The medical school that Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam attended stopped releasing yearbooks in 2013 because students had posed for portraits wearing Confederate uniforms in front of the Confederate flag, The Washington Post reports.
"I was not aware we even had yearbooks," said Richard V. Homan, the president and provost of Eastern Virginia Medical School. Homan took his post in 2013, and hired Mekbib Gemeda as vice president for diversity and inclusion shortly after. It was Gemeda who showed Homan the yearbook that included the pictures.
"We need to make sure they understand as physicians that this is offensive to me as well as to future patients and grossly offensive to minority students and African Americans," Homan says he said at the time. "They're going to be taking care of everybody. You can't be wearing incendiary symbols if you’re going to be a young physician and a healer."
Homan banned the yearbook, which was primary run by the students without much oversight from the faculty. He added it never occurred to him to review previous editions of the yearbook.
"In retrospect, that was my error," he said. "I thought because I stopped publication that would have been enough. I think in retrospect, I would have had an audit or review of those."
Homan told members of the board of visitors on Monday the school has hired former Virginia attorney general Richard Cullen to investigate the publication of these and other racist photos.
"We want to be as open and transparent as possible," he told the Post. "We need to be sure that we examine ourselves."
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