Dear Virginia Tech students,

We’re counting on you. Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) isn’t just a motto, it’s a calling. In the case of fall 2020 and COVID-19, I’m so glad we have this as our “true north.” It makes us unambiguous in conviction and practice. For example, we know that our freedom is a freedom to serve. It’s what we call being a Hokie.

COVID-19 is deadly serious. Yes, it’s true that its severity may pass over many of us. It is also true that any one of us could transmit this potentially life-altering or even life-ending virus to someone who is loved. In this way, any of us may have the power to shut down communities and unleash despair and suffering.

Hokies simply cannot be part of fostering such misery. Ut Prosim compels us to model love — in whatever shape it is most needed at any given time. Right now, we especially need the kind of courageous love that puts others first, makes hard decisions, holds others accountable, and models the brilliance of an “all-in” community.

We love our university. We love our Town of Blacksburg and the entire New River Valley. As we prepare for the fall, we must be unrelenting and uncompromising in our commitment to public health. We means all of us — every single person who joins us in Blacksburg and on campus. We will succeed together — or we will fail together.

As you prepare to return for classes, our values and mission remain unchanged. Our daily lives must be disciplined in ways we’ve never before considered. For example, Ut Prosim during COVID-19 will mean deciding not to pack into a friend’s apartment. It could mean detouring back to your residence hall room to retrieve the mask you accidentally left behind. These sometimes-inconvenient daily moves are how we will get through this in the “win” column. While it may be possible for some to continue with covert social irresponsibility for a time, this behavior will not win. This virus will not keep your secrets.

I believe our practical, sacrificial actions can show the world how the Hokie community is so indescribably special. Even more, I believe we can create a culture that saves lives — if we commit to protect each other with impenetrable unity for our collective health.

Let me be clear. Such unity is born of individual and small choices — day in and day out. Here’s how I think we must begin:

  1. Wear a mask always: Unless you’re alone, eating, or sleeping.
  2. Watch your distance: Extend your arms. Is anyone in that space?
  3. Wait to party: Set aside former ways of gathering. Look forward to the day we can have a gigantic party to celebrate the end of the pandemic and the beginning of a new season!
  4. Wait to travel: Once you’re here, agree to remain in Blacksburg, and tell all visitors to wait until it’s safer to come to Blacksburg.

I’d like to ask you to pause right now and think about someone you love getting a serious, life-altering version of this virus. Now I’d like to ask you to live as if your daily actions could prevent that. Please, please reframe your semester in the light of that single commitment.

Friends, if we can do this, one day years from now, you’ll return for your 30th reunion — grateful for the life and love you still managed to find in the year where Ut Prosim looked like kicking COVID-19 in the teeth. Be well. Be committed.

With hope,

Frank Shushok Jr.
Vice President for Student Affairs

Those in the Virginia Tech community who need assistance or counseling support may contact:

Visit vt.edu/ready to stay informed of plans for the fall 2020 semester.