In Their Own Words: Christa Noel Robbins

Christa Noel Robbins teaches art history at the University of Virginia. On Feb. 26, she wrote an email, which was forwarded to the Jefferson Council, explaining her reasons for canceling class. The art historian said she was motivated by solidarity with the “Yes on Divest Walkout.” The walkout organizers endorse a student referendum demanding that managers of the University of Virginia $14 billion endowment purge its holdings of corporations benefiting from business with the “apartheid” regime of Israel.

Dear Class,

I’m writing to let you know that I am canceling class today in solidarity with the “Yes on Divest Walkout” that the UVA Apartheid Divest coalition organized. I realize this issue is polarizing right now, so I want to take a moment to let you know why I made this choice. As we’ve discussed in class, cultural heritage and community integrity has everything to do with place. You just finished watching Ai Weiwei’s Human Flow, where you saw that Gaza (a strip of land around 25 miles long and no more than 7.5 miles wide at its widest point, that once held over 2 million people) has been under a blockade since 2007. You heard Hagai El-Ad, an Israeli LGBT and human rights activist, describe Gaza as a “Third World country on the way to collapse” and you saw a group of young students describing Gaza as a prison and expressing their regret that they cannot travel the world because they cannot freely move in and out of Gaza.

My decision to cancel class comes from my own sympathies with the people of Palestine and out of a desire to see them live freely. I realize you have your own views and I want to assure you that I have no expectation that your views align with mine and that I welcome discussion about these issues. If you would like to know more about the divestment campaign, there will be students discussing it on the steps of the Rotunda today at 2pm. I look forward [to] seeing you on Wednesday where we will discuss Ai Weiwei’s film about refugees and Decolonizing Architecture/Art Residency (please read the two short articles I posted before classes). We will also discuss the final on Wednesday.

See you soon and be well.

Christa

Here is how Robbins describes her scholarly interests on her art-department home page:

As an art historian, I’m interested in the many ways that works of art can bring us into close contact with history. I mean this quite literally. As objects that come to us from the past, works of art offer us a unique opportunity to have a material and even sensual encounter with history. In my own research, my observations of the material details of art bring me closer to the concerns, questions, and values that were being worked through in a particular historical moment. I have spent a great deal of time, for example, looking closely at abstract paintings from the 1950s and 1960s in order to get a better sense of how artists participated in debates over the value of creativity and individuality in a historical moment where the very notion of identity was in question.

That description provides no tell-tale signs of intersectional-oppression paradigm so prevalent at UVA, but Robbins has been inclined at times to interpret art through the prism of feminism and white male privilege. In the clip below, these topics arise in questions she presented to artist Neal Rock in a 2021 UVA Department of Art video.

I was thinking about some feminist work and in particular Hannah Wilke. … Hannah Wilke’s starification, for those of you who don’t know it, in ’75 she did a performance where she asked viewers to come into a gallery and chew bubble gum, and she would form them into these very purposefully vaginal little sculptures and then she stuck them all over her body, and eventually it turned [into] this editorial photo piece. …

I also maybe just wanted a little provocatively have you respond a little bit to the kind of privilege that comes from being a white man who can dissociate his body from his sculptures in a way that a lot of artists can’t….

In our “In Their Own Words” series, The Jefferson Council refrains from making editorial observations about the subjects’ scholarly interests, preferring to let them speak for themselves. However, given Robbins’ action in canceling class, some questions do occur to us:

  • Last year the Ryan administration issued a directive to faculty members forbidding them from canceling classes to allow students to attend the Students for Justice in Palestine rallies. Is that policy still in force?
  • If so, have any violators of the policies been disciplined or even reprimanded?
  • How does a class in art history justify showing “Human Flow,” a 2017 film about the global refugee crisis with a heavy emphasis on the Israel-Gaza conflict?
  • Will the recently appointed religious diversity task force ask whether such one-sided political advocacy contributes to a hostile environment for Jewish students at UVA?
3.4 5 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

12 Comments
Oldest
Newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
lorna gladstone
lorna gladstone
1 month ago

Are the students being reimbursed for the cancelled class? It seems to me that the first obligation of the teacher is to teach her subject.

Nan Dee
Nan Dee
1 month ago

She needs to be fired. As a UVA grad and a mother of a UVA grad, I really am disgusted by what I’m seeing at my alma mater. As a student I would demand a refund. She is paid to teach, not cancel class for these reasons.

Wahoo 76
Wahoo 76
1 month ago
Reply to  Nan Dee

And the refund needs to come from funds withheld from her salary.

UVA Past
UVA Past
1 month ago

Is the administration enforcing rules about signs on doors on the lawn? If not, I guess they are training students that rules do not apply to them.

walter smith
walter smith
1 month ago

This is only scratching the surface.

The indoctrination oppressor/oppressed (Marxist) worldview is everywhere

Does Religion Lab sound nefarious? https://religionlab.virginia.edu/season/season-3/

It is actually the Religion Race & Democracy Lab – listen to some of the podcasts, if you can stand that much gobbledygook. Check out its “Projects.” These people were primary movers into removing and melting the Lee statue and re-purposing it as “public art.” UVA helped fund the project through 2 different arms – Humanities and the Democracy Initiative.

Here is an article on one of the movers, most recently famous for a WaPo article of the face of Lee being smelted – https://anabaptistworld.org/bethel-speaker-says-movement-justice-needs-accomplices-not-allies/

Or go find (if you can) the Woodson podcasts on Notes on Virginia, where the second and final podcast asserts Jefferson was not just the father of Sally Hemings’ children (mostly, if not entirely, false – the last child has Jefferson male DNA, could be up to 24 men, and a group of scholars concluded the story was almost certainly false, but UVA never promotes THAT story), but that Jefferson was a rapist.
(Here is the link – it would be too hard to find for most – https://u8387795.ct.sendgrid.net/ls/click?upn=nZGH0ylxadMp5hTpNkeAFg1GFHJhUYQld-2Ba8bhlqTHuD-2BOkdz0vEJ9IfPITviykugVX9Y-2BVSnhDUajCqetwf2KHW0shyC5W6BT-2FGQJGDu9tv-2Bb5ixf-2F-2Bt765AVlIvNd8fFXmR86-2FPFAIdOaBvkDKxgtxNR3QI6vAw5VhwqUvqwxapvm5TAk9PvFV-2BOprR6jQoq3QslHGiy-2Bdh5chXfJUeYXSITNToREapOrCP3hoMmIYqAnGEQy8hvSUgXr69zFuq1Rr7ncHPIFmOC3qeS21a-2FLx51V0oblNkhYvHj7wMC2y7jPdBDejmGIb9CaEV6yy2xn1jy0042Vkesfov6AQycsx94GVv0PP4gAT2aQORpA-3Dnbfs_8eZ4aSdAAn-2FwKtJhD8HDz5jP-2BU5nYDl9jv5zvKkXECOBWHRoYmp0iK9SCQWnOZvuQ0ykLdH1Iqem0dRcF3-2FfJw83RD-2FGqJCqTEzZf24BgIRR3xn2PeF6vDcwaOqnXBuJG3MoHqvZjzXUm5KbEaMRO1Icnii6XdqjwitX-2FIgLa6GTiTvkGt2E5TKO-2F-2BUdJy6qsIYKSYZ1jc4Nq327Mvh8-2B-2FWS6dO4MnKceDV-2F-2Bv-2BoNQ3OoQKu8jNVlx-2B7JeeA4wM6kfPTYuaaa0Uu2jBKA-2B23N7cwUCy-2Bm-2Bs5gDTM-2FM-2BZJ7n6xqR2n-2FUsLxumGfRhdY-2F7nX5alsletnnJhvwLl7zYVhdbljk1lfStaNFbIBJPCGpVzEE4nHJpxyJGMEzh2-2FWo

The rot runs deep and is everywhere…

Thomas Gorman
Thomas Gorman
1 month ago

Another worthless UVA Professor. Kick her to the curb.

If you want a good feminist artist, check out our Nora Houston and her paintings of UVA.

Mraf
Mraf
1 month ago

This is so disappointment for so many reasons. The UVA administration needs to take action against Robbins so that it is a deterrent for professors to cancel classes for students paying tuition so that professors can serve their own political one sided agenda.

Geoffrey Close
Geoffrey Close
1 month ago

Does Ms Robbin’s realize that most art was commissioned and artists supported by white privileged sponsors historically? Michelangelo and DaVinci would not have been in a position to create their masterpieces without the support of Italian nobles. Who else has discretionary income to purchase such original works?

Jim Kovalchick
Jim Kovalchick
1 month ago

It’s more than okay that she cancelled class. In fact, all her classes should be cancelled. When she holds class, she is actively working to manipulate minds to an ideology, and her class has nothing to do with art. Having said this though, I must admit that she is not the real problem. The real problem are the idiots who hire professors like this. The BOV needs to root out this rot once and for all.

Walter smith
Walter smith
1 month ago
Reply to  Kurt Elward

The rosy, curated story featured two kids from one Class of NINE students. UVA has featured this class before, sort of how UVA Law brags about the largest Federalist Society. And no complaints about years of civil rights violations and lawfare form the conservative group. The class and the group are show ponies only…

Gary Scott
Gary Scott
1 month ago

What can we in other parts of the country do to protest and fight against this hideous abuse of academia?