Your Alumni Association Dollars at Work

by James A. Bacon

Above is an ad that The Jefferson Council submitted to run in the University of Virginia Alumni Society, Virginia. Before I tell you the fate that befell this ad, please take a moment to read it, and then ask yourself: Is there anything political about it? Is there anything contentious about it? Is there anything inaccurate about it?

Sure, you might disagree with the thrust of the ad. Maybe you think, like many people at UVa do, that Jefferson deserves to be remembered in history as a slave-holding rapist. But, really, do you find anything objectionable about the facts, the quotes or the tenor of the presentation?

Now, you might think that the association representing the alumni of the university that Jefferson founded might be willing to publish a paid ad defending his reputation. And you would be wrong.

Jefferson Council Treasurer Tom Neale submitted the ad to Virginia Editor Richard Gard for insertion in the upcoming issue. Here is Gard’s response, delivered yesterday:

We’ve reviewed the Jefferson Council’s proposed ad for our summer-fall issue and, unfortunately, must reject it as inconsistent with our advertising standards. As you know, our policy reserves us publisher’s discretion to do so for advertising content that’s potentially “political or contentious, untruthful or misleading,” among other conditions.

You submitted an earlier version of the ad which we would be able to publish, as we would the other ad you’ve run in previous issues of the magazine. Let us know how you would like to proceed.

Council President (and newly appointed member of the UVa Board of Visitors) Bert Ellis appealed the decision to alumni association President Lilly West. Here is her response:

Congratulations on your appointment to the BOV.

Richard consulted me before responding to Tom. As he said, you can edit this ad or we can run the previous version. Let us know what you decide.

Neither West nor Gard provided any advice on what, precisely, needed editing.

Needless to say, Ellis was not amused. He shot back:

This is the Founder of UVA. We are defending him. Obviously you have no desire to do so. What is wrong with you people?

If this ad causes people to think, so be it. We would welcome a full-on debate about Mr. Jefferson.

Bacon’s bottom line: Perhaps that is the problem. Perhaps many people do not welcome a debate, particularly a debate about Jefferson’s oft-asserted liaison with slave Sally Hemings. Perhaps they believe the history is settled. Now, it appears, the act of questioning the received wisdom is deemed “political,” “contentious” or even “untruthful.”

Many alumni would be shocked to know the low esteem with which the university’s founder is held today. Jefferson is commonly referred to as a slave-holding rapist, as if (a) the rapist charge were beyond dispute, and (b) those were the only attributes about him worth remembering. This commonly accepted belief, now widespread in the popular culture, has seeped so deeply into the student body that student guides showing visitors around the grounds sometimes refer to him this way.

In 2000 Jefferson Council member Bob Turner, a UVa law school professor, headed the Turner Commission of more than a dozen senior scholars to examine the historical and literary evidence that Jefferson fathered one or more of Hemings’ children. In the most thorough investigation of the matter ever conducted, panelist conclusions ranged from “serious skepticism” to “almost certainly false.” The report has been largely ignored ever since by ideologues intoxicated with the idea of knocking down a U.S. icon a few pegs.

In a lengthy article in the alumni magazine about Jefferson scholarship, Gard clearly sided with the revisionists who accept the reality of Jefferson’s paternity. In reviewing the historiography of the debate, he never mentioned the Turner Commission report. Referring to the work of Fawn Brodie, the scholar who brought the issue to national attention, he wrote, “Brodie died in 1981, before seeing her work vindicated during the 1990s, chiefly through [Annette] Gordon-Reed’s Hemings research, and then through the 1998 DNA testing of Jefferson’s and Hemings’ direct descendants, which resulted in general acceptance that Thomas had fathered Sally’s children.”

Case settled.

Not only is the case settled, but apparently the findings of Jefferson’s paternity are no longer to be questioned. The new orthodoxy must be enforced.

In one of his most oft-quoted statements, Jefferson wrote in a letter to Lewis Shepherd in 1820, “This institution [the University of Virginia] will be based upon 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.”

Ah, yes, follow truth wherever it may lead… unless that supposed truth portrays the author of that statement as a slave-holding rapist.

What an irony. How far UVa has fallen.

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Wahoo'74
Wahoo'74
5 months ago

Jim, excellent summary of this travesty. If the UVA Alumni Association will not allow open debate about the scurrilous slurs against Thomas Jefferson, who’s left to defend him?

Professor Robert Turner’s The Scholars Commission Report provides overwhelming evidence refuting the Jefferson-Hemings liaison. It is clear Alumni Association Executive Director Lily West and her Communications Director Richard Gard have never read it. Like their philosophical counterparts in totalitarian countries, they won’t tolerate any opinions that challenge their heterodoxy.

West and Gard should both be fired. Intellectual diversity and open discourse must be restored at Mr. Jefferson’s University. The new BOV members need to start the effort.

Tom Neale
Treasurer
The Jefferson Council

J B MCCOY III
J B MCCOY III
5 months ago

Keep shining the light on ignorance and group think.

Well done.

Thomas C. Hodgson, II
Thomas C. Hodgson, II
5 months ago

I take no honor in being the first to comment… what a way to start a 4th of July long weekend! I am, at the one time, both befuddled and greatly distressed at the University’s reaction and response to the placement of this well founded ad that so well describes some of the circumstances of Thomas Jefferson’s remarkable life.

Could it be true, is it true that freedom of speech has disappeared at The University of Virginia?

Respectfully submitted,

Tom Hodgson

Wahoo'74
Wahoo'74
5 months ago

It has under this regime, Tom.

Let’s hope as the BOV morphs back to rationality with the current and future BOV appointments intellectual diversity returns and Thomas Jefferson is again revered not reviled.

Joan Johnson
Joan Johnson
5 months ago

That is exactly why I no longer contribute.

Ken Elzinga
Ken Elzinga
5 months ago

This episode is what in economics we call a “signal” – a signal that in managing Virginia Mr. Gard may not be devoted to journalism but rather to propaganda. It would be interesting to learn if he would run an article in Virginia on how the University Guides have changed the content of their tours – simply a “neutral” article that neither approves nor disapproves of the change. However, doing so would require doing journalism and not Potemkinism.

Wahoo74
Wahoo74
5 months ago
Reply to  Ken Elzinga

You nailed it, Ken. University Guides have become the leading spokespeople for the “denigrate Jefferson” crowd. The Jefferson Council has transcripts from people who took the tour and also some audio tapes corroborating this.

It’s an immediate turnoff to prospective students and parents. Why would you want to attend a university whose student guides label its founder as a misogynist and rapist while omitting his innumerable accomplishments?

Tom Neale’74
Treasurer
The Jefferson Council

KAC
KAC
5 months ago
Reply to  Wahoo74

Indeed. We toured UVA with our son in March, and the guide went to dramatic levels to denigrate Jefferson – “he didn’t make one brick of this university”. We were tempted to ask her to share just one thing he contributed of value . . . my son found it amusing (he loves history). As we considered paying out-of-state tuition, we didn’t find it at all amusing. Then, we attended orientation last week. Let’s just say I’m grateful to have found The Jefferson Council. We are not yet convinced UVA can fulfill the promise of its reputation.

Bill Parkerson
Bill Parkerson
5 months ago

Beautiful ad receives a dismissive, dare I say, cowardly, response from Gard and West.Not a surprise unfortunately. Keep up the great work you are doing.

Wahoo74
Wahoo74
5 months ago
Reply to  Bill Parkerson

We are trying our best. Thanks.

Tom Neale
Treasurer
The Jefferson Council

walter smith
walter smith
5 months ago

Every single statement in the ad is true.
The statement about a scholarly commission concluding the Jefferson-Hemings relationship assertions were almost certainly false is TRUE. Jim Bacon provided a link to the Turner report.
It is false that Jefferson fathered 6 children with Sally Hemings, and it is a point I don’t care about except that the Marxists are using it as a cudgel to destroy one of the greatest men of history – and they draw a paycheck from his University! The hypocrisy!
Here are facts – not disputable – Sally Hemings had 6 children. Two died in infancy. The four surviving lines were tested for male Jefferson DNA. Only one had male Jefferson DNA – Eston born in 1808. Jefferson was president and 65 at the time. The rumors were first published in 1802. I am not sure if Callender had a time machine when he wrote that…
For Eston, there were 24 potential male Jefferson sperm donors.
If you wish to slime Jefferson with Sally Hemings, the most that could POSSIBLY be true is he fathered 3 kids – the 2 who died and Eston. Meanwhile, UVA permits University Guides to say he fathered all 6 – this is known not to be true! And the Woodson Institute says he fathered all 6 and spends a great deal of time suggesting rape. Again – known not to be true. Melody Barnes is either on the Monticello Board or has been and runs the “Democracy Initiative” and Monticello’s assertion that he fathered 6 children with Sally Hemings is not and CANNOT be true – yet they get to lie with our tax dollars, and alumni, at “our” alumni association cannot try to tell the truth?
You do the math.
We have offered to have a debate many times. No takers. Hypocrites and liars.
I am actually glad this happened so everyone can understand how bad the problem is. UVA is run by its enemies.

Allan
5 months ago

This is the same Lily West who was featured in this 2007 WSJ article (even had her own “hedcut” portrait) about her working as campaign staffer for Obama in the primaries. Wonder if she is able to execute her duties in a politically neutral jurisprudence.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB119906288013858515

LeAnne
LeAnne
5 months ago

I applaud the Jefferson Council for the relentless and fierce opposition to the woke runaway train that this anti Jefferson and intolerant DEI movement has become. Keep fighting!

Larry Chamblin
Larry Chamblin
5 months ago

As a UVA alum, I support the rejection of the ad for its incorrect assertion that Jefferson did not father children with Sally Hemings. There is too much misinformation about all topics these days, especially controversial issues. Check out Monticello.org on this question. Jefferson is as complex a person as is the nation that he helped establish.

I wish more UVA graduates would follow The Jefferson Council. Maybe a more balanced readership would serve as a corrective to the council’s far-right leanings.

walter smith
walter smith
5 months ago
Reply to  Larry Chamblin

As a UVA alumnus, do you agree that we should “follow truth wherever it may lead?”
Have you read the contrary conclusions of the Turner report?
https://www.amazon.com/Jefferson-Hemings-Controversy-Report-Scholars-Commission/dp/0890890854
And the paternity issue is really just a smokescreen – useful only until the statues of Jefferson come down, then they will aim for Washington.
For me, I don’t care if Jefferson fathered all of Sally’s children. The paternity issue is a cudgel. And a de-humanizing one at that, but Marxists don’t care. Every child born as a result of “miscegenation” was a human being created in the image of God. In fact, such offspring probably had a lot to do with forcing the slaveowners to acknowledge the humanity of the slaves. And many of those offspring became the progenitors of prominent black families today (watch some Henry Louis Gates ancestry programs). Further, what about the kids born of inter-racial marriages today? The Leftists promote hate and division and care about this issue only so long as Jefferson statues stand, then they will move on and the people like Myra Anderson (allegedly descended from the Hern family slaves at Monticello and UVA) will be discarded and forgotten. She is being used.

Wahoo74
Wahoo74
5 months ago
Reply to  walter smith

You nailed it, Walter.

Larry Chamblin
Larry Chamblin
5 months ago
Reply to  walter smith

I just want to be clear. I am not outraged by the possibility that Jefferson fathered children–all or some–by Sally Hemings. As I understand from the history, when Jefferson died Sally Hemings took his eyeglasses as a momento of Jefferson. In her excellent book, “These Truths,” Jill Lepore suggests that this particular item suggests a Jefferson duality–vision (as the author of the Declaration of Independence and founder) and blindness to his own ownership of slaves as a contradiction to the words of the Declaration. I also wonder if there is a suggestion that the relationship was–in time, possibly–mutual. Here I am going against the grain of thinking of the “Leftists” that TJC members so often excoriate. After all, Jefferson “owned” Sally Hemings. As I have written elsewhere, this whole affair is highly complicated and does not easily yield to the simple understandings we are all drawn to, left and right.

walter smith
walter smith
4 months ago
Reply to  Larry Chamblin

Well, we have an area of slight agreement. If Jefferson and Hemings had a sexual relationship, it is possible it was consensual. I don’t buy the psycho-babble ENWR 101 interpretation of the glasses. Sally had more Wayles blood than TJ’s own offspring. But UVA permits no ambiguity and asserts as fact that Jefferson fathered all 6 children. It is the “official position” of U Guides and in the Woodson Institute’s podcast #2, where they also spend a great deal of time on rape. The irony abounds – if consent was impossible, then what about faculty student? Hmmm? Or employer employee? They don’t care – they just want to destroy his legacy and I think it is insincere. Even if Jefferson fathered 6 children with Sally Hemings, so what? Weren’t his contributions to the world humongous? Gee, according to AncestryDNA, I have black relatives. How did that happen? I don’t know – I wasn’t there. But to draw your check from the school he founded and to devote your energies to destroying him is hypocrisy…or a profession where you name the price.

Patrick Alther
Patrick Alther
5 months ago

What could there possibly be to object to about this ad? Everything stated in it is a fact, not an opinion?

Toni
Toni
5 months ago

Unfortunately, only lawyers and big judgements will be effective

Allan
1 month ago

Virginia Magazine sent an email asking me survey my opinions on the magazine. See attached pic. 🙂

Virginia Magazine poll.png