University of Virginia President Jim Ryan announced that the school will “contextualize” a monument to its founder Thomas Jefferson. Ryan said the move is part of a broad effort to make the university both “great and good.”
Ryan said, “Some members of our community have called for the removal of the statue. This idea gained greater urgency in light of the recent protests across the country this summer. I do not believe the statue should be removed, nor would I ever approve such an effort.”
Ryan added, “As long as I am president, the University of Virginia will not walk away from Thomas Jefferson.”
The school is also taking other action, including removing the name of Confederate General Jabez Curry from the School of Education, removing or re-dedicating a memorial to politician and Confederate soldier Frank Hume, removing the name of Confederate soldier and slave owner Henry Withers from Withers-Brown Hall, and working with indigenous groups to relocate the statue of Revolutionary War militia officer George Clark.
“Our built environment should represent our core and enduring values, as well as our highest aspirations,” Ryan said. “One of those core values traces back to the Declaration of Independence and therefore to the University’s founder, Thomas Jefferson: All men – which we would translate today to mean all people – are created equal, with the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Ryan said the contextualization will “[M]erely provide historical facts to help understand both Mr. Jefferson and the statue – which was to honor his authorship of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. It will not make judgments, but relay historical truths about his remarkable life, an effort consistent with our purpose as a University – to educate and pursue the truth.”
In a debate Saturday, challenger for U.S. Senate Daniel Gade (R) said that he supported potentially removing Confederate generals’ names from U.S. military bases. On Monday, Gade told The Virginia Star he agreed with the decision to not remove the Jefferson statue. “Jefferson is a bedrock of Virginia and American history. He was the third President of the United States and plays a pivotal role in explaining the creation of our democracy. I support [Ryan’s] decision to keep him a part of UVA.”
Gade’s opponent Senator Mark Warner was not available for comment.
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