Virginia Tech to close Friday to observe Juneteenth

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BLACKSBURG, Va. (WFXR) — In light of Gov. Ralph Northam’s Tuesday proposal to recognize Juneteenth — a celebration observed on June 19 commemorating the end of slavery in the U.S. — as a paid state holiday, Virginia Tech followed the governor’s lead by announcing plans to close the university on Friday for the holiday.

Virginia Tech President Tim Sands released the following letter to the university on Tuesday, June 16:

To the Virginia Tech community,

On Friday we observe Juneteenth, an annual celebration recognizing the significance of June 19, 1865, the day the last enslaved Americans learned that they had been freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, which had been signed more than two years earlier.

Today, Governor Ralph Northam announced his intent to make Juneteenth a permanent, paid state holiday, and issued an executive order declaring this Friday a holiday, which we will observe at Virginia Tech by closing the university. In doing so, we recognize the great significance of this occasion and the continuing imperative for change in our society.

Juneteenth marked the end of slavery, and the beginning of a long and arduous struggle for freedom and equality by African Americans. That struggle, which played out across the nation, the commonwealth, and on our campus, continues today. We are currently at an inflection point that provides an opportunity to confront the historical and systemic issues of racism and their impact on the Black community and our university.

Juneteenth is an opportunity for us to educate ourselves about our history, listen to and learn from others, and most importantly, determine what action steps Virginia Tech can take to create a community that is free of hate, violence, and racism as envisioned by our Principles of Community. I urge each of you to take time over the next week to recognize Juneteenth by engaging in a purposeful discussion with your department, unit, co-workers, and colleagues. As part of the  InclusiveVT commitment, the Office for Inclusion and Diversity has developed a guide to assist you in creating this important conversation.

I have learned a great deal in my conversations with colleagues and peers, especially my recent discussions with Vice President for Strategic Affairs and Diversity Menah Pratt-Clarke as part of her “Making the Chair Fit” series and VT’s Unfinished Conversation Series. For many of us this can be an uncomfortable space, and it should be. Those of us who enjoy privilege cannot remain on the sidelines while others struggle, and in some cases die, because of their race.  Our vision for the future and spirit of Ut Prosim (That I May Serve)calls us to action.

Tim Sands, President of Virginia Tech

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