President Ryan on Thomas Jefferson

Jim Bacon, vice president-communications for The Jefferson Council, has received the following communication from University of Virginia spokesman Brian Coy. In the spirit of open dialogue, we publish it here for the benefit of our readers.

As you may have seen, there has been some recent media coverage about Thomas Jefferson’s place in the University community.

In case it is useful, I wanted to share a message from President Ryan, first published in October of 2020, which conveys his position on the matter and the University’s policy. Below is a relevant excerpt from his longer statement:

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. As long as I am president, the University of Virginia will not walk away from Thomas Jefferson.

More recently, President Ryan’s perspective on the matter was featured in an article in the Daily Progress on August 13, 2022. The relevant excerpt is below:

Even so, some people have called for the statue of Jefferson that graces Grounds to be pulled down. Others wish the university would distance itself from Jefferson.

Jim Ryan, UVa president, isn’t having any of that. Ryan has made clear that Jefferson, including the statue of him in front of the Rotunda, is not going anywhere. UVa’s founder has been and always will be a strong part of UVa’s past, present and future.

“As long as I am president, the University of Virginia will not walk away from Thomas Jefferson,” Ryan said in an Oct. 2, 2020, message to the UVa community.

Ryan cited Jefferson’s view on universities. They are, he wrote, “based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind. For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it.”

In that same message, Ryan emphasized the university’s commitment to inclusion and to build an environment that “reflects our core and enduring values as well as our highest aspirations.”

In a recent interview, Ryan said he recognized the challenge of updating Jefferson’s story while still remaining loyal to him.

“In some respects, it’s a little bit like the country itself,” Ryan said. “I think the way that you change is by moving ever closer to the values and ideals that were expressed two centuries ago.”

While all of this information is public and the University’s position on this matter is well-known, I hope it is a helpful reminder. Thanks!

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Wahoo76
Wahoo76
1 month ago

I think Ryan, in his 2020 statement, indicated that new signage rules for Lawn residents would be addressed. It’s now 2022. Has there been any change to these rules?

Wahoo74
Wahoo74
1 month ago
Reply to  Wahoo76

Yes, it was modified in early 2021 after the Hira Azher “F-UVA” incident. Here’s the link: https://housing.virginia.edu/housing-terms-lawn-range.

Baylor Trapnell
Baylor Trapnell
1 month ago

Why are some students so angry and self righteous toward Jefferson et al? They seem to lack a positive direction for change, and project their anger on historic targets. Do they actually DO anything for others or is it all postering?

Mary Bland Love
Mary Bland Love
1 month ago

The thought of removing President & Founder Jefferson’s statue is breathtaking. It is such a profound menace to UVA’s reputation, the event would signal its destruction as a bastion of intellectual freedom.

Practicing Lawyer
Practicing Lawyer
1 month ago

I trust President Ryan is being sincere. I also, regretfully, believe, that he may be the wrong person to lead UVA at this time. There is nothing wrong with teaching history, and ours is blemished. But a university is not the place where people’s sensibilities should be protected from the discomfort of truth. Thomas Jefferson did great things. He founded the greatest nation in the history of the world.

The current fashion of destroying our cultural forebears for their sins is a cynical practice used by the left for political gain. Our students and youth are victims. And President Ryan has a duty to confront the problem. That includes insisting our young students hold up their end. This is not a nursery. And if they cannot tolerate views, perspectives, and historical truths that displease them, UVA is not a good place for them.

President Ryan’s formal message, curated by the communications people, is fine. Yet on the one occasion when he found himself, metaphorically, in the nursery sandbox, facing the university equivalent of the hysterical child, Hira Azher, he sought to placate her like an over-permissive parent.

By his own account, President Ryan uses a gentle hand, with everyone, because he feels it is most constructive. Good people can disagree about the appropriate balance of love and discipline. President Ryan has not done enough, however, to advise our students that there are standards, and they must meet those standards. This will include managing their emotions when faced with facts and ideas that unsettle them. It may be that he is not suited to doing that. If not, this is a problem for the BOV and the governor.

Wahoo76
Wahoo76
1 month ago

Well said!

walter smith
walter smith
1 month ago

Practicing Lawyer, please call me Recovering Lawyer.
Can you join me in disgust with UVA Law and its abandonment of the beauty of the law?
I graduated in 1984. UVA Law was not exactly a conservative place, but I guess by Law School standards it wasn’t as crazy as the others.
I can’t believe that none objected on Covid mandates, that none objected to impeachments 1 and 2, that none object to the treatment and punishment of the J6 defendants, that none object to the Mar-a-Lago search, none object to trying to disbar Trump lawyers, etc. They used to believe in civil rights! But they can go all in on supporting KBJ! I bet they protested the treatment of Guantanamo prisoners, but silence about Americans who supported Trump. I rarely agreed with the old school ACLU, but it at least had standards and stuck to them.

The lawyer class is destroying the Law (what should be a beautiful thing) to destroy Donald Trump.
It’s really dispiriting… I think devalues my degree and degrades the law.

Practicing Lawyer
Practicing Lawyer
1 month ago
Reply to  walter smith

I will do, Walter!

Shakespeare understood well. The first step a potential tyrant must take to eliminate freedom is to ‘kill all the lawyers.’ We are supposed to safeguard freedoms. It is disheartening to see things like the ACLU forsaking freedom of speech, equal protection of the law, and due process for equity. History has told us this story multiple times.

KAC
KAC
1 month ago

Thank you for sharing the response. I had just asked my 1st year if he knew Ryan’s position. We are from out of state so UVA’s history in this matter is limited. I hope the university is educating these students on all of Thomas Jefferson’s contributions, and not just placating the loud activists who are using the student publication to attack board members. As a parent, I find that embarrassing for the students, and the school. While free speech is critical for all sides of an issue, everyone involved wants to have pride in their university. Few can claim Thomas Jefferson. That is something worth protecting. UVA needs to be loud and proud. There should be no doubt, blemishes and all.

Tony Medley
Tony Medley
1 month ago

I am not impressed by President Ryan’s “statements.” So many bad things have occurred under Ryan’s watch, like destroying the Honor System (why would anybody want to do that unless they did not want to act honorably?), etc. I judge Ryan by the Latin proverb, Acta Non Verba, and by that standard he is failing badly and UVA is bearing the brunt.