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A Message to the College of Engineering Community from Dean Julia Ross and Associate Dean of Equity & Engagement, Bevlee Watford

Burruss Hall

Monday, June 1, 2020

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly." Martin Luther King Jr.

To the College of Engineering Community,

I hope you have read the call to action from President Tim Sands and Vice President Menah Pratt-Clarke released yesterday. The events of this past week have been disturbing, unsettling and often horrific. There is now world-wide attention on the difficult and untenable treatment of African Americans in our country. We must all recognize that this treatment is not just unfair, it is a deadly threat to our friends, families and communities. We cannot sit idly by and let this continue. We must act.

As engineers, we have always believed that our technological advancements will make a better world for the next generation. We have continually worked to improve the diversity of our engineering profession, recognizing that diversity of thought and experiences enables us to create the optimal solutions needed to achieve that better world. However, we must now acknowledge that this is not enough.

It is our responsibility to work to ensure all are treated with dignity and respect. We must recognize that the history of African Americans in this country is unique and has resulted in the unequal treatment that still exists. We must acknowledge our own biases and seek to overcome them. We must stand up when we see injustice. We must educate our students to understand that diversity makes us smarter and stronger. It will be that strength that leads us to a future where equitable treatment of everyone is normal.

Our College of Engineering strategic plan articulates our core value of Inclusiveness. Specifically, our community supports equity and fosters respect for every individual, enabling collaboration and collegiality to permeate our classrooms, research facilities, and offices, and to extend to the broader university community. We recognize the importance of allowing every voice to be heard in a spirit of mutual respect.

We look forward to the coming weeks as the Virginia Tech community works, in the words of President Sands and Vice President Pratt-Clarke, “to identify specific action steps to work for sustainable transformation.”

In the spirit of Ut Prosim,

Julia Ross,
Paul and Dorothea Torgersen Dean of Engineering

Bevlee Watford,
Associate Dean of Equity and Engagement