Some students at Hofstra University hope to say “Goodbye” to President Thomas Jefferson for good. Student activists on campus want a statue of the former president removed from the university entirely because they feel that he is a symbol of slavery and racism.
Last week, a group of students participated an a rally entitled “Jefferson Has Gotta Go!” — this is the second of what has become an annual event calling for the removal of the third president from the college. The statue of Jefferson, the drafter of key founding documents including the Declaration of Independence, has also been vandalized repeatedly. “Black Lives Matter” and “Decolonize” were recently scrawled upon the statue, and have since been removed.
Organizers from local groups and students state that the Founding Father is offensive on many levels, and that students should not have to view him on a regular basis. While the idea of “where” Jefferson should go remains vague, the group wants him gone – along with a few other demands for the university to consider.
Last year, the activists shared a petition to move the statue to a museum or other location, citing the Founding Father’s “values” and presence as a “white supremacist icon.”
“Jefferson’s values aided in the construction of institutionalized racism and justified the subjugation of black people in the United States,” the petition read. “Jefferson has been embraced as an icon by white supremacist and neo-Nazi organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan and online white supremacist chat rooms.”
While students circulated the petition and are the face of the Jefferson Has Gotta Go campaign, other local activists have organized protests and coordinated the campaign. The aim of the rally is to have the statue removed, according to the Campus Reform, a watchdog group. College Democrat group students and alumni were also involved.
“Yes, the removal of the statue is important, but it is about what the statue represents: a legacy of racism and bigotry on college campuses,” one former member said.
Removing the statue is just the beginning for the Hofstra students. In addition to relocating President Jefferson to another location, they also wish to have a variety of social justice based programs, including a “bias reporting system”, an online complaint system, mandated cultural training and more. Compulsory training for cultural awareness and ways to report those who do not get in line with the activists demands seem to be the underlying theme of the demands. These initiatives would change the way the university operates and the way students are disciplined – and would have a lasting impact far beyond the removal of a single statue.
The university has yet to take action on the activists demands and remove the historic statue, but has formed a task force to consider the matter. If Hofstra bows to this pressure, it will not be the first time a statue of a historic figure has been removed from a university or public place, and certainly not the last.
~ Patriotic Freedom Fighter