Blacksburg climate activists get meeting with VT President Tim Sands

Group says university met them in middle and they feel hopeful

BLACKSBURG, Va. – Virginia Tech President Tim Sands met with activists Wednesday to discuss climate change and how the university fits into the greater puzzle. The meeting was one of the demands made by students and others at the Climate Strike Rally on campus last Friday.

The meeting was a closed-door one but still attracted the attention of many other people. Shortly after 5 p.m., the group of a half-dozen students, community leaders and faculty exited with their heads held high.

Sophomore Heidi Hahn helped organize last week's rally and was pleasantly surprised with the way the meeting went.

"I felt heard because we did have a discussion, and it didn't feel like we were being shot down," Hahn said. "Which is what it can feel like sometimes."

The meeting came from the demand at the rally, just one rally of many happening around the globe that day. The activists went into their meeting with Sands hoping the university would sign their climate emergency letter that said the university would promise climate education and make a promise to switch to renewable energy.

"They did not sign the letter, but they said that they are going to be working to rewrite the climate action commitment, which is a great step, " Hahn said. "I'm very proud of meeting with them."

The current climate action commitment is about 5 years old, and the students said the university agreed to update it with more current research and increase the sense of urgency. They did get one other demand met from the letter, to have Sands as an ally, which they said he agreed to.

While the meeting went on, others rallied with signs and banners on the front steps of the building, hoping to draw some attention. Junior Brian Bennett was there because he wanted to support the activists in any way he could.

"While it's extremely important to be in the meeting and actually producing tangible change, being outside with the locals is also a very important role to play," Bennett said.

The group said Sands brought up his background in ecological issues, and they encouraged the university to look within itself at its science and agricultural roots. They also argued that if Virginia Tech wanted to be a technology leader, this was a good place to take a stand.

While they didn't get everything they wanted, they did get a commitment to another meeting with Sands, which they feel is a great start.

"We represented our student body and at least we got our point across to them. We pulled some heartstrings talking about different issues regarding the environment,"​​​​​ Hahn said.

10 News tried to speak with Sands about the meeting, but a university spokesman said that he was unavailable to talk.

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