The superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) on Monday condemned the allegations of sexual harassment and assault from more than a dozen current and former female cadets who spoke to The Washington Post, calling the reported attacks “unacceptable.”
In a statement issued to the military college’s students just hours after the Post article was published, retired Army Maj. General Cedric Wins wrote that the “fact that this type of behavior is reported to have come from individuals who have worn the VMI uniform is repugnant.”
“The allegations contained within the story are unacceptable of any VMI cadet and no one – VMI cadet, faculty, staff, nor civilian – should be subjected to the type of behavior detailed in the article,” he added.
“Your behavior, no matter online, on post, or elsewhere, is a reflection of the Virginia Military Institute,” the superintendent continued. “To be a VMI alumnus is synonymous with being a leader of character whether in the military, industry, politics, or civic life.”
“As I stated upon my arrival, we define who we are as VMI,” Wins wrote.
“For those cadets who have experienced sexual assault or harassment, VMI is committed to your healing and success,” he said, noting a range of counseling and additional resources available to cadets for reporting instances of abuse.
The Post article detailed allegations of a hostile atmosphere toward women at the country’s oldest state-supported military college and revealed that five of the women interviewed said they had been sexually assaulted at VMI.
The women also described alleged instances of harassment, including on anonymous social media app Jodel, on which they said that female cadets were often referred to as “shedets” or “sheeds.”
The harassment included reported abuse aimed at Kasey Meredith, who was chosen to be the first woman to lead the VMI Corps of Cadets.
After the selection, some remarks on Jodel accused VMI leaders of picking Meredith as part of “a publicity stunt,” calling it “bull---t politics,” according to the Post.
Following the publication of the Post’s Monday article, #DefundVMI began circulating on Twitter, with Virginia state Del. Mark H. Levine (D) writing in a post, “If VMI can’t rid itself of endemic sexism and racism — and discipline students involved in it — Virginia must defund it entirely.”
If VMI can’t rid itself of endemic sexism and racism — and discipline students involved in it — Virginia must defund it entirely. How is VMI's "strict" discipline lax on sexual assault? Shame on Norment and any Senate Democrat covering up sexual assault. https://t.co/hzca17Y17B— Mark Levine (@DelegateMark) July 12, 2021
According to the Post, VMI in 2021 received $19.3 million in state funding, as well as $33 million to help build a new aquatics center.
VMI has come under more scrutiny in recent months over reports of an unhealthy atmosphere and unfair treatment of female cadets.
An independent probe conducted by the Barnes & Thornburg law firm revealed last month that the school promotes "a racist and sexist culture.”
The investigation found that while VMI has “robust” systems in place for reporting and probing complaints of sexual assault, about 14 percent of female cadets surveyed said they had been sexually assaulted while attending the military college.
Additionally, 63 percent in the report said another cadet had confided to them about experiencing a sexual assault.