One recurrent element in Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s blood libel in Rolling Stone on the University of Virginia is her resentment of how much the blond and tanned students respect UVA’s founder Thomas Jefferson. Sabrina may have lost the battle to the tune of a $2 million libel judgment against her, but her war on Jefferson is going well. From the Richmond Times-Dispatch:
A letter, signed by 469 faculty members and students, was sent to Sullivan on Nov. 11 protesting the use of a Jefferson quotation in her email calling for unity after the presidential election, the student newspaper reported.
“We would like for our administration to understand that although some members of this community may have come to this university because of Thomas Jefferson’s legacy, others of us came here in spite of it,” the letter read. “For many of us, the inclusion of Jefferson quotations in these e-mails undermines the message of unity, equality and civility that you are attempting to convey.”
In her message after the election, Sullivan said that “Thomas Jefferson wrote to a friend that University of Virginia students ‘are not of ordinary significance only: they are exactly the persons who are to succeed to the government of our country, and to rule its future enmities, its friendships and fortunes.’”
Lawrie Balfour, a politics professor who signed the letter, told the newspaper that those who signed the letter were grateful that Sullivan responded to anxiety following the election but felt it was the wrong moment to turn to Jefferson because of recent incidents of identity-related hate speech.
“I’ve been here 15 years,” Balfour said. “Again and again, I have found that at moments when the community needs reassurance and Jefferson appears, it undoes I think the really important work that administrators and others are trying to do.”