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Departmental Statements Concerning Recent Acts of Racism and Violence

From Robert S. Cohen, Professor and Department Head of Biological Sciences

Dear Biological Sciences Faculty, Staff and Students,

I am angry and disappointed in our country for the insidious acts of racism and hate that have been on display these past several days.  It’s a stark and depressing reminder that the racism and hate that have been with our country since the beginning have never really gone away.  

The amount of pain in Black communities is unthinkable, especially as these acts of violence are occurring during a pandemic that is disproportionately affecting them because of systemic inequities in our society.  The Black community is under siege and it is not right to stand silent.  

I and the Department of Biological Sciences want the Black community to know that we stand with you in your fight for justice and equality.  We welcome your input as we plan our course of action for creating a safe, fair, and compassionate community for all.


From the Biological Sciences Diversity Committee

The Virginia Tech Biological Sciences Diversity Committee would like to affirm our support for our Black community members in this difficult time.
 We are outraged, saddened, angry, and frustrated with the continued racist violence in the United States---from the violent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and countless others; to denying Black participation in simple activities such as birdwatching that so many of our white colleagues routinely take for granted. We strongly condemn these actions and extend our heartfelt support for the pain these recent events have caused to the Black community. 

Science is for everyone. Nature is for everyone. Biology is for everyone. Safety, security and justice are for everyone. We recognize, as the Biological Sciences Diversity Committee, that it is our duty to help address the systemic and continued injustices that render these principles unfulfilled, and that we as a department have a long way to go. But we know the status quo cannot continue. 

To those who are coping with grief, anxiety and justifiable anger, we hear you. Though this global pandemic has isolated us physically--and continues to disproportionately affect communities of color--please know that you are not alone. We call on the extended Biological Sciences family to reach out to support students, colleagues and friends in this difficult time. 


The Biological Sciences Diversity Committee

From Susan Whitehead, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences


My heart is broken by the recent loss of Black lives and the continued institutional racism and widespread systemic injustices in our country. I have truly lived a life of privilege, and I cannot imagine the fear, anxiety, anger, and sorrow that these injustices have caused for the Black community. It’s time for a change, and I hope I can be part of the solution. Watching the current unrest in our country, I have felt at a loss for what I can do, but I believe the first step is education and so I have been trying to educate myself about how to be a better ally to Black Americans. I found the lists of resources by Reclaiming STEM and Dismantle Collective especially helpful. I am also compiling ideas for how to: 1) confront racism as part of my courses and outreach projects, and 2) expand research opportunities and be a better mentor for marginalized students. Our position as educators and mentors gives us a wide sphere of influence, and I believe we have a responsibility to shape informed citizens and make sure that science and nature are accessible to everyone. I am proud to be a part of a department and institution that cares about these issues, but I know we can do more. I look forward to continued conversation and ideas for how our department can actively work for equity and social justice.