Statement by Charles W. Steger on racially motivated graffiti incident

BLACKSBURG, Va., Nov. 16, 2005 – This past weekend, the university experienced another incident of racially motivated graffiti. I am disappointed and deeply troubled that another incident of hate and intolerance occurred on our campus this semester. As a university, we condemn such reprehensible actions.

There were four individuals involved either in writing the graffiti or as witnesses, two Virginia Tech students and two non-Virginia Tech students. The visitors have been banned from campus and the matter has been referred to the judicial affairs offices at their respective institutions. Likewise, the Virginia Tech students will be dealt with appropriately through our judicial system.

Additionally, university officials and campus police have met with the Commonwealth Attorney to explore whether any legal action could be taken at the state level, and preliminary contact has been made with the U.S. Attorney’s office to ask them to look into the matter to see if any federal laws may have been violated. In the process, we have learned that the statutes are complex and that, simply put, something is not a crime based solely on the level of its offensiveness. Even the most offensive speech may be protected by the First Amendment.

Nevertheless, incidents such as this should simply not happen in this day and age, and in particular they should not be happening here. The Division of Student Affairs will continue to work diligently to develop strategies to enhance the campus climate for all Virginia Tech students. But, this matter affects us all. Virginia Tech recently adopted the Principles of Community, found at, where we affirm the right of everyone on our campus to live and learn in an environment of respect and civility. It is our responsibility individually and collectively to eliminate bias and discrimination—through our daily actions and by communicating these expectations to those we bring to campus as our guests. Prejudice and hate, whether based on race, sexual orientation, or other factors, have no place on this campus or in our society, and should have no place in the minds of those who call themselves part of the Virginia Tech community. If these offensive acts serve to strengthen our resolve, then we prevail over those who commit them.