College professor tackles 'Capitol Controversy' with students

HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) — As controversy at the Capitol rolls into its ninth day, professors at local colleges are tackling the tough topics with their students.

Melody Pannell, a 'Race and Gender' professor at Eastern Mennonite University, said the blackface controversy with Governor Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring has been a significant part of her lectures.

"Everyday, there's something we can debate," said Pannell. "We're looking at what's happening and helping students be aware of it and also learn how to have the conversation and healthy discourse."

In his first television interview since a racist photo from his 1984 yearbook page appeared, Governor Northam stood by his decision to stay in office, amid several calls for him to resign.

He believes this controversy puts Virginia in a unique position to learn more about racial equity.

Pannell agrees that cultural competency will help combat incidents like this in the future.

"I sense an age of accountability with regard to education and academic rigor," said Pannell. "Understanding what the past meant and what has happened, with historical context is important."