The law firm conducting the independent probe of allegations of racism at Virginia Military Institute reported Friday that the college has resisted allowing cadets or faculty to be interviewed without VMI representatives or lawyers present.

The firm, Barnes & Thornburg, said agreeing to those terms would “undermine the independence and effectiveness” of its inquiry, discourage VMI cadets and teachers from speaking candidly, and put their confidentiality at risk.

The dispute has delayed progress on the investigation, for which the state allocated $1 million.

Now VMI is proposing that cadets or employees be “given the option” to have the school’s lawyers with the firm Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott accompany them, according to the report. But the independent investigators are objecting to that proposal, too.

“The [investigative] Team finds this solution just as problematic and undermining of the audit’s objectives, if not more so, than having VMI counsel present for all interviews,” the firm’s investigators wrote. “The Team has asked Eckert why VMI wants its counsel in the room during interviews, but Eckert has not provided a clear answer and in doing so has cited matters of attorney-client privilege. VMI and the Team are still working through this issue.”

VMI’s spokesman, Bill Wyatt, said the school believes that cadets, faculty and staff should have access to the college’s lawyers if they want it.

“How does that undermine the investigation?” Wyatt asked. “We have provided them thousands of pages of documents already and are not in any way impeding who they speak with. While the attorneys work out their differences, we continue to cooperate fully with their review.”

Virginia Sen. Janet D. Howell (D-Fairfax), chairwoman of the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee, said Tuesday that if VMI — which received $19.3  million in state funding for fiscal 2020-2021, along with $33 million toward construction of a new aquatics center ­— doesn’t “stop its delaying tactics and its efforts to thwart the investigation,” the school risks losing some of its annual allotment from the commonwealth’s coffers.

Or, she said, the state might force the school, rather than Virginia taxpayers, to foot the $1 million bill for the investigation.

“It’s important that cadets are able to speak freely and honestly. I don’t want them intimidated,” Howell said. “I expect the school to participate properly with the investigation, and if they don’t, there will be ramifications.”

The nation’s oldest state-supported military college has been under intense scrutiny since October, when The Washington Post published an article describing Black cadets’ accusations of racism on the Lexington campus. Two days later, Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and other state officials ordered an independent probe of what they called the school’s “clear and appalling culture of ongoing structural racism.”

In early January, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, which is helping oversee the investigation, awarded the $1 million contract to Barnes & Thornburg.

The firm’s progress report, which was released to state lawmakers Monday, shows that its investigators have struggled to gain momentum for their inquiry into the culture at the school, which enrolls 1,700 cadets.

While VMI pressed to have its lawyers or representatives present during interviews, those conducting the probe said the college’s request “violates fundamental investigative best practice, as it allows the subject of an investigation to ‘shadow’ the progress of an investigation and potentially to steer its course and results.”

VMI faculty members told The Post that they are alarmed by the college’s tactics.

“I am confident we would feel intimidated having VMI counsel involved because there is a hidden atmosphere of intimidation and retaliation at VMI,” said one teacher, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of fear of reprisal from VMI officials. “The administration seems to be aware of the problems but is trying to cover them up.”

The investigators also asked VMI for its assurances that it wouldn’t discipline cadets and faculty who revealed sensitive information during their interviews. According to the report, the two sides “are working through some initial disagreement” about how to handle the issue. But the school has promised “not to pursue discipline for facts disclosed in interviews.” VMI has also committed not to seek the identity of anyone interviewed by the firm who confidentially provides “relevant data” during the investigation.

The scope of the law firm’s inquiry is expansive. Investigators want to examine years of disciplinary records related to students accused of honor code violations.

In December, The Post found that the college’s student-run Honor Court system — which prosecutes cadets accused of lying, cheating, stealing or tolerating those who do — expels Black students at a disproportionately high rate. Between the fall of 2017 and the spring of 2020, Black students comprised about 43 percent of all Honor Court convictions, even though they made up about 6 percent of the student body during that time period. When all students of color are taken into account, they made up about 54 percent of the convictions, even though they accounted for about 21 percent of the student population.

In its request for documents, Barnes & Thornburg asked for “all documentation” related to Honor Court “investigations, proceedings, and punishments” dating from Jan. 1, 2010, to the present. The firm wants Honor Court case files, “notes, findings and conclusions.” But VMI, according to the firm’s report, said it could provide only five years of Honor Court documents, given the firm’s deadlines.

The firm’s next report is due in early March, and its final report with recommendations and findings must be completed by June 1.