In March of 2018, students gathered in the Sondra and David S. Mack Student Center to demand the removal of the Thomas Jefferson statue that sits just outside. This protest came after a petition citing Jefferson’s participation in slavery; sexual abuse of enslaved women and girls; and embrace of race science as reason for administrators to relocate the statue gained just over 1,500 signatures the week before.
Members of student organizations including the Queer and Trans People of Color Coalition, the Campus Feminist Collective, Student Advocates of Safer Sex and Collegiate Women of Color described the negative impact of the statue’s presence on their student experience. Students also spoke about bias and discrimination in academic and social life at Hofstra University.
The collective rage and pain felt by and articulated by students at the protest led to the establishment of the Jefferson Has Gotta Go! campaign, colloquially JGG. The mission of the Jefferson Has Gotta Go! campaign is to both expose the inadequacies in Hofstra University’s processes of addressing of bias, discrimination and harassment and to reduce the amount of bias, discrimination and harassment occurring on campus.
JGG is advocating for the following:
If removal is not possible, JGG demands the relocation of the Thomas Jefferson statue to the Hofstra University Museum.
JGG demands that the university establish an online system of reporting bias, discrimination and harassment.
JGG demands that the university establish a complaint receipt program, meaning each time a student files any type of complaint, said individual will receive either a digital or print “receipt” with information relevant to their complaint, including the information needed to follow up on any investigation that may take place.
While we understand that faculty must also be at the table to discuss this, JGG believes that there desperately needs to be new, comprehensive education for faculty and administrators on inclusivity and diversity.
It is our firm belief that through the implementation of these initiatives, underrepresented students will finally be afforded the opportunity to be a part of the “Hofstra Pride” and to finally feel a sense of pride in attending Hofstra University.
Despite students and faculty protesting and pleading with senior administrators to relocate the statue and to invest additional resources into inclusivity, senior administrators of the past and the present remain adamant that there is no “race issue” on campus.
In some ways senior administration is correct. There is no “race issue.”
There is a complacency issue.
There is an apathy issue.
There is a pervasive issue regarding the university’s refusal to protect black students, Latinx students, Asian students, Native American students, queer and trans students, disabled students, neurodivergent students and low-income students, despite enthusiastically accepting our money, featuring us in promotional materials and plastering our faces in hallways.
For these reasons, JGG has called on its supporters to continue forcing conversations about bigotry at Hofstra this semester by carrying posters around campus encouraging members of the Hofstra community to ask us about our experiences with bias and discrimination on campus. Understanding how difficult this level of visibility can be, we have also encouraged supporters to facilitate these types of conversations in spaces they feel safe and at a pace they are comfortable with.
JGG is also making space for students to share their stories through #BigotryAtHofstra. The tag is filled with stories from students who have been made to feel both unsafe and devalued on Hofstra University’s campus.
While our anger has been labeled “misplaced” and our efforts minimized, both have proven so powerful that we forced this university into national media without the help of a debate and forced President Rabinowitz to answer to directly us.
As long as money from students and families of color is accepted at this university, students of color have a right to be absolutely furious about our abuse.
Many of us are forcing ourselves into an amount of student debt that we know we will never be able to get ourselves out of, just to attend a university that lauds itself as a hub of progressivism while doing everything in its power to silence its students .
JGG is about more than just the Thomas Jefferson statue; it’s about demanding the respect, empathy and resources we have always been entitled to.