UVA students divided on diversity demands, Jefferson statue

A recent survey at the University of Virginia found a divided response to demands issued by the Black Student Alliance and Minority Rights Coalition following the violence in Charlottesville.

The Cavalier Daily sent a poll to 6,102 students soliciting their opinions on “the recent white nationalist violence in Charlottesville” and “the various responses of the University, city, and student groups,” receiving 1,621 responses, which the student newspaper “weighted by race and in-state status.”

Nearly 89 percent of respondents thought the “Unite the Right” rally had “gone too far,” while “over half” believed UVA President Teresa Sullivan should have more explicitly condemned the participants.

About 62 percent of students, meanwhile, agreed with the city’s decision to remove the equestrian statue of Robert E. Lee, and 67 percent approved of the decision to rename “Lee and Jackson Parks to Emancipation and Justice Parks.”

Conversely, 44 percent of those polled said they were satisfied with the administration’s response to the rally and violence, 37 percent said they were unsure, and only 19 percent were dissatisfied.

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

On behalf of those who were dissatisfied with the school’s response, BSA and MRC released a list of 10 demands at an August 21 rally to “send a message to the university that we demand more from them [sic]” following the Charlottesville white supremacist rally.

The ultimatum includes calls to remove and contextualize monuments, institute mandatory social justice education, and impose quotas for minority student and faculty recruitment.

It singled out a prominent statue of Thomas Jefferson, UVA’s founder, claiming it “serves as an emblem of white supremacy.”

[RELATED: UVA students: Jefferson statue ‘an emblem of white supremacy’]

While 59 percent of students expressed general support for the BSA’s and MRC’s demands, 25 percent opposed them and 16 percent were “not sure,” though the responses became more varied when the poll asked students to weigh-in on the individual demands.

The respondents are virtually deadlocked, for instance, on the demand that “all students, regardless of area of study, should have required education on white supremacy, colonization, and slavery as they directly relate to Thomas Jefferson, the University, and the city of Charlottesville,” with 40 percent of students supporting the idea and 41 percent opposed.

Similarly, only 37 percent said they support demands to “balance” UVA’s “historical landscape” by renaming buildings and installing a plaque to contextualize a prominent statue of UVA founder Thomas Jefferson, whereas 44 percent oppose that demand.

Despite student opposition to altering the Jefferson statue, it became the focal point of a September 12 protest during which a crowd of approximately 100 students, faculty, and others marched around the monument while chanting slogans such as “No Trump, No KKK, no fascist USA!”  

At one point, three demonstrators scaled the statue and covered it with a black cloth, and others hung a banner on the base with the words, ‘Black Lives Matter–F**k White Supremacy.”

Some carried signs referencing the statue or Jefferson himself, and one woman placed a piece of paper on the black tarp with the words, “TJ is a racist rapist.”

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