Letter to President Ryan and the Board of Visitors

August 29, 2022

Board of Visitors of the University of Virginia
President James E Ryan
The University of Virginia
Charlottesville, VA 22904

Dear Members of the Board and President Ryan,

As you know, on August 11 the Editorial Board of the Cavalier Daily published an article entitled: To create “citizen leaders,” U.Va. must do more. The Editorial Board states: “There is a reason why Charlottesville’s local Klu (sic) Klux Klan Chapter hosted its inauguration ceremony at Jefferson’s Monticello tomb. There is a reason why white supremacists gathered with torches around Jefferson’s statue on the north side of the Rotunda. There is a reason why they felt comfortable marching through Grounds. Our physical environment — from statues to building names to Jefferson’s overwhelming presence — exalts people who held the same beliefs as the repugnant white supremacists in attendance at the “Unite the Right” rally. These buildings must be renamed and memorials removed.”

One of the four core pillars of The Jefferson Council is to “preserve the Jefferson Legacy.” This legacy has been under assault continuously since the events of August 2017, events which had absolutely nothing to do with the University, much less Thomas Jefferson. Student leaders on the Student Council and Cavalier Daily have relentlessly conflated the assault on the Lawn by out-of-town racists with the University and Mr. Jefferson. Now in the editorial above, they are clearly calling for the total eradication of Thomas Jefferson from the history of the University he founded.
National media outlets across the United States have referenced this article since its publication, expressing amazement that the student newspaper of the University founded by one of America’s preeminent Founding Fathers would actually call for his removal from its history.

Perhaps the Editorial Board of The National Review states the issue most succinctly: “To the kids at the Cavalier Daily: Grow up and maybe think about developing some humility and some gratitude. And if at UVA you learn to write a sentence half as good as one of Thomas Jefferson’s, then you should add that to the list of blessings that you owe, directly or indirectly, to that flawed and complicated man.”

Students are entitled to their opinions. However, there are times when adult leaders must step up and offer rational, countervailing viewpoints. While recognizing that Mr. Jefferson was complicated, like all of humanity, it is time to judge him in the context of his times and stop the self-flagellation about our founder who was probably the greatest mind in the history of our nation. Rather it is time to clearly acknowledge his amazing lifetime of public service and thank
him for founding our University — which was certainly a revolutionary concept in the annals of public education.

The silence from the Administration since this August 11 editorial has been deafening.

Respectfully,

The Officers and Advisory Board of The Jefferson Counci

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Joan Johnson
Joan Johnson
1 month ago

I agree whole-heartedly with the sentiments of this article. The constant intolerance exhibited by those self-proclaimed pinnacles of liberty, freedom and tolerance is hard to stomach. The hypocrisy is apparent to those who do embrace the Jeffersonian concepts. Since my entrance to UVA in 1972, my affinity with the institution it has become has dwindled. It is no longer the proud grounds that I called home for 4 years.

Wahoo'74
Wahoo'74
1 month ago
Reply to  Joan Johnson

Joan, join The Jefferson Council if you haven’t already. We are fighting back and will right the ship.

Toni Ann
Toni Ann
1 month ago

Since when do “children” rule the house..?

angela box
angela box
1 month ago

Very well put. These people are about the most intolerant and narrow minded of any I have come across.

Wahoo76
Wahoo76
1 month ago

GREAT letter! Thank you, Jim!

myron thomas steele
myron thomas steele
1 month ago

Bravo

Geoffrey Closr
Geoffrey Closr
1 month ago

I guess that the editorial staff of the Cavalier Daily would have to advocate not only removing a couple of statues, but the entire bulldozing of the Rotunda and the Lawn, in order to expunge all connection with Thomas Jefferson, forgetting that they are part of an UNESCO World Heritage site. Maybe someone should dit them down and let them be aware of the quote from John F. Kennedy to the Nobel Laureates at a Dinner at the White House, “There hasn’t been this amount of Brain power in the White House Dining Room since Thomas Jefferson dined here alone!!!

James B Newman
James B Newman
1 month ago

I very much agree with the contents of this article. The University is strident in supporting the progressive liberal point of view. Only when the Board of Trustees is “balanced” in the selection of its trustees will both sides of the issue be given a chance to air their views In a just society that is the only way productive truths rise to the top. While the President of the University feels he is doing the right thing (as did the last President) his efforts are causing a lot of damage to the University and the Commonwealth.

Hal Juren
Hal Juren
1 month ago
  1. I am gratified and heartened by your response. Realizing that this anti-Jefferson dogma is becoming entrenched in the faculty, administration and student body at UVA, I can only applaud your continued determination to fight against it.
Baylor Trapnell
Baylor Trapnell
1 month ago

Why do people who disparage Jefferson and the extraordinary product of his mind choose to go to his creation for college? They might be happier at Harvard where some endowment $$$ came from slave ships, cruel mills, and the whaling industry. How holier they are than thou.

joseph a miller BA '70
joseph a miller BA '70
1 month ago

Agreed, as a proud New Yorker I came to the “Grounds” in 1966 with the belief that Truth and Honor would follow me in life. As a member of the New York Bar I found it hard to find blind justice where the Golden Rule and Truth or Honor seemed to be superfluous. Are we not surprised former New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio is now a Professor at Harvard teaching no less how to succeed in politics? Really?

James
James
1 month ago

Left out of today’s public discussion of Jefferson are his statements expressing his recognition of the evil of slavery and the slave trade, his promotion of a Virginia law to allow manumition (it failed to pass), his excoriation of King George for the transAtlantic slave trade in the draft of the Declaration of Independence (it had to be removed to get the deep southern states to sign), and his ultimate signing of the law making us the first nation in the world to outlaw the Transatlantic slave trade. Also ignored is the worldwide history of slavery as a generally accepted practice and business. It was such in Africa for at least a thousand years before the Europeans arrived and began purchasing already enslaved people from their fellow African captors. Sadly, Africa is the epicenter of slavery in the world today in the form of human trafficking. The words and actions of Jefferson and his fellow founders inspired multiple abolitionist movements in North America and Britain which ultimately made slavery illegal and deeply immoral in the western world. Despite that the UN estimates there are 20-40 million slaves in the world today, more than at any time in history. Before looking backward to pass judgement on Mr Jefferson I would suggest the Cavalier Daily staff take a careful look at themselves and ask what they are doing to fight modern slavery! They could start by opposing the modern slave trade being promoted by our government across our southern border!

Wahoo'74
Wahoo'74
1 month ago
Reply to  James

James, you absolutely nailed it👍🇺🇸

Wahoo76
Wahoo76
1 month ago
Reply to  James

Great response!

jim potter
jim potter
1 month ago

I am a graduate or UVa engineering (1960) and Darden (1966) and am in total agreement with your comments. Just don’t understand what is happening to the fundamental traditions and honor system at UVa,
Jim Potter

Peter LeQuire (College ‘65
Peter LeQuire (College ‘65
1 month ago

I continue to think that the the effort to purge Jefferson’s legacy from the University’s culture is institutionalised, and that the likelihood of reversing that continuing assault by arguing with those committed to that purging are futile. The signs are everywhere: DIE criteria being part of faculty evaluation; DIE criteria being made part of admission decisions; the proliferation of DIE academic administration positions; the exclusion of pre-1970 alumni from the alumni Association’s survey of alumni attitudes; the punishment of speech; & etc.

The “fix” is in the money. While there may be a bit of satisfaction in withholding contributions, that of itself is of little effect. Unless donors communicate with the department or President Ryan, or the coach, or whoever, the reason(s) for refusing further donations, withholding of itself is ineffective. Council participants with influence among Virginia’s legislators – particulate those who influence the state’s budget – could express their concerns to them.

The battle for the University’s history and culture may be lost. I hope not, but at this point it seems that those who care about the history of the University are, like the Spartans at Thermopylae, being overwhelmed by an overwhelming barbarian horde.

Clarity77
Clarity77
1 month ago

Well said. And just as in the case of the republic the Founding Fathers created, they clearly warned that from time to time it will be up to those of us who value both the republic as well as the University to stand up and fight back against the rot and nonsense promoted in the classroom by woke leftist useful idiots. They will be defeated as they are few and we are many. Courage is all that is required. Courage being more infectious and contagious than COVID!

Wahoo76
Wahoo76
1 month ago
Reply to  Clarity77

Courage, yes. Also required is a plan of action!

Wahoo'74
Wahoo'74
1 month ago

Peter LeQuire, agree it’s an uphill battle, but don’t give up. The Jefferson Council hasn’t. Join us if you haven’t already.

By the way, it’s DEI – Diversity, Equity, Inclusion – not DIE. Perhaps your acronym DIE was a Freudian slip,😉

Practicing Lawyer
Practicing Lawyer
1 month ago

Very well said, JC.