On Tuesday, tens of millions of Americans will join the millions of others who have already voted in the 2020 presidential election. My hope is that Virginia Tech students, alumni, staff, and faculty who are eligible to vote will exercise that right. As you do so, I ask that you also reflect on the days that will follow and beyond.

When the election results are known, whether that is Nov. 3, 4, or much later, some in our diverse community will experience excitement and joy, while others may feel disappointment and loss, perhaps even fear. Each of us will have a choice: How do we channel those very real and intense feelings and their impact on those around us?

As you consider this, I hope you will deeply reflect on these words of our Principles of Community: “We affirm the inherent dignity and value of every person and strive to maintain a climate for work and learning based on mutual respect and understanding. We affirm the right of each person to express thoughts and opinions freely. We encourage open expression within a climate of civility, sensitivity, and mutual respect.”

At Virginia Tech, by embracing these principles and our motto Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), we accept responsibility and accountability for our conduct and treatment of others. At this critical moment in history, I call on all Hokies to lead by example. This is our time to demonstrate how the spirit of community is stronger than the division driven by politics.

I hope you will join me in choosing a path forward that respects election results while working in a positive and constructive manner to progress as a nation and as a community. While presidential contests receive the most attention, elections occur every year, and those local, state, and congressional contests need your energy, engagement, and continued advocacy for change.

As you work for progress, strive to assume positive intent in others. We need not demonize those with whom we disagree. Despite our differences as individuals, I believe the vast majority of Americans are inherently good people who largely want the same things: life, liberty, happiness, purpose, family, equality, the inherent dignity of all people, access to health care, a quality education, the opportunity to provide for ourselves and our loved ones, and peace.

Limiting your experience to one narrow political view may make you think otherwise. Living in an echo chamber where everything you hear reinforces your views makes it difficult to learn, grow, and influence others. Challenge yourself with broader experiences that help you better understand what others may be thinking on points of disagreement. Listen. Dialogue. Find common ground.

Elections bring moments of elation and periods of severe disappointment. I encourage you to read Vice President for Student Affairs Frank Shushok’s recent message to Virginia Tech students. I echo his question: “Who do you want to be at this moment?”

Frank and Vice President for Strategic Affairs and Diversity Menah Pratt-Clarke will host a virtual event on Wednesday, Nov. 4, “Finding Common Ground: Reflecting and Connecting After the 2020 Election.”

Additional resources are available from InclusiveVT, the university’s Office for Equity and Accessibility, and Ombuds office. Hokies, let’s rise to the occasion and serve our communities by forging a positive and constructive path forward for all.

Tim Sands,

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