Remove the Thomas Jefferson Statue from Hofstra University

Remove the Thomas Jefferson Statue from Hofstra University

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TW: Mentions of Slavery, Rape, and Anti-Black Racism. 

TL;DR: In light of recent protests, Hofstra University has decided to relocate the Thomas Jefferson statue from the Student Center to Emily Lowe Hall. We are asking that the statue instead be completely removed from campus. 

Emily Lowe Hall acts as the primary building of operations for the Hofstra Department of Drama & Dance. Drama & Dance, two fields of performance that are systematically structured to disadvantage people of color from advancing further or to the level of their white counterparts. What kind of message does it send to current & prospective students of color to have a tribute to a historical figure like this on their doorstep. A figure with a history deeply rooted in violence, rape, and oppression of black bodies. 

 

These departments have matriculated less than 50 students of color across all 4 classes & employ only 3 professors of color. The students of color in these two departments need to be validated, uplifted, and safeguarded. Will preventing this statue from moving to this environment cause fundamental reform in the arts? No. However it is just one of the many ways reform can be initiated. After all this is a college campus, this institution's sole purpose is to create the leaders of tomorrow - it is they who will ring in reform of these fields.

 

Why is this important? What is happening just outside the walls of Lowe Hall are just a reflection of what is happening campus wide, statewide, and nationwide. Black Americans have been historically brutalized for centuries. Americans across the country are calling for an end of the violence as well as the upholding of the country's racist past. 

 

In his lifetime, Jefferson owned close to 600 slaves and raped many enslaved black women to bear his biological children. Sally Hemings, perhaps the most famous of his victims, was only 14 or 15 when she bore the first of five children she would have by Jefferson. Jefferson justified slavery, saying that "It is not their condition, but nature...which has produced the distinction between the slave and the slave master..." When speaking of the Haitian slave revolts of 1797 Jefferson wrote "Whither shall the coloured emigrants go? ... But if something is not done, and soon done, we shall be the murderers of our own children".

 

The statue was gifted by Hofstra Trustee David Mack and currently resides in front of the Student Center. One of Hofstra's first architects credits Jefferson as a major influence, and that influence is seen through the layout of the campus. His legacy has already been memorialized by the structure of the campus itself, the statue itself serves no purpose remaining on campus. 

 

Hofstra's connection to racism and violence against black bodies continues onward into 2020, with former SGA Rules Chair Devin Brosnan's participation in the fatal shooting of Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta, Georgia on June 13th. As of June 22nd the University has yet to release a statement on this alumni's involvement. The University has refused to acknowledge it's connection to and perpetuation of racism. But that ends now.

 

The statue is a testament to a history that invokes emotional reactions from students of color. Relocation is not a viable option because it will just elicit the same response wherever it is placed. Students should not be made to endure seeing a reminder of a violent history every day before class. They should not have to adjust their routes to avoid it either. Therefore, we are demanding that the Jefferson Statue be indefinitely removed from campus. We are calling on the Department of Drama & Dance students, faculty, and alumni to join us in the organization of it's removal. We are calling on the student body to join us in support. We are calling on the general public to aide us in making our voices heard. We are calling on the University to act swiftly in response. We refuse to believe that the removal will be "too costly" or "too difficult". The change starts now. 

 

*It should be noted that this is in no way a new movement. This petition stands on a platform created by the Jefferson's Gotta Go Movement at Hofstra University circa 2018. Their valiant and never ending work to educate and engage the public to remove this statue needs to be highlighted. The artists organizing through this petition thank them for their work and pledge to work further with them. Listed below are links to their social media and the original petition that sparked this dialogue