A message to students from Byron Hughes, dean of students
April 1, 2021
A few days ago, screenshots were revealed on social media of a conversation among a group of students. Any behavior that would be a violation of the Code of Conduct will be addressed through the conduct process for appropriate action. If there are any potential violations in this incident or any other situations, then we will follow-up accordingly. These comments — which have specifically caused concerns for our Black, Deaf, LGBTQI+, and Muslim communities — provide an opportunity to rearticulate our Principles of Community and share an initiative being implemented within Student Affairs.
Our Principles of Community are critically important for how the many identities, beliefs, perspectives, and ideologies can live and learn together across Virginia Tech’s campuses. There are two particular statements within this framework that I would like to draw your attention to:
“We reject all forms of 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. 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.”
“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.”
These two principles are fundamentally important for an inclusive community. They do not exist in conflict with each other and cannot exist without each other. Our community erodes at its core when exchanges like the group chat are meant, as Peter Block describes, to “market fear, assign fault, and worship self-interest.”
A difference of opinion or belief is necessary but sharing it in a way that would cause people to believe that they do not belong cannot be the Virginia Tech way. We believe we can do better, and a Virginia Tech without group chats like this is an example of what needs to fuel our aspirations.
This semester, Student Affairs has begun to implement a program called Foundations. This new and exciting opportunity seeks to provide students with a rich opportunity to learn about the history of race and racism in our society and work with other students to envision solutions and enact change. The one-hour discussions will be comprised of small groups of peers that will engage in conversations co-led by a student and professional facilitator. Each discussion will be focused on a reading that centers moments in history where race and racism are especially salient. Students will be provided the space to reflect with peers about the text and discuss the historic consequences of those important moments of our shared racial history. To learn how you can participate, please contact the Dean of Students Office for more information.
Our Aspirations for Student Learning and Principles of Community are clear. This space that we live and learn in together has both promise and possibility. Both can only be realized when hate is dismantled and common ground is pursued.
With hope and in solidarity,
Dean of Students
Senior Associate Dean of Students
Director for Student Affairs Inclusion and Diversity