State Council of Higher Education for Virginia issues ‘notice of intent’ to select national law firm for VMI probe

Roanoke Valley News

LEXINGTON, Va. (WFXR) — Virginia’s coordinating body for higher education issued a “notice of intent to award” the contract for an investigation into the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) to a national law firm.

State officials ordered the outside investigation back in October following a story published by the The Washington Post describing Black cadets and alumni facing “relentless racism” at the school.

The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) issued a request for proposals on Nov. 5 for an investigation titled “Marching Toward Inclusive Excellence: An Equity Audit and Investigation of Virginia Military Institute.”

In the request, SCHEV described the purpose of the investigation as follows:

“Virginia remains committed to ensuring that all publicly funded institutions of higher education
maintain a culture of inclusive excellence. Given the recent and historical complaints of racial intolerance at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI), the State Council of Higher Education seeks
proposals for an independent interdisciplinary team to investigate the culture, policies, practices, and traditions at VMI. Therefore, this RFP describes the skill sets of the investigative team, the objectives for the scope of work and timeline to provide preliminary, interim, and final findings and recommendations.”

State Council of Higher Education for Virginia

SCHEV’s request for proposals also offered the following objectives for parties interested in submitting bids for the “Special Investigation Team:”

  • Identify any civil rights violations or immediate threats of racial violence.
  • Identify possible equity gaps in VMI’s culture, policies, practices, and traditions.
  • Compare VMI to other institutions of higher education in Virginia, as well as other military academies.
  • Provide a comprehensive recommendation and an assessment plan for any necessary reforms.

In addition, the selected investigation team is “strongly encouraged” to prepare preliminary findings and recommendations for SCHEV by Dec. 31, 2020; provide an interim report by Feb. 10, 2021; and present a final report by June 1, 2021, according to SCHEV’s request.

On Monday, Dec. 7, SCHEV posted a notice of intent to contract Barnes and Thornburg, LLP — an Indiana-based law firm which has offices across the country, as well as multiple colleges and universities as clients, according to the firm’s website — for the investigation.

While a spokesperson for SCHEV says the proposal cannot be released until the 10-day notice of intent to award period ends, the notice is available to the public in order to announce the council’s plans to award the contract to the party behind the chosen offer at the end of the 10 days.

You can check out the documents behind these negotiations by following this link.

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