Thomas Jefferson,a former slave owner, is a polarizing figure in the university’s history.
Students and faculty at the University of Virginia have asked its president to avoid quoting Thomas Jefferson, arguing that he “was deeply involved in the racist history,” of the school, The Richmond Time Dispatch reported on Monday.
Nearly 500 students and faculty signed a letter to university president Teresa Sullivan, denouncing an email she sent after the election that was meant to unify the campus.
The email included a quote from the nation’s third president:
“[University of Virginia students] 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,” the quote read.
Sullivan rejected assertions that citing Jefferson, who was a slave owner, amounted to cosigning his views: “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,” Sullivan wrote in response to the letter.