To the Virginia Tech community,

Earlier this month, the Graduate and Professional Student Senate passed a resolution in support of the “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)” movement against Israel. Opinions have been expressed in favor and in opposition to the resolution from those within the Virginia Tech community and those external to our university. As a public university, Virginia Tech strongly supports the free speech rights of members in our community as well as organizations to express their opinions, regardless of whether those views are widely shared or controversial. The successful fulfillment of our tripartite missions of discovery, teaching and learning, and engagement depends on maintaining an institutional environment that supports open and vigorous debate from every perspective on issues that span science, technology, policy, geopolitics, and every endeavor of humanity.

Those who engage in debates on controversial issues can expect to be challenged. That said, there are legal boundaries that must not be crossed, and university policies with consequences for those who violate them. Everyone in our community should be free from harassment, discrimination, and physical threats to their safety.

Within those legal and policy bounds, however, Virginia Tech goes further with our aspirational Principles of Community, advocating for “open expression within a climate of civility, sensitivity and mutual respect.” That climate fosters real progress through active listening, empathy, and constructive dialogue. When respectful dialogue breaks down, the inevitable outcome is greater polarization and entrenchment. As a learning community, we have a special responsibility to model constructive and respectful debate on every issue, no matter how difficult or uncomfortable those conversations may be.

If your physical safety is threatened, we encourage you to contact the Virginia Tech Police Department.  For violations of the Student Code of Conduct, you may file a report. If you believe that the university’s Policy on Harassment, Discrimination has been violated, please reach out to the Office of Equity and Accessibility. Engaging in challenging debates and addressing difficult topics can be stressful, and can cause anxiety, difficulty concentrating, and sleep loss, and even concerns about safety. We do have resources available as a university.  

In the spirit of our Principles of Community,

Tim Sands,

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