August 16, 2017

University of Virginia, Charlottsville

University of Virginia, Charlottsville

There’s no necessary reason for the American academic tradition of separate buildings around a quad—except that’s what Jefferson decided upon at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, where the quad is known as the Lawn.

On the other hand, it drives many current America elites to angst that their ancestors didn’t beat Jefferson to the punch. In her much-acclaimed (at the time) Rolling Stone article “A Rape on Campus,” Sabrina Rubin Erdely recounted how Charlottesville’s Jeffersonian tradition made her feel unsafe:

After one alumna was abducted from a dark, wooded section of campus and raped in 1993, she says she asked a UVA administrator for better lighting. “They told me it would ruin Jefferson’s vision of what the university was supposed to look like,” the alum says. “As if Thomas Jefferson even knew about electric lights!”

After all, we all know that Jefferson was a rapist of a black body, so what’s a night of broken glass if it takes Jefferson’s heirs down a notch or two? Erdely exclaimed:

Wahoos are enthralled to be at UVA and can’t wait to tell you the reasons why, beginning, surprisingly, with Thomas Jefferson, whose lore is so powerfully woven into everyday UVA life that you practically expect to glimpse the man still walking the grounds in his waistcoat and pantaloons. Nearly every student I interviewed found a way to mention “TJ,” speaking with zeal about their founding father’s vision for an “academical village” in the idyllic setting of the Blue Ridge Mountains. They burble about UVA’s honor code, a solemn pledge not to lie, cheat or steal…

Non-WASPs such as Erdely suspect that Jefferson’s genius as a landscape architect was just a matter of luck and/or bigotry. Their ancestors could have laid out the Charlottesville campus just as well as Jefferson did if only they’d settled America centuries ago. If you are skeptical of that, well, that shows you are just as bigoted as James Damore.

Presumably, the reason WASPs have been so successful at real estate development and landscape architecture has been because they got to the good land first.

As we all know by now, settling America was easy. America is a nation of immigrants, not of settlers. The real achievement was immigrating to the Lower East Side around 1900.

And to some extent, that might even be sort of true. You can understand why newcomers to the United States might be resentful that their ancestors didn’t get to America first to snatch up all the desirable land.

On the other hand, this inclination is rather funny, if only you were allowed to laugh at it.


Sign Up to Receive Our Latest Updates!