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The Spirit Speaks: VPA Upholds Award to The Cadet

Political Action Committee



For Immediate Release

Lexington VA

2 July 2023

The Virginia Press Association (VPA) upheld its award to The Cadet, the student newspaper produced by members of the Corps of Cadets at the Virginia Military Institute. The VPA had previously awarded The Cadet its Journalistic Integrity and Community Service Award. It is unprecedented for a student newspaper to be recognized for this highly coveted award, the VPA’s highest award for community service, that counts The Richmond Times Dispatch, The Roanoke Times, The Washington Times, and The Daily Press as previous winners.

The VPA authorized a review of the award after allegations of plagiarism were reported by the online news site Cardinal News. As anyone familiar with VMI knows, the Honor Code is sacrosanct: “A Cadet will not lie, cheat, or steal, nor tolerate those who do.” To say that an accusation such as this is taken seriously at VMI would be a gross understatement. The review, conducted by retired Norfolk attorney Conrad Shumadine, stated, “In this case it seems clear the contributions of the winner were original.” The Washington Post, in a rather misleading story by Paul Farhi, made it appear that plagiarism existed as they buried Shumadine’s statement deep in its article. This is not surprising given previous reporting by that publication, and it appears Farhi is competing with fellow staffer Ian Shapira to see who can win the award for yellow journalism.

Others have weighed in on the VPA upholding the award. Read this article, “WaPo Eats Crow, Students ‘Journalism Award Stands” from Bacon’s Rebellion here:

What is surprising to the Spirit of VMI PAC (SoVP) is the continued refusal of any entity at VMI to praise this outstanding achievement by members of the Corps. As Shumadine points out in his review, tension between a student newspaper and the institution it covers is not surprising. He states, “Quality journalism generates controversy, and these controversies are resolved by the competition of ideas in the marketplace…”. Why is VMI not recognizing the success of these cadets and salute their achievement even if it comes at their expense? And even if the administration cannot bring itself to recognize this award why are the Alumni Agencies silent? This award has never been earned by a student publication in the Commonwealth. As Shumadine states, “An award should be a celebratory event not an invitation to disparagement.” It confirms the high quality of the members of the Corps, something that ordinarily would generate a myriad of emails and social media posts from Colonel Bill Wyatt’s Communications and Marketing staff. The silence is deafening.

The SoVP calls on the VMI administration to recognize the staff of The Cadet for this most impressive award and celebrate the strength of free speech at the Institute. The current state of higher education would be much improved if other schools could enjoy this high level of quality journalism.

jFounded in 2021, the Spirit of VMI PAC is a registered Virginia Political Action Committee whose purpose is to restore VMI’s reputation as an elite leadership institution.

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