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May 31, 2020 Statement of Support

Statement of Support for our Black students and colleagues

We would like to address the current events that are taking place in our country and affecting our community since silence would only make us complicit and complacent to what is going on around us, and that would be unacceptable. In particular, the many challenges faced by our Black colleagues and students are front-and-center. We in BEAM affirm and support our Black faculty, staff, postdocs, and students. As a department, we pledge to be mindful of how moments like these place a heavier burden on certain people in our community, and to think about how we can improve our mentorship, teaching, and scholarship for our Black students and colleagues.

We are devastated by the recent events involving the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and many others whose deaths and experiences are less well publicized. Other events in the United States have occurred going back to the days of Emmett Till up to now with “Permit Patty,” “BBQ Becky”, and the most recent incident with Amy Cooper, as was famously displayed last week when she threatened to report Christian Cooper and emphasized that he was “an African American male” to law enforcement when she was politely asked to leash her dog.  These events demonstrate that simply being Black is deemed a punishable offense by others in our society, and with knowing that weaponized privilege is real, it is used as a tool in leading to tragedies that we face today. We strongly support the notion that everyone should be valued. We affirm that the consistent and disproportionate undervaluing of individuals who identify as Black in our society and the academy is not acceptable.

We are a diverse department in many ways, but we will not rest on our diversity “laurels.” Rather, we will use our platform to create a comfortable and safe space for future generations of scientists and engineers. We, as a department, will not shy away from difficult moments and conversations. Instead, we will confront the ways in which white supremacy and racism are embedded in our institutions. We will unite to challenge complacency with these injustices as they affect members of the Virginia Tech and Blacksburg communities. 

Adding to our grief and anxiety is the on-going pandemic, which affects the livelihood, safety, and health of many in our community. We acknowledge that this affects the Black community at disproportionate rates. We affirm that the mental health and safety of our community must be addressed and supported with actionable items. As a community, we pledge to have compassion for our affected students, trainees, and colleagues as they take the time to decompress and process the intolerable acts that are taking place. We realize that our students, staff, and faculty may bring these issues with them every day into work, and that though they may not outwardly voice their concerns, that does not mean that everything is fine. We will take time to check on our students and colleagues as they navigate through these unprecedented times while trying to maintain their focus on the academics that sustain and motivate our professional lives. We realize that these measures of support are much needed and hope that they will create, sustain, and deepen mentor/mentee support networks.

As a biomedical engineering department, our mission and commitment is to increase the quality of life for patients and humankind. We therefore pledge to be first in these efforts of valuing each other, speaking out against injustices, and supporting others wholeheartedly. It is also each of our personal responsibility to uphold the Virginia Tech motto, Ut Prosim - That I May Serve. As Black students and trainees in our department continue to be underrepresented and underserved, we pledge to support them in any way that we can - both inside and outside of the laboratory. 

We acknowledge that there are many other injustices within our society and the academy regarding other races/ethnicities, gender, sexual orientation, ability, socioeconomic status, citizenship, and much more. Many of these identities intersect, thus, we will advocate for all. As a department, we commit to actively engaging in discussion to promote diversity and inclusion, while also acknowledging our privilege, in the classroom, hallway, and laboratory. We believe this will allow us to further provide safe spaces for all of our community members. 

We thank the faculty, staff, postdocs, and students who are a part of BEAM for their support moving forward with these efforts and invite others to engage in conversations and actions in the commitment to this journey of correcting injustice.

Sincerely, 

The BEAM Diversity and Inclusion Committee

Jennifer M Munson, PhD (Chair)

Rafael Davalos, PhD

Miguel Perez, PhD

Anne Staples, PhD

Mary Salcedo, PhD

Monet Roberts, PhD

Michelle Dickerson

Amanda Covey, MAEd

*We also encourage you all to read the joint statement by President Sands and Vice President Pratt-Clarke highlighted in the VT News Monday morning (June 1, 2020). This statement includes links to resources should you seek them