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Sullivan denounces covering of Jefferson statue

U.Va. President sent separate emails to students and alumni Wednesday morning

<p>Sullivan denounced the shrouding of the Jefferson statue on the north side of the Rotunda Tuesday night.</p>

Sullivan denounced the shrouding of the Jefferson statue on the north side of the Rotunda Tuesday night.

University President Teresa Sullivan sent two emails Wednesday — one to the University community and one to University alumni and donors — denouncing the covering of the Thomas Jefferson statue on the north side of the Rotunda Tuesday night.  

The emails come after a group of students protested Tuesday night and covered the Jefferson statue with a shroud. The protest led to one person’s arrest for public intoxication.

In both emails, Sullivan said the University has since removed the covering.

“[The protesters] shrouded the Jefferson statue, desecrating ground that many of us consider sacred,” Sullivan said in her email to alumni and donors.

In both emails, Sullivan said she “strongly” disagreed with the decision to cover the statue. 

Sullivan also said that Jefferson would not be surprised by the disagreements and activism shown at the University, given his support of free expression. 

“U.Va.'s importance as a university is underscored by the fact that arguments about free expression, hate speech, and similar issues occur here,” Sullivan said in her email to alumni. “Sometimes these arguments are noisy.”

The email sent to the University community said while Jefferson is a controversial historic figure, he made many contributions to the United States. Sullivan also noted steps the University has taken in attempting to acknowledge its dark past, including the President’s Commission on Slavery and the University, the planned Memorial to Enslaved Laborers and efforts in recruiting faculty and students from underrepresented groups. 

“The University has acknowledged its controversial history and we continue to learn from it through open dialogue and civil discourse,” Sullivan’s email to students said.

Sullivan also said the University has begun to rename buildings as well, citing the naming of Pinn Hall after Vivian Pinn, M.D., one of the first black women to graduate from the School of Medicine. She also said that the Board of Visitors will discuss naming a building after W.W. Yen, the first Chinese student to graduate from the University.

“There is more work to be done, and I look forward to members of our community coming together and recommitting to our foundational values of honor, integrity, trust and respect,” Sullivan said in her email to the student body.

In her email addressing alumni and donors, Sullivan said alumni have experienced student activism during their own times at the University, particularly during the Vietnam War, Watergate scandal and September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. According to Sullivan, student activism following the Aug. 11 and 12 white nationalist rallies is similar to those points in the past. 

“I prefer the process of discussion and debate, and the debate is happening here at U.Va. with a wide variety of guest speakers, panels, and other opportunities to look at underlying issues,” Sullivan said in her email. “That there is also activism should not be a surprise to any of us.”

See the emails Sullivan sent below: