Editor’s note: Radford Mayor David Horton posted the following statement on his Facebook page this afternoon. The statement is from Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D., President of Radford University:
Dear Radford Family:
Earlier this week, I sent a message to main campus students, titled Our Campus, Our Community, and Our Country. In the message, I expressed my strong support for a group of students and shared my personal experiences. Since that time, there has been a great deal of debate and discussion on social media and in the broader community. Individuals have taken my letter out of context and, in some cases, utilized it as a means to promote their personal agendas. This has caused both robust dialogue and significant disruption.
Since the distribution of Monday’s message, the University has received many messages of both concern and support. As such, I want to share additional information in order to dispel rumors that seem to be quickly spreading both on and off campus. As a higher education institution, it is our mission to fuel intellectual discovery and foster supportive communities. These tenants represent the very foundation of our teaching, research, and service mission. More importantly, they are critical components in learning about differences, promoting civility, and engaging in respectful discourse.
The Bigger Picture March and Rally is not an external event. It is not being led or organized by a national organization or anyone who is not affiliated with the University. It is an event that is being led and organized by our students who have a desire and right to express their beliefs and perspectives in accordance with the University’s Free Speech Policy and the founding principles of our country. The students have committed to do so in a peaceful and respectful manner, and the University will have measures in place to support their commitment. Additionally, only Radford University students, faculty, and staff will be provided access to campus. This is consistent with the University’s visitor guidelines and pre-registration requirements.
Consistent with public health guidance, Saturday’s outdoor event will require mandatory face coverings and physical distancing. The student organizers have committed to following the masking and distancing requirements and ensuring all event attendees do the same. Individuals refusing to wear face coverings or maintain physical distancing will not be permitted to participate.
As previously noted, The Bigger Picture March and Rally is a student-led and student-organized event. In order to ensure the event is held in the safest format possible due to the COVID-19 global health pandemic, the University is assisting student organizers with the overall event structure and various logistical details. Despite the University’s gathering limitation, the event is moving forward due to the University’s Free Speech Policy and is modeling the practices and structures of other peaceful demonstrations that have been safely and successfully held during the pandemic.
As the proud leader of a student-centered institution, I will be in attendance at Saturday’s event as a sign of my respect and support for our students. Contrary to various reports, I did not encourage, recommend, or require any individuals to participate in the event. Our student organizers have done an outstanding job of sharing their message and promoting their event. With differing opinions and opposing voices, we must show care and respect for one another. Highlanders, together, we can and should model the importance of being strong citizen leaders on our campus, in our community, and across our country through visible acts of kindness and a general respect for humanity!
With Highlander Pride,
Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D.