Democrat Virginia governor Ralph Northam wrote an editorial for the VMI Cadet student newspaper during his time at the Virginia Military Institute explaining the honor code expulsion policy at the college. In the editorial, he said that “personal honor seems to mean little” on “the city streets.”
Northam’s views on race are now coming under scrutiny as the governor tries to rebound from Big League Politics’ publication of the blackface-KKK photo on his medical school yearbook page.
Northam was president of the VMI Honor Court in his senior year, and as such he presided over the “drumming out” of students found to have committed honor code violations.
“In this time when personal honor seems to mean little, from the city streets to the highest echelons of government, it is essential that the Honor Code at VMI be tirelessly defended and upheld not only for the sake of today’s Corps of Cadets but also for those who have been and for those cadets who follow,” Northam wrote on August 20, 1980 in a piece entitled, “Code of A Gentleman.”
“I put it back to the former Honor Court President of the VMI Class of 1981, Governor Ralph,” says VMI graduate Roger Jarrell in a statement provided to Big League Politics. Jarrell did not attend VMI at the same time as Northam, but knows about the drumming-out process that Northam describes in his op-ed.
“When VMI cadets are “drummed out” for honor violations, the Honor Court wakes the entire corps of cadets in the dead of night. The Honor Court President then marches around the courtyard explaining that an individual cadet had been found guilty of an honor violation ‘placing personal gain above personal honor and that his name will never be mentioned within the four walls of the Institute again.’ Any alumnus can describe in great detail how those drums sounded and can describe in great detail the first drumming out ceremony they experiended as ‘Rats,'” Jarrell said.
“We used to call it a bongo furlough meaning that it was permanent…not the way to end one’s tenure at VMI. As Honor Court President, Ralph Northam presided over countless drumming out ceremonies and the underlying pre-trials and trials conducted under the UCMJ. He more than any other knows what it is to place personal gain over personal honor. Right now, the people of Virginia have lost faith in him. They know longer want him in office. By staying in office in whatever meager attempt to vindicate himself, he is truly placing personal gain above personal honor,” Jarrell said.
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