VCU president responds to Northam controversy

Geo Mirador
President Rao addresses the audience at a forum. Photo by Geo Mirador.

Walter Chidozie Anyanwu, Contributing Writer

President Michael Rao is restating the university’s commitment to diversity and inclusion in light of the fallout surrounding Gov. Ralph Northam.  

In an email sent out to students, staff and faculty, Rao maintained that “bigotry and racism, conscious or otherwise, have no place in our Commonwealth or in our society.”

A racist photo emerged last Friday from a 1984 yearbook at Eastern Virginia Medical College. One person in the photo was wearing a Ku Klux Klan robe, the other was in blackface. Northam initially admitted to being in the photo, but on Saturday — after conversations with family, friends and former classmates, he said — denied he was in the image.

He said he did wear shoe polish to “darken” his face to compete as Michael Jackson in a dance competition in Texas the same year.

Rao said “most find [the image] to be culturally and racially disparaging,” but stopped short of calling for Northam’s resignation.

“I need you to know that VCU will continue to acknowledge the dignity and integrity of all people, and we will not compromise our core values related to diversity, inclusion, and respect for all people,” Rao said.  “Nothing could be any more important to me at this time.”

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