Pro­test­ers in­ter­rupt Tech pres­i­dent dur­ing his state of univer­sity speech

Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend - - Metro - BY DO­MINICK MASTRANGELO The Roanoke Times

BLACKS­BURG — Vir­ginia Tech Pres­i­dent Ti­mothy Sands’ sec­ond an­nual state of the univer­sity speech Fri­day was tem­po­rar­ily in­ter­rupted by a group of stu­dents who crit­i­cized the school for em­ploy­ing a man they al­lege to be a white su­prem­a­cist.

About 10 min­utes into Sands’ ad­dress, one stu­dent in the crowd stood up, waved his arms and yelled “Pres­i­dent Sands! Why do you em­ploy a white su­prem­a­cist?” The stu­dent then yelled again, ask­ing why the man is be­ing al­lowed to work at Tech.

The Roanoke Times is not nam­ing the em­ployee in ques­tion be­cause the news­pa­per was un­able to in­de­pen­dently con­firm his iden­tity as of Fri­day evening.

Sec­onds af­ter the first out­burst, an­other pair of stu­dents rose from their seats on the op­po­site side of the Moss Cen­ter for the Arts au­di­to­rium and held a ban­ner with the phrase “Nazis get off our cam­pus.”

They shouted over

Sands as he tried to power through his speech and threw tiny white pieces of pa­per con­tain­ing in­for­ma­tion on the in­di­vid­ual in ques­tion.

As about five stu­dents were es­corted out of the au­di­to­rium by univer­sity se­cu­rity, they chanted. “No Nazis! No KKK! No Fas­cist USA!”

Among them was Tori Coan, who has filed a for­mal com­plaint against the man with the univer­sity’s Di­vi­sion of Ad­min­is­tra­tive Ser­vices.

“We have spent a month talk­ing to ad­min­is­tra­tion, ask­ing them where are our an­swers,” Coan said. “We haven’t had any ac­tion and we felt like the stu­dent body and the cam­pus com­mu­nity had a right to know.”

When Sands stopped his re­marks, he said: “This is not the time or place for this,” as the pro­test­ers were be­ing es­corted out by se­cu­rity.

Dur­ing his speech, Sands praised the school’s com­mu­nity part­ners, boasted of in­creased ap­pli­ca­tions and en­roll­ment num­bers and pledged for a bet­ter and bright fu­ture of in­no­va­tion.

Af­ter­ward, Sands con­firmed to re­porters that he was pre­vi­ously aware of the pro­test­ers’ con­cerns but did not dis­cuss what ac­tion the univer­sity may or may not take to ad­dress them.

“I un­der­stand the con­flict of the prin­ci­ples that they are rais­ing. I feel the same way,” Sands said. “The spe­cific con­cerns that they raised have to do with an in­di­vid­ual who has pro­fessed on his own time through me­dia his opin­ions, which are in stark con­trast to our prin­ci­ples of com­mu­nity. We’re work­ing through that process.”

Sands con­tin­ued: “Cer­tainly free speech, we all value that. We also want to main­tain an in­clu­sive cam­pus.”

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