Gov. Northam will not be part of William & Mary’s Charter Day celebrations

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. — Gov. Ralph Northam will not speak at the College of William & Mary’s Charter Day event after University president Katherine A. Rowe says she reached out to the governor’s office following the racist EVMS yearbook picture.

“However, under the circumstances, it has become clear that the Governor’s presence would fundamentally disrupt the sense of campus unity we aspire to and hope for with this event. We have conferred with the governor’s office, and he will not be part of Friday’s program,” said Rowe in her statement released Monday morning.

“That behavior has no place in civil society — not 35 years ago, not today. It stands in stark opposition to William & Mary’s core values of equity and inclusion, which sustain our mission of learning, teaching, and research,” added Rowe.

Rowe, who has only been the University’s president for seven months, had her swearing-in officiated by Northam. She also stated that Northam has been a welcoming ambassador for the Commonwealth while she has been at William & Mary.

Northam (D) called an unscheduled senior staff meeting Sunday night as he considered resigning after two days of defiance amid controversy over racist photo in his medical school yearbook.

According to The Washington Post, people familiar with the meeting have reported that the governor has not reached a final decision about what he will do next.

It was unclear who was at the meeting. It is known that the meeting involved senior staffers of color. However, The person would become governor if Northam resigned, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, was not there, the people said.

Northam spent most of this Sunday in seclusion at his home on the Eastern Shore while confidantes delivered conflicting advice about whether he should resign or continue his term, according to people close to the governor.

Some of Gov. Northam’s longtime allies in Virginia’s Democratic Party took their calls for resignation Sunday. Many of them arguing that the discovery of a racist photo on his 1984 medical school yearbook page had made him unable to continue to lead the state.

See below the full statement from William & Mary President Katherine A. Rowe:

On Friday, like others in our community, I was appalled and saddened by the revelation of the racist image on Gov. Ralph Northam’s medical-school yearbook page. The behavior depicted in that photo is a painful reminder of the hate, divisiveness and racism that so many in this country have sought for generations to overcome.

That behavior has no place in civil society — not 35 years ago, not today. It stands in stark opposition to William & Mary’s core values of equity and inclusion, which sustain our mission of learning, teaching, and research. Recognizing how much work remains to be done to advance these values, in support of our mission, these images must renew our sense of urgency. At William & Mary, the path forward requires sustained dialogues about what counts as respectful and appropriate behavior in a vibrantly diverse community, especially with regard to the legacy and persistence of racism in this country.

In my seven months as William & Mary’s president, Gov. Northam has been a welcoming ambassador for the Commonwealth. He officiated at my swearing-in ceremony in July and was scheduled to participate in the upcoming Charter Day and inauguration ceremony. However, under the circumstances, it has become clear that the Governor’s presence would fundamentally disrupt the sense of campus unity we aspire to and hope for with this event. We have conferred with the governor’s office, and he will not be part of Friday’s program.

My thoughts are with the leaders of our Commonwealth as they seek the best path forward to rebuild trust. My focus, however, is on the William & Mary community: on reckoning with our own history with humility and dedication, and on joining you in the continuing work of ensuring our university community is welcoming and respectful of all.

Katherine A. Rowe
President, William & Mary

For full coverage on Gov. Northam’s yearbook photo controversy, click here.

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