Two weeks ago, the Committee on Representation in Public Spaces met to consider anew the placement of the statue of Thomas Jefferson that stands next to the main entrance of the Student Center.
This Committee, chaired by Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Margaret Abraham and Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Cornell Craig and comprised of a diverse group of faculty, administrators, students and an alumnus, began its work last year to review representation on the Hofstra campus. I thank them for their efforts.
Institutions, like people, evolve, and come to new understandings based on the work and words of activists and leaders. It has become clear to all of us that the pain of our Black students and citizens in regards to the symbols and representation of our national history is substantial. Thomas Jefferson has long stood at the entrance to the Student Center, the primary campus thoroughfare for students, but over the past few years, the placement of the Jefferson statue, and the history it represents, has been a reminder and consistent source of pain for many of our Black students and allies. Understanding that, we asked the Committee to reopen the discussion about the statue placement.
The Committee unanimously recommended that the statue be relocated from the entry of the Student Center to the west side of the Emily Lowe Museum, where it will continue to be accessible to the public. This recommendation is in alignment with the requests made in petitions about the statue of Thomas Jefferson from student groups in prior years. I agreed with the Committee’s recommendation and in turn recommended that the Board of Trustees approve the relocation. The Board of Trustees approved the recommendation by Resolution, and the statue is being moved. The Committee on Public Spaces will continue its work to create contextualization and education about this and all public works of art on the Hofstra campus.
In the next year, my hope for our community is that we might focus on moving our University forward and continuing the critical work of listening and building an ever more inclusive and diverse community. We understand, thanks to the voices of students, faculty, alumni, staff and our neighboring communities, that we all have a role to play in creating that community so that every individual feels valued and heard. I look forward to continuing this work with you, as we listen to and learn from one another.