Dear Member of the Virginia Tech Community,

In interacting with you and our fellow Hokies over the past 24 hours, I have heard the full range of emotions — from vindication to shock, from outright fear to enthusiasm. All of these are responses to what has been a rancorous election cycle, one that has no parallels in recent history.

This presidential election season has tested our fortitude, our character as a country, our values, and our commitment to civility. If there was a revelation for me from the year preceding the election, it was that as individuals and as a nation, we failed to listen and we failed to empathize. We talked past each other. Why could we not have pulled aside our neighbor and asked “Why are you distressed? Tell me about your history, your values, and your lived experience. What can I do for you?"

As Hokies, we have a commitment to Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) and that commitment requires empathy. You cannot serve those you don’t understand.  This is much more fundamental than politics. Empathy takes work, time, commitment, and courage. 

I ask you to commit to having these difficult conversations as thoroughly and as frequently as your humanity will permit. While your individual contribution may seem small, you will be modeling the only behavior that will lead us forward.  #VTUnfinished is a start to these conversations, and I hope you will join me next week as our campus seeks to continue listening, sharing, and learning.

In the spirit of Ut Prosim,

Tim Sands


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