To the Virginia Tech Community,

Free speech and our commitment to respecting others are strongly held principles at Virginia Tech. These ideals can conflict and when they do, we can mutually choose to engage in civil discourse across differences, we can ignore and move on, or we can choose a form of protest. Framing these choices are the policies of our institution and the laws of our localities, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the federal government.

Most speech that promotes ideologies of hate is protected free speech under the First Amendment. As a community, we are all threatened by these ideologies of hate, as it is in stark contrast to our Principles of Community. Let me state without equivocation that Virginia Tech’s administration and the Board of Visitors find the ideology encompassed by white supremacy, neo-fascism, neo-Nazism, and others to be abhorrent and to have no place in modern society.

Our Principles of Community, which are not laws, but principles that guide us as a university, can, in some circumstances, come into conflict not only with the U.S. Constitution but with differing principles. For example, our Principles of Community reject all forms of prejudice and discrimination and value human diversity. Yet, our Principles of Community and the U.S. Constitution also recognize the importance of free expression. When these come into conflict, we encourage open expression within a climate of civility, sensitivity, and mutual respect. These values largely work together to create an open and inclusive environment where individuals feel safe and respected. Throughout the semester, we have been creating spaces, opportunities, and programs for open civil conversation across differences. We will continue to do so.

We also remain committed to our policies and procedures that prohibit disrupting teaching, learning, research, and the operation of the university. Individuals who cross this line will be held accountable by our policies and the law, some of which mandate confidentiality. Anyone in our community who believes that a policy or law has been violated or feels that there is a safety issue in our community can access resources that are available through the student code of conduct, the faculty and staff handbooks, and the police department. Some of our resources are listed below.

I reiterate the statement I made at last week’s State of the University address in the context of the current national discourse: “We will come through stronger, and each challenge will represent an opportunity to listen, to educate, and to lead the way forward by example.”

With respect,

Tim Sands

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