The Cavalier Daily reports that faculty and students at the University of Virginia signed a letter to that university’s president admonishing her for quoting Thomas Jefferson, who founded that university.
Several professors on Grounds collaborated to write a letter to University President Teresa Sullivan against the inclusion of a Thomas Jefferson quote in her post-election email Nov. 9.
In the email, Sullivan encouraged students to unite in the wake of contentious results, arguing that University students have the responsibility of creating the future they want for themselves.
â€œThomas Jefferson wrote to a friend that University of Virginia students â€˜are not of ordinary significance only: they are exactly the persons who are to succeed to the government of our country, and to rule its future enmities, its friendships and fortunes,â€™â€ Sullivan said in the email. â€œI encourage todayâ€™s U.Va. students to embrace that responsibility.â€
Some professors from the Psychology Department â€” and other academic departments â€” did not agree with the use of this quote. Their letter to Sullivan argued that in light of Jeffersonâ€™s owning of slaves and other racist beliefs, she should refrain from quoting Jefferson in email communications.
â€œWe would like for our administration to understand 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,â€ the letter read. â€œFor many of us, the inclusion of Jefferson quotations in these e-mails undermines the message of unity, equality and civility that you are attempting to convey.â€
The letter garnered 469 signatures â€” from both students and professors â€” before being sent out via email Nov. 11. Signees included Politics Prof. Nicholas Winter, Psychology Prof. Chad Dodson, Women, Gender and Sexuality Prof. Corinne Field, College Assistant Dean Shilpa DavÃ©, Politics Prof. Lynn Sanders and many more. Asst. Psychology Prof. Noelle Hurd drafted the letter. …
Politics Prof. Lawrie Balfour said she believes everyone who signed the letter, including herself, was grateful that Sullivan responded to anxiety following the election â€” however, many felt it was the wrong moment to turn to Jefferson, following incidents of identity-related hate speech.
â€œIâ€™ve been here 15 years,â€ Balfour said. â€œAgain 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.â€
Not all signees believe the University should move away from quoting Jefferson in all email correspondence, including Balfour.
â€œI think we have an opportunity to think about the contradictions that Jefferson embodied,” Balfour said. “The point is not that he is never appropriate, but the point is that the move that says, he owned slaves, but he was a great man, is deeply problematic, and I think it will continue to prevent us from being the kind of inclusive, respectful community that President Sullivan and the rest of us envision.â€
I’m a Jeffersonian Libertarian, but this one is too much for me. I would fire every one of those faculty members and expel every insolent and ungrateful student.