Virginia Tech's Unfinished Conversation On Race
Unfinished Conversation on Race
We are dedicated to adhering to and promoting our institutional and individual commitment to Ut Prosim (that I may serve) in the spirit of community, diversity, and excellence. We affirm our conviction that racism has no place in our institution. We invite members of our campus community and those interested, to join this important and much needed conversation.
Leading the Conversation
Dr. Menah Pratt-Clarke
VP for Strategic Affairs & Diversity
Dr. Michele Deramo
Assistant Provost for Diversity Education
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College and University Statements
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The Office for Inclusion & Diversity, the Cultural and Community Centers, UJIMA, and SOAR
The Office for Inclusion & Diversity, the Cultural and Community Centers, UJIMA, and SOAR condemns the relentless horror of police brutality and the murder of Black men, women, and children, including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Atatiana Jefferson, Rekia Boyd, Sandra Bland, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, and Rodney King, to name just a few of the victims. We stand with our nation in condemning these horrific acts which have plagued our communities. We must end systemic racism in our country in order to move forward in a balance and productive manner for the sake of all of humanity.
Every institution and organization in this country must speak against the continuing violence against people of color. We strongly encourage White and non-Black members to take action by advocating for racial justice and reform of the police and criminal justice system; listening to, ceding space to, and acknowledging, without any fragility, the concerns and anger of Black scholars from students to faculty & staff; and addressing teaching, research, and public engagement through the lens of anti-racism.
We are dedicated to adhering to and promoting InclusiveVT, our institutional and individual commitment to Ut Prosim (that I may serve) in the spirit of community, diversity, and excellence. We affirm our conviction that racism has no place in our institution. We invite members of our campus community and those interested, to join this important and much needed conversation. Our Principles of Community serve as a base work for managing these actions.
As stated in a statement from President Sands and Dr. Menah Pratt-Clarke, “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.” To view the full statement, click here.
We encourage you to take a moment and view a recorded session from June 5th where Virginia Tech initiated “Unfinished Conversation on Race: A kick-off for an ongoing conversation on race and racism.” Click here to view the session.
We also encourage you to learn more about our community and cultural centers this Friday at 5:30 pm ET with our “Making the Chair Fit” series. In addition, President Sands also shares his views on diversity and inclusion as part of a “Making the Chair Fit” series.
A statement from President Tim Sands and Vice President for Strategic Affairs and Diversity Menah Pratt-Clarke:
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. Click here for the full statement.
The tragic and senseless deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd and the violence that has inflamed many of our cities are symptoms of an endemic disease afflicting our nation, one that has persisted for far longer than COVID-19 and has exacted much more damage to our society, systems of justice, morality and economy.
As an ex-South African who was raised under apartheid in a position of privilege largely due to my skin color, I have seen how societies divided by race become corrupted with prejudice, injustice, economic disparity and fear. Now, as an American, I have asked myself what I can do in my own small way to make a difference, to provide opportunities for citizens of this nation to enjoy productive lives of service and not be denied this basic freedom as so many generations were in South Africa. Of course, there is a lot that I can do personally, in the way that I think about and communicate with others and act in accordance with the belief that we all have talents to share and responsibility to care for one another.
As a veterinarian, I recognize that diagnosis of this disease is straightforward – I believe that it is a chronic condition with all too frequent flare-ups due to an unwillingness to commit more energy and attention to the welfare of others than to ourselves. What then is the treatment, what can we do as a university community? The way we behave towards one another on a day-to-day basis really matters. Our Principles of Community serve as a foundation and a compass for guiding these actions.
But, to realize fully the opportunity that we have to make a difference, we need to recognize that our work at Virginia Tech is not trivial, that our tripartite mission involving education, research and outreach fosters intellectual and social development of students, faculty and staff, and drives the economy of the nation. Our graduates are enabled and empowered by this education to pursue their aspirations, serve and support their families and communities, and live productive lives that are forever influenced by their university experience. This mission cannot be accomplished without being inclusive. How are we going to educate students and prepare them for future service without immersing them in a diversity of ideas, experiences and identities, and expect them to serve the full spectrum of our national and global communities? If diversity is not represented among our graduates, would this not limit the impact of our mission? How relevant would our research be if it failed to benefit all members of our community?
To be inclusive we need to be diverse because without substantive representation of different races, ethnicities, gender and other identities among students, faculty and staff we will not be able to achieve our university mission nor promote our own personal development. And to celebrate and benefit from this diversity, we need to support underrepresented members of our community to enable their success. This is why it is so important to continue to make progress in enrolling underrepresented minority and underserved students, and to support them through the Student Opportunities and Achievement Resources (SOAR) program and cultural and community centers, and why investments in faculty recruitment programs such as the Future Faculty and Target of Talent programs bear valuable dividends. These are just a few examples of things that we can and should do.
While we both grieve for and worry about the discord in our nation, let us also recommit to the actions, both personal and institutional, that we can accomplish to make a positive difference.
June 1, 2020
Dear VTCSOM Community,
The historic and cumulative impact of structural racism on black lives was punctuated recently by the killings of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd. Their deaths were horrific, senseless and brutal. I stand with my fellow citizens, physicians, educators and academic leaders in condemning these acts. They are an affront to our values of inclusion, diversity, humanism, compassion, justice and respect.
The cruelty and inhumanity perpetrated against Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd remind me how little progress we have made as a society over the past 30 years. I was a resident physician in Los Angeles in 1991 when Rodney King was brutally beaten on the streets of that city. The beating was caught on camera by a bystander and broadcast into homes across the nation and worldwide. A year later the Los Angeles policemen involved in the beating were acquitted on charges of assault and the use excessive force, an injustice that triggered protests and violent riots. Although the increase in senseless violence against unarmed African-Americans over the past 3 decades may seem to be an artifact of capturing more of these tragedies on camera, I fear we are still seeing only the tip of this iceberg.
In our shared sense of dismay what can we do to be helpful? Leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr, Elie Wiesel, and Desmond Tutu have pointed out in their own unique ways that “neutrality” creates a deafening silence that supports continued oppression and torment. It is each citizen’s duty to call out and acknowledge the real and continued inequities that limit life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for people of color. The statement released yesterday from Virginia Tech President Tim Sands and Vice President for Strategic Affairs and Diversity Menah Pratt-Clarke does just that and points out, “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.”
I celebrate the growth in diversity our society has experienced during the 6 decades of my life. Inclusion of people’s diverse experiences, perspectives and thoughts is a defining feature and strength of America. Diversity has been a driver of innovation and success, but the economic fruits of progress have not resolved racial inequalities and health disparities. Over 20 years ago the Surgeon General of the United States, Dr. David Satcher, pointed out the existence of “continuing disparities in the burden of illness and death experienced by blacks, Hispanics, American Indians and Alaska Natives, and Pacific Islanders” and predicted that “the future health of America as a whole will be influenced substantially by our success in improving the health of racial and ethnic minorities.” COVID-19 reminds us that the institutional and structural factors that define race in our society have sustained these disparities, setting the stage for greater rates of illness and death in African-American families from the pandemic. Our community’s suffering, grief and anguish over the resulting loss of life is real and must be acknowledged, heard and supported.
The compounding impact of long-term inequality, health disparities, the pandemic and the recent killings of unarmed citizens can create a heavy burden of stress, fear, outrage and trauma in communities of color, and yet may be hidden from the awareness of individuals who do not feel this impact. I acknowledge the burden of repeated trauma carried across many generations in the African-American community. I also acknowledge my privilege -- not to fear that an encounter with law enforcement or jog through the neighborhood could result in my death or that of my children. I want to listen, understand, acknowledge and support members of our VTCSOM community who are fearful, worried, aggrieved and anguished.
Please join me on Wednesday, June 3, from 5:30-7:00pm for a special “VTCSOM Community Forum: Finding Safety after the Killings of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd”. An outlook invitation is forthcoming for this zoom forum. Former VTCSOM faculty member, Dr. Frank Clark, will join us. Before moving to the University of South Carolina at Greenville Dr. Clark practiced at Carilion in the department of psychiatry and was a member of the VTCSOM Dean’s Council on Advancement. Dr. Clark is an emerging national leader whose work draws attention to the impact of racism and health inequities on the African-American community: https://www.nmqf.org/40-under-40-awardees/2019/clark. The forum will create a safe space for sharing and listening, acknowledging and supporting each other – a place of compassion and understanding. In preparation I hope you will have time to read this short and moving poem by Morgan Harper Nichols, a 30-year old artist and poet from California.
It is my sincerest hope that we can come together to help those who are suffering and in pain. Thank you for your support!
Lee A. Learman, MD, PhD
Dean, Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine
June 2, 2020
Dear CALS Community,
This past week has been plagued with nationwide protests and unrest after the tragic and senseless deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. For many people, including members of our community, the level of pain, trauma, and hopelessness have become overwhelming. Today and every day we stand together with our Black students, faculty, staff, partners, collaborators, stakeholders, and the entire Black community.
As a global community committed to inclusion and diversity, we reaffirm our conviction that racism has no place in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences – or anywhere.
Being the cornerstone of Virginia Tech’s land-grant mission, we are in a unique position to change the world and make it better for the next generation. The CALS Diversity Statement articulates our commitment to ensuring a welcoming, affirming, safe, and accessible climate for all students and employees. We recognize that awareness and the willingness to act with moral courage is essential. However, we must acknowledge that this is not enough. This is the time for action. In the words of President Sands and Vice-President Pratt-Clarke “we cannot continue to expect incremental change and the goodwill of the majority to solve a multigenerational problem.”
We empower every member of our college community to take individual responsibility and (re)commit yourselves to the VT Principles of Community. Let’s pledge to an intentional and unwavering effort to see one another as human beings and create learning and work spaces that reflect our fundamental and core values of community, diversity, and excellence. To succeed, all students, staff, and faculty must feel accepted, included, and respected.
Over the next few months, Chevon will be leading the development of a Diversity Implementation Plan in which we will identify specific action steps to address systemic injustice in programs across our missions. We are excited to continue our work as a college community, fully cognizant of individual differences. We are committed to empowering each individual to fulfill his or her potential for academic and professional excellence. Each plays an important role in planning, implementing, and realizing our goals. We can do no less if we hope to strengthen the fabric of our college for a dynamic future.
Alan Grant, Dean
Chevon Thorpe, Director of Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity
The stories are horrific and horrifying: Police bursting into Breonna Taylor’s home and shooting her eight times; neighbors chasing and fatally shooting jogger Ahmaud Arbery; a police officer pressing his knee to the neck of George Floyd for nearly nine minutes, long after Floyd managed to draw his last breath. Those lost lives were all precious.
The protests that have since swept across the nation all make a claim — violent policing and unpoliced, racially motivated violence reveal the racist double standard at the heart of the American contract, and it is past time to stand up in righteous refusal of these injustices.
Our college, as home to the liberal arts and human sciences at Virginia Tech, centers on the study of humanity and society, with a focus on how people have used their power to transform oppressive systems and effect social change. These lessons are urgent, and they can guide us on how to act now.
We are extremely proud of our college’s leading role in building a diverse faculty and student body, but there is so much more work to do. It is not enough to recruit talented faculty, staff, and students. We must also work to enable these members of the Virginia Tech community to thrive and feel valued, secure, and welcome, both on and off campus.
Understanding the history, culture, and contemporary lives of underrepresented and underserved communities is an essential component of our college’s academic programs. We are committed to affording every Virginia Tech student the opportunity to take courses that speak to their unique experiences in the world in a profound way.
As part of that endeavor, the college has expanded its leadership team and hired Shaila Mehra, our first-ever assistant dean for diversity, equity, and inclusion. Our college will also soon be launching the Academy for Transdisciplinary Studies, which will not only house our current interdisciplinary programs in Africana Studies, American Indian Studies, Women’s and Gender Studies, and Disability Studies, but also include new programs in LGBTQI Studies, Latinx Studies, and Asian and Asian American Studies.
In addition, our faculty members are often called upon to lend their expertise to discussions on political, social, and economic inequalities. As just one recent example, Brandy Faulkner, one of our faculty members in the Department of Political Science, did a masterful moderation of a panel with the Central Park Five. In our Department of Sociology, Wornie Reed, who marched with Martin Luther King Jr., is often solicited for his insights into the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement. Many of our faculty in the Department of Human Development and Family Science provide critical mental health services to the most vulnerable members of communities of color.
For many members of the our college community, these most recent losses are acutely personal and also reinforce the pain of a pandemic that has laid bare long-term structural inequities. To our faculty: Your research, teaching, learning, and service to promote an equitable society, both within and without the halls of Virginia Tech, are essential today and always. To all of those who are refusing to accept injustice and demand that the world transform to meet your highest ideals, your courage guides us.
We hope you will all have the opportunity to read the recent statement by President Tim Sands and Menah Pratt-Clarke, vice president for strategic affairs and diversity. Their statement offers solace, encouragement, and resources for counseling support during these challenging, tragic times.
Laura A. Belmonte
Dean, College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences
Professor of History
As a college community, I know we are saddened and appalled by the events of the past week. The dignity of human life has been violated. I want to reaffirm that as a college community, we are committed to supporting and upholding equality, respect, kindness, and dignity and will not accept or tolerate behaviors and actions that do not uphold and honor each individual. We know from our work in natural resources that diversity - ecological diversity - is a strength that brings resilience to natural systems. And it is beautiful.
I was shocked and saddened by what I saw on television regarding the death of George Floyd. Progress has been too slow, and we have work to do as a nation. There are too many examples in the last several decades – the past several centuries - of race-based violence, and now we see them firsthand, live on multiple broadcast stations. I was numbed, sad, shocked, and sickened by what I saw. There is a racial divide in our nation, and each of us has a responsibility to work toward equality and fairness for all people.
Many of you know that in my past commencement comments, and again this year, I referred to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1945 undelivered speech:
Today we are faced with the preeminent fact that, if civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships – that ability of all peoples, of all kinds, to live together and work together in the same world, at peace.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Undelivered Speech, 1945
I hope you will join me in reaffirming our college community's commitment to the mutual respect and dignity of all peoples and to promote and uphold the Virginia Tech Principles of Community.
Paul M. Winistorfer, Ph.D.
Dean and Professor
Statement from the Virginia Tech College of Science
Yesterday, Virginia Tech President Tim Sands and Vice President for Strategic Affairs and Diversity Menah Pratt-Clarke released a statement about the past tumultuous week in the United States. We, and the College of Science, affirm the painful and brutal reality so many in our community are facing, and have faced, as they experience, process, and protest these acts of violence. The College of Science acknowledges the ways in which the lives of our students, faculty, and staff have been impacted by systemic racism.
We will continue our efforts to promote environments of equity and inclusion within our college and departments in which everyone feels that they are welcome and that they can thrive. As with society, science can only achieve its greatest work when people with a breadth of divergent backgrounds work together on the difficult issues we face across the world. In the coming months, we will be reaching out to student organizations, faculty, and staff to better understand specific steps we can take to work for the sustainable transformation called for by President Sands and Vice President Pratt-Clarke.
Sally C. Morton, Dean
Estrella Johnson, Director of Inclusion and Diversity
College of Science, Virginia Tech
June 01, 2020
STATEMENT OF SOLIDARITY WITH RECENT PROTESTS
FROM THE LGBT FACULTY & STAFF CAUCUS AT VIRGINIA TECH
AND THE LGBTQ+ RESOURCE CENTER AT VIRGINIA TECH
The LGBT Faculty and Staff Caucus at Virginia Tech and the LGBTQ+ Resource Center at Virginia Tech join our Black friends and family (queer and otherwise) in solidarity in the wake of continued acts of police rutality, white supremacy, and systemic racism. The recent murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and too many others demand our engagement. It is our responsibility to advocate with and for those targeted and impacted by these unjust acts of violence. While the queer and trans communities are multiracial, for too long, our vibrant and diverse community has prioritized white — and therefore privileged — voices, neglecting to highlight intersectional oppression suffered by Black and other communities of color. Today marks the beginning of Pride Month. By celebrating Pride, we celebrate the uniting of people and their power in the face of oppression and discrimination. The first Pride was, in fact, a riot. June 28, 2020 marks the 51 st anniversary of the Stonewall riots where Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, two prominent trans women of color, took a stand with countless others against the targeted harassment of the New York Police Department and laid the foundation for the queer liberation movement. There is no LGBTQ+ liberation without Black liberation.
As feminist bell hooks once said, “the heart of justice is truth telling, seeing ourselves and the world the way it is rather than the way we want it to be. More than ever before we, as a society, need to renew a commitment to truth telling.” As a majority-white Executive Committee, we recognize the work that we personally need to do to unlearn the racism built into our society, educated in our schools, and taught by our families. We urge our communityto continue doing the truth-telling work that is necessary to unlearn the structures that have been built upon oppression. We must work to be anti-racist in our daily lives, to hold each other accountable and question our biases, and demand change.
Yours in solidarity,
Rachel Weaver, M.F.A. Jessica “Jes” Davis, M.P.A. Jordan Harrison, Psy.D., LCP
Co-Chair Co-Chair Immediate Past Caucus Co-Chair
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Lindsey R. Gleason Jacob Paul (“JP”) John Gray Williams, M.A.
Treasurer Events Coordinator CEOD Diversity Representative
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Ashleigh “Bing” Bingham, Ed.D.
Director, LGBTQ+ Resource Center
Dear Virginia Tech,
The incidents of police brutality spreading across the United States this week have shocked and alarmed the Jewish community at Virginia Tech, and we wish to make it clear that we stand with the Black community. As a people with our own long-standing struggles against ethnically-motivated oppression and violence, we empathize with the struggles of Black Americans and other people of color. There exist many Jews of color, we seek to embrace them because they are indispensable to our community.
The majority of Jews in America are white, and many of us benefit from the same privileges that other white demographics do. We recognize that our experiences in the present day are not always comparable to those of the communities that are currently suffering. We wish to highlight the importance of listening and communicating with people who are unlike ourselves in order to further understanding and acceptance. We encourage everyone to stand up for the Black community by not only condemning racism but by using our privilege to speak against the injustices that are occurring.
Attached is a list of support funds that work to fight for those that have been jailed due to the protests, as well as a fact sheet of information on how to safely protest. With many protesters and even reporters being physically assaulted, and in some cases permanently disabled it’s important that we remain safe while making our voices heard. We are also including petitions you can sign in support of these causes.
Now is the time for change.
#BlackLivesMatter to JSU and the Jewish community at Virginia Tech.
The Jewish Student Union of Virginia Tech
I hope you have had the opportunity to read the statement by Virginia Tech President Tim Sands and Vice President for Strategic Affairs and Diversity Menah Pratt-Clarke. To say we are in challenging times is a true and gross understatement. During these last tumultuous weeks, we have seen the tragic and unnecessary deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that has sickened and killed so many across the globe.
The murder of Ahmaud Arbery has hit my family close, as one of our daughters worked in the Glynn County Courthouse in Brunswick, Georgia until recently and has friends in the Brunswick community. Waiting 74 days before an arrest was made in the Arbery case has been excruciatingly painful to watch. It’s crystal clear evidence of the great distance American society still has to travel before it treats all of its members equally and with respect, especially when justice is being sought.
In today’s racially-charged environment, we must tightly embrace our university’s principles of community and the University Libraries’ commitment to our inclusive climate of mutual care, respect, and responsibility. We will continue to affirm the intrinsic humanity of every person and their right to information, technology, and knowledge so that they can do the same. We will continue to offer aid to students, faculty, and all researchers who are trying to continue their work and education, no matter their race or background. And as we do so, we need to stand up and speak out against injustice in any form while we keep Ahmaud, Breonna, George, and the numerous fallen African-Americans firmly in our minds.
We all wonder, “but what can I do?” I have seen in recent months how we have come together and demonstrated our library’s great love of fellowship and collaboration to make a difference for our Virginia Tech community and beyond. We are fortunate to be surrounded by a university community that has the motto of Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) at its center and guiding principles steeped in caring and respect. However, each and every one of us must not just say these words but live and work by them. We must continue to lead by example and be role models for others to follow.
In the coming weeks and months, the university will host initiatives to enhance inclusivity at Virginia Tech. I urge you to participate and learn about how you can make a difference for the disenfranchised of our community, nation, and world. Learn what you can do to help us all overcome the barriers of racism, negative perceptions, and hate so that we can all celebrate in our differences.
These are dark times, yes. But we can make a difference. We all can.
All my best to you and your families,
Dean, University Libraries and Professor
Statement of Support for our Black students and colleagues
We would like to address the current events that are taking place in our country and affecting our community since silence would only make us complicit and complacent to what is going on around us, and that would be unacceptable. In particular, the many challenges faced by our Black colleagues and students are front-and-center. We in BEAM affirm and support our Black faculty, staff, postdocs, and students. As a department, we pledge to be mindful of how moments like these place a heavier burden on certain people in our community, and to think about how we can improve our mentorship, teaching, and scholarship for our Black students and colleagues.
We are devastated by the recent events involving the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and many others whose deaths and experiences are less well publicized. Other events in the United States have occurred going back to the days of Emmett Till up to now with “Permit Patty,” “BBQ Becky”, and the most recent incident with Amy Cooper, as was famously displayed last week when she threatened to report Christian Cooper and emphasized that he was “an African American male” to law enforcement when she was politely asked to leash her dog. These events demonstrate that simply being Black is deemed a punishable offense by others in our society, and with knowing that weaponized privilege is real, it is used as a tool in leading to tragedies that we face today. We strongly support the notion that everyone should be valued. We affirm that the consistent and disproportionate undervaluing of individuals who identify as Black in our society and the academy is not acceptable.
We are a diverse department in many ways, but we will not rest on our diversity “laurels.” Rather, we will use our platform to create a comfortable and safe space for future generations of scientists and engineers. We, as a department, will not shy away from difficult moments and conversations. Instead, we will confront the ways in which white supremacy and racism are embedded in our institutions. We will unite to challenge complacency with these injustices as they affect members of the Virginia Tech and Blacksburg communities.
Adding to our grief and anxiety is the on-going pandemic, which affects the livelihood, safety, and health of many in our community. We acknowledge that this affects the Black community at disproportionate rates. We affirm that the mental health and safety of our community must be addressed and supported with actionable items. As a community, we pledge to have compassion for our affected students, trainees, and colleagues as they take the time to decompress and process the intolerable acts that are taking place. We realize that our students, staff, and faculty may bring these issues with them every day into work, and that though they may not outwardly voice their concerns, that does not mean that everything is fine. We will take time to check on our students and colleagues as they navigate through these unprecedented times while trying to maintain their focus on the academics that sustain and motivate our professional lives. We realize that these measures of support are much needed and hope that they will create, sustain, and deepen mentor/mentee support networks.
As a biomedical engineering department, our mission and commitment is to increase the quality of life for patients and humankind. We therefore pledge to be first in these efforts of valuing each other, speaking out against injustices, and supporting others wholeheartedly. It is also each of our personal responsibility to uphold the Virginia Tech motto, Ut Prosim - That I May Serve. As Black students and trainees in our department continue to be underrepresented and underserved, we pledge to support them in any way that we can - both inside and outside of the laboratory.
We acknowledge that there are many other injustices within our society and the academy regarding other races/ethnicities, gender, sexual orientation, ability, socioeconomic status, citizenship, and much more. Many of these identities intersect, thus, we will advocate for all. As a department, we commit to actively engaging in discussion to promote diversity and inclusion, while also acknowledging our privilege, in the classroom, hallway, and laboratory. We believe this will allow us to further provide safe spaces for all of our community members.
We thank the faculty, staff, postdocs, and students who are a part of BEAM for their support moving forward with these efforts and invite others to engage in conversations and actions in the commitment to this journey of correcting injustice.
The BEAM Diversity and Inclusion Committee
Jennifer M Munson, PhD (Chair)
Rafael Davalos, PhD
Miguel Perez, PhD
Anne Staples, PhD
Mary Salcedo, PhD
Monet Roberts, PhD
Amanda Covey, MAEd
*We also encourage you all to read the joint statement by President Sands and Vice President Pratt-Clarke highlighted in the VT News Monday morning (June 1, 2020). This statement includes links to resources should you seek them
The following message is sent on behalf of Executive Staff and the Athletics Diversity and Inclusion Council:
One week ago we witnessed the tragic and unwarranted death of Mr. George Floyd at the hands of four police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Since then we have seen the nation respond through pain and anger over his death and those of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and countless others.
We are all hurting. Not just our black and brown brothers and sisters, but our allies who stand in solidarity, as we all struggle to find the words and way to express them.
Now more than ever, as we feel disconnected through social distancing, we must remember the importance of community and our Hokie Family. We must not forget our motto, Ut Prosim, and our commitment to serve our student-athletes and each other.
In the coming weeks and months we will continue to create safe spaces that encourage productive dialogue, as well as listening, as an athletics community. We encourage you to reach out to the CAMP (Counseling and Athletics Mental Performance) staff and members of the Diversity and Inclusion Council for support.
We NEED to do more. We CAN do more. We WILL do more as we stand STRONG TOGETHER.
The Virginia Tech Athletics Diversity & Inclusion Council
Reyna Gilbert-Lowry (Chair)
Senior Associate Athletics Director, Student-Athlete Development/Senior Woman Administrator
Track & Field Student-Athlete
Bridget Brugger McSorley,
Associate Athletics Director, Strategic Planning & Special Projects
Business Services Analyst
Associate Athletics Director, Compliance
Assistant Director Business Service Center
If you are in need of assistance of counseling, please contact:
Counseling and Athletics Mental Performance at 231-2556
Cook Counseling Center at 540-231-6557.
Dean of Students Office at 540-231-3787. Referral to a campus cleric may be made through this office.
Anthem at 855-223-9277
Aetna at 888-238-6232
Kaiser Permanente at 866-517-7042
Optima Health Vantage HMO at 866-846-2682
Hokie Wellness at 540-231-2233 (students) or 540-231-8878 (employees)
InclusiveVT at 540-231-7500
Office of Housing and Residence Life at 540-231-6205
Women’s Center at Virginia Tech at 540-231-7806
Senior Woman Administrator/ Senior Associate Athletics Director of Student-Athlete Development
Virginia Tech Department of Athletics
Lombardi Student-Athlete Development Center
363 Jamerson Center (0502)
Blacksburg, VA 24061
Dear colleagues and friends,
Our nation is at a critical, historic juncture with our collective fear, anger, and grief spilling onto streets across the country. The effects of COVID-19, coupled with deaths of African-Americans Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd are stressful and divisive. During this time it is of utmost importance that we must come together, instead of pulling apart.
In yesterday’s letter from President Tim Sands and Vice President for Strategic Affairs and Diversity Menah Pratt-Clarke, they urged the community to “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.”
As we navigate this difficult space, our Principles of Community are here to guide us. At Virginia Tech we stand against racism. I stand against racism and I stand with all of you. At Virginia Tech, we support inclusion. We believe in the strength of diversity, in thought, ideas, and people.
In the coming weeks, I encourage you to identify positive and actionable steps to stand with the Virginia Tech community.
G. Don Taylor, Ph.D., P.E.
Charles O. Gordon Professor
Interim Vice President for Research and Innovation
224G Steger Hall (0244)
1015 Life Science Circle
Blacksburg, VA 24061
To the College of Architecture and Urban Studies community:
Let me begin by acknowledging the courageous work of those leaders, both past and present, who have taken positive action against the inequalities, injustice, and lack of freedoms to bring about change for the better and to the benefit of all. The events of the last few months, including unnecessary deaths and acts of brutality in communities of color, and of disproportionate suffering through a pandemic, have brought the truth and urgency of that work home to us in graphic ways.
The College of Architecture and Urban Studies affirms the disturbing and painful treatment of African Americans in this country, brought about by systemic inequality and race-driven violence. We are committed to a process of listening and action, one that will promote an environment of respect and inclusive discourse for the benefit of our students, faculty, staff, and the nation as a whole. As a community, we can no longer remain silent.
Having arrived in America some three years ago, I feel that compared to those who have grown up here, I can have only a limited understanding of the diabolical web that perpetuates the kinds of racial injustices and divides that we see played out before us in my new home. From my Australian perspective, and acknowledging that Australia has its own horrific histories of discrimination, I have come to realize over time that an intentional system of public recognition of indigenous lives and cultures in my home country has helped us make progress. These repeated acknowledgements made a difference in micro ways that quickly multiplied in the actions and attitudes of individuals. They opened up the opportunity for new kinds of engagements and conversations. These systems of acknowledgment and “welcome to country” ceremonies have certainly not eliminated racism in Australia, but they are one way that institutions and the people within them are moving forward.
My hope is that by collectively acknowledging our present reality here in America, we are taking an important and effective step. It is time to take serious stock, to look again at some of the foundational ideologies, bigotries, and biases that blind us. These recent events have highlighted for us the extent of the societal and economic challenges in this country, particularly the impacts this disparity has on access to health, education, and civil liberties, and the manner in which these disparities contribute to the institutionalization of racism. They point also to the areas in which we have the greatest opportunity to make a difference.
The College of Urban Studies will continue in its efforts to create a more just and equitable environment, as called for by President Tim Sands and Vice President Menah Pratt-Clarke in their recent statement to the Virginia Tech community. It is our responsibility to engage in actions and conversations that ensure the dignity and respect of all citizens. Through education, outreach, and research, we can realise our Ut Prosim transformational mission, and we look forward to the steps ahead.
Dean Richard Blythe PhD
College of Architecture and Urban Studies
202 Cowgill Hall (0205) • 1325 Perry Street • Blacksburg, VA 24061
There is no one in the Hokie Nation or beyond who has not felt the pain of the last three months.
We have all been touched by the impact of COVID-19. It has changed our lives as we once knew them, taken loved ones from us, and stoked new fears. Then this week we watched the growing unrest in our country boil over, sparked by the killing of George Floyd, and other African-Americans. We are seeing destruction and violence in communities across our country.
It is hard to know how to be resilient in the face of devastation, but I believe as hard as this moment in time is, as troubled as our world may seem, there is also hope. Hope that we can do better and create positive change together.
This week, I am pausing to take a deep breath and a deep look at what’s happening in my neighborhood and in communities all over the country.
I am choosing to listen actively, tuning in, and asking: how can I do better, how can I help, what can I learn — how in this moment when connections seem frayed, can I make my community stronger and better?
As Hokies, our instincts are to solve big problems, to jump into action, and strive to make a difference. So, I’m not surprised that many of you are also asking what you can do.
These times are challenging. I have much to learn. We all do. Accept what you don’t know and use this as a chance to learn. Read the statement from University President Tim Sands and Vice President for Strategic Affairs and Diversity Menah Pratt-Clarke. I am proud to be an alum and proud to be a member of the leadership team at Virginia Tech.
Yesterday, I shared with my Advancement team that this week I’ve had tough and unexpected conversations with my family. I am at a loss for articulating just how it can be that systemic racism can still be rampant in our country and how violence against minority communities is still tolerated.
There’s an opportunity to learn from Dr. Pratt-Clarke, who will host a conversation on race and racism, with Assistant Provost for Diversity Education Michele Deramo on Friday at 2 p.m. ET.
It is a time for a dialogue and to be mindful of what’s happening around us.
Because of that, we’ve opted to adjust plans for our virtual Reunion Weekend, which was scheduled for Friday. We had planned to celebrate online, but this moment in time calls for conversation and introspection rather than celebration. We believe this is the right decision and you can still spend time online exploring campus through our virtual tours and lectures. I hope you can find time this weekend to spend with your family, and remember what makes our campus so special.
Even in this time of uncertainty, please remember that our alma mater was founded to serve as a force for positive change. We’ve seen how education changes lives and the world.
There is much to learn from this chapter. It is challenging, but not without hope and opportunity. I hope you’ll share with me what you are learning during this time, the questions you are asking, and the ways you are helping to make the world better.
In the spirit of Ut Prosim,
Charlie Phlegar ’78 ’87
Vice President for Advancement and Executive Vice President of the Virginia Tech Alumni Association
Those in the Virginia Tech community who need assistance or counseling support may contact:
- Cook Counseling Center at 540-231-6557.
- Dean of Students Office at 540-231-3787. Referral to a campus cleric may be made through this office.
- Employee Assistance Program
- Anthem at 855-223-9277
- Aetna at 888-238-6232
- Kaiser Permanente at 866-517-7042
- Optima Health Vantage HMO at 866-846-2682
- Hokie Wellness at 540-231-2233 (students) or 540-231-8878 (employees)
- InclusiveVT at 540-231-7500
- Office of Housing and Residence Life at 540-231-6205
- Women’s Center at Virginia Tech at 540-231-7806
Statement from Vice President Guru Ghosh
Universities are the embodiment of public good in our nation. Outreach and International Affairs at Virginia Tech has always been committed to bridging cultures, races, geographies, and lived experiences. We actively embrace economic empowerment, gender equality, and technological advancements to improve livelihoods and eradicate poverty in our communities close to home and around the world.
We find ourselves amidst a planetary pandemic that has taken more than 105,000 American lives and left over 40 million Americans unemployed. Marches demanding racial equality are widespread in cities across America. Outreach and International Affairs promotes fairness, supports human dignity, embraces racial harmony, and strives for social and economic justice.
Therefore, I am inviting all members of the OIA family to celebrate the agency of healing, unity, and compassion by participating in upcoming events hosted by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.
Please hold Friday, June 5, 2-3:30 p.m. for "Unfinished Conversations Around Race." Zoom information for this important program will be shared on Friday morning. Dr. Maria Elisa Christie will be following up with additional details.
Vice President for Outreach
Read the statement from President Tim Sands and Vice President for Strategic Affairs and Diversity Menah Pratt-Clarke.
A Message to the College of Engineering Community from Dean Julia Ross and Associate Dean of Equity & Engagement, Bevlee Watford. View the message here.
A statement from Dean Robert T. Sumichrast and Janice Branch Hall: We Stand With You View the message here.
A Message to the Division of Human Resources:
During this past week the hurting of our nation reached a flashpoint.
As COVID-19 deaths reached an all-time high, we witnessed multiple outcries for justice over the heart-wrenching and senseless deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. Please keep the families of these victims in your prayers and thoughts.
For many of us in HR who have been working on issues of diversity and inclusion for many years, it is easy to be angry, frustrated, and very sad. Let’s get the help we may need and continue to take care of each other as we struggle through this time of sadness and despair.
The Division of Human Resources acknowledges that our world is broken and that underrepresented minorities still violently suffer from the evils of racism.
For the university’s response on these matters, opportunities to engage, and information on resources, please read the joint statement issued today from the President and Menah Pratt-Clarke.
The Division of Human Resources reaffirms its commitment to (1) uphold the Principles of Community and the HR Mission, which includes “fostering an inclusive and engaged culture of excellence,” (2) execute its Diversity Plan, and (3) continue to form strategic partnerships with the Office of Inclusion and Diversity and Office of Equity and Accessibility.
For more information or to provide suggestions on the division’s diversity and inclusion work, please contact Ellen Banks, HR Diversity Director and InclusiveVT Representative, at email@example.com or Laurie Stacy, InclusiveVT Representative and member of the HR Diversity Committee, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Virtual Hokie Huddle:
The next Virtual Hokie Huddle is Monday, June 8, at 2 p.m.
Register in advance for this meeting:
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting. Please reach out to Kristen Mills if assistance is needed.
Submit your question(s) for the next Virtual Hokie Huddle:
Submit your question(s) in advance for the next Virtual Hokie Huddle by clicking here. You’re welcome to list your name or you may choose to remain anonymous.
Seeking, Sharing, and Spreading Joy during COVID-19:
Share a photo of your family or pet(s), a favorite book, a beautiful scenery, or an encouraging message that brings joy during COVID-19. These photos will be shared during the next Virtual Hokie Huddle. Please reach out to Kristen Mills for photo submissions.
HR Shout Outs:
Please share your appreciation to your fellow colleagues by emailing Kristen Mills. Shout Outs are great for:
- Making it fun and easy for teammates to share praise
- Ensuring employees feel valued by their team
- Providing greater visibility into your team’s accomplishments
- Keeping track of informal feedback from your peers
- Creating a positive, collaborative team culture
Submissions to include for the email should be sent to Kristen Mills by 10 a.m. If you cannot meet the deadline, but need a notice to be included, please communicate with Kristen directly.
Faculty Senate Statement on Racial Healing: Virginia Tech Faculty Senate
Recent weeks have brought devastating illustrations of the racism and oppression that continue to pervade our society, and that underlie recent and insidious acts of violence against persons of color including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. Black and brown members of our campus community have and continue to bear the pain and weight of these acts and of systemic racism in all forms. They have also borne most of the weight for making Virginia Tech an inclusive and equitable space. It is critical that the fight to end racism not continue to be borne disproportionately by persons of color on our campus. Instead, we must all directly confront the ways in which white supremacy and racism are embedded in our institutions, including Virginia Tech.
The Faculty Senate affirms its support for all members of our community, many of whom feel profoundly shaken by recent events. We pledge to unite with other organizations on campus to challenge complacency in the face of these injustices, which directly affect our colleagues, students, and those in the broader community. We recognize that Virginia Tech is not nearly as diverse as it needs to be to ensure a rich and safe learning environment, and we need more faculty and students of color to foster an inclusive community. As we work toward our collective vision of a more diverse and inclusive campus, there is much for each and every one of us to do in the short term. We must all do the hard work to educate ourselves and to take steps to tear down systemic racism, both in words and actions. We pledge our collective commitment to Virginia Tech’s Principles of Community and to promoting a campus free of racism in all forms in the spirit of the Virginia Tech motto of Ut Prosim (That I May Serve).
The Virginia Tech Faculty Senate Cabinet is sharing this message with all senators in hopes that you will further share it with faculty in your own departments and schools. We also encourage participation in “Virginia Tech’s Unfinished Conversation on Race,” to be held Friday, June 5th, at 2pm ET.
Like many of you, I have been shocked and dismayed by the headlines, videos, and images that have flooded my screens recently. The inhumane behaviors that claimed the lives of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd – and so many others whose names are not in the news – are jarring reminders of how just how far away we are from the “more perfect Union” our Constitution promised.
I certainly join with my colleagues across Virginia Tech in condemning these cruel and vicious acts. As Hokies, it is one of our guiding principles and responsibilities to eliminate all forms of bias, prejudice, and discrimination, including those based on age, color, disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, and veteran status. These cruel acts and actors have no place at Virginia Tech or in a civilized society.
These are unsettling times for the United States. I do not use that word lightly.
I believe President Sands and Dr. Pratt-Clarke articulated this idea succinctly in their statement earlier this week: “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.”
If you are like me, you’ve been considering steps you can take to get involved and do your part to help fix some of these problems. I would encourage you first to simply learn all you can: read, write, watch, ask questions, and have candid conversations about how we can make our communities more inclusive, more welcoming, and more equal. We are incredibly busy right now, with the fiscal year transition and planning for COVID-19 financial impacts. Even so, I am requesting that each of our units and our managers carve out time to have these important discussions with their teams in the coming weeks. This issue is too important, its impact too immense, for us to delay any longer.
I encourage you to connect with our Inclusion & Diversity Committee and the representative(s) from your units to learn more about the programmatic activities and resources available. We recently partnered with the Office of Inclusion & Diversity to offer a workshop specifically for our employees. View the presentation slides for “Implicit Bias at Work: Why it's normal, how it affects us, and what we can do about it.”
You can sign up for InclusiveVT’s first online digital badge courses: Creating an Inclusive Workplace and Creating an Inclusive Climate, new self-paced and 100% online courses.
I strongly encourage you to join Virginia Tech's Office for Inclusion and Diversity LIVE on Friday, June 5th at 2pm ET as they host "Unfinished Conversations on Race: A kick-off for an ongoing conversation on Race and Racism." To join the conversation, click here.
And please take a moment and review the Virginia Tech Principles of Community. Now, more than ever, it is critical that we affirm the dignity and value of every person and have open conversations within a climate of civility, sensitivity, and mutual respect.
The university will be sharing additional opportunities for conversation, questions, and action in the coming days and weeks. I am requesting that each of you create dedicated time in your schedules to participate. And I want to hear from you about the conversations, activities, ideas and suggestions you have – drop me a note here.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said “the ultimate measure of a person is not where one stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where one stands in times of challenge and controversy.”
Systemic racism is the toughest balance sheet we’ll ever face. We’re 400 years in the red on a burden that black Americans are still bearing to this day.
And while this is certainly a moment of great pain and sorrow for so many, I am also optimistic about the opportunity in front of us. As Hokies, and as finance professionals, we have a passion for solving problems. I know that if each of us come together and dedicate ourselves to this important work, we can in some meaningful way make our offices, our university, our community, and our country just a little bit more equal and just.
Let’s get to work.
Ken Miller, CPA
Vice President for Finance
North End Center Suite 3300
300 Turner St. NW (0312)
Blacksburg, VA 24061
Phone: 540- 231 - 7184
We know there is unrest in our communities across Virginia and around our nation. People are hurting, as many people feel left out and that their voices are not being heard. And in addition to the recent events sparked by George Floyd’s death, the coronavirus pandemic is causing additional stress which can magnify tensions significantly. Some of us are more personally affected than others, and some of us experience the injustices of our time more deeply than others.
We, too, are personally feeling distraught and hurt by the scenes of violence and unrest of the last several days. As parents of both a young black male and a police officer, we are constantly on edge as we hope that they are remaining safe, smart, and are upholding the values we have taught them.
One of the many hard questions we have faced in the last few days is why, even in 2020, has our country not learned and embraced that ALL people are valued, and ALL people deserve dignity and respect. People’s lack of empathy and sensitivity to this fundamental right saddens us greatly.
At this time, it is important to remember at the very core of Virginia Cooperative Extension’s mission is the goal to improve the lives of all in the commonwealth. We believe and embrace this goal for ALL people. And it is our hope that we can all embrace the dignity and worth of our neighbors and fellow community members as we do so.
Let us in our deeds and actions be leaders in helping each other work through the challenges of our time. Let us not only exemplify these good deeds and actions but also be emblematic of the change we envision. By our actions during these difficult times we should strive to make this a better place for those who live in Virginia today and especially for those who will come after us.
Ed and Ray
3 June 2020
M. Ray McKinnie, Ph. D.
1890 Extension Administrator
Dean, College of Agriculture
Virginia State University • College of Agriculture
L. Douglas Wilder, Room 309
P.O. Box 9081 • Virginia State University, VA 23806
Office: 804.524.5961 Fax: 804.524.5967
“I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.” - Audre Lorde
During these challenging times with so much around us causing stress and anxiety and having to be separated from one another, we felt compelled to reach out to our Women’s Alliance community. We are all watching together the disturbing events happening in our country, particularly against the Black community, and know that we cannot sit silent. Collectively, we can acknowledge the pain that some of our colleagues and students may be feeling right now and show our support any way we are able.
This is the time - now more than ever - that we need community. Not a community that exists during business hours only, but a community that continues to support each other beyond the call of duty. The police violence and racist activity that continues has been especially difficult during this time for a lot of individuals, because we can’t grieve and organize together due to the health concerns around COVID-19. As a currently virtual community, there are ways that we can take action individually and together. For example;
· Reach out to colleagues, friends, and students to let them know that you are thinking about and affirm them. Be available if they need to talk, but also be understanding if they don’t want to engage.
· Continue to educate yourself about the systemic racism in our country. Most importantly, educate friends and family – don’t be selfish with your knowledge, it can change the world!
· Commit to having uncomfortable conversations and learning from others.
· Foster this community as a safe place to vent, to cry, to express ideas, and share concerns.
· Turn the pain into purpose. Get civically engaged in your community to create the change you wish to see. Listed below are local groups and VT contacts, please reach out if interested:
Today, consider joining the Office for Inclusion and Diversity for “Unfinished Conversations on Race”. Link the more details here.
Finally, we also want to recognize that as women, we are almost hard-wired to take care of others, to worry about others at the expense of our own needs. So please take care of yourself. We have included resources below should you need support during this time.
Cook Counseling Center, 540-231-6557.
Dean of Students Office, 540-231-3787.
· Anthem at 855-223-9277
· Aetna at 888-238-6232
· Kaiser Permanente at 866-517-7042
· Optima Health Vantage HMO at 866-846-2682
Hokie Wellness, 540-231-2233 (students) or 540-231-8878 (employees)
Women’s Center at Virginia Tech, 540-231-7806
Take care of yourself and those around you.
Tamara and Lujean
Assistant Director, Student Conduct
Outgoing Chair, Women’s Alliance and Caucus
Dr. Lujean Babb
Senior Director, Grants and Awards
Incoming Chair, Women’s Alliance and Caucus
A statement from the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, Department of History, Virginia Tech, June 5, 2020
The Black Lives Matter movement emerged in reaction to the extra-judicial killings of Black men, women, and children, as a call for justice and true equality. The phrase “Black Lives Matter” is typically not meant to be nationalist, separatist, or racist. Instead, it is a plea for equality anchored in centuries of hate as well as legal and extralegal violence directed against Black people in the United States. Most recently, the police murder of George Floyd is yet another tragic reminder that we as a nation have fallen short of this goal. Mr. Floyd’s needless death joins those of countless other people of color who have been killed at the hands of police and vigilantes in recent years, such as Breonna Taylor, Michael Brown Jr., Ahmaud Arbery, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, and Eric Garner. We condemn police officers’ use of deadly force during Mr. Floyd’s arrest, as well as local and federal authorities’ violent response to peaceful protests. We acknowledge that the protests are linked to centuries of pain, violence, and hate.
As historians, we are unfortunately not surprised by these events, as they are only the most recent manifestations of centuries of state-sanctioned violence inflicted on non-white bodies. The first known trade of enslaved Africans in British North America was in 1619, in the colony of Virginia. From that moment forward Black people in the North American British Colonies, and eventually the United States of America, have struggled against persistent disenfranchisement, abuse, and violence. In the nineteenth century, debates over race-based slavery culminated in the Civil War after South Carolina led the way to secession in an attempt to protect the institution of slavery. Inequality and abuse persisted after slavery was abolished by the 13th amendment. Despite African Americans making significant gains during the Reconstruction Era, the advent of Jim Crow reversed or erased legislation that protected African American rights. At the same time, segregationists, politicians, and social scientists created a new discourse that increasingly equated Blackness with criminality. This laid the foundation for hyper-policing, disfranchisement, and extralegal violence, including lynching. Black men and women in the twentieth century steadfastly fought against Jim Crow, eventually defeating it in the 1950s and 1960s. Yet, in the 1970s and 80s lawmakers found new ways to attack Black communities via the War on Drugs, which legal scholar Michelle Alexander has termed the “New Jim Crow.” The criminalization of Black people is one of the leading causes of the United States having 22% of the world’s incarcerated adult population in 2014, despite being only 5% of the world’s total population. African Americans comprise 34% of the incarcerated population in the United States, even though they are only 12.7% of the total population. Like the system of Jim Crow before it, mass incarceration has led to the disfranchisement of, discrimination against, and disproportionate policing of Black Americans.
The murder of George Floyd and other Black men and women in the twenty-first century is not an isolated event; rather it is the continuation of a historic process with roots reaching long before the nation’s founding. Though the United States has abolished slavery and some laws have become more inclusive, the people of this nation have not fully reckoned with the poisonous ideas of white supremacy and the legacy of slavery. Race-based violence and abuse persists, in large measure, because of this failure. This has resulted in the continued trivialization of Black lives.
We stand with our brothers and sisters and proclaim that Black Lives Matter. As historians, we have the expertise, and the duty, to put into context the violence we are witnessing. Many of our classes tackle the histories of race and racism, colonialism, resistance, and other topics that help us make sense of our world today. Over the next several weeks, we will develop programs that will engage with the community to discuss how history can help us better understand and address the crises facing us.
Dear veterinary college community,
As my tenure begins in the dean’s role, I am sincerely pleased to have an opportunity to serve this college through leading an impressive executive team, outstanding faculty, dedicated staff, and motivated students and to further our pursuit of excellence in these unique and challenging times.
While seeking to advance the college’s efforts to educate a diverse population of students; to create, disseminate, and apply new medical knowledge; and to provide excellent and compassionate clinical service, I will also seek to care well for each individual who makes this college outstanding. I clearly recognize that current tensions and issues are causing real pain, anxiety, frustration, and intense anger in our college community.
Among the most pressing issues and tensions is the persistent race-based injustice that resulted in the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia; Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky; and George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In their recent statement to the Virginia Tech community, Virginia Tech President Sands and Vice President Pratt-Clarke wrote, “We cannot continue to expect incremental change and the good will of the majority to solve a multigenerational problem.”
In response, we are all called to act on the aspirations detailed in the university’s Principles of Community:
● Affirming the inherent dignity and value of every person;
● Affirming the right of each person to express thoughts and opinions freely;
● Affirming the value of human diversity which enriches our lives;
● Rejecting all forms of prejudice and discrimination; and
● Pledging our collective commitment to these principles in the spirit of Ut Prosim (That I May Serve).
One statement in our Principles of Community that especially resonates with me is the following: “We take individual and collective responsibility for helping to eliminate bias and discrimination and for increasing our own understanding of these issues through education, training, and interaction with others.” Please know that I am committed to taking personal responsibility to help eliminate bias and discrimination and to increasing my understanding of these issues.
At this critical juncture, may our interactions with others be characterized by truly empathetic, active listening. May we perpetually seek transformational change to achieve a just and equitable community as we prepare the next generation to lead in a new, better world.
Dan Givens Dean, Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine
HokiePRIDE stands in solidarity with the Black community. We are outraged by the recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, David McAtee, Tony McDade, and countless others. We demand that justice be served and that the police officers be held accountable for their actions.
The history of the LGBTQ+ rights movement is fundamentally tied to the Black community. Many people forget that trans and queer Black women started the Stonewall Riots in 1969, in response to police brutality towards the queer community, and was the start of LGBTQ+ liberation in this country.
Our leadership board recommends visiting blacklivesmatters.carrd.co for resources on where you can donate and petitions you can sign. There are also some resources for those who want to speak out against injustice safely. Feel free to share these resources with your friends and family.
Black lives matter to HokiePRIDE, and they always will. We are renewing our commitment to uplifting the voices of our Black siblings. Our organization will continue to work with groups like Queer and Trans People of Color (QTPOC) and the Cultural and Community Centers (CCCs) at Virginia Tech to cultivate a culture of mutual respect and trust within our community.
We encourage members of our community to educate themselves, spend some time being introspective, and to think about what could be done to make this country a better place. Call out racism where you see it, especially within our own community.
As Marsha P. Johnson said, “There is no pride for some of us without liberation for all of us.”
-The HokiePRIDE Executive Team
The Black Caucus of Virginia Tech and its members continue to express grief as we
commemorate the lives of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and
the countless victims of racism and police violence in the United States. We denounce any forms
of oppression or acts of bias and violence against the Black community.
Many saw the video of Mr. Floyd as he suffocated and stated that he could not breathe. Many
witnesses spoke out, but the police officers did not listen or consider the situation from a
We need to continue to speak up!
People should not fear for their lives because of the color of their skin. We are deeply disturbed
by these events and the established, systemic inequalities that exist for too many Black
Americans. Witnessing this inequality play out again and again is distressing and exhausting.
We challenge everyone in the Virginia Tech community to make every effort to become more
informed and knowledgeable about race and racism. We must continue to act and develop
opportunities to assist marginalized groups to grow, develop and succeed in this world.
We must continue to use our voices and resources to stand up for each other. We must engage
Virginia Tech and our communities to come together for constructive change, now more than
In solidarity and with unwavering resolve,
It’s been a hard 2 weeks. George Floyd, a Black man, was murdered in Minneapolis by a white police officer. While not the first, nor even the latest act of violence, it is this act on top of so many others that catalyzed people to act. Their actions arise from underlying generational trauma, which found its form in widespread protests across the globe calling for police accountability and the recognition that Black lives matter.
It’s a stark and harsh way to open a letter, but if this is to be an accurate letter to account for what is happening now, we must speak clearly and plainly. The “we” in this case are faculty and staff working in the libraries. The majority of the people in the libraries are white, indeed we are proportionately whiter than the five counties surrounding Blacksburg, Virginia. And as this letter is also to be an exploration of our own accountability, we may not look away from what has come from this latest violence upon another Black person. We are not neutral. We stand in solidarity with “victims of murder, marginalization, and repression because of their skin color, and with those who seek justice through protests across our country.” This letter serves as a testament to our commitment to supporting the changes needed to develop a truly equitable and honest information environment.
As individuals who work in libraries, we are curators and handlers of information and we have a duty to document and preserve what is happening. To help other people find information, we must first know something about the systems that hold the information.
The current protests are a result of the systems that hold people. These systems hold some people up and hold some people down. Information professionals create some of the structures that hold information. Similarly, we as community members create the systems that orient our lives. We call those systems government, culture, tradition, society, and sometimes we call them nothing at all because we swim in them. “White supremacy is not a shark; it is the water” as Kyle “Guante” Tran Myhre said. As library professionals, we must examine the language we use to catalog information, we may not ignore the water in which we swim.
The current culture of white supremacy is a racist and prejudiced system that has treated bodies of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color as expendable resources, existing outside of the protection and the prosperity of modern Western civilization, dating back as far as that term may be applied. Building on that framework, the land grab that created the land grant institutions is another action that benefited white people and stole resources and sovereignty from Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. Virginia Tech is one of those institutions, (Virginia State University is in counterpoint as a historically black public land-grant university). With the systemic, normalized attitudes of privileging one group of people over another, other types of inequalities compound. We have tried to balance the scales, affirming sentiments like those in the Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Statement: “Virginia Tech does not discriminate against employees, students, or applicants on the basis of age, color, disability, sex (including pregnancy), gender, gender identity, gender expression, genetic information, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, or veteran status, or otherwise discriminate against employees or applicants who inquire about, discuss, or disclose their compensation or the compensation of other employees or applicants, or on any other basis protected by law.” These policies have often fallen short because they are seen as mostly aspirational and goals related to them are routinely not met.
The final phrase of the equal opportunity statement is “protected by law.” When law enforcement is the perpetrator, we must dig deeper to change the very underpinnings of the systems that have created the opportunity for such heinous actions in the first place.
We are a public library, and we support the communities to which we are connected. But we are part of a system that was created through systemic inequality and there are aspects of library work that perpetuate inequality--from taxonomies, to contracts, to materials selection. The University Libraries at Virginia Tech stand upon an incalculable number of choices made by more than 300 employees every day. Each of these choices is a stone paving a potentially new way forward. All together, it comes to an overwhelming number. But, taken one day at a time, one choice at a time, one stone at a time, we can help build the road to a more just future. There are two general ways we consider this work: inward facing and outward facing. We work to better ourselves, so that we may better serve our communities.
Below, you will find a list of initiatives we are working on to dismantle systemic inequality. These lists are not exhaustive. They are only meant to show some specific examples of how we are addressing the systems that were created over the 148 years of library operations.
Each of those years passed by one month, one week, one day, one breath at a time. But George Floyd wasn’t allowed to breathe. Eric Garner wasn’t allowed to breathe. There is more going on than the first spontaneous demonstrations after Mr. Floyd’s death. We have now moved into the time where we can and should write long letters to our communities and talk about our plans. The intersectionality of time, place, and circumstances to create the reality we are living in may not be ignored. The social and economic injustices caused by these systems affect Black, Indigenous, and People of Color in more ways than “just” racism. In a myriad of ways, our current situation magnifies the inequities experienced by these communities. At the time of writing, it is Pride month; many important community celebrations have been cancelled because of COVID-19. LGBTQ+ Pride parades and activities recognize the Stonewall riots which were themselves started by Trans* and gender non-conforming Black people. Pride events draw much needed attention to a shared history of intersectional inequity, and shine a light on efforts specifically dedicated to increasing the equity of society’s most marginalized groups. Of course, this global pandemic is also a historical moment that has drawn attention to the health-based consequences of social injustice and inequity. We recognize that as keepers of the historical record, the choices we make are visible long past our last breath. But as much as it is important to get it right for history, we are living in the now. We owe it to the people we are and the people we serve, to do the work to address the systemic racism inherent in our society NOW.
We invite you to reach out to us, to work with us, to make sure we can serve you. We invite and encourage you to hold us accountable. And if you're reading this in the future, we hope this is just one artifact of many that illustrate the work we are and will continue to do to create a more just world.
In Hope and Solidarity,
The University Libraries Diversity Council
Inga Haugen, Chair of the University Libraries Diversity Council; Agriculture, Life Sciences, and Scholarly Communication Librarian
Craig Arthur, Incoming Chair of the University Libraries Diversity Council; Head, Foundational Instruction & Community Engagement
Ana Corral, Resident Librarian
LM Rozema, Processing and Special Projects Archivist
Lisa Smith, Library Dean's Office Admin Assistant and HR Support
Sara Sweeney Bear, Fusion Studio Manager & Space Assessment Coordinator
The University Libraries Inclusion and Diversity Leadership Group
Tyler Walters, Dean of University Libraries
Julie Griffin, Senior Associate Dean, Research and Informatics
Zhiwu Xie, Chief Strategy Officer
Anthony Wright de Hernandez, Inclusion & Diversity Coordinator; Community Collections Archivist
Brittany Dodson, InclusiveVT Representative
Jennifer Nardine, InclusiveVT Representative
Jessica Ofsa, InclusiveVT Representative
Samantha Winn, InclusiveVT Representative
Inga Haugen, Chair of the University Libraries Diversity Council
Craig Arthur, Vice Chair of the University Libraries Diversity Council
Individual signatories in their own right below
Craig Arthur, Head, Foundational Instruction & Community Engagement; Incoming Chair, University Libraries Diversity Council
Lisa Becksford, Online and Graduate Engagement Librarian
Jonathan Bradley, Head of Studios and Innovative Technologies
Jonathan Briganti, DataBridge Manager
Anne Brown, Science Informatics Consultant
C. Cozette Comer, Evidence Synthesis Librarian
Ana Corral, Resident Librarian
Brittany Dodson, InclusiveVT Rep & Diversity Council Member
Nitra Eastby, Collections Strategist
Julia Feerrar, Head of Digital Literacy Initiatives
Trevor Finney, Creative Services Coordinator
Jordan Kuneyl, Instructional Support Assistant
Kayla B. McNabb, Head of Instructional Content & Design
Stefanie Metko, Director of Teaching & Learning Engagement
Rachel Miles, Research Impact Librarian
Jennifer T. Nardine, Member of the Library Inclusion & Diversity Leadership Council
Jennifer Nehrt, Public Service Specialist, Art & Architecture Library
Jessica Ofsa, Manager of Circulation Services
Andi Ogier, white woman learning about and trying to work towards anti-racism
Luisa Ogier, ILL Lending Supervisor
Jonathan Petters, Data Management Consultant and Curation Services Coordinator
Cathy Pillow, Administrative Director and HR Manager
Robert Pillow, Assistant Director for User Services
Alice Rogers, Manager, Media Design Studios
Michael J. Stamper, Data Visualization Designer and Digital Consultant for the Arts
K Todd Stevens
Anthony Wright de Hernandez, Community Collections Archivist, Inclusion & Diversity Coordinator
**This letter was posted on the University Libraries website
Statement from Division of Information Technology's Diversity Committee:
During the tumultuous times we have been experiencing in the United States, with the official count of deaths attributed to COVID-19 still climbing, and the frustration and anger over the tragic and unnecessary deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, black and brown members of our campus community continue to bear the pain of these acts and of systemic racism. As we work toward the vision of a more diverse and inclusive campus, there is much that each of us can do in the short term. We must educate ourselves and take steps to tear down systemic racism, in words, policies, and actions. We must pledge our collective commitment to Virginia Tech’s Principles of Community and to promoting a campus free of racism in all forms.
The Division of IT at Virginia Tech believes that the call for a diverse and inclusive workforce and workplace is strengthened throughout the Division’s five core values:
- Striving for Excellence: seeking to cultivate diversity and inclusion in the Division of IT means that our ideas and activities will become better over time as we incorporate more diverse perspectives and experiences; pushing past the reluctance or discomfort we may feel in learning and understanding the profound effects of systemic racism will make us better people and better co-workers
- Service: our commitment to serve our colleagues across the university will be enhanced by greater understanding and sensitivity to people of different cultures, nationalities, and ways of living.
- Inclusion: thinking beyond our own cultural or racial perspectives makes us more inclusive, respectful, and considerate of others; a more inclusive workplace will allow us to consider more perspectives and arrive at new solutions to address the university’s needs
- Care: as we learn from new and different perspectives, we cultivate deeper understanding and care for one another, and are willing to set aside behaviors or assumptions that may have unintentionally caused harm
- Trust: as we take steps to learn from each other and explore how we can make a more welcoming and trustworthy workplace for all, we will gain a greater ability to have difficult conversations, reduce microaggressions, and improve teamwork and collaboration across our organization
On Friday, June 12, 2020, we convened a meeting of the Division of IT Diversity Committee to discuss how we could support each other during these trying times. We are planning a panel discussion facilitated by Dr. Wornie Reed, the Director of the Race and Social Policy Center in the Department of Sociology at Virginia Tech, and will announce the date next week. Dr. Reed will facilitate a discussion of relevant topics including:
- Historical perspectives on race at Virginia Tech and on a national level
- What we can do on a local level and how can we get involved
- How we can better educate ourselves to respond to events
- Other pertinent topics you wish to discuss
Tomorrow is Juneteenth, a day that commemorates the effective end of slavery in the United States. Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Black Independence Day, and Cel-Liberation Day, is an American holiday that celebrates the emancipation of the last remaining enslaved African Americans in the Confederacy. On June 19, 1865, the Emancipation Proclamation— which had been issued on January 1, 1863 — was finally read to enslaved African Americans in Texas by a U.S. Army Officer named Gordon Granger. Formerly enslaved people in Galveston, Texas celebrated after the announcement, and the following year, organized the first of what became an annual celebration of their freedom. Over the years, celebrations spread beyond Texas. Juneteenth is now recognized as a holiday in 48 states and the District of Columbia, including Virginia, with efforts underway for it to be made a federal holiday. On this Juneteenth day, and going forward, it is our hope that each of you can join us in breaking free of prejudice, racism, and old ways of interacting with each other that no longer serve us well, if indeed they ever did. We can make a better world and a better workplace if we all pledge to work (and learn!) together.
Dear BSE Community,
Engineers are ethically bound to apply our training, judgment and experience in service to public health, safety, and welfare. Our professional service generally does not require us to publicly comment on issues of a social nature. Many of us are attracted to engineering because the work is largely technical, quantitative and objective and we are often considered noncontroversial figures whose opinions regarding the society we serve can remain private. But we not only serve society, we are integral members of society. The staff and faculty of the Biological Systems Engineering Department have the responsibility to prepare future generations not only to be ethical and technically competent engineers, but to make a positive difference in the world. At times, this duty requires us to call out unacceptable situations and to reaffirm our own principles and values. This is one of those times. The recent, horrific deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, all African Americans, have ignited a public firestorm of unrest across the nation. Tragically, these individuals are only three among a staggeringly large number of our fellow citizens who have been killed under similar circumstances. We know many of these stories. We saw lethal, unjustified responses in clearly non-life threatening situations. The crushing weight of so many of these fatal encounters, connected by such strong common threads, leads to an inescapable conclusion that racism continues to operate in America – far too often with deadly consequences. President Sands, Dean Grant and Dean Ross have shared their timely and well-reasoned responses to recent events and have reaffirmed Virginia Tech’s Principles of Community, the values of community, diversity, and excellence underlying those Principles, and their commitment to positive actions that will lead to sustainable change. We in BSE stand squarely with our leadership in respecting the dignity of all persons and valuing the inherent rewards of a diverse and inclusive society. We stand in open opposition to unjust, disrespectful, and dehumanizing treatment, the language that encourages it, and the passivity that sustains it. We look forward to the Biological Systems Engineering Department’s participation as a fully engaged partner in continuing College and University efforts to ensure that we are among those who work to bend the arc of the moral universe toward justice.
Professor and Department Head
Sr. Extension Associate and
Chair, BSE Diversity and Inclusion Committee
To Our Black Family, Colleagues, and Community:
The American Indian and Indigenous Community at Virginia Tech stands in solidarity with the Black community during this time of profound grief. The American Indian and Indigenous Community Center (AIIC), Native at VT, the American Indian and Indigenous Alliance, and the American Indian Studies program are comprised of faculty, staff, and students committed to justice and equity for all. There are no words to express our sincere pain, anger, or condolences.
As your relations, we stand with you and we honor you. Together we have come to know the violence of White supremacy in ways that were meant to harm and kill our communities. From issues of police brutality, mass incarceration, and family separation to the forced sterilization of Black, Native, and poor women; Native and Black communities have lived alongside one another and endured both the excessive policing of our communities and a prolonged denial of access to education and other opportunities.
The senseless murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, and Ahmaud Arbery, and the many more before them, represent all that is vile and unjust in our society. We recognize that the same structures of inequality exist today, often in mutated forms. We vehemently condemn systemic racism, police brutality, and unjust policies which enable all forms of violence against black and brown bodies. We recommit ourselves to the important work of dismantling overt and covert forms of oppression.
This violence cannot win; instead, we must gather together to listen, to learn and reflect on how to be actively anti-racist in every aspect. We will fight the systematic oppression that exists and denounce White supremacy every day on our campus, in our communities and wherever our path leads. We have come to understand that survival, in and of itself, is an act of resistance for many of our communities. Indigenous Peoples in the U.S. learned from and owe much to the Black community for paving the way in Civil Rights activism. Leaders of the American Indian Movement came to understand the power of civil disobedience from their Black brothers and sisters. From the birth of the Environmental Justice movement in Warren County, North Carolina, to the front lines of the Dakota Access Pipeline protests, our communities have supported each other as we have fought to protect the health and right to life of our children.
There is much more that we can and must do to strengthen our relations and we take that responsibility very seriously. To this end, we collectively commit to: confronting anti-Blackness in our own communities, supporting the work of the Black faculty/staff caucus as well as the Black Student Organizations Council, and advancing initiatives that dismantle all forms of inequality on campus and in our communities.
The American Indian and Indigenous Community Center (AIICC)
The American Indian and Indigenous Alliance
Native at Virginia Tech
American Indian Studies
Guides to Educate, Connect, Act
Educate Yourself and Others
Diversity Education - Among the many efforts underway, one is implementing new Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion modules (EverFi) for incoming first year, transfer, and graduate and professional students.
Inclusive VT Insights - micro-learning diversity education modules available to all Virginia Tech Hokies, anytime, anywhere. The modules include companion discussion guides to encourage further reflection and action.
Menah Pratt-Clarke - a personal website, with essays about issues of diversity and inclusion.
Anti-Racism Resources, compiled by the leadership team of the Leadership & Social Change Residential College. This rich collection of resources includes recommendations for articles and books to read, as well as podcasts, films, websites, teaching aids and syllabi, and organizations to follow on social media.
Advancing Diversity - a 2016 presentation on the history of diversity and inclusion efforts at Virginia Tech; a 2018 presentation to Advancing Diversity on critical diversity and inclusion issues globally at Virginia Tech.
Film Ideas - Netflix: When They See Us, American Son (workbook is available as well), The Force, 13th,The Force; Amazon Prime: I'm Not Your Negro; Hulu: Little Fires Everywhere, Crime + Punishment, Whose Streets; Redbox: Just Mercy (streaming for free this month).
Justice in June - a resource curated by Bryanna Wallace & Autumn Gupta that provides daily strategies for increasing one's awareness.
Five pieces worth reading - "Five pieces worth reading + a few more important reads" is a message from The Center for Food Systems and Community Transformation.
Connect Through Conversation and Community
This is not a time for silence. Now is the time to make our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion known.
Begin with the people around you.
Be an Ally. Learn more about being an ally by viewing this InclusiveVT Insight with Alicia Cohen. There’s a lot of information about being a White ally, such as this article in The Root written in 2014 after the Ferguson shooting, or this one from Sojourners written in 2017 after Charlottesville.
For Non-Black Persons of Color, here are some views inspired by Yuri Kochiyama, a Japanese internment camp survivor who worked on racial justice with Malcolm X.
If you are Black or African-American, here are self-care tips for coping in the aftermath of this very difficult week. Participate in Black Survival and Wellness Week, June 19-25, hosted by #Academics4BlackLives.
Create inclusion where you live, work, study, or socialize by enrolling in the Creating an Inclusive Climate Pathway.
Show up! Our Cultural and Community Centers and the Virginia Tech Faculty/Staff caucuses offer programs and support initiatives that advance diversity, equity, and inclusion for all members of our university community.
Have that difficult conversation with friends, family, classmates or co-workers when you hear or witness racist words or actions. This InclusiveVT Insight with Reese Ramos gives helpful advice on preparing to have those conversations.
The Virginia Tech Difference: Advancing Beyond Boundaries - guides initial steps to achieving our long-term BEYOND BOUNDARIES future as a comprehensive research land-grant university by affirming our vision, mission, and core values; defining university priorities; and outlining goals and initial milestones to achieve each priority.
Elevate the Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) Difference (Strategic Priority 2) - a foundational differentiator for Virginia Tech, recognizes the integral connection with Virginia Tech’s land-grant responsibility of access and opportunity and its mission of service to humanity.
Future Faculty Diversity Program - is an exciting and rewarding four-day program designed to increase the representation of faculty traditionally underrepresented in strategic priority populations in the United States, including American Indian/ Alaska Native, African American/Black, Hispanic/Latinx, and Native Hawaiian/ Pacific Islander.
Inclusion and Diversity - a presentation to the Board of Visitors by the Office for Inclusion and Diversity highlighting OID programs, initiatives, efforts and their impact.
Unfinished Conversations On Race
On Friday, June 5th, the Office for Inclusion and Diversity hosted an Unfinished Conversation on Race in response to the tragic death of yet another Black person at the hands of police. The purpose of the conversation was to launch campus-wide discussions about how the university, in its capacity as a university, should respond. The purpose of this guide is to assist units as they proceed with plans for conversation and action with colleagues in their areas.
What Is Juneteenth?
Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Black Independence Day, and Cel-Liberation Day, is an American holiday that celebrates the emancipation of the last remaining enslaved African Americans in the Confederacy. On June 19, 1865, the Emancipation Proclamation— which had been issued on January 1, 1863— was read to enslaved African Americans in Texas by Gordon Granger. Formerly enslaved people in Galveston celebrated after the announcement, and the following year, organized the first of what became an annual celebration of freedom. Over the years, celebrations spread beyond Texas. Juneteenth is now recognized as a holiday in 47 states and the District of Columbia, with efforts underway for it to be made a federal holiday.
How does Juneteenth Guide Our Discussions?
At this historical moment when the symbolic relics of white supremacy are being dismantled in cities across the nation, it is more important than ever that we lift up Juneteenth as a day for celebration, education, and action. At Virginia Tech, Juneteenth is an opportunity to deepen knowledge around our shared history so that we may advocate for narratives that have been erased or forgotten. With this knowledge, we recommit to the Principles of Communityand embolden ourselves—individually and collectively--to make Virginia Tech an anti-racist institution. Leadership across the university as well as student organizations and caucuses have already issued statements condemning the violence, as well as stating their commitment to improving conditions for Black students, faculty, and colleagues. We encourage you to read these statements, and to then enact the sentiments expressed therein. As you plan to act, look first at the work you already do as instructors, researchers, professionals, advisors, coaches, administrators, and more.
Here are some questions to prompt your discussions:
How will we put the commitments in our unit / university statement into action? How can we evaluate the work we do through an anti-racist lens?
How can we leverage the Strategic Planning process to make real change in our area?
Are we engaging with existing initiatives such as the Black College Institute, SOAR, or the Future Faculty Program that directly impact Black students and faculty? If not—how do we start?
Do we reward team members who give time to mentoring and advising minoritized students? Serving on diversity committees or caucuses? Participating in diversity education? If not—why? And, how will we fix that for the future?
Do we make time to hear from our Black colleagues about their experiences at the university? Are we sensitive to excessive service demands they may assume because they are among the few—and do we compensate or recognize them for this labor? If not, how will we change this?
How do we as individuals respond when we hear that a student or co-worker experienced racism? Is our unit prepared to respond when these concerns are raised? If not—what will we do to get ready to respond?
Is our curriculum informed by a diversity of perspectives, especially those that have been historically suppressed? If not—how will we enrich our syllabi?
Is our teaching informed by inclusive pedagogy, including an awareness of how implicit bias and stereotype threat impact minoritized students’ performance? If not—how can we customize an inclusive teaching workshop for our unit?
What do we need to do differently in order to enact our unit or university statement?
Need more ideas?
Visit the Unfinished Conversations on Race page.
Virginia Tech is committed to the free and open expression of ideas. In order to foster a climate that appreciates the diversity of opinion, experience, and perspective in the room, it is vital to establish a safe and welcoming space. Doing this includes establishing guidelines for good dialogue and being prepared to navigate “hot” moments that may arise when addressing issues or beliefs that evoke strong feelings.
Creating the Space
We want participants to engage. The organization of the physical space makes a difference in how engaged participants will be. Since most of us are working remotely and meeting with our colleagues through online platforms like zoom, the organization of the meeting space requires even more attention. Whether meeting in person or virtually, consider: If you are meeting in person: Is the room accessible for all participants? Are there enough seats for everyone? Are the seats comfortable? Can participants make eye contact? Is there good lighting and air circulation? Is the location free from distractions such as outside noise or piped-in music? After conducting a visual assessment of the space, determine if it is the appropriate setting for the kind of discussion you want to have. If the space is problematic, consider changing locations. If changing locations is not an option, consider what you can do to improve the physical environment by rearranging furniture or creating more privacy.
If you are meeting virtually: Do all participants have the necessary tools and bandwith to participate? Are chat functions activated so that participants can contribute? Is there a co-facilitator who can monitor the chat? Are meeting settings secured from intruders that might disrupt (“zoom bombing”)? Are expectations clarified about when participants should mute their microphones or turn on their videos? After preparing the virtual space, determine if it is appropriate for the kind of discussion you want to have. If a virtual format is problematic, consider adjusting the nature of the discussion until there is sufficient trust within the group to tackle hard conversations online, or until the group is able to meet in-person.
Establishing Community Guidelines
Begin the discussion by establishing guidelines that build trust and community in the group. Clearly defined and communicated guidelines provide tools for participants to listen and respond with civility. Be specific and, if necessary, demonstrate what you mean by each guideline. Frame the guidelines in positive language. Invite participants to contribute their own ideas for having good conversations. Some examples of guidelines include: Use “I” language (“In my experience”) * Listen with the goal of understanding and building connections * Speak for yourself and not for others, including groups of which you are a member * Pay attention to your personal impact on the group * Make eye contact, acknowledge the person speaking, and listen actively in order to create positive impacts * Be mindful of how long or how often you speak, avoid interrupting, and stay focused on the task at hand (no multi-tasking!) * Respect the confidentiality of the group.
Handling Hot Moments
Race discussions can evoke strong emotions. Your community guidelines are in place to help you navigate challenging or difficult conversations. If tensions become too high for productive dialogue there are some strategies you can take to handle the moment.
Take a moment to decide if you want to address the issue immediately, handle it at another time, or address it individually.
If you feel unprepared to deal with the question, comment, or topic in the moment, indicate so. Make a point to revisit it when you feel more prepared.
Remind participants of the community guidelines.
Give participants time to process the moment by asking them to write individually about their thoughts or reactions.
Where appropriate, seek to clarify the participant’s point: “What do you mean by X?” Or “I heard you saying Y; is that what you meant to say?”
Try to depersonalize insensitive or marginalizing statements while modeling appropriate responses: “Some people share this view. What might their reasons be?” Then: “And why might others disagree or object to this position?”
When appropriate, validate the participant’s contribution by saying, “I’m glad you raised that perspective because it’s one that needs thought about carefully.”
Breaking the Silence
What do you do if no one talks? You can still prompt good discussion if your group is reticent. Consider how you can help participants build their confidence in order to enter more fully into robust dialogue. There is value in beginning with simple questions that allow for brief answers, or in asking participants to write out their thoughts before stating them in front of the group. Keep in mind that some participants take longer to formulate their thoughts. Be mindful of the space these participants need in order to contribute.
Think-Pair-Share is a strategy that works well with groups of all sizes. Propose a question and ask everyone to take two minutes to consider a response. Then, have participants pair up to share responses with one or two others. After the pair-share is completed, invite volunteers to report their conversation to the large group. As each person reports out, ask the large group if they heard similarities to their own conversations. Use the break out room function for online discussions. Circle settings are also useful for getting conversation started. Go around the circle and ask everyone to say one thing in response to a prompt. Everyone listens without commenting. After everyone has had a chance to say one thing, open the circle to cross-talk, encouraging participants to ask one another to say more about their response.
Take the risk. Be prepared. Have the conversation. If you need assistance or just a little confidence boost, contact email@example.com.