Black Lives Matter Protest in Christiansburg

Community organizers held a Black Lives Matter protest in Christiansburg marching from Depot Park to the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office, June 10, 2020. 

Virginia Tech shared its thoughts regarding the protests following George Floyd’s death, the latest COVID-19 developments and how the university is responding to increased representational and racial diversity.

President Tim Sands and Vice President for Strategic Affairs and Diversity Menah Pratt-Clarke responded in a statement last month to the United States exceeding 100,000 coronavirus deaths and nationwide protests that developed following Floyd’s death in Minneapolis.

“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,” the statement said. “From the marked disparities in COVID-19 illness and death across racial, ethnic and economic divides, to the unrelenting burden of racism, past and present, systemic and overt, we cannot continue to expect incremental change and the goodwill of the majority to solve a multigenerational problem.”

Sands and Pratt-Clarke followed their remarks by mentioning numerous resources and newly developing services that will help make Virginia Tech “a model for a just and equitable learning community that prepares the next generation to lead in a new and better world.”

According to the statement, the Office for Diversity and Inclusion is working with diversity directors and committees in order to reach this goal in the coming weeks. Recently, Virginia Tech held university-wide conversations on the topic of race and accomplishing strategic goals based on diversity.

Sands, Pratt-Clarke and Assistant Provost for Diversity Education and Programs Michele Deramo hosted “Unfinished Conversations about Race” via livestream Friday in response to the protests and racial inequality.

Pratt-Clarke referenced the instances of “white boots on black necks” throughout American history and Deramo argued the issue of whiteness that gives advantages to some and disadvantages to others. Their conversation concluded with a mention of the importance of education as a means to increase university-wide racial diversity and inclusion.

Virginia Tech has been dedicated to increasing university-wide diversity through An Inclusive Process, a strategic plan for the university community to “engage with different ideas, beliefs, perspectives, experiences, identities, backgrounds and cultures” and elevate the university’s Ut Prosim motto.

Virginia Tech expects to have 25% representation of underrepresented minority students in each entering class by 2022 under the strategic plan, and Director of Undergraduate Admissions Juan Espinoza has applied “transformational changes” and more fair admission standards to increase racial and representational diversity in the newest incoming class.

Consisting of approximately 6,675 students, the class of 2024 is the most diverse incoming class in university history.

According to Espinoza, Virginia Tech has “reduced barriers,” and the adoption of the Coalition Application, an all-new holistic admission review and the ability to leverage financial aid and lower expenses has increased the incoming class’s diversity.

Undergraduate Admissions saw a growth in the number of underrepresented students accepting admission offers as 27% of applicants who identify as African American and 25% of applicants who identify as Hispanic/Latinx have accepted their offers of admission.

In addition, 17% of incoming freshmen are first-generation college students, an increase of 3% from last year.

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