Hofstra students: 'KEEP The Jefferson Statue'

Hofstra University students are fighting back against a coalition of activist groups agitating for the school to remove a statue of Thomas Jefferson from campus.

JaLoni Owens, a Hofstra student and Black Lives Matter activist, released a petition calling for the statue’s removal on March 17, proclaiming that Jefferson has been embraced as an “icon” by “white supremacist and neo-nazi organizations,” like the Ku Klux Klan.

Shortly thereafter, more than ten Hofstra student organizations, including the Democrats of Hofstra University, Queer and Trans People of Color Coalition, The Gender Identity Federation, and Young Democratic Socialists of Hofstra, jointly planned a “Jefferson Has Gotta Go!” protest for March 30, demanding the statue’s removal.

[RELATED: Students call Thomas Jefferson statue ‘icon’ of white supremacists]

However, many students soon voiced their anger over the potential removal of the statue.

On March 27, Hofstra student Richard Caldwell released a counter-petition titled, “KEEP The Jefferson Statue at Hofstra University,” voicing support for keeping the statue on campus.

“The Thomas Jefferson statue that stands in front of the Hofstra student center has recently become a major point of controversy,” the petition states. “A petition was started and a protest planned to bring it down. However, with all due respect, this would be a mistake.”

“[F]or thousands of years, tyranny rained supreme as the most widely used form of government. Thomas Jefferson wrote the document that changed all that,” it adds. “The Declaration of Independence was written by Thomas Jefferson and put forth the idea that freedom and Democracy should ring loudest.”

The petition fully acknowledges Jefferson’s participation in slavery, but also recognizes his legislative efforts to “try and stymie slavery, even ending the Transatlantic slave trade.”

“We live in a world dominated by freedom and Democracy because Thomas Jefferson wrote the document that started it all,” the petition declares. “To take down this statue of him would be a sad removal of a figure influential in the annals of history.”

[RELATED: UVA profs, students triggered by Thomas Jefferson quotes]

As of press time, the petition had more than 250 signatures, and student organizers have planned a counter-protest on March 30, at the same time and place of the original protest.

“I initially assumed it was a joke but when I found out it was real it was pretty annoying because it seems nothing is sacred to these people,” Hofstra College Republicans President Chris Kostulias told Campus Reform. “Many people in my club and outside it plan on counter protesting...the removal protest at around 12 this Friday.”

“I was saddened, but not entirely surprised. I knew that in our current times the statue would eventually become a topic of controversy,” petition author Caldwell told Campus Reform. “I believe the statue should stay because of the magnitude of Jefferson’s accomplishments. We all acknowledge he was a flawed in aspects, sadly a byproduct of his time.”

Other Hofstra students also voiced their support for the statue to remain on campus.

Christian-Ray Conrad, a black Hofstra student, told Campus Reform that “Given my ethnic background, I wholeheartedly support the fight against racism, but the methods of these people is just gonna cause more problems than they fix.

“I feel like more people want to keep the statue to honor Jefferson’s memory. However, the louder, more outspoken group happens to be those against keeping it,” Conrad added. “Jefferson did so much for us as a nation small nation with little in the way of reputation. The least we can do for him is honor his memory and keep his legacy as pure and historically accurate as possible.”

[RELATED: William & Mary’s Jefferson statue plastered in sticky notes]

“The statue isn’t an image of racism or white supremacy,” added Hofstra student Conor Dawson. “Jefferson, in his original drafts of the Declaration of Independence, championed freedom for men of all colors. He was forced to change this by other Founding Fathers.

“A lot of the people who seemed to hop on the idea of removing the statue did it because those organizing it said they would be racist if they didn’t support its removal,” Dawson continued, adding that the organizers of the removal protest had blocked him and other dissidents from communicating with them via Facebook.

“His legacy should not be tainted by a few students who don’t even have their facts straight,” Dawson concluded.

Campus Reform reached out to Hofstra University, which responded with a statement affirming the administration’s support for civil discourse, including peaceful protest actions.

“The right to peaceful protest and assembly is at the core of our democracy,” the university declared. “Hofstra supports our students’ right to engage in peaceful demonstrations about issues that matter to them. We look forward to continuing a civil exchange of ideas and perspectives on the subject.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @rMitchellGunter