The following letter was sent by The Jefferson Council to the UVA Alumni Association Board of Managers.
Dear Board Member and fellow Wahoo,
We are writing to make sure you are aware of the recent action taken by the Alumni Association to reject our proposed advertisement in the forthcoming issue of the Virginia Magazine. We believe this action is totally improper, is inconsistent with the spirit of our Alumni Association, is in violation of the recently adopted Statement of the Committee on Free Expression and Free Inquiry, and is legally in violation of our First Amendment rights.
As some background, if you are not acquainted with the Jefferson Council, we are a quickly growing group of UVA alumni, students and faculty who are dedicated to preserving the legacy of Thomas Jefferson, the integrity of the Lawn, the vibrancy of the Honor Code and insuring the existence of intellectual diversity on Grounds.
We had an introductory full page ad in the last edition of the Magazine:
As we considered the content of our next ad for the current issue of the magazine, we were materially influenced by the current controversies surrounding the University Guides and Monticello and their relentless attacks on our Founder, Mr. Jefferson. The accusations that he was a “rapist” and/or that he fathered multiple children with Sally Hemings are unsubstantiated by conclusive fact, are highly controversial and by all means are open to reasonable dispute.
Nevertheless, the Magazine itself in the past has published articles that present Mr. Jefferson’s alleged paternity as fact. Accordingly, we thought it timely and appropriate to submit an ad that presents both incontrovertible facts and directs the reader to scholarly articles that question the veracity of the subject charges against our Founder. This is the ad we submitted:
The editor of the Magazine, Richard Gard, rejected the ad stating that it contained content that is “political or contentious, untruthful or misleading.” However, Richard did not specify what part of our ad fit any of those conditions. He offered to publish our previously submitted ad.
A number of our Board members objected to the ad’s rejection, and appealed the decision to Lily West. However, Lily supported that decision by Richard, stating that “the assertions in the ad copy are open to reasonable dispute.” She then offered to run the previous version of our ad or an “alternate version” of the one submitted. But, once again, she did not specify what part of our ad was open to “reasonable dispute” nor did she delineate how the ad could be “altered” to her
We are greatly disturbed by the Alumni Association’s decision to reject our ad and Lily and Richard’s responses on numerous levels:
- Both Richard and Lily repeatedly refused to specify the offending content in our proposed ad or how we could cure the allegedly problematic language. That is both unreasonable and unbecoming behavior toward fellow alumni.
- The imperious rejection of our ad represents stunningly hypocritical behavior on behalf of the Alumni Association. WHY IS IT APPROPRIATE TO PUBLISH MULTIPLE ARTICLES ALLEGING JEFFERSON FATHERED SALLY HEMING’S CHILDREN-
BUT BAN AN AD RAISING DOUBT ON THIS ISSUE? And why were the published articles considered not open to reasonable dispute, but our ad is considered to be so?
- The refusal to print our ad contravenes the spirit and language of the University’s newly adopted principles of free expression and inquiry. The principles state in the very first paragraph: “All views, beliefs, and perspectives deserve to be articulated and heard free from interference.” This commitment underpins every part of the University’s mission. The Alumni Association’s decision to not allow us to defend our Founder against questionable attacks on his character flies in the face of Mr. Jefferson’s dictum to follow
the truth wherever it may lead.
- We believe the decision to censor our ad contravenes our First Amendment rights of freedom of speech. We are currently reviewing our options in this regard. Particularly in view of the University Guides’ incessant disparagement of Mr. Jefferson and the
Magazine’s history of publishing accusatory articles on this subject matter, we believe the Association’s attempt to shut down a level playing field of debate will not be viewed favorably under the law.
In conclusion, we hope that after reviewing the above, you will agree that the Association did not act appropriately in rejecting our ad and that you will support the Association taking remedial action in this regard.
Respectfully as fellow Wahoos,
The Jefferson Council Board
This letter was sent July 17. — Ed