I write to you today to express my profound sadness and deep disappointment over the violent events that have taken place at the U.S. Capitol. As a public university president, I rarely speak out on issues that may seem political in nature. In this case, however, I feel moved to do so because I strongly believe that Hokies have a responsibility to do our part to help heal the deep wounds that this national crisis – years in the making - has illuminated.

What happened yesterday was horrific and wrong, and we must work to ensure acts of violence that strike at the core of our democracy never happen again. In doing so, we are compelled to take an honest look at the underlying state of our society and ask, why did this happen, and how did we get here?

While I don’t have all of these answers, I do know that distrust in our governmental institutions at all levels and the proliferation of inaccurate information on the internet and social media are contributing factors. We must combat misinformation and falsehoods through education, ensuring that all secondary and post-secondary students are immersed in the issues of the day, understand the principles embedded in the U.S. Constitution and our legal system, and are savvy when it comes to the manipulation of news and social media by those who would try to indoctrinate us.

Underlying all of these educational objectives is the fundamental skill of critical thinking. But in effectively developing the ability to think critically among our students, institutions of higher education must also recognize that significant segments of society have lost trust in higher education to teach our students without political bias. All institutions of higher education must commit to respecting the trust that has been placed in us by creating learning environments that ensure that our students can listen to a wide range of positions and analyze the verifiable evidence before drawing a conclusion.

Our motto at Virginia Tech is Ut Prosim (That I May Serve). In the spirit of Ut Prosim, I hope you will commit to serving your communities by modeling critical thinking, by actively listening to those whose views differ from your own, and by stepping up to lead when called upon. I know Hokies everywhere can and will rise to this challenge.


Tim Sands,

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