Controversial photos in yearbooks from Gov. Northam's med school prompt external investigation
NORFOLK, Va. (FOX 5 DC) - As Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam faces backlash for a racist photo in his 1984 med school yearbook -- his alma mater, Eastern Virginia Medical School, says they are now conducting an investigation into other "abhorrent" photos featured in other yearbooks.
FOX 5 obtained photographs from the 2013 EVMS yearbook that show white students from the class of 2016 in Confederate uniforms in front of a Confederate battle flag.
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The 2013 yearbook was the last yearbook for the school. Students say they were discontinued due to funding, while school administrators say it was photos like those that brought them to an end.
President of the school Dr. Richard Homan says he was made aware of the photos six years ago by the Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion.
"Theres been a pattern. Some are repugnant, some are unprofessional, some are shockingly abhorrent and we have to make sure we can review that. The board and lawfirm will take a look at that and determine what the numbers are, what the process is, develop an assessment and recommendations for our school to improve," said Dr. Homan.
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In the 1984 yearbook, a page dedicated to Northam includes three pictures, including one of him in a suit. A fourth photo shows a man in blackface standing next to a person in a full KKK costume.
At a news conference Saturday, Northam remarked that a former, unidentified classmate told him he thought "numerous pages" of the yearbook had received the wrong photos.
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The Associated Press says the offensive image was one of at least three blackface photos in the yearbook's 1984 edition.
One photo in the yearbook, which was reviewed by an Associated Press reporter, shows a man in blackface, dressed up as a woman wearing a wig. A caption reads: "'Baby Love,' who ever thought Diana Ross would make it to Medical School!"
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EVMS school leaders said they have commissioned an investigation into all past yearbooks and the school's culture.
"I'm concerned about my minority students here because they are hurt. As I mentioned, our African American community in this region is outraged as they should be, as well as around the country. So we have tried to create a process that's what we have done. To ensure there is openness, fairness but throuroughness in a third party independent investigation.
The investigation will be led by high-powered attorney Richard Cullen, a former Virginia attorney general and a former U.S. Attorney in Virginia who directed investigations into financial institutions and defense contractors, the school said in a statement.
The schools says it has establsihed a community advisory board to come up with an independent assesment on the culture at EVMS, both 30 years ago and now.
President Homan reiterated he is comitted to being transparent and open about this process and says at this point the school takes full responsibility.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.