The inmates have taken over the asylum at the University of Virginia. After quoting the school’s founder, U. Va. President Teresa Sullivan received a letter signed by 469 faculty members and students asking her to refrain from mentioning Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, third president of the United States, and founding father.
The letter read, in part:
We are incredibly disappointed in the use of Thomas Jefferson as a moral compass. Thomas Jefferson owned hundreds of slaves. Other memorable Jefferson quotes include that Blacks are “inferior to the whites in the endowments of body and mind,” and “as incapable as children of taking care of themselves.” Though we realize that some members of our university community may be inspired by quotes from Jefferson, we also realize that many of us are deeply offended by attempts on behalf of our administration to guide our moral behavior through their use.
It stated that, “although some members of this community may have come to this university because of Thomas Jefferson’s legacy, others of us came here in spite of it.”
Finally it stated, “For many of us, the inclusion of Jefferson quotes undermines the messages of unity, equality, civility, and inclusivity that you are attempting to convey.”
Sullivan responded (in part):
Quoting Jefferson (or any historical figure) does not imply an endorsement of all the social structures and beliefs of his time, such as slavery and the exclusion of women and people of color from the university.
These students and faculty have fallen off the long arc of history into post-modern insanity. Their demands for a “conversation with our administration regarding ways to be more inclusive” are incoherent and unworthy of a response.
Of course the United States–and Virginia–experienced slavery during Thomas Jefferson’s life. Jefferson freed his slaves, and according to the most liberal interpretations of freedom, personal liberty, and racial identity of the times in which he lived, struggled with the problem of what to do with these persons who were impressed into involuntary servitude.
Now these students and faculty wish to spark an “inclusive dialog” by removing references and consigning to the memory hole the words of one of the greatest thinkers in American (and possibly, world?) history.
“I’ve been here 15 years.”, one politics professor who signed the letter, Lawrie Balfour, told the Cavalier Daily, “Again and again, I have found that at moments when the community needs reassurance and Jefferson appears, it undoes I think the really important work that administrators and others are trying to do.”
Were I the university president, my response to that kind of pompous, presumptuous, and idiotic statement would be to revoke Balfour’s contract and send her packing.
Did she really just say that the actions of college administrators were more important than the thoughts of a founding father who penned the Declaration of Independence? Balfour really thinks a man who attended the Constitutional Convention, served two terms as President of the United States, and signed the Act Prohibiting the Importation of Slaves in 1807, then, at 76 years old, envisioned and founded the school at which she works “undoes” the “important work” of the Poobahs who sit in offices and write memorandums for faculty?
Jefferson designed the buildings, the campus, and the library–himself!
U. Va. is Jefferson’s child, his opus magnus. And these useless jackass students and faculty have the nerve to call for his exclusion from his own creation.
These students have truly rode off the reservation, so to speak. They should be remanded to their own consciences and dismissed from the institution bearing Jefferson’s image. They are not worthy of it, or of the great man who founded it.