own connections within in the Alumni structure it's hard to think that my class may have been the last of the rat line…and they say that every year. But it is extremely soft in a comparison to just six years ago now.

    Add our struggle in Athletics there are many that would be willing to increase their donations to the program if serious leadership is exercised. Fire Sparky being the big one, this move to the SOCON in my eyes is shortsighted…but I guess those that came from your time think it is a bold move. A bold move would be increasing the recruiting budget for the revenue sports and telling these lazy coaches of ours to go out and find that talent that would come to our school.

    You know Brower thought that VMI had the ability to produce a Rhodes Scholar every year, that was where his guidance pushed us. He wasn't a Rhodes Scholar, he was even a CE major at his alma mater: Hudson High. But I'm unsure if anyone has even had the desire or the ability that Lippiatt showed five years ago when he gave up that year of his Army career to study at Oxford.

    And the honor system…don't even get me started.

    Cheers.

    • Jeffrey L Minch says:

      Slater —

      Thank you for your spirited commentary.

      I see no reason why VMI should not be both a great liberal arts college and a great engineering school. These objectives are not mutually exclusive in my view. There is no reason why these programs should be in competition with each other and both should be equally supported.

      There is no question that the Nation requires a bit more focus on STEM education and that VMI's percentage of engineering cadets has declined from a high water mark of approximately 60% to approximately 40%. This is a legitimate area of consideration for the leadership of both the Institute and the Commonwealth if VMI's relevance is to be tied to a national or international perspective.

      When the Board of Visitors or the Supe focus on this issue, they are careful and prudent stewards of VMI's, the Commonwealth's and the Nation's best interests.

      I do not think that any Supe is ever going to be an effective mentor for an entire class. Cadets need to look to their faculty advisers, department heads, professors and tac officers for that relationship.

      I personally had the incredible experience of being advised by Col Don Jamison, one of the finest gentleman I have ever met. While he may not appreciate the Invisible Hand he exerted on my efforts at VMI, it was totally persuasive. It shaped and fired me like a lump of wet clay.

      I remember with great clarity seeing the first "F" I had ever seen on a report card in my life — Rat Calculus first grading period. Col Jamison asked me if I had "unpacked yet" — a question that completely baffled me at the time. He said something like: "I hope not, because you are not going to be here long and you're not going to be an engineer if you fail calculus."

      I ultimately made an A and stood #1 academically in my class at the end of that year. Thank you, Col Jamison, for scaring the living crap out of me. Most importantly, I had absolutely no inkling that I had that potential within me. VMI did that to me. Col Jamison did that to me.

      As to the English department let me say again what I have previously stated: The mass exodus — which does seem to be the case as a considerable number left for other "normal" reasons — of an entire department over a change in curriculum which has been openly debated is a tragedy.

      But, frankly, I only care about VMI's interests in this and not the individual Profs.

      I had enough math and economics to have gotten degrees in those subjects. I treasure having had Col Dodo Dillard for advanced English. A relationship that continued forever even though I never set foot in another of his classes thereafter. Col Dillard was a VMI man, an extraordinary VMI man.

      VMI makes an error, in my judgement, when it fails to adhere to hiring VMI grads for its teaching positions. The notion of culture fit is perhaps the greatest contemporary concern in the startup, small/medium business ecosystem today.

      VMI is a classic unique culture in which culture fit — including adherence to the chain of command — is an essential element of long term success.

      Having been a founder, CEO, President, Director of public and private companies for over 33 years and currently engaged as a professional CEO advisor in the startup and small business arena, I can tell you with absolute certainty that culture fit is the special sauce which makes good companies great.

      Not lousy companies good — it is not miracle drug — mind you, but good companies great.

      As to Rhodes Scholars and academic aspiration — VMI should aspire to achieve the full potential of its cadet corps in each and every endeavor possible. It should challenge and stretch that potential. I cannot imagine that there are not a number of worthy and legitimate Rhodes Scholar candidates in the Corps right now.

      I am particularly mindful of that when I correspond with Col Vern Beitzel, Director of Admissions, and see the quality of young men and women who go to VMI today. We are getting a very good cross section of folks and Vern is doing a great job getting them admitted. We were in F Company and he was the QB on the football team in our day.

      A bit of calm will assist all VMI grads in pouring their love back into the institution which has inspired, educated and nurtured us. Let's disagree with spirit but let's deal with reality. Let's keep the culture strong.

      None of this has a damn thing to do with the Supe, an extraordinary visionary and leader and a man who I would follow to the Gates of Hell and then try to pick the lock.

      VMI is one of the last institutions in America which still identifies, challenges, develops and teaches character. Long may it be so.

      Jeffrey L Minch VMI '73
      Austin, Texas

  19. VMIBassMan says:

    Modernization is not strictly limited to building upgrades and upto date technology. It is adapting curriculum to what is required to excell in today’s work environment. I believe that the Cadet run military structure provides you with experiences that are hard to find elsewhere. However, a liberal arts education requires instruction in literature, writing, and science. It creates “honorable men and women prepared for the varied work of civil life, imbued with a love if learning.” In a world where people rely to heavily on “experts” to do simple things they used to do on their own such as car or home repair, this is even more important.

    Now, I can not say that I am surprises that His Peay-ness would act in such a way. It has been my experience, from observation, that senior military leaders, generally, don’t like it when those below them speak up. I was at VMI when he arrived and he was on a mission from day one. It would appear he has yet to listen or even care to.

  20. '09 says:

    First off I want to say this: VMI is does NOT belong to General Peay. He is a caretaker of OUR school and is it up to us as alumni to ensure that caretaker does not over step his bounds. When we have a faculty of excellent teachers resign en mass we should be taking notice. This discussion here is important because we, as responsible alumni, should pay attention and check on the mother I every now and then to be sure that everything is alright on top of the hill. And according to my rats who just graduated this past may everything is far from alright and the alumni should be taking a close look at how the superintendent and the commandant's staff are running our school.

    There is a simple and easy way to see how General Peay feels about academics and that is to take a tour of the post academic buildings. The Engineering, Math, and Science buildings all look brand new. They have the newest equipment and work stations. Scott Ship, the lone liberal arts building, still uses the same chairs/desks I have seen in use since I was in sixth grade back in the 90s (Which had been there since the 80s) and has to wheel in media carts to use in class. Furthermore of the top five majors four are currently liberal arts ( 1-International Studies, 2-History, 3-Economics, 4-Mechanical Engineering, and 5-Psychology). Additionally the English department sent more cadets to law school than any other department (I wonder if that trend will end now that they have lost so many fine professors?) If anyone thinks that the Liberal Arts do not matter they need to consider the facts. VMI is not simply an engineering school, it is also a public liberal arts school and one of the best in the country. VMI prided itself on being the top public liberal arts for years. We should see support for all programs at VMI, not just the ones General Peay deems important.

    As alumni we should question the actions of the superintendent when he appears to ignore successful academic programs and takes a course which is potentially damaging to those programs. VMI is first and foremost an academic institution. Cadets go to VMI to receive a quality education and anything that could harm that standing should be watched carefully and appropriate action taken if needed.

  21. Townie 76 says:

    Here is a copy of the response I sent to Mr. Sal Vitale email on the subject of General Peay must go. In addition to me he sent a copy of his email to General Peay, Lee Badgett, Dick Weede, Don Jamison, and Dave Harbach. I have put Mr. Vitale original in quotes:

    “I am a 1961 graduate. In my view, the trouble with VMI is not General Peay but not enough VMI graduates teaching. With less than 30% VMI graduates on the faculty no wonder we are having problems. A non VMI professor comes to VMI and doesn’t like the system or understand the system and discord starts in the ranks.”
    I would agree with you that there needs to be more VMI graduates on the faculty; to my knowledge there were none in the English Department. Having VMI faculty is good for the Cadets and the School, but too many can also be bad. But this is not about whether VMI graduates would have made a difference; rather about the majority of a Department resigning en mass. From everything I have told by those who are very knowledgeable about the situation these were good and dedicated professors who liked VMI and the Cadets, what they objected to was the arbitrary and capricious nature of the curriculum change and the fact they were no longer rated by someone in the faculty, rather by the Director of Writing Across the Curriculum, and member of the Academic Staff.
    “VMI was known as an engineering school not liberal arts. Leave it to the LA’s and this is what you have. Discord! Bring back the engineering !!! Us engineers need to learn how to write and spell better! Don’t need Plato, just good sentence structure and words that make A COMPLETE THOUGHT understandable. In my day we had a great humanities course to help round us out. During several trips to Europe folks with me were surprised that an engineer could spot a Botticelli painting. (Thanks Col Raye)”
    This is not about whether VMI is an Engineering School or a Liberal Arts School. I still consider VMI to be an Engineering School, despite the fact I was a History major. I have many good friends and acquaintances, to include Don Jamison who you cc on your original email. If I had been better at Math I might have been an Engineer. The first Professor of Engineering at VMI was my great great Grandfather Thomas Hoomes Williamson, and my Grandfather Sydney Bacon Williamson was the lead civilian Engineer on the Panama Canal. Various groups do not consider VMI an Engineering School primarily as I understand it because it does not have graduate school.
    I think one of the real strengths of VMI is the fact that all Cadets are required to take Math, Science, English, and History; I just wish that there had been an Engineering Course of LA when I was Cadets.
    As aside note, when working on my course work for my Ph.D in History (which I did not finish) I had conceptually developed a multi-disciplinary course that would have look at a great Engineering project such as the building of the Trans-continental railroad that have not only looked at how it was built from an Engineering perspective, but also how it was financed, what political process were involved, and the social impact. You see I happen to believe that we can learn something from other disciplines.
    “Regarding the honor court, you need to make sure you know what you are talking about. Thou shall not lie, cheat or steal or tolerate those that do is very simple to understand until you get liberals involved. Is stealing a penny stealing? What about a little white lie? Is that lying? What about sex under the desk? Is that sex? According to national statistics, 90% of high school student cheated in HS. How do you convince this student now Cadet to follow a very simple honorable way of life? Do you really need a lawyer to defend you for an Honor Court offense? A parent who raised the Cadet in an honorable environment would not need a lawyer. So why was there a need for a lawyer? My guess is that person was hoping to find a loop hole and a way to discredit an honorable system. Could a person be unjustly accused? I guess that could happen, but the rule is so simple unless the liberals want to confuse the situation. We used to call it quibbling.”
    There is only one standard for the Honor Court, a Cadet shall not lie, cheat, or steal. I ask not you not besmirch lawyers as my father was an Attorney and my wife is Attorney.
    Having said that I come at this position very simply. Everyone should be innocent until proven guilty. As a military officer I always insisted that my troops go to the Staff Judge Advocate before I would hear an Article 15 case. Today in the military no soldier goes before either a Courts-Martial or an Administrative proceeding without counsel. The Honor Court is a precious commodity. I want an accused to have the best representation of their choice, whether it is a faculty member appointed or an attorney they hire. Part of the complaint against attorneys was the delaying tactic they used. The Honor Court can establish firm timelines that prevent attorneys from drawing proceeding out. What I fear, is that some day a Cadet who is drummed out will successful argued in the State or Federal Courts that he or she was denied due process and then our Honor Court will be supervised by either the Department of Justice or the Federal Courts. Choose your poison, but I would rather bend over backward on the front side that gets bent over by the Federal Courts on the backside.
    This is not an issue of liberal or conservative, this is an issue about what is right and proper, which protect the rights of the accused, protects the Honor System from outside interference, and puts our beloved Institute in the best light.
    “VMI has lasted all these years because it was founded on solid principles of honor and duty. General Peay has distinguished himself beyond a shadow of doubt in trying to instill this to Cadets and in a civil manner. Furthermore, in my view, he is doing his best to see that VMI remains in the forefront of military academic institutions without giving up VMI’s basic principles especially honor. How can you be a man without being an honorable man?”
    To be a gentleman you must not only be honorable but willing to give of yourself to things greater than yourself. Selfless service and honor are the two enduring things which VMI has taught its graduates since its founding in 1839 and I hope continues to do so for many years in the future.
    “Concerning the Lexington resident feelings about the destruction of a wonderful old building let me be very clear. Without VMI and W&L Lexington would be a depressed community and in my view could not survive. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.”

    First of all I was born and raised in Lexington Virginia. You are correct without VMI and W&L Lexington would be a depressed community. VMI and W&L over the years have destroyed more of historic Lexington in the name of progress, than General David Hunter did. The Knights of Pythias Hall was the center of the African-American social community from when it was built until recent years. It was also the location of the Lexington American Legion post that was all Black and established because African-American veterans of World War I and II, and Korea were denied membership in the Floyd-Davidson American Legion Post in Buena Vista. So this is about preserving a building that is of historical significance to a portion of Lexington’s citizens. A portion of its citizens who have been employed over the years by both Institutions to cook their food, bow and scrape to Alumni, clean their toilets
    “I agree that VMI has changed. So has the upbringing of future Cadets. My hope is that we must continue to strive to bring VMI back to a way of life that is simple and easily understandable and have a faculty that signs on and promotes VMI’s basic principles necessary to produces citizen soldiers. This is not an easy task especially when we must constantly fight half truths and bull which is so easily put on the internet or other social media. In my view General Peay is the right man at the right time to insure we don’t lose VMI to a bunch of people who would like to see us die.”
    As I said in my post I give General Peay an A+ for what he has done on the physical plant and putting VMI on a firm foundation militarily; however I am concerned that the sinews of VMI academics are not being taken care of. As I have said VMI is a precious commodity and must be nurtured through prudent and conservative management.”
    “Thanks for the opportunity to respond. Sal Vitale Jr., VMI 1961 and proud of it.”

    I appreciate your comments and understand that I did not rashly publish the post that General Peay must go. I realize that he is a peer of yours, and I have stated I have a great deal of respect for him, but all of us know when it is time to move on. Henry J. Foresman Jr. VMI Class of 1976.

    • Jeffrey L Minch says:

      .
      You cannot strengthen a culture by diluting its purity by injecting folks who do not understand or embrace that culture.

      When hiring, hiring for culture fit is perhaps the single most important consideration. It is a gateway consideration. No culture fit, no reason to continue the interview.

      Minch, JL VMI '73
      Austin, Texas

      • Logan says:

        Sorry, I don't buy that argument. "Hiring for a culture fit" leads to stagnation and stagnation leads to failure. Maintaining standards is the goal, but to say that having different ideas is reason for exclusion is preposterous. I'm an 80 grad from the EE department and if I remember correctly no professor, other than Nichols, was a VMI grad yet we survived. New/fresh ideas and the willingness to discuss them keeps an organization credible/vibrant.

      • Slater says:

        Mr. Minch
        Do you have any idea how hard it is to attract talent to teach at VMI in the given structure we have? It's very hard. I never saw a new young professor when got to VMI other than in the English Dept, and she's now gone. In the History Department there was one young guy but he'd already been at VMI a couple of years and I can tell you that he's accomplished, I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't leave soon if he's not rewarded. And in the engineering departments? Only in the CE dept based on what I'm looking at is there youthful profs that are new to me.

        The Culture itself is built in the barracks, and the admittance of cadets on waivers(see cadet death, a co-matriculant of mine, she didn't make it past October had ten medical waivers). Professors expand the minds of the cadets.

  22. Buke VMI 81 says:

    I am only familiar with VMI Supes from Irby on (I was a cadet with Irby/Walker). I remember Knapp as a Prof and Dean (but he was also a 2-star in the Reserves). Of all those and up until Gen Peay, all have been prior Military G.O.'s with the exception of Bunting. Outside of Knapp's academic background and Bunting's ALL Supes come from a Military career with little Academic orientation. That they generally focus their attention on the other aspects of VMI (and isn't that why we have a Dean?) isn't a negative. Every Supe has been a VMI Alum—as it should be..Gen Peay is a fine man—somewhat focused like a Laser on "his legacy" with regards to upgrades to the physical plant, etc. My second child will be a Rat this August joining his older brother. I have met with and corresponded with Gen Peay several times and find him to be dedicated, loyal, ambitous, and Professional. I support his continuation as Superintendent

    • Mike Burke '73 says:

      Well, some supes don't fit this mold–Francis Henney Smith, of course, was a West Point grad. Scott Shipp's military service was the result of his being commandant of cadets at VMi (including New Market); William H Milton (1952-60) spent most of his professional life working for General Electric and did not serve in the military. Here's a link: http://www.vmi.edu/archives.aspx?id=3965

      Glad both your sons are becoming VMI men–best wishes to them both.

      • FFNA says:

        Don't forget Lt. Gen. Lejeune!
        S/F

        • Mike Burke says:

          Thanks! I should have remembered he was a USNA grad–he was at my grandparents' wedding in France in 1918–my grandfather was a captain in the Marines and my grandmother was the daughter of the French garrison commander in Brest. I guess I forgot him in part because Lejeune Hall, which was the newest building at VMI when I was a cadet is now gone–subsumed into Third Barracks (I think).

          • anonymous says:

            no it is still there its just connected to the barracks now, it is all one building.

  23. DaveO says:

    My compliments to the commentators who have shared their thoughts and feelings.

    What is VMI's core? VMI's core is NOT liberal arts, and it is not STEM. GEN Peay is not central to VMI at all. VMI's core is its system of teaching Honor, specifically the Honor Code.

    Is the matter of the professors leave a matter of the metrics used to judge their performance? Where these measures unattainable, or divorced from reality?

    With these professors gone, can VMI do better? Are there men and women who are both better at teaching, and supportive of the Honor Code?

    Does the Institute not have a recruiting team, or do folks consider VMI to be so hidebound only the desparate would consider employment there?

    Does the self-removal of the professors allow for positive change in Scott Shipp Hall and Barracks?

  24. Slater says:

    I would say it's not attractive specifically because of the starting salaries VMI offers.

  25. 77Vmee says:

    "I have always questioned the wisdom of those sitting on the sidelines who are critical of those who are running an organization."

    Agreed. But then, "rot at the top" becomes the flagrant and subjective hyperbole that undercuts all after, particularly the unsupported reference to a model fifty some years old.

    For what it's worth, I wholeheartedly support the reorientation of the English curriculum from literature to rhetoric. Your allusion to an outdated edjuctational model notwithstanding, rhetoric is the more broad-based (particularly for a school where the majority of students are NOT liberal arts majors) and cutting edge core for English studies.

    Heavy-handed Smith Hall? No doubt. Even doing the right thing the wrong way is useless and counterproductive. But the reorientation of the curriculum is a smart move–too bad it was so poorly implemented. That is Smith Hall's failure.

    For the record, I'm a 77 grad of VMI, English degree, also have a PhD in English and no, I don't want to teach at the Institute. But I can easily imagine Fatty Ford and even Dodo (took 'me both) laughing at your flaming scimitar rhetoric followed by "kindest regards." Seriously?

  26. Guest70 says:

    An interview in today's News Gazette lets us hear the voice of one of the professors involved. He confirms what a few here have said or suspected, and that is that all this did not come about primarily due to a change in curriculum.

  27. Robert Murray says:

    The following post is offered primarily in response to and in amplification of the far reaching and comprehensive critique offered by Henry J, Foresman, Jr. The author's open letter focused upon the various and sundry reasons why General J.H. Binford Peay should retire or be removed from his current position as Superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute. Without specifically cataloging each and every issue outlined in that missive, I offer a few observations to address what I consider the most salient issuesidentified in that critique. I do so with several admissions. 1. I have been a most derelict alumni, having not attended a Class Reunion since the five year mark. My relative absence from any physical contact with the Institute is the product of the demands of a modest military career punctuated recently by personal and professional challenges that did not permit me to renew that association with both the institution and my brother rats. 2. As such, my familiarity with the concerns so thoroughly outlined in the Foresman piece are buttressed more by infrequent contacts with my Class Agent…the honorable Lawrence Houseworth, 1972 and chance encounters with alumni residing, like me , in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania and the surrounding environs, even more infrequent readings of the Alumni Review and visits to this site.3. My commentary is…signally with the regard to academics …qualified by the fact that my class, the much benighted Class of 1972…still constitutes the baseline/basement …literally and figuratively…of cumulative academic performance upon which all recorded classes…previous and subsequent built their comparative higher levels of achievement. As a former scholar athlete, I have great empathy for and interest in the Institute's competitive profile in all intercollegiate endeavors. Like Foresman, I accept VMI's re-entry into the Southern Conference as a good thing. But my satisfaction with this decision is couched with certain reservations. Salient among these is the capacity of the Institute to recruit and retain sufficient scholar athletes to compete successfully against teams of varying…with the exception of the Citadel…academic and athletic aspirations. I offered several different suggestions to my class agent in response to an informal survey he requested some years ago. The subject was VMI's lack of success on the gridiron and possible solutions. At that time, I had just completed a stint as assistant football for a Division III program.where we had just won the conference championship. I provided a rather exhaustive overview of three options…Division I, II and III. I do not know if these were ever reviewed, but that is academic now that the decision has been announced . In conjunction with a re-entry into the Southern Conference was a recommendation to develop a new undergraduate interdisciplinary major in Homeland Security. I felt this recommendation, which was in sync with the Institute's traditional mission of training "fair specimens of citizen soldiers" provided the additional benefit of provided needed quality personnel infusions to that agglomeration of agencies, departments and departmental slices that describe the DHS. I also submitted this recommendation in order to counter the only other military school in the conference….the Citadel…whose current graduate school program constitutes an option the Institute does not appear to wish to replicate. The previous suggestion would…to my thinking… draw upon the unique strengths of VMI, its singular academic mission and would provide the possibility to recruit scholar athletes concomitant with meeting the demands of another growing arguably inefficient federal bureaucracy.
    With specific reference to the travails of the English Department, I can only draw upon my experience as Department Chair and as previously mentioned my most dated experience as a Keydet History major. Serving in a small liberal arts college now university with no active AAUP representation can emasculate the power of the faculty. Like the Institute, the institution I worked at and continue to on an adjunct basis subscribes to a unique educational mission. Unlike the Institute, that mission is that of a Christian college where Faith in Learning remains the outspoken, if not operative imperative. With deference to 77Vmee's PhD in English and his sharp retorts, I feel that a focus on rhetoric would be more appropriate to meeting the demands of the times.
    The expansion and modernization of the Institute's physical plant is impressive and the focus on Leadership is both impressive. Perhaps the current senior leadership at the Institute should acquaint themselves with some of its curriculum?