The medical school Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam attended stopped producing yearbooks several years ago because of controversial, racially charged photos, according to The Washington Post.
Eastern Virginia Medical School provost Richard Homan said offensive photos in the student-run publication led to the decision to stop having annual yearbooks. Homan specifically pointed to a 2013 photo of three white students dressed in Confederate uniforms and posing in front of a Confederate flag.
"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 said he told Mekbib Gemeda, his VP for diversity and inclusion, 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."
Didn't solve the problem?
Homan's move to end the yearbook may have prevented any new controversies, but it didn't prepare the school for what's going on now, when a sitting governor is being pressured to resign over a 1984 picture of a man in blackface and another man in a Ku Klux Klan outfit.
"In retrospect, that was my error," Homan told The Washington Post about not going back to old yearbooks to see what might be in them. "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."
Still, now that the Northam picture has been discovered, EVMS has now opened an investigation into the yearbook program to figure out more about how the yearbooks were produced.
"We want to be as open and transparent as possible," Homan said. "We need to be sure that we examine ourselves."