Top 10 things Thomas Jefferson would find surprising

Hide the lattes, females and New Cabell Hall

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Statue of Thomas Jefferson in front of the Rotunda. 

Elena Becker | Cavalier Daily

1.  Minorities

This one is obviously shocking for a guy from the 1800s. Only rich white men attended college when the University was built, so seeing a woman or person of color would definitely be out of the ordinary. Now, we have all sorts of minority organizations and spaces, like the Black Student Alliance, the Society of Women Engineers and the Multicultural Student Center, just to name a few. Despite what Jefferson’s University looked like in 1819, our move towards diversity has been one of our better decisions. Unfortunately, we still have a long way to go. 

2. Starbucks

I would love to see Thomas Jefferson try a pumpkin spice latte. Coffee — or sweetened drinks with a little bit of coffee flavoring — has become increasingly popular, especially on college campuses where we all put off getting enough sleep knowing we can have that pick-me-up the next day. Just one more episode, right? One more minute on Twitter? Actually finishing that essay you’ve put off eight nights in a row? On Grounds, we have two Greenberry's, Argo Tea and a Starbucks to fuel our all-nighters and sleepless study sessions. Off Grounds, options abound. Maybe Jefferson would appreciate our long nights of hard work, even though they were inevitably caused by our own procrastination. 

3. Old and New Cabell

When the Lawn was built, the South Lawn was left empty so the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains could be seen from the Rotunda. Now the Lawn is capped off by Old Cabell Hall and New Cabell Hall, blocking the original view. The Homer statue would also be a surprising addition for TJ because it wasn’t added to the Lawn until 1907. Although we can’t see the mountains anymore, the buildings are beautiful and fit in well with the architecture of the Lawn. It’s also a little late to do anything about it. 

4. The Rotunda Part Two

There are so many overwhelming and new things at the University, but to Jefferson, the Rotunda still seems to be the same! Silly, silly TJ. This is the Rotunda Part Two. The Rotunda reimagined. Wouldn’t he be surprised to learn that the reason the Rotunda had to be rebuilt was because a professor added dynamite to a fire to try to save it in 1895? After the fire, the Rotunda was rebuilt with two floors instead of three to increase the size of the Dome Room and central heating was added. Luckily, many books and works of art were saved by faculty and students. TJ might like the new design and the fact that we’ve kept it as the central point of the University. 

5. The clubs

There are clubs for everything at the University, including tater tots and spotting dogs. There seems to be a million different a cappella groups. Would Jefferson like them or would he think they were overdone? Would he attend Rotunda Sing? I’m no expert on his singing quality, but maybe he would even audition for an a cappella group himself. I can imagine TJ as a Hullabahoo or a Virginia Gentleman doing the dances and snapping along to the music. 

6. Buses

When Jefferson was alive, the main mode of transportation was a carriage. Now we have giant moving boxes with seats inside that take the same route every day and are trackable on our personal magic screens. Can you imagine how many horses it would have taken to pull a carriage as big as a UTS bus? It’s better this way without all the poop in the streets, but wait until Jefferson learns about global warming. 

7. Sports

Considering many of the sports the University is known for weren’t invented when Jefferson was alive, I think he’d be more than a little confused. I’m someone who grew up with a dad who watched football every Sunday, and I still get confused. Taking TJ up to North Grounds to see U Hall, John Paul Jones Arena and Klöckner Stadium would be a whole new world. Maybe he could even try his hand at a little basketball or football while he’s visiting. 

8.  The Corner

Depending on the time Jefferson visited the Corner, I don’t think it would be absolutely foreign to him. In fact, he might be more used to the Corner on a Friday night with drunk college students stumbling around than he would be during the day with juiceries, yoga and pizzerias. Back in the day, there were so many drunken brawls and duels on the Lawn that the clock on the Rotunda had to be protected by bulletproof glass and the Honor System was created. Things were a little crazier back then. 

9. The size

The University is so freaking big. The walk from North Grounds to Central Grounds is literally 30 minutes. A walk from Old Dorms to the Nursing School is almost 20 minutes. If you can’t tell, I’m not very fond of walking. We’re lucky to have buses, but can you imagine how easy it’d be to get to classes if everything were still located on the Lawn? Also, wasn’t the Lawn supposed to remain the center of the University? Unfortunately, we wouldn’t have the wide array of classes like we do now if we stuck to the small size of the Lawn, but a girl’s feet can dream, can’t they? 

10. Modern amenities

When the Lawn was originally built, there was no heating, electricity, indoor plumbing or gas. Now the bathrooms for Lawnies are actually pretty nice, and the Pavilions usually have renovations completed every 20 to 30 years. TJ would probably be pretty impressed by all the plumbing, but I won’t be satisfied until there are more bathrooms and residents don’t have to pee in their sinks in the middle of the night. 

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