(lte) tailgates

Lane Stadium in the fall, Oct. 30, 2019.

Editor's note: This letter to the editor was submitted prior to the announcement being made that tailgating will now be prohibited in Blacksburg and/or at Virginia Tech. Find more information here

Our Community Wellness Commitment asks us to follow a few simple guidelines to care for each other's well-beings. According to President Sands, move-in and the first week of classes have gone very well, with 21 cases and a test positivity rate of 0.3%. Data for the week ending Aug. 23 shows Montgomery county’s 53 additional positive tests  and a fraternity house where 136 members lived in the spring being asked to quarantine. I'm thankful for the Hokies that are doing their part to keep us, the faculty and the people of Blacksburg safe.

Our university, however, is failing us. In their tentative plan for home football games, the university will allow up to 1,000 people to gather in Lane Stadium. This attendance will be made up of the families of players and coaches, according to the Roanoke Times. Hundreds will travel to Blacksburg, while the university asks students to not travel or have visitors. I feel for the players and coaches. I too would like to have my family here for commencement and my hooding ceremony, but I have accepted that that will not and should not happen to keep my fellow Hokies, the people of Blacksburg and my family safe. 

Any gatherings with more than 15 people are prohibited, with suspensions as punishments. And yet HokieSports continues to host advertisements for tailgate packages with tents and catering from 20 to 60 people.

Student athletes will be tested three times a week, while students are asked to wait five days in isolation after a suspected exposure

If this double-standard continues, the university will be responsible for the spread of COVID-19 among students, faculty and Blacksburg residents. Tailgate attendees will be blamed, student travelers and their visitors will be cited and students will be suspended and held responsible while HokieSports hosts these tailgating ads and gets paid. We're being set up for failure and the blame afterwards.

The economics of college sports (especially football) are cited for the necessity to move forward. Charlie Phlegar, vice president for advancement, recently told the board of visitors that, "Sometimes it goes underestimated, the value that they bring, not only to the student-athlete experience [but] to the student undergraduate experience, and certainly to the economy of Southwest Virginia. We need football. We need a strong athletic program.”

If one student athlete is infected and is found to have a damaging heart condition, will it have been worth it? If students are sick for weeks and months, will it have been worth it? There may be deaths, will it have been worth it?

How much is our well-being and lives worth to the university?