University of Virginia president: ‘UVA will not walk away from Thomas Jefferson’

Updated: Oct. 3, 2020 at 12:22 AM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - University of Virginia President Jim Ryan is sharing his thoughts on the future of the Thomas Jefferson statue and more in written remarks published by the university.

Ryan says he received many notes and some of them were skeptical, but in the end, he has a clear view of the Jefferson statue: it will stay.

There are already plans to contextualize it, but President Ryan wrote: “I do not believe this statue should be removed, nor would I ever approve such an effort.”

He went on to say, “as long as I am president, the University of Virginia will not walk away from Thomas Jefferson.”

Ryan also wrote about the much-talked-about sign on a door on The Lawn.

The sign says ‘[explitive] UVA’ and lists its operating costs as ‘genocide, slavery, and Black and brown lives.’

The student-resident, Hira Azher, said she put the sign up after an injury to her ankle, which showed the lack of ADA accessibility on The Lawn, and her frustration with the university’s response.

“The solution was not to make the lawn more accessible, the solution was to find me alternative housing for up to a month, which in itself is a problem," she told NBC29 on Sept. 16.

On Friday, Ryan wrote: “Personally, I find the signs deeply disappointing, not simply because of their language and location, but because they fail to acknowledge any of the progress that this University has made to become more diverse, equitable, and inclusive.”

Ryan said removing the sign would be a violation of the First Amendment, and he would not do it.

As for Jefferson’s statue, Ryan said contextualization will ‘not make judgments’ but will enable people to ‘pursue the truth.’

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