Issues Remain With VMI Investigation

Feb. 12, 2021

Editor, The News-Gazette:

On Feb. 4, Barnes & Thornburg, the team under contract by the commonwealth to provide a fair and independent assessment of the culture and processes at VMI, submitted its first monthly report.

On Feb. 9, the VMI Alumni Agencies sent an email to members of the VMI family indicating that “we were perplexed by the tone of some of their statements,” referring to the Feb. 4 report. Three topics were highlighted in their email: (a) the absence of how to comply with the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), federal privacy laws; (b) the “request that VMI suspend the VMI Honor Code for all cadets interviewed during this investigation”; and, (c) “The rights of cadets, faculty, and staff to have legal counsel present when being questioned by Barnes & Thornburg’s team of former prosecutors.” As a result, the VMI Alumni Agencies announced their hiring of McGuireWoods, a well-known and highly respected law firm, to represent its interests.

Two days later, Feb. 11, Interim Superintendent Maj. Gen. Cedric T. Wins wrote in a lengthy email that, “Barnes & Thornburg has pledged to VMI’s leadership that the statements made during all interviews and other identifying data obtained during this review will be fully protected and not disclosed by the law firm.” Not addressed were any words of concern to the alumni agencies and central to a fair factfinding assessment — the current VMI Honor Code, existing privacy laws and the right to legal counsel.

Where do you stand and which of the three parties stands the tallest? Or does it matter? No true agreement is possible without trust. Trust is the coin of the realm.

DAVID REYNOLDS

Rockbridge County

The News-Gazette

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