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A Message from President Stuart Rabinowitz

President Rabinowitz
President Rabinowitz

After consultation with students, faculty, administration, alumni, trustees, and other friends of the University, I have decided that the Thomas Jefferson statue will remain where it is at the entrance of the Sondra and David S. Mack Student Center.   I have given this matter considerable thought and want to share my views with you.

On the one hand, Thomas Jefferson articulated the best of our ideals in the Declaration of Independence and was a defender of freedom in helping to create a new nation: the United States of America. That he was also a man of his time, unable to fully implement the bold vision articulated in the Declaration and the Bill of Rights, is, viewed through a contemporary lens, difficult to understand or forgive. Yet few of our founding fathers were able to live out the dream they had sketched out, which was the unprecedented vision of a free and equal world. Their words were, in many ways, far ahead of their time and certainly ahead of their actions.

And still, today, the founding fathers represent the duality of the American character and the difficulty of our history: freedom and oppression, equality and injustice, in issues of race, gender, religion and origin, that we have dealt with since our founding and will deal with for years to come. Yet in the documents most critical to our national character these men of their time laid out a vision of a world in which all people are created equal. It is this vision we celebrate and honor in our Founding Fathers, even as we wrestle with their human and indefensible failings.

With these thoughts in mind, I will convene a task force, chaired by Dr. Meena Bose, Executive Dean for Public Policy and Public Service Programs, at the Peter S. Kalikow School of Government, Public Policy and International Affairs, and Vice President for Student Affairs W. Houston Dougharty, to consider further dialogue and education about our founding fathers, the Atlantic slave trade and Western expansion; to think about what freedom and equality mean at the University; and to consider how we use history to advance understanding and build a better, more just world. Among the undertakings the Task Force will consider is an academic conference to study our founding and slavery, as well as other means of education on issues of equality and history, including new exhibits or artwork or potential contextualization for the monuments and art on campus. The task force will begin its work in Fall 2018.

Thank you for your advocacy on these issues. It has been a privilege to listen to our student advocates these past few months, to learn your perspectives and hear your concerns. It is my hope that through the task force we will create together a means for more dialogue and continued understanding. Enjoy your summer.

President Stuart Rabinowitz

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