Celebration of Thomas Jefferson stirs mixed emotions

11 months 1 week 4 days ago April 13, 2016 Apr 13, 2016 Wednesday, April 13 2016 Wednesday, April 13, 2016 3:48:00 PM CDT in News
By: Kiara Ealy, KOMU 8 Reporter

COLUMBIA — Wednesday marks Thomas Jefferson's birthday and there are mixed feelings about whether or not to honor him on MU's campus, especially when considering recent protests on campus. 

Rebecca Fryer, a public health graduate student, said she doesn't feel personally offended by Jefferson's likeness, but understands how others can be. 

"I think it's really disappointing that the university is not willing to open a dialogue where they're understanding both the historical aspect of that statue versus how it is making students feel on campus," Fryer said.

Another student, Kaley Graves said students must feel welcome and comfortable in order to be successful.

"If that statue is making a large portion of our students feel like that don't belong or that they're not accepted here, I wonder what implications that has on their academic futures and the university," Graves said.

She said she sees the value in remembering the Founding Father both on campus and around the state.

"I personally think that it is a great symbol for our nation and for Missouri as a whole," Graves said. "I think he was an integral part to our freedoms and establishing our country, making it what it is."

Both a statue of Thomas Jefferson and his headstone occupy space on the Francis Quadrangle at the University of Missouri-Columbia campus. Following campus protests and the eventual resignation of former UM System President Tim Wolfe, Concerned Student 1950 organizer Maxwell Little created a Change.org petition calling for the removal of the statue since it is nonverbally "a form of oppression." 

In the petition, which reached 148 of the 200 needed signatures, Maxwell discussed the importance of a "progressive environment" for all students on college campuses, Jefferson's ownership of slaves and the creation of the University of Missouri's Jefferson Club, which states that "MU strongly identifies with President Thomas Jefferson."

Jefferson City, Missouri's capital, was founded in 1821 and named after the former president when he was still living. Additionally, a statue of Jefferson stands outside the capitol. 

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