Virginia governor Ralph Northam’s previously scheduled speaking appearance at the College of William and Mary’s charter day and inauguration ceremony on Friday has been cancelled, the university announced Monday.
Northam, a Democrat, came under fire on Friday after it was revealed that his 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook page featured an image of two men, one in blackface and the other in a Ku Klux Klan uniform.
“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,” College president Katherine Rowe said of the photo in a Monday statement.
Rowe, who was sworn in to her position by Northam in 2017, went on to praise the governor for serving as a “a welcoming ambassador for the Commonwealth,” but said his appearance would disrupt Friday’s proceedings.
“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,” she wrote.
After initially conceding on Friday evening that he did in fact appear in the photo, Northam walked back his previous statement and denied that he appeared in the photo during a Saturday afternoon press conference, which failed to quiet the calls for his resignation from national and state officeholders in both parties. While he denied appearing in the yearbook photo, Northam admitted during the press conference that he once “darkened his face” before participating in a costumed dance contest dressed as Michael Jackson.