Dear Hokies,

As we reflect on a tumultuous week in the United States – surpassing 100,000 in the official count of deaths ascribed to COVID-19 and the boiling over of frustration and anger over the tragic and unnecessary deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd - we do so from the relative safety of our quiet Blacksburg homes. Jarring images and videos taken by some of our own children on the streets of Chicago and Washington, D.C., bring home the immediacy of the crisis. It saddens us to know that many in our Virginia Tech community have lost loved ones, or have been traumatized by the events of the past weeks.

Dwelling on images, dramatic events, and counts can distract from the common truths that the pandemic and race-driven murders reveal. As great as our ideals of freedom, justice, and equality may be, the reality is persistently and pervasively falling short of what we say we are all about. From the marked disparities in COVID-19 illness and death across racial, ethnic, and economic divides, to the unrelenting burden of racism, past and present, systemic and overt, we cannot continue to expect incremental change and the goodwill of the majority to solve a multigenerational problem.

So what do we do? What actions can we take? While there is a place for protests, we must do more than protest. We have an opportunity as individuals and in our own communities to construct a microcosm of the society in which we wish to live. At Virginia Tech, we have anchored that aspiration in our Principles of Community, but principles only become meaningful if they are acted upon. Our strategic plan, The Virginia Tech Difference – Advancing Beyond Boundaries, takes the principles one step further to actionable priorities and accountability. Let’s work together to ensure that Virginia Tech becomes a model for a just and equitable learning community that prepares the next generation to lead in a new and better world. Over the next few weeks, the Office for Inclusion and Diversity will be working in collaboration with diversity directors, InclusiveVT representatives, diversity committees, advocates, and allies to identify specific action steps to work for sustainable transformation. We hope you will join in those efforts to help make our world a better place for all.

In the spirit of Ut Prosim,

Tim Sands,

Menah Pratt-Clarke,
Vice President for Strategic Affairs and Diversity

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