Petitions have been filed and protests have been held both for and against a Hofstra University statue of President Thomas Jefferson.
The petition to remove the statue in front of Hofstra’s Sondra and David S. Mack Student Center was created first and has garnered 994 signatures as of Tuesday afternoon.
Created by Hofstra student Ja’Loni Owens, the petition calls to remove the statue based on Jefferson’s slave ownership.
“For prospective students, this is one of the first buildings that they walk into when touring the university,” Owens wrote. “At almost every single Admitted Students Day, families pose in front of the Student Center to take photos and share hugs and smiles after successful college visits.
“It is unfortunate then that a bronze sculpture of a 71-year-old Thomas Jefferson, gifted to the university by Hofstra Trustee David Mack, is right in front of the Student Center.”
The statue was donated in 1999.
A counter petition to keep the statue, created by student Richard Caldwell, seeks to protect the statue because of the many other things Jefferson did for the country despite his flaws.
“As we sit here, almost 250 years later, we see a country that has grown exponentially,” Caldwell wrote. “Are we without are problems? No, we’re not, but no one is perfect. What should be remembered, though, is that Democracy was not always the status quo. In fact, for thousands of years, tyranny rained supreme as the most widely used form of government. Thomas Jefferson wrote the document that changed all that.”
The petition to keep the statue has garnered 1,571 signatures as of Tuesday afternoon.
Both groups also held protests on campus on Friday, including a student-only closed protest inside the student center, Newsday reported.
The university’s website describes Jefferson as an inspiration for early campus architects, “as represented by the ‘quadrangle and great lawn’ between Hauser Hall, Memorial Hall and the Adams Playhouse, and Memorial Quad between Hofstra Hall, Calkins Hall, Brower Hall and Barnard Hall. Hofstra has continued the tradition of the quadrangle all over the campus.”
According to a Hosftra University statement, the school will set up a meeting with President Stuart Rabinowitz and other university officials to discuss the statue’s future.